The Cebu Parklane International Hotel literally glittered for their GR8 AT EIGHT: Parklane Glitters Eighth Anniversary celebration. Calling for attire inspired by the movie The Great Gatsby, The PussyKat took forever with her Roaring 20’s curls and putting on three kilos of stringed pearls on loan from LaEmmanuela. I, on the other hand, needed no more than one of my standard suits and a handful of Gatsby brand (to keep in theme) hair gel to look like an Asian Leonardo Di Caprio. Hahaha. Naturally, we arrived an hour late for the six o’clock invitation.
The elevator doors opened to the welcoming smile of our lovely hostess, Janette, who led us into the bedazzling Victoria Hall through a throng of characters straight out of the movie. Walking in some celebrity guest’s speech, we were quickly ushered to the our table and seated just in time for the dinner announcement. Our waiter promptly set virgin cocktails of blue Fruit Punch and an Orange Sunrise while noting that there is an open bar on the other end of the room. So began a very promising night.
We skipped the salads at the head of the buffet table and went on to the Tenderloin with Button Shitake Mushrooms in Paprika Gravy. Soft, as tenderloin naturally is, the meaty flavor was complemented by the still subtle smoky flavor of the young shitake and livened by the zing of the paprika in the gravy undoubtedly reduced from the meat drippings. Cocktail Shrimp curled at the ends of picks on which cubes of cucumber, cherry tomatoes and cheese were skewered for dipping into a creamy mayo sauce light enough not to drown the delicate flavor of the shrimp. Breaded Scallops served on their shells was a break from the usual cheese plain bake, extending the oftentimes small shellfish meat from local sources with its flavorful breading. I would have preferred a crispier coating for texture but that did not stop me from polishing even The PussyKat’s serving.
A fine Cream of potato with Snow Peas and Diced Ham was served at the soup section with a variety of very inviting rolls and breads. Still on the first third of the table length, we decided to reserve stomach space for the meats and more exciting carb options, like the Seafood Paella. Large quarters of crab, huge mussels and other crustaceans wrestled for space with the saffron rice on the chafing dish making a complete meal in a serving. It was arguably as good as the authentic Spanish dish from The Island’s Paella authority, Aranos.
The Vegetable Ragout had lightly drained spoonfuls of a slow stew of vegetables delicately wrapped in a crepe, almost like a fresh spring roll, as a contrast to the more aggressive flavors of the preceding selections. The Ravioli and Seafood Lasagna, The PussyKat’s favorite from the lineup, featured very generous chunks of fish in another seafood explosion in cheese and tomato sauce.
It’s hard to go wrong with chicken and the Chicken Parmigiana was a clear winner with each cut retaining the breading on thickly-sliced chicken breast and keeping shape around its cheddar cheese core. The meat itself was lightly marinated drawing the savory flavors more from the cheese.
The Seared Beef Carpaccio, delicious as it was (maybe as a Bistek, instead), was sadly cooked to a near well done and dressed heavily with sauce, presumably as an adjustment to the general distaste for anything below definitely cooked. I remember a company party at The Parklane years ago where the same dish was served as seared whole pieces of tenderloin carved across the grain to reveal the graduations into the beautiful, pink, medium rare core with a vinaigrette on the side. Medallions of Pork Tenderloin closed the main table with the crowd-pleasing tender cutlets simply seasoned.
A separate carving station had the requisite Lechon De Cebu. The roasted young hogs seemed to be on endless supply for the celebration, an in-house roast slightly less salty but not any less flavorful than the popular local brands. An odd but very welcome addition to that table was Beef Wellington. The beef retained its natural flavor and juices, baking inside it’s layered puff pastry. I preferred the cheesy cream sauce it was served with to the alternative red reduction of indeterminate flavor.
Platters of fresh fruit frontlined the dessert table. Chocolate and custard would be the usual but the pastry chef replaced chocolate with a strawberry flavor for the cake base with real strawberry jam on the custard film topping for their Strawberry Custard Slice. The Deluxe Chips Cheese Cake could have used more cream cheese in it but thankfully had whipped cream versus the tired gelatin trick. Nevertheless, it was a light dessert option and would have been my pick of the bunch had they not served what is probably The Parklane’s best kept secret: Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake. Moist but not densely packed, dotted almost imperceptibly by a good distribution of carrot shreds and given a good crunch by baked-in chopped walnuts with fluffy buttercream frosting. A cup of strong black would have been perfect with it but the open bar across the room called out.
A sucker for a good Mojito, I initially found it weak — the strong lime flavors and sugar masking the potency of the rum content. Not having popped a prep antihistamine, I found myself sporting a flush soon after downing my first glass. Everyone around the bar area obviously more jovial, The PussyKat was enjoying her Tequila Sunrise when the bartender inadvertently granted her longtime secret dream of a champagne shower in a happy accident. The band Three Strings went on extended encore and the guests and staff partied on.
Amazingly just at eight, The Parklane has definitely carved its niche in the local hospitality industry, even landing Sun Star’s Best of Cebu 2013 Best Lunch Buffet for Manuel’s Restaurant. If the food at the party was a good hint enough, I could only imagine how great an upcoming revamp of their regular lunch and dinner buffet would be.
The Cebu Parklane International Hotel is located at Corner Archbishop Reyes Avenue and Escario Street
6000 Cebu, Philippines.