Good dining and buffet-style eating are typically antithetical to each other. Generally, as portions and guests increase, the quality and freshness of the food decrease. At the new Tianjin Raffles the chef has conquered this problem by focusing the buffet around smaller portions and reducing the dining population to "café" size. Both efforts have elevated the Opera Buffet to Raffles brand standards of excellence.
The Opera Café has a small and informal eating area for groups of 2-4 people. The buffet itself has a fairly wide selection of dishes from salads to breads to desserts and entrees. While the cuisine is mostly western, there are still quite a few Asian inspired dishes on display. We began our meal in the salad and appetizer section of the restaurant, where fine European appetizers are artistically placed on individual serving plates. The Italian bruschetta and caprese were especially impressive. Fresh mozzarella can be difficult to find in America, much less China. With a selection of fresh ingredients and dressings you can also make your own salad. The bread selection at Opera Café is extensive. Freshly baked loaves of rye and wheat bread are displayed along with two types of focaccia and Indian Tagore bread. The seafood selection alone at Opera Café pays for the meal. Fresh scallops, crab, shrimp and muscles on ice are perfectly complemented by a tart seafood salsa. Four different types of sushi and sashimi are available along with other Japanese cold dishes.
Among the hot food I was especially taken by Sauteed Seafood with Lemongrass and Pork-chops with Gorgonzola. In total there are about 14 hot entrees available for guests. Again, portions are fairly small because the wait-staff constantly refresh the dishes. As a result, food rarely sits around untouched, losing its freshness. Like the appetizers, the desserts at Opera Café are delicate and beautifully plated. For children (or those young at heart) there’s a make-your-own-sundae section with 6 different types of gelato and countless toppings. I quickly fell in love with the subtle chocolate mousse and crème brulee. Lunch at the Opera Café is 108 rmb while dinner is 248 rmb. Currently the management is promoting a voucher deal whereby you receive a coupon for the total value of your meal. A 200rmb check will get you 200rmb worth of vouchers at the same restaurant.
The Opera Café is an understated high-end buffet. The quality of the food coupled with the presentation and selection put it at a level above most Tianjin hotel buffets. I'd highly recommend it for a low-key high-taste meal.
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