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August 16, 2009

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Seafood makes buffet great

A "GOOD" buffet offers a wide variety of food that has certain gems which you fill your plate with every time you return for more. But at a "great" buffet, you will find yourself spending more time out of your seat exploring the different dishes hidden beneath the glistening silver domes and having a difficult time deciding what to put on your plate.

Last weekend, I visited a place tucked away in the deep of Daning Life Hub, a popular entertainment and business complex with a 2-kilometer pedestrian promenade lined by hotels, offices, retail outlets, restaurants, bars, cinemas and entertainment centers.

There it became obvious why The Cafe at Four Points by Sheraton in Daning draws so many customers in such a trendy business hub full of different kinds of restaurants and bars.

With an orange-themed cozy decor, it is a quiet and comfortable dining environment separated from the crowded restaurants outside and ideal to enjoy cool seafood in the hot summer.

On entering The Cafe, you are immediately struck by the buffet's variety of seafood, colorful desserts, and their DIY ice cream.

After lingering around the buffet area's many choice options, I decided to begin my weekend feast with a delicious dish that the hotel's Executive Chef Maximo Ares highly recommends. The Summer Scallops Mango Shrimp Salad tastes light and fresh. It is a very colorful dish both in its presentation and its flavor.

Asparagus, green and red pepper, scallops and some sliced mango fried with a little oil, some black pepper and a little added lemon juice do bring out the flavor mix of all the ingredients. The boiled prawn is succulent and fried onion chips on top also enhance the dish's sweetness.

According to the chef, you'd better eat the peeled prawn along with the mango because it brings out the freshness of the meat as well as strengthening the refreshing flavor.

"This is a twist of Western and Asian cooking," said the Venezuelan chef who specializes in Spanish style cooking.

Then I chose the Stir Fried Clams with Black Bean Paste from the ever-changing a la carte main course area. The flavor of this one is heavier than the first dish due to the use of lobster sauce. The clams soaked up the soup which gave the dish a pure and simple but impressive taste. "This dish is kind of Cantonese and its strength is its freshness," said Ares, a post-80s generation chef who already has 11 years of experience in the kitchen.

"I choose to present these dishes because the Asian influence in the dining market has become stronger, especially in expat circles. So we are looking in that direction to present food and a cooking style to meet their needs.

"All these dishes are really simple to cook at home. But I want to make them seem familiar to choose but different in taste," Ares added.

After sampling the recommended dishes, I returned to the buffet area looking to find something different. It is apparent that the seafood selection is the strongest and also the most appealing: a fresh selection of sashimi, shrimp and crab was enjoyed with a pinch of lemon juice, and assorted seafood salads. The dessert selection is also a winner.

The caramel mousse moves from buffet to table quickly as one of the most popular desserts on offer. The texture is soft and smooth, quickly melting in your mouth. Green tea cake is very pleasing to both taste and smell, combining well the flavor of fresh tea and mild-tasting cream.

DIY ice cream puts an element of fun into dinner. Five flavors of ice cream with three sauces and three nut options -- currant, almond chips and walnut - to add and you make up the combination of your choice.

The staff are very friendly and nothing is too much trouble. The most important thing is the price, just 150 yuan (US$21.95) per person. And if you come in a party of three, you get one free. Great value for money.

Summer Scallops Mango Shrimp Salad

As chef Ares said, this dish is very simple to cook at home and all the ingredients are easy to find in the local market. So let's see how to make a simple but ultra delicious five-star salad (pictured below left) at home. Serves four.


100 grams Scallops

150 grams Peeled shrimps

80 grams Red clam meat

200 grams Mango

100 grams Asparagus

50 ml Vegetable oil

1 pcs Lemon (juice)


Cook the seafood in boiling water for three minutes, then wash in cold water for five minutes. Cut the mango into cubes and the asparagus into quarters. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, add lemon juice and oil and seasoning with salt and white pepper. Serve.


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