dondi villanueva wrote a review
One of the most reasonable buffets in town, Cabalen has served Philippine (Kapampangan, natch) diners for so long that I have almost taken it for granted. Last time i had their buffet was more than two years back -- and while I remember the dishes were of the comfort food variety, I couldnt really recall service nor ambience, which probably meant it wasnt worthwhile.
Had family lunch there during one of the busiest restaurant days in the years -- Valentine's cum Chinese New Year, and as soon as we entered the restaurant I realized why I havent gone back in so long: it's the messiness, the clutter and the noise of it all.
The food, as already mentioned is great Filipino comfort food: kare kare, grilled dishes, bulalo soup, halo halo dessert selections, crispy kangkong leaves, etcetera etcetera. One thing perenially lacking from the selection are chicken dishes. Someone please tell me if Pampanguenos really don't eat that much chicken because I LOVE chicken but the only chicken dish they serve in the restaurant is adobong manok. Everything else seems to be pork- or pork-laden.
It's good to see, though, that they have come up with an international selection as well, although their pad thai does not taste authentic in the least, and their Japanese buffet is more depressing than interesting (their tempura selection is all-vegetable and their sushis are basic).
My major concern, however, is not food taste but the replenishment of food items and the consistency of service quality. We were lucky enough to arrive before the noontime rush so we got the benefit of the whole buffet spread -- I just noted that when the restaurant overflowed with diners, stocks and food quality started to dip. The mussels in the grill station got smaller by the minute, the coconut cream in the halo halo station never got refilled, and one had to wait in line for ... PLATES! I understood that of course the double holiday whammy must have doubled the customer count, but bottom line is when you're a hungry patron and you can't even get food because you're waiting ten minutes for a plate - there's something wrong with service quality somewhere.
And at a certain point, the buffet seems to be left on its own. Of course, hungry diners are initially to be blamed for the mess -- drips of sauces on the floor and on the buffet spread, serving spoons inside the food trays, pork slices scattered on the table :( I think the management should start focusing some staff on cleaning up the buffet because as everyone who's had his fill of Iron Chef by now, presentation is 5 points out of 20.
Still, when on a budget -- it's a great way to introduce foreign guests to Philippine cuisine, and an inexpensive way to satisfy one's craving for Pinoy staples.
3 years ago 2010-02-16