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THE DINING room at Misto, the main dining outlet and buffet at Seda Vertis North, reflects changing attitudes of the world in a pandemic. As every day is an examination of the essential, Misto has gone right ahead and serves what are today considered essentials: plant-based dishes.
Of course, meaty favorites at the grill (like US Prime Rib and Herb Roasted Chicken) haven’t been displaced. They’ll just be accompanied by vegetarian favorites such as Eggplant Parmigiana, Truffle Mushroom Tagliatelle, Spinach Lasagna, and Red Pesto Fusilli at the pasta station; French Onion Soup, Laksa, and Ramen (all with vegetable broth as a base) at the soup station; and Green Curry and fragrant Phad Thai at the Asian station.
We checked in with Seda Vertis North Sales and Marketing director Cinty Yniguez in a Zoom call, who clued us in as to the situation in the hotel. Staycations still aren’t allowed, and of the dining and drinking outlets, only Misto has been opened. Still, one can move around in the common areas such as in the lobby. To enter, one must undergo a temperature scan, a disinfectant foot bath, and fill out contact-tracing forms. One may also notice the barriers at the front desk. “We do have guests from the approved or permitted sectors, in accordance with the guidelines of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) and of course, the Department of Tourism,” said Ms. Yniguez. “It’s always been [about] safety, and security, and the comfort of our guests and employees.”
Changing times also reflect changing situations at Misto: clear barriers have been placed in front of the buffet stations. Eat-all-you-can buffets have been scheduled from Thursday to Sunday for lunch, and Thursday to Saturday for dinner. The rest of the week, the a la carte options are available.
The plant-based dishes at the buffet are an inclusive choice for vegetarians, who might usually avoid mainstream restaurants for lack of choice. Still, it’s still a party for everyone, as the meat dishes have not been removed. “We wanted our animal protein still there. In case people ask for it, it’s there; it’s available. We wanted to present to them, the guests, that there are yummy, plant-based meals full of nutrients; very rich in flavors, vitamins and minerals,” she said.
Ms. Yniguez personally helped develop the menu with the hotel’s culinary team. It is for her, after all, a personal crusade: “I am a staunch advocate of eating healthy and of a healthy lifestyle in general. I’ve been on that lifestyle for more than 20 years. I’ve seen the benefits for myself — I’ve lived through it,” she said.
While the bulk of the menu is vegetarian, vegans (who do not eat any animal by-products like milk and honey) can enjoy the Buddha Bowls. They are a feast in themselves: fresh greens like spinach, rocket, and watercress are combined in a bowl with grilled capsicum, mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, and marinated tofu. Of the plant-based proteins in the menu, aside from the tofu, one may choose from nuts, seeds, and grains (including adlai, quinoa, brown rice, flaxseeds, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin). This warm bowl can then be mixed and topped off with a savory Asian or Mediterranean dressing (but there are more options and sauces). “I wanted it to appeal to all the senses, essentially. Looks good, smells good, tastes good,” said Ms. Yniguez.
“I felt that this was an opportune time to heighten awareness within the community. During the pandemic, people really are focused now and more mindful of their health,” she said. “Having a plant-forward mindset is something I want to impart, because of the benefits it had brought to a lot of people I know.”
The sustainability measures a plant-based menu takes doesn’t run skin-deep for this hotel: quite literally, since Ms. Yniguez points out that a low-waste rule in the kitchen saw their chefs using vegetable skins in the vegetable broth. Ms. Yniguez points out other sustainability measures they had taken, before and during the pandemic: biodegradable toiletries in biodegradable packaging, biodegradable packaging for their to-go platters, a forthcoming single-use plastic ban, recycling water for other purposes, and conserving energy. “We try and just really make sure we conserve electricity and water without compromising the quality and integrity of our services,” she said.
These measures come all the way from the top: AyalaLand Hotels and Resorts Corp., under Ayala Land, Inc. “Ayala, to begin with, is very forward on sustainability. It has cascaded to all the business units,” said Ms. Yniguez. “We carry the same values.” — Joseph L. Garcia