Pan-Asian Saturday Brunch at Vasco's, Hilton

Vasco da Gama, Portuguese explorer and discoverer of the sea route to India from Europe. In 1497, he set sail from Lisbon in Portugal and 10 months later, reached Calicut, India. Perhaps Vasco's at Hilton is named after this intrepid traveller. Interestingly, quite a few Hilton Hotels around the world have called their all-day restaurants by this name.

Executive Chef Achal Aggarwal

Hilton Chennai has introduced Pan-Asian Saturday brunch buffet where Chennai diners are taken on a voyage of discovery through countries in Asia. Executive Chef Achal Aggarwal is at the helm of this voyage and his credentials are pretty impressive. His forte is Asian food and his specialisation is Japanese. The brunch takes us through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan of course!

Tuna & salmon tartare

Vasco's is on the 3rd floor of the hotel and walking into the restaurant, the layout is meaningful. One has to necessarily pass the salad and the appetiser counters to reach the seating area and the sights and colours that you pass by are alluring. To the right, a flight of stairs leads up to the kids' section and the private dining room. Wooden tables sit on wooden floorboards and food counters are arranged in such a way that even when the restaurant is busy, there's no crowding around the cloches. Checking with the marketing team, I'm told that the interiors of the restaurant resemble the deck of a ship. Hmm...that explains the PDR which has the look of a crow's nest! Large glass windows let in plenty of sunlight and the elevated line of the Metro passes in front of the hotel. Watching trains go by is also a way to relax! The restaurant is pretty full and many of the diners are expats, obviously the new menu is quite an attraction.

The making of passion-fruit Bellini

We're a group of 10 bloggers invited to review the brunch and were welcomed by the F&B and marketing teams. A bottle of sparkling wine was opened with practised ease and passion-fruit Bellinis created. Tart and crisp and a palate cleanser to boot.

Siew mai, mantou buns, red bean buns

Chef Achal tells us there are about 69 dishes on the brunch menu and in the coming weeks, the menu would include more. He took us around the various stations just so that we did not miss anything. Seriously??... 69...?? That's like 3 - 4 visits to try out everything... and by then, the menu would have changed...

Sweet & spicy shrimp, chicken gyoza

Vegetable kimchi; duck salad

Poached lobster salad with miso dressing
Appetisers included Cantonese spring roll, sweet and spicy shrimps and chicken gyoza. All of them were delicious. Eight salads on offer including Korean kimchi salad, duck salad with sherry vinegrette and an earthy sweet and spicy mushroom salad. The stand out was definitely the poached lobster salad with succulent cubes of meat tossed in miso dressing. A couple of the salads missed the mark where the dressings were concerned. For the mango addicts, there was a whole section with sliced mangoes of various degrees of ripeness, some even with chilli powder sprinkled over.

Soup station and tom kha gai

The soup I chose was tom kha gai - coconut milk and galangal soup with chicken. The chicken was tender though the soup needed more body.

Going Japanese with katsu curry; feather-light prawn tempura; grilled meat; nigiri & veg sushi

Steaming hot dimsums

There were bamboo baskets filled with oversized prawn, seafood and chicken siew mai, mantou buns and steamed buns with red bean paste. To a question if pork buns were available, the chef obliged and made them within 10 minutes. Wow - that's service!

The best prawn tempura

Drunken chicken

So many main course choices. From the live station, we munched on chicken, prawn and fish satays. I prefer satay to have more of a char and the flavour when cooked over a charcoal grill is unmistakable which these lacked. The prawn tempura was outstanding - deliciously crisp coating over large fresh prawns. There was also a station devoted to sushi, both veg and non veg. I guess sushi tastes better when freshly made as the nigiri sushi we were served later showed. Drunken chicken - chicken poached in Shaoxing wine, had extremely tender chicken, gave a bit of a buzz but was a little too bitter for me.

Thirst quenchers - Bellini; cucumber with sake; watermelon with vodka

Three fruit-based cocktails were served through the meal, along with a glass of sake.
Oh so Asian - buta shogayaki; shrimps in XO sauce; delicious sticky fried rice; Phad Thai noodles

My plate was a mini representation of Asian cuisine. There was steamed jasmine rice, Japanese sticky fried rice (not to be missed), stir fried prawns, lamb bulgogi, Malaysian style rendang (yummy), Cambodian fish amok (delicious fish curry thickened with egg) and Thai asparagus wanton, another cracker of a dish. Only the Phad Thai was much too tangy for me. There was even a seafood paella but I was pretty content with the sticky fried rice.

Chilli garlic noodles; buta shogayaki

All veg sides - Korean veg pancakes; tofu oroshi sauce; teriyaki glazed haricot; nasu dengaku

Yase nabe - a Japanese hot pot, perfect comfort food


Perhaps it was a good strategy to seat us near the dessert counter. By the end of the meal, we knew exactly what we wanted. Top marks for the basbousa, mango cheesecake, chocolate fudge, passion-fruit gateau and black forest slice. There was a green pancake pretending to be kueh dadar but it tasted pleasant enough. There was also a mango gateau and a warm mango pudding served as specials.

How much is too much dessert?

The brunch is impressive both in its extensiveness and variety. Ingredients used are fresh and the dishes are replenished frequently. The serving crew is ready at hand to explain pairings and offer suggestions.

Hilton Chennai practises environment sustainability. Every month, 450 litres of used kitchen oil is given to the Indian railways to create bio-diesel oil that is used to run their train engines. Some other healthy environmental practices include:

* An organic waste converter processes all the wet waste the hotel generates into manure that is used for their garden;

*All hazardous wastes, including batteries and USPs are handed over to authorised recycling units;

*A No-Bin Day once a week in the team cafetaria to ensure zero wastage; and

*A "Clean Air Programme" that measures the environmental impact of holding a conference or social event at the hotel and an equivalent contribution is given to the Southern Electricity Grid to fund the Tamilnadu 45-Turbine Wind Project.

Vasco's Pan-Asian Saturday brunch is from 12.30 - 3.30 pm. Cost of the buffet is 1945/++ non alcoholic; 2345/++ with alcohol. For kids 5 - 12 years, it's 950/++,  free for kids under 5.

Do call +91 44 2225 5555 for reservations.

Hilton Chennai
124/1 JN Salai
Guindy. Chennai 600032.


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