Unli restaurants have taken Metro Manila by storm, and I don’t see any signs of it slowing down. Whether it’s for unli Korean BBQ or Chinese hot pot, people don’t mind patiently waiting in line just to satisfy their appetites, but what if you can have BOTH and more in just one place? This is exactly the experience the new Four In Love BBQ and Hot Pot Buffet aims to give.
The name Four In Love doesn’t exactly bring to mind a buffet restaurant, but the story behind the name is actually quite straightforward. It brings together four different cuisines in one place: Korean BBQ, Chinese hot pot, Japanese yakiniku, and Thai mookata. Four In Love simply finds the point where the four cuisines join together and allow for one fantastic dining experience.
I’m not a big eater so I very seldom go to buffets, but even I have to admit being impressed by Four In Love. Going in, I didn’t really know what to expect. I received an invite and decided to go because for once the location is in Manila, and they allowed for a Sunday visit. In any case, my judgment wouldn’t have been colored by how accommodating they were. I speak only the truth when I say this place exceeded my expectations in terms of the food, but my meal wasn’t perfect because of the service. Let’s talk more about that in detail below.
SM Manila has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years especially when it comes to their restaurant lineup, and Four In Love is a great addition. Located at the Lower Ground Floor of the mall, Four In Love is spacious enough not to feel stifling in any way. It has a buffet area that’s just wide enough to prevent bumping elbows as well.
The seating arrangement isn’t too bunched together or masikip, which is important when you’re cooking as you eat. Having a grill and a pot of boiling soup right at your table can make it uncomfortably hot, but I didn’t find this to be the case here.
Four In Love BBQ and Hot Pot Buffet has three major tiers in terms of their unli offerings. The cheapest is the Harmony Set at Php 399, and it is limited to the meats and side dishes you can get at the buffet area only. There’s only pork in this set actually, but they come in three varieties.
The next is the Wealth Set at Php 599, which includes a ton more choices. Aside from the pork at the buffet area, you can also order pork belly (samgyupsal), premium beef chuck and rib eye, as well as marinated chicken. There are some seafood options here as well.
The Abundance Set at Php 799 is where you can unlock ALL the available meats and seafood here at Four In Love. This is the set I will be talking about in this post.
Here’s the thing though: The basic set here is actually for BBQ only, so if you want some hot pot, you have to add Php 99 for one broth, and add Php 159 for two broths PER TABLE. They have eight different kinds of broth or soups available, including tom yam and sukiyaki. Likewise, if you want to convert your grill and hot pot into a shabu shabu Thai mookata, you can do so by adding Php 99 per table. These add-on’s are on top of the menu price and can be availed whatever set you choose.
The Buffet Area
The buffet area plays a major part in every set offered in Four In Love’s menu. This is where you can get pork slices, plain or marinated, as well as some balls and veggies you can put into your hotpot broth should you decide to avail. If you go for the more expensive sets, you can get anything you want from the buffet area, PLUS the exclusive meats and seafood listed on the menu that comes from the kitchen. Of course, everything is unlimited.
The buffet area also houses the side dishes available for the day. You can get some Japanese rolls and gimbap, as well as many other small bites. On the day we were here, they had tteokbokki and these deep-fried dumplings that remind me of samosas. Both were addictive! The tteokbokki had this great bite and was sweet rather than spicy. Fried rice and japchae were also available at the buffet area.
On the opposite side is a small dessert area. Funnily enough, the dessert area feels very Filipino, with maja blanca and buko pandan as the main attractions. As I mentioned, the Php 399 set allows you access to this buffet area only, and all this unlimited food for that price is actually quite sulit already.
Before you sit down to enjoy your food, make sure to stop by their “Sauce Buffet” to create your own special sauce. I guarantee eating with sauces will elevate your dining experience.
The amount of sauce options is pretty overwhelming, but just follow the sample sauce combinations on the card they have at the bar and you’ll be good to go!
I personally enjoyed the spicy vinegar-based sauces as well as the Thai peanut sauce-black vinegar-chili sauce combination. You can mix and match the sauces with your meats to create a different taste each time. I super loved this sauce buffet area because it allowed me to eat with spicy condiments that are different from the usual offered at Korean BBQ places.
Okay, let’s get to everyone’s favorite part! Frankly speaking, I was quite pleased with the selection of meat and seafood.
Whether it was pork or beef or chicken, the quality was good and the meats were fresh. They actually slice the meat in the kitchen as you order, and this helps to keep it fresh. One look and you can tell. The only thing I did not like from everything we tried was the tuna belly. Even though it looked fresh, it tasted very fishy or malansa.
Marinated meats are best cooked on the grill while the plain fresh meats are great for the hot pot. In particular, the mala is a great broth to cook your non-marinated fresh meat in because the flavor clings to the meat so well. It didn’t matter what the meat was because they all tasted great cooked in the mala. We also really enjoyed cooking clams and shrimp in this broth. (I imagine their other broths would work well too.) To cook the meat in the soup, just dip it in and out of the boiling broth.
I find their mala broth to be just the right amount of spicy, without that tongue-numbing sensation that can sometimes be annoying when you’re eating. There’s a tingle here and there, but you can totally take sips of the broth without choking on too much Szechuan spices. Although the broth isn’t super mala, it’s not short on herbs and flavor. I highly recommend it! Pair it with a broth that’s milder in flavor, like the Chicken Herbal Soup, to help counterbalance the mala. Yin and yang, just like the shape of the pot. 🙂
For the BBQ part, the more expensive sets allows you an unlimited refill of mozzarella dip. I find it works best with the marinated chicken. The smoky taste of the grilled chicken complements the mozzarella really well. Just be warned this mozzarella is more like a cheese sauce than actual cheese. It tastes best if it’s been allowed to sit on the grill and bubble away, otherwise it reminds me of mayonnaise.
If you ask me to name my top three favorite things that hit our grill during our meal, I would say the garlic-infused scallops is included in that list. I also really enjoyed the salmon belly as well as the beef short ribs.
Both the Wealth Set and the Abundance Set offer the Korean Spicy Noodles in their lineup. As a lover of spicy food and noodles, I just had to try this. This is basically just Four In Love’s version of the famous Samyang spicy noodles, but in a more tolerable dose of heat.
The noodles look like the ones from the instant packs, but the sauce is definitely house-made (at least partly). It’s not the best spicy noodles I’ve ever eaten but it works to wake up your tastebuds. The longer it sits in the sauce, the spicier it gets. Remember that!
Having eaten at buffets like this before, I know for a fact that the usual practice is to have one waiter assigned to a maximum of two tables. That way, they can assist the diners with whatever they may need, like teaching them which meats are best for the hot pot and which are best for the grill. They are also expected to be able to properly communicate the orders of the diners to the kitchen.
The start of our meal went pretty well because they brought out the meats quickly. By the time we wanted refills however, we literally had to ask five times just to receive an order of scallops and short ribs. They even got the order wrong when it eventually came, and by then so much time had passed I had already changed my time about eating more. This saddened me because it put a bit of a damper on the great experience.
They had an explanation though. Apparently, because they just had their grand opening the night before, a lot of their staff were allowed to come into work late the next day. No wonder the restaurant seemed understaffed, during lunch hour no less! I’m normally a very patient diner, but even I thought that sounded like a bad excuse. Good thing it happened at the tail-end of our meal, when we already had food in our tummies and some understanding in store.
I’m going to chalk up this fluke to opening day hiccups. If this happened on a regular day, I’m pretty sure there are many who won’t be as forgiving. In fact, maybe I’ll come back sooner rather than later just to see what their “normal” service is like.
Despite my complaints about the service, I actually wouldn’t hesitate recommending this place to anyone who enjoys the unli experience. Heck, you can have the best of four worlds in one place. The quality and selection of the food also feels like it’s worth more than what you’re paying for. The best-value set to go for is certainly the Php 599 set, but for me, the short ribs and scallops are worth that bump up to Php 799. Sulit doesn’t always equate to the AMOUNT you eat, but rather WHAT you eat for the price you paid.
I love that the soup add-ons for the hot pot are paid on a PER TABLE basis. This means you can just share that Php 99 or Php 159 added amount amongst you and your companions, and it will feel like a small price to pay for something that can take your dining experience higher. I recommend the Korean BBQ and hot pot combo, but I look forward to trying the Thai Mookata on my return. Hopefully the service will be better by then.
And because Four In Love is still in their soft opening phase, they are offering a 20% off promo for their Php 599 and Php 799 sets until October 7, 2019. All you need to do is like and share their Facebook and Instagram accounts! EASY! I’ve already got them for you below. 😉
Four In Love BBQ & Hot Pot Buffet
Full disclosure: I was invited to the restaurant to try their offerings but I received no compensation for writing this feature. All opinions stated above are my own.