I have to admit, I’m one of the supporters of the group-buy phenomenon. As a consumer, what’s not to like about discounted price to places that you otherwise wouldn’t go? I don’t just go crazy about the coupons, though. I’m being conscious about how many I buy, while reaping the benefits of visiting more expensive restaurants at a cheaper price. One of the coupons I bought was 50% to the Italian Opera Buffet at Pan Pacific Vancouver’s Cafe Pacifica. A couple of things about this deal intrigued me: 1) live Italian opera performance (I went through 15 years of classical music training) and 2) Italian buffet (how much more can an Italian buffet offer compared to a family-style Italian meal).
Examining all food stations, my initial reaction was disappointment. To my surprise there weren’t that many food stations. There’s even less variety than what we got at the Christmas buffet brunch, especially the entree section only had 4 options.
On the other hand, the antipasto station was actually quite impressive, with lots of cold appetizer dishes such as beef carpaccio, antipasti, prosciutto wrapped melon, and cheese & olive platter. Nothing fancy, but solid selection, solid quality of food. Highlight for me was the Beef Carpaccio and Seared Albacore Tuna. They were both seasoned to my liking, and we’ve never had any seared tuna that’s actually only seared on the outside yet remaining raw inside. Often times restaurants would over-cook the tuna.
Again, the entree section was disappointing. All they had was sablefish, lamb+quail+sausage, veggie lasagna and grilled panini (see the picture here – that’s all the hot dishes they had). The sablefish was the best of all, very silky and the sauce was creamy. Paninis were a bit burnt on the edges, but the dry, aged beef worked quite well as sandwich meat. While the flavours were there, I wish they could offer a few more choices. How about chicken cacciatore or ossobuco? Braised meat should be easy to manage.
I suppose their focus was the made-to-order pasta station. You have a choice of 6 types of protein (bay scallops, shrimps, ham, etc.) and 6 types of veggies and such. Then you pick one of the four types of pasta, and one of the three pasta sauces. And voila! You got your personalized pasta. I’m assuming you can literally have a bit of everything in your pasta dish – don’t think they all go well together but you have that option. My complaint would be the choice of pasta. They have penne, spaghetti, bowtie and multi-grain penne. Can’t they be a bit more creative and not go with the obvious?
Lastly, this is heaven for dessert lovers. I was so excited to see all the desserts on the table – my eyes were immediately drawn to them before I started tackling the appetizers/entrees. However I was too full by the time I got to the desserts I only tried a handful of them. Everything was decadent, creamy and rich. Not sure if I like the cannoli, a bit too much cinnamon. I ordered a cup of coffee to go with my dessert and that was perfect.
Mr. Says: Buffets are pure evil. I can never seem to stop eating at the right time. There’s always a dish I want to go back to, or another dish that I want to try. Eventually it gets to a point that I feel like an anaconda that swallowed a cow: if I didn’t stop I’d pass out… and THEN I’d know it’s time for dessert.
One mystery yet to be solved here – where’s the tiramisu? How can an Italian buffet not have tiramisu?
The meal was heightened by two live opera singers. Back in the good ol’ days I had learned a number of Italian operas so some of the pieces played that evening sounded familiar to me. Some of the performance I enjoyed, some I didn’t, but overall the singers were great live and it was a nice addition to the satisfying dinner. Did I mention that I didn’t feel hungry for the next three days? I only ate small meals on those days.
Mr. Says: This is by far the highest quality buffet I have ever had. It doesn’t have the biggest selection, nor the most exotic dishes. What it does have is the best consistency in everything it served. I think Joyce did a pretty good job covering the food in detail. What they may have lacked in creativity or entrée selection, they made up in cooking every dish incredibly well (almost every dish).
Because it’s self-serve buffet, there’s not much service to comment on. Having said that, this was a special case since I redeemed my coupon for this meal and there was some hiccup with my redemption. Long story short, there was miscommunication/misinterpretation on their end, which was then relayed to me. It resulted in the possibility of having my coupon voided but the manager resolved it and we got the full value of what we paid for. We were prepared for the worst but I was glad and grateful that they took care of it. Almost ruined our evening out.
In the end, I get it. The restaurant isn’t about quantity but quality. It doesn’t offer you a whole lot of option but everything they put out is solid, of decent quality. I don’t have much complaint about the flavouring of the food, but more about the choice (or the lack) of dishes. And this is not the place to go for fancy Italian dishes – we’ve got plenty of fine-dining Italian restaurants in the city for that. If you want unlimited amount, good quality of simple Italian dishes combined with live high-class entertainment, this is the place for it. $49 ain’t cheap, so consider this a treat!
Cafe Pacifica at Pan Pacific Vancouver
999 Canada Place, Vancouver