Monday, April 30, 2007

GLORIA MARIS HOTPOT RESTAURANT – first visit: late 2005, latest visit April 23, 2007

Ahem. I’ll make yabang here. The first time I tried the Gloria Maris Hotpot Restaurant was with Mother Lily, the matriarch of the Philippine movie industry. We were in discussion of the script for WHITE LADY ( and she decided to meet at the newly-opened restaurant, instead of in her house. My writing partner remarked that Mother must like us because she never conducts showbiz meetings in restaurants, always in her residence. This was over and above the fact that our first meeting with her was at the Shang Palace, where she fed us plate upon plate of the house specialties. Which she did again at Gloria Maris.

Gloria Maris Seafood Restaurant is among the best Chinese restaurants in town, simply on the strength of its excellent service, outstanding food quality and – all things considered – reasonable prices. Also, to celebrate in Gloria Maris bears with it the patina of “being-in-ness.” It is highly popular among Fil-Chi as the preferred venue for engagement parties, birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms and other small family celebrations. The Greenhills restaurant has 3 sections: the seafood restaurant which has a main dining hall, private function rooms and a huge ballroom on the second level, the eatery section where one can partake of fantastic Chinese dishes at really reasonable prices (their jumbo siopao, which can feed 2 hungry cargadores and is my all-time favorite comfot food, is priced at less than P80). Their noodle dishes are especially good, as are their cold cuts. The third section of course is their hotpot restaurant, which I believe is the first in Manila to serve the humble fare in a Modern Asian setting and using only non-heating microwave (?) cooking plates.

One can choose between sets or individual plates of uncooked ingredients and the usual choices of broth (sadly, no Sichuan). If you are only 2, then individual plates is the way to go. The smallest set is good for 4 (as far as the menu is concerned), but can actually feed about 6 men and is priced at a reasonable P1,200 for 5 sticks of fresh shrimp, some fish, squid, assorted seafood balls and a variety of vegetables (winter mushrooms!). There is also a meat plate with fatty beef, pork and chicken. The service is efficient and friendly (a waiter will come over to peel the shrimp for you) and the acoustics are good – even with so many people around, it’s never too noisy. If you have room for a sweet, order the fresh taho, served in a wooden tub with an accompaniment of syrup and sago. If you’re on a budget, skip ordering drinks. I think this is a rule of thumb in places where the food is cheap: the restaurant marks up their drinks (cf. Mandarin’s Paseo Uno, where a can of Coke will set you back P220, inclusive of taxes and service charge vs. it’s buffet price of P1,400).

Gloria Maris Hotpot is worth repeated visits. I have been there several times since Mother Lily’s treat, and have brought a balikbayan friend who raved over the food, and was there again last week. There is something truly convivial about gathering around a table with good friends and cooking your own food, making your own sauce and chomping the night away.

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