{Review} Waistline-busting buffet @ Marriott Cafe

I spy with my little eye…crustaceans from the sea awaiting to grace my dinner plate. Catching your first glimpse at this line-up, did your heart skip a beat? Did you do a little happy dance in your head? Did your inner health freak heave a heavy sigh knowing that you will only end the night with that too-full feeling and all other discomfort that ensue? Mine did. But it was worth my every bit of uncomfortable gastric distension and hyperglycaemia at the end of the night. Not that I am endorsing this type of behaviour, mind you.

I actually went to the buffet a couple of months ago when the Singapore Marriott Hotel was still under renovation. So if you visit the place now, you get the extra benefit of not having to walk through the ugly whitewashed cardboard walls and in stead, feel like a boss strolling past the pretty water features.

Dinner started at 6.30pm and runs all the way to 10pm and we were there on the dot. Without further ado, bags were left unattended at the table and off we went for a tour around the buffet counters doing a mental check-list of whatI-must-havetonight. Kicking off the session was of course, the sashimi. There was an array of the favourites of ubiquitous salmon, tuna, octopus and a few other deep-sea inhabitants. The salmon and tuna were really fresh, trumping the quality of many Japanese restaurants I have tried. The oysters too were great but having had live ones harvested off the coast in Korea, these ones pale in comparison.

Tell me, how many places actually excise and then crush the incredibly tough shells of mud crabs for you? Here they have done all that and then lovingly arranged them on ice. In a pretty and tidy row waiting to be picked up and enjoyed, saving the patrons possible embarrassment of flying shells and loud thumping sounds. 😉

The lobster was impressive on the counter and on the plate and it tasted as a lobster should, slightly briny and prawny sweet. The other shellfish that looked like Moreton Bay Bug – or maybe it is? – had more tender flesh compared to the lobster but enjoyable all the same. The highlight of the crustaceans was actually the snow crab. Jutting impressively from the ice bowl, they were calling to be had. Equipped with interesting-looking scissors, I went to work with these babies and they were the best of the lot. The flesh was so very sweet and they tasted like none of the very common deep-frozen back-of-the-fridge twang which could only mean one thing: they were crazy fresh. And I didn’t stop at one single crab leg.

Tucked in there somewhere is Jamón. I had a peek at the impressive display cabinet and it was priced at a jaw-dropping $152 per kilo. The second slice with white fatty streaks underneath the salami is the said ridiculously expensive piece of protein. Jamón literally means ham in Spanish and after a bite of it, I decided that I was not a fan. It was waxy and very fatty. Unfortunately, it reminded me of the Chinese lapcheong. The air-dried beef was okay and the salmon gravlax was a few times better than the ones you get at the IKEA cafeteria, understandably.

Stealing a shot of someone else’s plate. The water crackers reminded me of the good old times in Australia, especially paired with great Gouda cheese. Hiding behind the rocket leaves was a nice slice of very creamy brieSwoon. I love my cheese. Also making an appearance that night was a long-time favourite Emmental.

The salad station was quite small, as compared to the rest of the sections. It was competent enough though with a variety of salad greens – yes, they had baby spinach! – pickled vegetables, sauces, dressings and a gigantic salad bowl to toss your own creation.

The bread shelf was a bread-lover’s paradise. Stocked full of buns, rolls and slices ranging from your white butter breads to multigrain loaves. Oh how am I going to stomach all these!

Moving on to the cooked foods. The cooked foods stations were gobsmacking. Colourful Le Creuset pots containing freshly cooked goodness were arranged on a bed of hot rocks to keep them warm. Ingenious and sleek. Shown on the plate was braised baby octopus, buttered broccolini, pencil asparagus, braised button mushrooms and sauteed baby carrots from the nice pots and roast lamb from the carving station. Need I saw how much I love baby vegetables? They are exceptionally sweet and so cute to eat. Lo and behold I was lucky enough to chance upon my favourite broccolini and asparagus. The mushrooms were of the button variety – yippie! – and sauteed just nicely so that it was cooked but still had a chewy bite to it.

The baby octopus was tender and retained none of the usual rubbery toughness so common in octopus dishes. The roasted lamb with rosemary thyme saucewas soft as a baby’s cheek. Also available were braised Berkshire pork ribs, a lip-smacking perfectly grilled whole snapper, Wagyu beef and roast lamb. For each cooked protein, there were two accompanying vegetables and they really do work well together. Kudos to the effort put in by the chefs.

In the Asian section, there was the ever popular chili crab, crispy skin roasted Peking duck and a variety of stir-frys. The duck was simply out of this world.

The blobs on the right of the picture were actually what’s left of the crème brûlée. It was smooth, silky and sweet. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to crack the caramelised sugar. The cake right in front was a durian sponge cake. It was spongy yes, but there wasn’t a hint of durian in it. I actually went back to the desserts section and read the placecard just to be sure. The chocolate brownie cake sandwiched in between the cakes was quite nice but the cheese and chocolate mint mousse cake at the back trumped all! It was velvety smooth and the mint added a nice flavour cut to the richness.
The raspberry mouse and sponge layer cake on the left looked prettier than it tasted as the sweetness was too overpowering but the tiramisu was so good that we could get enough of it. It was rich and light at the same time. Geddit? The richness came from the strong doses of coffee and thick mascarpone while the fluffy savoiardi biscuits made up the light portion of the dessert.
The puff was filled with pandan cream. The choux pastry was nicely crusty on the outside but chewy on the inside. Next to it was a very dense chocolate cupcake bearing the name of the hotel. In the clear glass behind was a raspberry cheese mousse and there was also an unidentified piece of white mango something which I didn’t try as it was near impossible to cut it to share. Fresh and juicy cherries rounded off the plate of happiness. I have to say though, the review was heavily biased as I was missing Australia very much and the buffet hits all the spots. Whee!
At the end of the night, we had to fill in the remaining cracks of our already stretched poor stomach with ice-cream! There were quite a few flavours to choose from and an array of toppings. I had the yam, strawberry and minty chocolate chip, sprinkled with slivered almonds and topped off with a cherry. Life is good.
Marriott Cafe | Singapore Marriott Hotel, 320 Orchard Road, Singapore 238865 | (65) 67355800
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