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FOR the third straight year, Okada Manila was awarded the Five-Star Award by the Forbes Travel Guide (FTG).
Forbes Travel Guide, which evaluates service, has over 900 stringent items on their list, 75% of which focus on the guest experience and the rest on the facility.
“Travel has come back strongly, and the resilient hospitality industry is creatively rallying to accommodate the increased occupancy demand for most regions,” Hermann Elger, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide, said in a statement. “While the industry faces some lingering issues, the 2022 award winners proved ready for those challenges and more, demonstrating the best that luxury hospitality has to offer.”
“Forbes sends over mystery guests and without our knowledge, they test the rooms, eat in the restaurants, try out the spas, swim in the pools, and test each and every facility offered,” Okada SVP for Hotel Operations Ivaylo S. Ivanov said in a speech during a press event on April 26.
“We take every comment, good or bad, to heart, and use it to improve our service. Most of all, we thank our dear team members,” he said.
Alongside the announcement of the Forbes Travel Guide Award, Okada Manila said it will be opening a new Filipino buffet restaurant at the Coral Wing.
This restaurant will also serve as the breakfast restaurant of the wing’s guests. Located at the poolside, the restaurant’s name has not been pinned down — it’s working name for now is Sinag. There is also a cocktail bar named Luna.
The permanent names will be announced before the official opening on July 1.
Aside from its proximity to the pool, the restaurant’s location also has a good view of the Manila Bay sunset.
Okada Manila’s Vice President for F&B Andreas Balla admits that it was challenging to cope with the quick changes in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions.
“Some guests are still reluctant with the buffet style, but I think everything returned quickly to a new normal,” Mr. Ballad told BusinessWorld.
The idea for a Filipino buffet restaurant had been in the works since before the pandemic.
“[The lockdown] gave us more time to think about what we actually want to do. The concept is still the same. It will be the hotel’s breakfast [buffet] of the Coral Wing. For the rest of the time, it will be a Filipino restaurant,” Mr. Balla said.
The restaurant can accommodate 250 guests.
“I look forward to having many Filipino feasts for lunch on a busy Saturday or Sunday,” Mr. Balla said.
For executive chef Gene del Prado, it has always been his dream to open a Filipino restaurant.
“’Yung mga cooks noon, tuturuan ka ng proper cooking of native dishes [na] hangang ngayon ginagamit ko pa rin (The cooks I knew before would teach me the proper cooking of native dishes which I apply until now),” Mr. Del Prado, who has four decades of experience in the industry, said.
To come up with the menu, Mr. Del Prado and his fellow chefs went out to dine in famous Filipino restaurants in Quezon City, Makati, Pasay City, and Tagaytay.
“The food is almost the same,” Mr. Del Prado and his team observed. “But even if they serve the same food, puno pa rin ’yung restaurant (the restaurant is still full),” he said. “Ang labanan sa ganoong pagkain ay consistency and quality (The competition with that kind of food is in consistency and quality).”
In the days leading to the restaurant’s opening, Mr. Del Prado is focused on training his staff.
“Bihira tayo makapunta sa restaurant na gusto mong balik-balikan, ’yun ang gusto kong mangyari (We seldom find a restaurant we want to revisit, that’s what I want to happen here),” he said. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman