PHILIPPINES - Behind the granite counter, the server slices three-inch thick slabs of beef and pork before the customer. Tender and chewy, these grilled meats, called churrascos in Brazil, are on long skewers with juicy tomatoes.
The experience of a churrascaria, the Brazilian grill or steakhouse, is recreated at the SM Megamall branch of Dad's, the restaurant famous for its copious buffet selection at an affordable price.
At Dad's new World Buffet, diners can get grilled skewered meat cooked in various ways.
There's the Indonesian satay with chicken and beef morsels, barbecued then bathed in a welcome treat of peanut sauce.
The Greek souvlakis-smaller skewers of tender cuts of beef and chicken-are marinated in white wine and lemony olive oil mixture.
The Indian lamb kebab is served with classic mint and coriander chutney, while the Greek lamb kebab is made zingy with lemon, olive oil and herbs.
In more familiar territory there's the American hickory barbecue beef.
All the grill items are cooked slowly to allow the meat juices to dictate the flavors.
Trailblazing restaurateur Victor Vincent "VicVic" Villavicencio says Dad's Restaurant is offering the whole world on your plate for only P748 (S$21.56). This includes the Kamayan and Saisaki fare and its fruit shakes.
To celebrate Dad's 20th anniversary and Villavicencio's birthday this month, the Dad's World Buffet will cost only P488 for lunch and P688 for dinner on weekdays. The P748 buffet is on weekends and holidays.
Villavicencio has been in the restaurant business since 1977, starting with the iconic Filipino restaurant Kamayan, followed by the phenomenal success that was Saisaki.
In 1993, Villavicencio introduced buffet dining at Dad's at SM Megamall, which also integrated his restaurant concepts.
"When the buffet became popular, we folded our short-order restaurants into the buffet. We used to call it Dad's Crossover because you paid a certain price for the Kamayan buffet, complete with the lechon, and a certain price for Saisaki. If you wanted the whole thing, there was another price. Through the years. we have added dishes, but we never told the public about it," he explains.
"We now have world cuisine. For the first time, we have a full Chinese section, Greek food, Indonesian, a churrascaria, Malaysian, Thai, a tapas bar and paella. The number of food has increased, but as a matter of policy, we don't do what other buffets do-when the price is high, the premium items are there; when the price is lower, the premium items are removed.
"If you make the buffet cheaper by removing expensive items, I think that's a cop-out. In our case, whatever price we give you, it's the same premium items every day. We discount to encourage you to come on those slow days. That's all we did, discounted the price at certain times, but we never discounted the quantity of the food."
With the introductory price of P748, Villavicencio says he's giving customers value for money because the fee includes juices.
Typical of Villavicencio's out-of-the-box thinking, there is no service charge since he believes it's the restaurant's job to serve guests with enthusiasm.
"I believe in value for money. I don't like to hear P900 and P1,000. People go to a buffet for quality and choices at a reasonable price. But at a certain point, the prices have become unreasonable.
"Others will have a drink bar, but they won't tell you until you find it. Here, we have Four Seasons, watermelon, mango, green mango, dalandan, buko pandan, carrot and banana shakes.
You can order four at the same time. We put the shakes in small glasses not because we are being stingy. If you like the shake, you can order another in a different flavor.
"Our drinks are bottomless and interchangeable. But we ask you to finish it. We are generous with our food. If you go around, we ask you to try it. We don't hide it," says Villavicencio.
He offers other perks. For every 10 buffet guests, one is free of charge (except for the P488 buffets). Birthday celebrators get free buffet.