The Hedonist's Sunday Brunch

When your significant other decides to extend your birthday by suggesting Sunday brunch at the Westin, it's hard to refuse.

Granted, I had a long-time hatred and distrust of buffets. In fact, I revulsed at the thought of them. Buffets reminded me of soul-sucking Vegas vacations and childhood meals out in suburban Massachusetts. My well-meaning but frugal parents even held my college graduation party at a Chinese-style buffet; insisting that the all-you-can-eat platters of strange-flavor beef and California rolls were a "good deal". I would have sooner organized a reception at a Chinatown dai pai dong.

But I digress.

Beijing's Westin Sunday brunch shattered my belief that buffets were all about quantity over quality. I even went easy at first on the limitless Champagne, so my judgement wouldn't be clouded. It was an exercise in restraint.

The strongest indicator of substance over fluff was the seafood. I piled my plate with lobster, crab legs, jumbo prawns, clams, and the freshest mussels I had tasted in ages. And I doubt I could have found a better seafood bouillabaisse this side of the Caucasus. (For the record, Jacob and I had a very light dinner the night before, and didn't eat any more food for the rest of the day.)

I couldn't even make it to the Peking duck, roast pork, tuna tartare, seafood salads, noodle soups, chowders, dim sum offerings, bread puddings, baked goods, and all but three of the signature cocktails.

Of course, some foods just don't translate well when you make them in large-scale quantities. I was reminded of a previous job at a high-end Manhattan caterer, when I would spend whole days on tasks such as making tuile garnishes for 1,200 chocolate tarts. One of the many reasons people still go to high-end restaurants is for the intimate experience; for example, having a mousse parfait brought to you cold instead of self-serving one that has sat out for 3 hours.

Overall, though, I couldn't complain much. Not with this cake.


Senses at The Westin Beijing, Financial Street 9B Jinrongjie, Financial Street Xidan, Beijing 9B金融街 西单, 北京 (86)(10) 6606 8866