Crustasia at Shangri-La Plaza

We had passed by Crustasia many times, we even took a peek at the buffet once but we never felt drawn enough to actually try it. One factor is that we don’t do buffets anymore as we prefer to eat a la carte — you know, the kind that is prepared only after we have ordered. Food just tastes better when it’s freshly prepared.

So, we had never eaten at Crustasia before. But one Sunday afternoon, I felt that since there were a la carte items and the menu said Southeast Asian dishes, Crustasia was worth a try. We ordered fried Vietnamese spring rolls, Pad Thai noodles and Yum Pla Dook Foo, that wonderful Thai salad made with green mangoes and crispy catfish.

casaveneracion.com Jicama and carrot sticks

We were given a complimentary bowl of vegetables sticks — singkamas (jicama) and carrots — with dipping sauces that tasted delicious. With an introduction like that, we were anticipating great food ahead. Big mistake. HUGE. It’s not that the food tasted bad. It’s just that they tasted flat.

Let’s start with the Pad Thai noodles.

casaveneracion.com Pad Thai noodles

Pad Thai noodles is a classic Thai dish. It is an exotic combination of sweet (palm sugar), salty (fish sauce), sour (tamarind or lime juice, or both) and spicy (chilis!) flavors. It is also a combination of different textures — crisp mung bean sprouts, crunchy crushed peanuts, chicken and shrimps, hot chilis, cilantro, green onions and rice noodles. But what we got fell short in every aspect. Most of the traditional solid ingredients were there yet was no discernible flavor. And I wondered what they seasoned the dish with because to say that it was bland would be an understatement. It was just plain… well, forgettable.

It’s not like I was expecting a replica of Pad Thai the way it is made in those tiny food stalls in Thailand. I absolutely adored Pad Thai in Thailand but I understand that Pad Thai, as served in the Philippines, has to be adapted to Filipino taste buds. Still, I was expecting something that was at least similar to real Pad Thai — not just in looks but in flavor and texture. And Crustasia’s Pad Thai did not come even near.

casaveneracion.com thai catfish salad

Then, there was the crispy catfish and green mango salad. It’s called a salad for a reason. If it’s fried catfish with a few strips of green mango, well, it’s pulutan, not salad. You’re better off preparing this dish at home.

Finally, the spring rolls. They were served last, very hot from the frying pan. That should have made them perfect, except that…

casaveneracion.com Vietnamese spring rolls

…they had more wrapping than filling. Santisima. That kind of trick to keep the cost low is something one can forgive if eating in a cheap fast food restaurant. But Crustasia represents itself as something more. But we didn’t get more. Unless I give credit for presentation which doesn’t really add to the flavor or excellent texture of really well-prepared food.

The bill was over P900.00 and you can see how small the servings are.

If you like Thai food, there is a tiny restaurant right beside Jipan at SM Megamall. I can’t remember the name, it’s really small and rather cramped but, heck, the food is so much better. Much, much better.