Monday, June 13, 2011

Fairmont Pacific Rim: Oru - Seafood Buffet


I have visited Pacific Rim for afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge and my experience wasn't that great, but I had higher hopes for Oru, their main dining facility specializing in Pan Asian cuisine. Every Sunday, Oru features a seafood buffet dinner for the price of $45.95 per person. A flight of stairs outside the hotel leads to the 2nd floor entrance of the restaurant. The decor is eclectic and trendy with clean simple designs. The place setting clearly reflects the type of cuisine served, as there was a pair of bright orange chopsticks in addition to the usual forks and knives.


There was a menu on the table with a list of wines and cocktails as well as a number of add-on food options, but why pay an extra $38 for a lobster when I'm here for the buffet right?


I started from the appetizer section with smoked salmon and a few salads including chilled soba salad with BBQ duck. The salmon (especially the dark sweet kind) was really nice and the soba salad was ok, but everything else was average. The shrimp in the cabbage slaw was really mushy without the crunchy bouncy texture of fresh shrimp.


Beside the appetizers were 2 large piles of chilled crustaceans: poached prawns and snow crab claws. These were great and very convenient to eat since the shells had already been removed. The prawns were fresh and crunchy and the crab was sweet and delicious.


Just past the chilled prawns was a small sushi station with a number of maki sushi and nigiri. Chefs behind the counter kept working to keep the plates full. I had a lot of nigiri including salmon, tuna, tako (octopus), ika (squid), tamago (egg) and unagi (eel) as well as maki rolls like cucumber and California. Sushi seemed like the perfect addition to a seafood buffet at a Pan Asian restaurant, but the quality was not on par with most sushi restaurants. The fish and seafood ingredients used were fresh, but the seaweed was slightly soggy and the sushi rice wasn't done very nicely.


Then there were the shucked oysters lying on a bed of crushed ice. People were taking them so quickly that the chef was prying the shells open non-stop in an attempt to keep up. Most of the oysters weren't very big or fat, but I wouldn't complain since it was a buffet. Despite the size though, the oysters were relatively juicy and most of the liquid remained intact. I guess the chef must be pretty skilled at shucking. In my opinion, the best part of the buffet was the oysters and chilled prawns/crab claws.


The rest of the buffet consisted of an array of hot dishes, most of which were rather disappointing. There were 2 soups including a seafood bouillabaisse and something that tasted like watered-down lobster bisque. Both soups were weak in flavour with no depth to the taste. There were also a number of cooked fish dishes prepared in several ways. I had blackened salmon, steamed halibut in coconut broth, and a couple other types of grilled and steamed fish. Just like the soup, most of the fish were weak in flavour. The coconut broth in particular was very watery and bland, and so was the butter chicken. The rice in the seafood paella was soggy and sticky. Perhaps the only hot dish I found decent was the spicy stir-fried beef which was relatively tender and reminded me of steak. At the left-most end of the buffet table, there was a mussel station where the mussels were prepared in 3 different sauces: red Thai, white wine and roasted garlic, and chorizo and thyme. Interestingly, the mussels from all 3 serving dishes tasted the same. I saw the chef giving the mussels a quick toss in the sauce before throwing them in the serving dishes, so they probably didn't have enough time to absorb the flavours from the sauces.


This is my 1st dish of food with sushi, oysters, crab claws, prawns and a couple of salads. Mmm... but my dishes grew progressively smaller as the meal went on. There wasn't a lot of variety especially since I passed on the hot dishes after sampling a bit of each, but seafood and rice (from the sushi) could be very filling.


Time for the desserts! The display was very nice with an assortment of cakes including tiramisu, brownie, mango mousse, citrus cheesecake, caramel mousse, milk chocolate mousse and more, as the servers continued to bring out new desserts when the plates were empty. The cheesecakes and mousse cakes were not dense enough in texture, so I enjoyed the brownie the most. For something a bit more refreshing, there were fruits (pineapple, watermelon, melon, strawberries) and a flowing chocolate fountain. I was glad that the chocolate was not unbearably sweet and was able to complement the natural sweetness of the fruit. Aside from the fruit, I also enjoyed the creme caramel and coconut macaroons. The creme caramel pudding was rich and creamy with the delicate sweetness of browned sugar. The macaroons had a sweet fragrant coconut flavour with a crispy exterior and a chewy centre. Unfortunately both of these were gone rather quickly and replaced with biscotti and cheesecake.


But my favourite and the most popular dessert by far was the creme brulee served in spoons with little crispy chocolate balls as decoration on top. These were gone the minute they hit the display table, and for good reason. The egg custard was velvety smooth and creamy while the burnt sugar top was deliciously crunchy and rich. Yum!


I had a SocialShopper voucher for the meal, so I only had to pay half price. At regular price, I would be more hesitant about coming here for dinner. Although the ambiance and service were superb, the food was not quite up to par (especially the hot dishes) and there wasn't a lot of variety. If you plan on just eating fresh seafood like shucked oysters, chilled prawns and crab claws, then the price would probably be worth it.

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