Hello Gerald! You’re invited for Pinoy Fiesta Night at Oryx Rotana Doha on Sunday.
Who would have thought that there will come a time in Doha that major hotels will finally feature Filipino food in one of their theme nights? Back in the day, most theme nights were either Arabic or just International. While there were few Indian or Chinese here and there, choices were few. Let alone, a dedicated Filipino night was like asking the rain gods for a drizzle in the middle of summer. Well perhaps due to continuing global warming, the weather has become so unpredictable and so is the Doha dining scene. Nowadays, more and more theme nights are being introduced all gearing to cater the growing Filipino crowd.
An old cliche would say: “Three’s a charm”. Coincidentally, this is my third time reviewing a theme night from Choices at Oryx Rotana Doha. Back in April, I tried Seafood Night and just a few weeks back, I got all the meat sweats from their Steak Night which are equally great offers! But despite a commendable streak with their theme nights, personally, going for yet another Filipino themed buffet is getting tiresome. I thought I had enough of my own dishes lately. With a budding taste fatigue, I went and checked the scene out.
As I am getting quite familiar (and a regular) with Choices, I have pictured how the set up will be like. Similar to their other theme nights, several stations are lined up all offering various Filipino dishes ranging from salads, appetizer, soup, mains, desserts, and even “snack” items and street food.
There is a dedicated station for each item. Working your way around from one dish to another would be a breeze. I took the liberty to start with the street food station, skipping soup or salads first. Why not?
More than just Adobo
The spread is rather impressive. While calling a spread “impressive” can either be: a.) lavish selection, or b.) a bit scaled down but aces the quality, Choices decided to hit both. An assortment of popular dishes and some regional delicacies that you won’t find elsewhere. Why choose when you can have both?
The salad and appetizer station showcases Filipino’s spin to some dishes that was introduced by the Spaniards hundreds of years ago. From our own version of fish ceviche to a couple of variations of eggplant salads (Ensaladang talong), and that salted egg and tomato salad, you will have a better grip of how distinct Filipino dishes are.
I loved how subtle and “clean”, the ceviche was. The right amount of acidity and the blend of spices doesn’t overpower the fresh flavor of the fish. A dish more popular in certain regions of the Philippines, I am glad to see that they have included this on the menu.
If the salad station offers more of unconventional and regional dishes, the mains had the popular and traditional Filipino dishes even non-Filipino foodies might be familiar with. From Chicken Adobo, Kare-kare (Oxtail in Peanut Stew), Ginataang Alimasag (Crab in Coconut Milk), to vegetable dish like Pinakbet, all of the household names are here. Sweet and sour fish and Sinigang na Salmon (Salmon in Tamarind soup base) is available should you opt for a lighter alternative than the meats on offer.
But I have to say that the Beef Hamonado was the scene stealer. While it is usually made from pork back home, the beef version is equally delicious. The meat is fork tender and as Filipinos are notoriously known for that sweet-savory flavor on most dishes, the sauce hits that sweet (and savory) spot. Don’t forget your heaping helping of rice!
If there’s some novelty with this Pinoy Fiesta night is the inclusion of street food and snacks. Though slightly tweaked, it has maintained certain originality that most of these dishes are known for. Pancit Palabok and kwek-kwek were my favorites.
But like any other place, it is not perfect. The dessert station was rather lackluster. While the choices remain adequate, the execution and overall taste was not my cup of tea. The Halayang Ube (Sweetened Purple Yam) and Maja Mais (both in photos), lacks the taste I was familiar with. It was heavily “garnished” that the original taste that should be the highlight of the desert, has been greatly affected by the unnecessary garnish.
The halo-halo station was commendable and far better than the other stations I have previously visited. If you’ve been craving for halo-halo (even if the winter season has just started), this could be a great place for it.
What I liked about the most from these selections is the fact that it opens a great opportunity to showcase the unique Filipino cuisines that most non-Filipinos are not familiar with. It is a high time to introduce them to foreign palettes. As Filipino food is a growing fad (and still an up and coming) in the Global dining scene, it is right about time to tell the world that Filipino food is way more than just Adobo.
While I am generally impressed with how this Pinoy Fiesta Night theme has been implemented, I cannot say that they have truly captured the authenticity of the taste of every dish. It is understandable that the authenticity of the taste lies with the ingredients and it is nearly impossible to replicate that especially if you are living abroad, and the continuing blockade even poses a greater challenge.
Sharing his thoughts about these challenges was the man behind this theme night, Chef Arnold Brillantes. He’s beaming with pride to have this unique opportunity to showcase Filipino food to Doha diners while at the same time, overcoming a tall order of sourcing the ingredients amidst the crisis that the country is facing. Innate to Filipinos is our creativity and ingenuity, he has managed to improvise and tweak the dishes without sacrificing the overall taste and authenticity.
As the holidays are just a few weeks away, Choices’ Pinoy Fiesta Night can be a very good place to celebrate Christmas Eve and relish the memories of home and the festive season. I guess I just found one less reason not be homesick from here on.
Pinoy Fiesta Night Details
Pinoy Fiesta Night
Oryx Rotana Doha Hotel
Price: QAR 139 per person (QAR229 with alcohol)
Sundays 7:00-11:30 PM