By Stella A. Estremera
Goin' places

THE past days were not for working. It got worse with a full tummy. Thus the lesson: Never try buffet lunch on a cold, rainy workday. I swear, a mug of very strong Adani blend cannot shoo the nods away. I ended up snoring on the office sofa for over an hour after that.

Anyway, we're supposed to have gone somewhere else, but that somewhere else was written about by a fellow writer here last week, so I'm going to reserve that experience some other time.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

Good thing we stuffed our faces with more food this week, so we have something else to drool about.

Imee has been raving about it, cheap, really cheap, she said, and worth the price too. At P118 per person, you get to eat as much chicharong bulaklak as you want. Of course, there are more, but the chicharong bulaklak is really good, she said.

It's the lunch buffet at Taipan Palace, that Chinese restaurant along Anda Street that is well-known for its giant bowls of pansit lomi. (Btw, Imee didn't know about Taipan's pansit lomi. Like, duh? Taga-dabaw ka?)

The buffet, however, never reached my ear, and I was even more surprised to later learn from Aboy, the owner, that they opened their lunch buffet one and a half years ago. Lunch must be too early for my food-spies...

Just to make sure I was there for that Wednesday midday binge, she and Charmaine picked me up at the office. Calories, calories, calories for sale...

We arrived early to a delightful spread. Baby clams soup, chop suey, steamed chicken in ginger, crispy shrimps, beef with cauliflower and carrots, sauted ampalaya, fried bangus, baby crabs, and tahong, and a whole lot more I can no longer recall. But since Imee was raving about the chicharong bulaklak, I searched it out... and found it farther away from the row of food warmers beside the humba with pao. *Ka-blag!* (That's the sound of Stella dropping to the floor from too much cholesterol. *Joke!*).

Lucky me, my tummy is OC (obsessive compulsive for the uninitiated), and is not easily distracted when it goes for something. And on that day, it was the chicharong bulaklak.

Imee's right, it was good. No, make that super-sarap and bottomless too. Bad cholesterol... Darn. So what? I returned and also made an effort to mix in some veggies, and tasted a couple of small crispy shrimps and one baby grab and yes the soup (all very good), but returned to the chicharong bulaklak until we moved to another table since Jackie, Sonny, and Mylene (pronounced Milen) arrived to join Jimmy who also had steamed pampano and patotim ordered. (The pampano is good, except that tummy was already filled up with chicharong bulaklak, I could hardly keep my eyes open -- hibernation mode!).

All around the old restaurant are posters that says, "Leftover (sic) will be charged P20 per head." Like duh?

It was a good conversation piece though as we teased each other about the small pieces of food left on our plates, futilely trying to strike some fear about the "threat" of a P20 charge.

Beside the "leftover" sign is another one that says the food is discounted after 2 p.m. as the waitress pours yet another tray full of chicharong bulaklak into the food warmer on the table.

Around us, the big group of 21 men who came in have already left, their plates clean, no leftovers. We don't believe it's because of the P20 charge though. Maybe it's the appreciation of being made to pay only so much for so many food choices.

We cleaned up our plates too... although we ended up not paying for lunch. Jimmy's treat. I shall return... and don't ask me about dessert, I was already stuffed to the brims with just the main course, no, make that chicharong bulaklak.

Just in case there are those who don't know where Taipan is (and must probably don't know about its lomi), Taipan is just a few steps away from the corner of San Pedro and Anda Streets; it's in front of the House of Lord Anthony, and right beside BookStar.