It seems that there’s meat and then, there’s Argentinian meat. According to Qatar Airways it takes about 20 hours to get from Doha to Buenos Aires.
Or, depending on where you live, about 25 minutes to get to the Shangri-La Hotel in West Bay. Why, dear reader, would you want to travel all the way to South America when there is no need to even apply for a visa to visit Sridan at the Shangri-La for their Friday brunch? By the way, that’s a rhetorical question – please don’t write in with the answer, I have it for you.
I like a well-dressed table and that’s what you expect and that’s what you get at the Shangri-La, even for the self-service buffet. And they don’t stand on ceremony either; if you want one course, or three puddings, or just meat, then their buffet is the way to go.
I’m sure that there is many a chef that’s tortured as he, or she, watches us mere mortals muddling through the buffet, pondering and dithering and then mixing the sea bass with the lamb – sacre bleu! But surely that’s part of the fun at a buffet? You get to decide. You can work your way through the whole ‘menu’ alphabetically or by country, or by whatever criteria you choose, and that’s fine.
And this brings me back to the Shangri-La.
Chef is keen to showcase the speciality, Argentinian steak. So temporarily forsaking my usual starters of sushi and oysters, I am sold on the meat. In anticipation, I’ve collected some creamy, fluffy mash and oven-roasted parsnips from the buffet, and then I take delivery of a couple of generous slices of beef, flame-grilled to perfection and I can tell you that it was not just all in my mind when I say that it really did taste different (in a good way!).
Juicy, grass-fed, and served with a small bowl of ‘beef sauce’ – not sure what was in that, but it seemed to be a combination of olive oil, parsley, garlic and so on, and at first, whilst it might not sound as if it would complement the beef, in some unfathomable way, it certainly did!
Yes, there is a pasta station. Yes, there is an Indian kitchen and you can watch the chef spinning and throwing the dough as he shapes the breads, eventually slapping them on the sides of his searingly hot oven. Yes, there are the fruits of the sea, lobster, shrimp, salmon and more but, after trying all that, I was drawn back to that beef. After the all-out assault on my palate from the other dishes, I thought I might not get the full Argentinian taste sensation a second time around, especially after the spicy Indian selection, but no, there it was again. Just as intense and just as delicious.
Now, it was at this point, that those geography lessons about Gauchos and the Pampas really came flooding back, proving my theory that, with the right trigger, one can recall, or even imagine, just about anything and the tender melt-in-your-mouth steak transported me to some romantic notion that I’d conjured up of the great outdoors of the Argentinian Pampas, with deep blue skies, bright green fields, wild snowy mountains and a cool breeze. So close and yet so far…
Meanwhile, Olga, our friendly server, kept the glasses topped up!
And did I mention the Chinese dim sum and Peking duck? The duck is particularly good value for money as they are normally quite expensive to order à la carte and proper chopsticks too. That’s the Shangri-La attention to detail that I like.
There were some known unknowns at the salad bar, namely Panzari Deep and Tiro Kafter, both delicious enough for me to have seconds before moving on to the dessert section. Chocolate fountains, chocolate sculptures (yes, they are actually choccy works of art although I wouldn’t recommend eating one of the chef’s masterpieces if you ever want to visit the Shangri-La again!) strawberries, mousse, cheesecake, ice cream and my favourite, Umm Ali. Ah, too much!
But the Pampas was still calling – could I be tempted one more time? Had I found my very own Shangri-La?
International man of mystery, beachcomber extraordinaire, raconteur and bon vivant
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