For city folks who have to endure the perennial traffic, noise and pollution of Metro Manila, a quick trip up to Tagaytay is a welcome respite. Yes, traffic still follows you along the way, but as you transition from the concrete jungle to the cool mountain hideaway, with a refreshing view of corn vendors and fruit stalls in between, the final destination makes it all worth the time and effort you put into it.
Many hotels and inns now line Aguinaldo Highway and its suburbs, but Taal Vista Hotel (whose original name was Taal Vista Lodge when it first opened in 1939, but was renamed such when it was acquired, renovated and reopened to the public by SM Investments Corporation in 2003) remains to be a favorite place to stay when in Tagaytay.
Not only does it offer a relaxing ambiance coupled with cozy accommodations, a cool breeze all day long and a breathtaking view of Taal Volcano and Taal Lake, it also serves up great dining experiences whether you come for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The hotel’s main dining facility, Café Veranda, is where majority of diners flock to because it always lays out a delectable buffet spread.
For breakfast, which my husband Raff always looks forward to whenever we stay at Taal Vista Hotel, the coffee shop offers plenty of choices for a truly satisfying meal. The bread station has a wide selection of baked goods, from soft rolls to loaves to sweet treats like chocolate custard rolls, pain au chocolat and pan de coco. Diners who like light breakfasts can go for pancakes or waffles with different toppings. There are cereals with milk, as well as juices, coffee and tea — with refills if desired — and the egg station continues to serve freshly prepared scrambled eggs, sunny side up and omelettes. Diners who must have a hearty breakfast to jumpstart their day will like the sausages and hot dishes in chafing trays. Fresh fruits and some sweet treats are also laid out in the buffet.
For lunch and dinner, the buffet spread offers individual servings of appetizers depending on the theme of the day. Beside it is a salad station, where diners can find several prepared salads to choose from and a mini salad bar, too, which showcases the freshest produce of Tagaytay.
The noodle station, where diners can have their orders prepared a la minute, stands beside the pasta station, whose assigned chef does basically the same thing.
Do not forget the carving, as well as the skewered raw meats at the grill station for yet another interactive station. And when you’re done helping yourself to the hot dishes, head for the dessert station, where there’s halo-halo, assorted cakes and fruits, including the sweet pineapples of Tagaytay.
What’s unique about Café Veranda buffet is that it has at least six small platters of homemade kakanin (native delicacies)—bibingkang malagkit, maja mais, biko, sapin-sapin, cuchinta and espasol — for the taking. Everything is good.
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Diners who want a more intimate meal, meanwhile, may head for Taza Fresh Table at the air-conditioned pavilion near the entrance of the mountain view rooms. It is also accessible via the famous Taal Vista Hotel viewing deck, which provides a clear, unobstructed view of Taal Volcano and Taal Lake.
Taza is executive chef Jayme Natividad’s baby. It lays out a more compact breakfast buffet spread of basics, such as salads, cold cuts and fruits, and it comes with a la carte choices of several hearty breakfast items, such as French toast, eggs Benedict, even chicken and waffle!
For lunch and dinner, Taza offers a la carte dishes. The menu is limited, but each item is a premium choice that guarantees absolute gastronomic satisfaction.
How about starting your meal with Trio of Mushroom Soup (with shiitake, button and oyster mushrooms blended into an exquisite chunky mushroom cream soup) or Broccoli Soup (roasted broccoli confit, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, crème fraiche and croutons); followed by either Taza Salad (a delicious mix of arugula and Romaine lettuce with tomatoes, carrots, singkamas, quinoa, dried pineapple and dried mango) or Avocado Salad (oven-roasted tomatoes, avocado, local mozzarella, basil and reduced balsamic dressing); and then Homemade Fettuccini (with saffron cream and prawns, which can also be changed to lobster upon request).
For the main course, three choices stand out — Pan Seared Sea Bass (with smoked tomatoes, haricot verts, marble potatoes and anchovy cream), Braised Short Ribs (Australian beef with roasted carrots, haricot verts, roasted squash and gremolata) and Crispy Pork Roulade (with pickled vegetables, lentils and mustard honey glaze).
Perfect for the sweet ending is Hibiscus Ice Cream (with candied hibiscus flower and tarragon). Not so sweet, definitely not heavy, just perfect!
Despite all the destination dining places, the cafés, and the fast-food chains that have managed to make their way up to Tagaytay, Taal Vista Hotel remains to be one of the best.