Full to the Brim at Taal Vista Hotel's Cafe Veranda

Roasted Pork Belly
Cafe Veranda (formerly Cafe on the Ridge) is the signature dining outlet of Taal Vista Hotel. The all-day dining restaurant offers a wide array of local and international specialties to suit every preference. A sweet bonus? A spectacular view of the Taal Lake and Volcano on the foreground!

On a recent visit to Taal Vista Hotel, we had the chance to try out Cafe Veranda's famous weekend lunch buffet, a la carte signature dishes at dinner, and the expansive breakfast buffet the morning after.

We arrived at the restaurant a little past 12 noon. By this time the restaurant was quite full already for lunch, so it's a good thing we have a table reserved for us ahead of time. If you're planning a visit especially on weekends, better call and reserve in advance.

There was the Bughaw Dance Group performing a sort of Igorot dance when we entered the dining hall. If you have friends coming to the Philippines from abroad, bring them to Cafe Veranda on weekends for them to sample exquisite heritage cuisine and be entertained with an exciting cultural show. It's one of the best in the country (been to several boring, worse ones actually, but this one is wayyyyyyy better).

Smoked Salmon
As soon as we settled our stuff at our table, we checked out the many buffet stations to see what we could savor for lunch. I headed straight to the salad and appetizer corner where I got a few pieces of smoked salmon. It was love!

Tagaytay is also known for fresh vegetable produce, so if you love veggies (unlike me, so sorry!) don't miss out the crisp greens and homemade dressings at the salad bar. Depending on the season, some of the greens are fresh from the hotel's own backyard farm.

Terrine
Cafe Veranda's iconic crystal beads decor
After getting our appetizers, we went back to our seats and ordered drinks. I got a freshly-made pineapple shake and hubby had his old-time favorite watermelon shake. Orders came in promptly.

Fresh pineapple and watermelon shake
Next, I went around to look for the heritage fare on offer. There was a station with dinuguan (pork blood stew) and puto (rice cake), fresh lumpia, and turon (banana flambe in pastry wrapper). I opted for the dinuguan since it is one of my favorite Filipino dishes. While some might get grossed out by the idea of eating blood, I, on the other hand, enjoy it a lot! (Well, I'm sure I'm not a vampire, don't worry). The stew was so flavorful sans the dreaded "bloody" aftertaste. The rice cake was the perfect accompaniment.

Puto at dinuguan

Fresh lumpia
There is also a sugba (Visayan term for "grill") station where I got grilled prawns and mussels. There are meats, too, like pork, beef and chicken.

From the sugba station
What surprised me a lot was the giant grilled fish that's even bigger than the roasted pork belly on the carvery. It looks monstrously delicious!

Grilled fish

Rosemary roasted chicken
The rosemary roasted chicken tastes like your grandma's heirloom slow-roasted chicken recipe -- very homey and familiar.

The Mongolian barbecue station was also inviting, with the aromas of meat, seafood, veggies and spices circulating around the place. A bowl is so hearty so you might want to slow down or get just half a serving.

Mongolian barbecue
I was about to get my fair share of Mongolian barbecue when my eyes landed on this...Paella Valenciana!!! Of course, I did not waste a single moment and grabbed a plateful! It was oozing with flavors and the chorizo combined with prawns and other toppings were heavenly.

Paella Valenciana
While we were still gorging on paella and pork belly, Akisha asked me to get her some desserts. To my delight, the dessert station was full of sinful finds -- cream puffs, truffles, fruit tarts, pavlovas, meringue, mousse, and a lot more. Plus, there was a halo-halo station perfect for that Pinoy sweet ending.
Desserts

Meringue

Halo-halo
There were fruits, too! Taal Vista Hotel has an in-house fruit carver so don't be surprised to see mermaid-, dragon-, and bird-shaped fruits at the buffet. So talented their carver, I must say!

Unlimited dragon fruit

My dessert plate

For dinner, we stayed away from the buffet for us to sample Cafe Veranda's signature a la carte dishes. To start with, I ordered fresh buko juice which was not so cold but sweet than usual nevertheless. I asked for some ice cubes and it turned out fine.

Fresh buko juice

For the mains, we ordered Taal Vista Sizzling Bulalo (slow-cooked beef shanks smothered with mushroom gravy and demi-glace) and Tagaytay Bulalo Soup (beef shank simmered for hours in rich broth with corn and other vegetables). If you'll ask me which one is better, I'd go for the sizzling version as I was able to savor the flavors of the bone marrow more than in the soup version, but I am sure purist and conservative foodies would still prefer the soup over the sizzling one. Both have fall-off-the-bone tender meat and tasty broth/gravy, and are served piping hot.

Taal Vista Sizzling Bulalo

Tagaytay Bulalo Soup
Tawilis is a freshwater sardine endemic to the Taal Lake and in Tagaytay and the nearby towns. It is often served crisp and lightly battered. At Cafe Veranda, the Crispy Taal Lake Tawilis is served with vinegar, freshly minced garlic, crushed peppercorn, chili and crispy kangkong (water spinach).

Crispy Taal Lake Tawilis
The  Chicken Inasal (grilled chicken marinated in soy sauce , lemongrass, garlic, annatto oil and local spices) may not be as famous as the bulalo and the crispy tawilis, but it sure deserves a  spot on the table. The chicken was tasty inside out, though can be a bit dry when left untouched for too long.

Chicken Inasal
To complete the Filipino dining experience, try Cafe Veranda's version of pinakbet (vegetables sauteed in shrimp paste). The veggies were not overcooked and the sauce smells delicious! I don't eat veggies, though, but hubby seemed to like it that much.

Pinakbet

For kids, there's a wide array of child-friendly dishes to choose from. Akisha chose drumsticks and French fries.

Drumsticks and French fries
We saved the best for last, of course. For desserts, we had Cafe Veranda's famous turon leche flan and Volcano (a chocolate lava cake served a la mode). I LOVE them both. The turon was not too sweet, and the perfect combination of crunch and rich, milky custard-like filling was to die for. The Volcano turned out to be Akisha's favorite -- it's a good mix of hot chocolate cake oozing with fudgey chocolate syrup and cool vanilla ice cream. We all wiped the plate clean.

Turon leche flan

Volcano

The next morning, we woke up early to have breakfast before we go for a dip in the pool. Our first station? BACON! This is such a blockbuster as the tray gets empty so fast! These crisp, fatty version is just so yummy to eat with plain or garlic rice and sunny side up egg. Bacon is God's greatest gift  to the breakfast table, agree?


Bacon, bacon, bacon
I also requested for a ham, mushroom, bacon, and cheese omelettte, which I ate together with the flaky croissant.

My plate

My mains
For the mains, a friend recommended that I try the iconic tapang Taal (marinated beef). And she was right, it was worth the mentionas the tender beef cutlets are loaded with local spices that is not too foreign to my Pinoy taste buds.

Tapang Taal

Local sausages

There was also the crispy dilis which is a perfect match to champorado or congee!

Crispy dilis
Aside from the sinful bacon strips, I also heart Cafe Veranda's smoked pork loin. It's the first runner up actually, as the slices disappear into thin air in a snap!

Smoked pork loin

Assorted cheeses


Related post:

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Taal Vista Hotel
Kilometer 60, Aguinaldo Highway
Tagaytay City 4120, Philippines
Tel. +632.917.8225 | +6346.413.1000
Mobile: +63917.809.1254
Fax: +6346.413.1225



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