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Effervescent afternoon uncorks fun

By Brad Webber (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-09 09:41
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Effervescent afternoon uncorks fun
The light and airy Vasco's restaurant provides an ideal
setting for the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing Hotel's
Fizztastic brunch. Photos Provided to China Daily

Hilton Beijing Wangfujing's Champagne brunch bubbles over with delicacies

Brunch conjures up images of made-to-order omelets, bangers and soggy waffles, and on one particular holiday, scary bunny suits.

But with one deft swoop called the Fizztastic brunch the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing has not only slammed the chafing-dish lid on banquet tables laden with the usual ho-hum, but also set the benchmark for the midday repast in the capital.

The trendy, award-winning boutique hotel one block off Beijing's famed boulevard reinvigorates the breakfast-lunch concept by uncorking a convivial atmosphere with circuses aplenty and heaping portions of gourmet fare, heavy on delectable shellfish.

Effervescent afternoon uncorks fun

Acrobatic tea service is among the brunch's many acts.

Here the bubbles - Taittinger chardonnay brut - flow freely. Clovis Taittinger, a sixth-generation scion of the Champagne empire, formally inaugurated the brunch, and his toast inspired the restaurant's much-appreciated no-flutes-go-empty campaign. That policy lubricates the rather boisterous, all-ages crowd that packs the hotel's fifth floor Vasco's and connected Chynna restaurants on Sundays.

The Casablanca Jazz Trio, a stylish house band, pumps out a lively tempo by which to sashay to the sushi bar or to nibble on crisp Peking duck.

As you amble along to "I've Got You Under My Skin" and other uptempo standards, you'd best plot a strategy to navigate the floor. Various foodstuffs are set about the perimeter of the main dining area to such a degree that a map would come in handy.

Diners are also sated by food delivered to their table, such as tender roast beef or the saffron-sprinkled curried crab in a massive paella pan that requires two men to hoist about. (One of them was the good-natured chef de cuisine, Ricardo Bizarro, a Portuguese import who ensures the dish is authentically Macanese.)

For all that attention though, cracking implements were not readily offered and a futile effort to use our fingers on the heavily sauced crustaceans left us wanting for fingerbowls.

That flaw was a trifle. As with any buffet, it pays to arrive early for the freshest offerings. It is critical, for example, to hit the dim sum station ASAP for a delightful payoff. The lineup of Cantonese yum cha displays savory standbys such as shao mai, crystal shrimp dumplings and barbecue pork buns.

Nearby stand chefs manning hot pots, pulling wheat noodles and carving slivers of all sorts of fowl.

The aforementioned Peking duck is rolled with the correct proportion of hoisin sauce and scallions. Shark's fin soup, abalone and sea cucumbers please local guests.

The seafood room is another popular draw, and with good reason. Caviar and plump iced oysters and scallops abound. Flavorful seafood salads make lovely starters, particularly the crab meat salad.

Low-temperature cooked tom turkey with honey-glazed chestnut and stuffing is among the seasonal favorites rotated into the repertoire.

Effervescent afternoon uncorks fun
Chef Ricardo Bizarro from Portugal infuses many of the
dishes with a Macanese flair.

Within 10 paces you can get dishes of tempura or sushi, while toward the rear of the room, a variety of mussels, tiger prawn, steak or leg of lamb are set about the grill area.

Do insist that your selection be cooked to order; as the buffet was wrapping up for the afternoon I was given items that had been held under heat lamps, and the result, predictably, was tough, dry meat.

The bounty includes a room filled with desserts that tantalize young wards in the "Kids Paradise" drop-off zone with potential rewards for good behavior: a chocolate fountain, all sorts of ice creams, fruits, souffls and crepes. The tiramisu, served in shot glasses, wins big points.

When it comes to entertainment, little is held back. A magician strolls the room and shows just how much fun a little sleight of hand and a deck of cards can be. A calligrapher and a balloon artist please the young ones.

But the chefs, including Yang Hongbing, a Beijing champion at tossing pizza dough (and the pie is tasty, too) perform the best tricks. A tea server poured with acrobatic elegance, even if the brew itself was a bit tepid.

Table service was uniformly attentive (with the exception of the shellfish cracker oversight) and exceedingly gracious. The attendants' friendly demeanor was infectious.

Effervescent afternoon uncorks fun

Apparently, a "water sommelier" is also on hand to proffer premium spritzes. I did not avail myself of his services, as I prefer my liquid carbonated and, well, grape-y. Fortunately, the fancy H20 is where any pretentiousness ends with the Fizztastic brunch.

John Maynard Keynes once said, "My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." I don't know much about economics, but factoring in the cost of the Taittinger fizz alone, I'd hit this buffet before the bubble bursts.

The Fizztastic brunch costs 368 yuan plus a 15 percent service charge (free for children younger than 5 years old, half price for those younger than 15). It runs from noon to 3 pm. Sundays at Vasco's, on the fifth floor of the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing.


Key Words


Tea    Peking Opera


Cultural Heritage

Jade  Chinese  New Year

Imperial Palace

Chinese Painting