29.12.13

[Invited Tasting & Revisit] Checkers Brasserie Ala Carte Sunday Champagne Brunch

Over the past year, Hilton Hotel has surreptitiously overhauled its dining options. First, they unveiled il Cielo, a contemporary romantic Italian restaurant serving fresh organic produce picturesquely placed at the poolside. Then, they added to their stable, the very celebrated world-renowned Iggy's. And now, to capitalise on our love affair with brunch eggs, they've launched their all-new Ala Carte Sunday Champagne Brunch at Checkers Brasserie, a semi ala carte buffet with a strong Italian slant.

I was invited one Sunday afternoon to sample their brunch and enjoyed myself immensely. The buffet selection here may be considered limited, but just about everything was delicious and above-par. Just think of Hilton's Sunday Brunch as the boutique hotel to the big-name chain resorts. A little exclusive, a little edgy, but a lot luxurious.

The Hubs and I returned for a revisit, as per S.O.P. of all invited tastings, and we found brunch ($80++ without alcohol but inclusive of smoothies, juices and coffee and tea) to be consistent, excellent and thoroughly satisfying. We ate extremely well and were so stuffed, we were still full the next day. In a way, Sunday brunch at the Hilton can be considered extremely value-for-money, because it invariably ends up being 3-meals-in-1! (To be honest, the Hubs didn't want me to blog about this because he wanted to keep this little-known hidden gem of sorts all to ourselves. At the point of time of our revisit, the restaurant was barely occupied, with most diners being the regular tai tai lot and hotel guests, so go while it's still relatively unknown. I don't think the restaurant will feel as exclusive and private once word gets out!)

The star of the brunch has got to be the Egg Specialties, a curated selection of eggs done 6 uniquely different ways, spanning the world from the east to the west, and through the ages from the classics to the modern. These are all prepared ala minute for maximum freshness and perfect textures. Best of all, these are unlimited so you can eat until your buttons pop. A tip is to make an appointment with your cardiologist on Monday after Sunday brunch.

At the tasting, my favourite, if I had to pick (and trust me, this is a hard one), is the Modern, a free range egg cooked at 45 degrees and served atop a velvety chanterelle mushroom gravy.

At the revisit, the Hubs ranked this at the top 3 as well (in fact, both our choices for the top 3 were the same, just ranked differently).

Coming in a close second (for me, at least) was the French, a poached egg set in a hollowed out toasted muffin with a foie gras and truffle laced hollandaise.

At the revisit, the Hubs ranked the French the top of the league. The foie gras, a decadent melty piece of fat, was balanced out by the toasty muffin and cashmere smooth Hollandaise.

Shashouka-lovers will likely take to the Italian, an egg baked in a devilish fiery tomato sauce. Instead of a sweetish paprika-spiked heat, this was full-on sinus-clearing spice, and we were left sniffling a fair bit at the tasting. 

At the revisit, the heat was notably gone, and the Italian was actually like an Italian-influenced egg dish, with juicy tangy pomodoro baked in a skillet pan with an egg.

At the tasting, the American pairs applewood-smoked bacon with eggs sizzling on a hot plate with melted cheese. So simple, but I love the classics, and this made my top 3.

At the revisit, the American also made the Hubs' top 3, but came in behind the French and Modern. He loved how paper crisp the bacon was done.

At the tasting, we were introduced to the Japanese take on breakfast: rice-centric (but of course!), with a perfectly grilled unagi and slow-cooked soft-boiled egg.

At the revisit, the unagi was very fresh, moist and brushed with a sweet teriyaki glaze. I had to stop the Hubs from finishing up all the rice in order to conserve stomach space.

The English, with eggs overeasy in a Wagyu corned beef hash, was possibly, in comparison to the rest of the stellar eggs, a tad boring. But hearty. It was the least favored of the bunch. But, if you love corned beef hash, you'll probably love this.

At the revisit, we realised that if we smear the egg all over the hash, the fuddy English instantly becomes a lot more cool.

At the tasting, I was very pleasantly surprised to find the Antipasti excellent. I loved them all, except for the stuff I personally don't like. My favourite was the surprise, surprise, Baked Mushrooms.

The Marinated Prawn Salad was superb as well, plump and fresh and sweet.

The Roasted Capsicum, staged festively like a Christmas tree, was commendably done as well. Sweet, smoky and juicy.

The Crabmeat Salad is a must-try here, and garnered repeat visits for its crisp freshness and nuanced sweetness.

The Roasted Pumpkin was balanced out by the tart cherry tomatoes.

The olive oil-dressed Baked Vine Tomatoes were really good too.

Baby Carrots, a little crunchier than I'd like but very sweet

The Roasted Broccolini possessed a good crunch.

The Grilled Asparagus was paired with goats cheese and piquant sundried tomatoes for flavour.

Mussel Salad, fresh and juicy

Marinated Leek

Baked Eggplant

At the revisit, the Antipasti took up a considerable amount of our stomach space; they were just that good! There were a few change-ups, to keep things fresh, I suppose, but some of their hits were mainstays. Like the Baked Mushrooms.

And the Crabmeat Salad, which the Hubs loved so much he went back for thirds.

The Roasted Capsicums this time were whole baby ones instead of the sliced up ones at the tasting.

Baked Vine Tomatoes

Baked Baby Carrots

Baked Eggplant

The new stuff, like the Baked Japanese Potato

Roasted Pumpkin, soft and squishy and sweet

Marinated Herring

Marinated Artichoke

Boiled Baby Beetroot

The Mediterranean Mezze Station with freshly baked pitas and hummus, babaganoush, taramasalata, red pesto, green pesto and yoghurt

There's an obligatory-but-rarely-visited Bread Counter here at Sunday brunch tasting as well.

At the revisit, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the confectionery at the Bread Counter were fresh out of the oven and piping hot. No stale overnighters served here.

There's also a smallish Mix-Your-Own Salad Station, similarly hardly touched by diners, but the greens looked crisp and fresh.

At the tasting, the Carving Roast Stations were very popular. There was the seasonal Roasted Turkey, served with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce.

At the revisit, the Roasted Turkey was very good, moist and flavoursome. The chestnut-and-mushroom-based stuffing was just as memorably tasty.

However, my favourite item at the Carving Stations during the tasting was the Roasted Ham, meaty and plump with honeyed goodness.

At the revisit, the Hubs picked the Roasted Ham as his favourite roast as well.

The Roast Beef at the tasting, served with grilled asparagus and potatoes.

At the revisit, the Roast Beef was just as juicy and full-bodied as at the tasting.

The Charcuterie Table had a pretty good selection of cold cuts and terrines. At the tasting, they had Chorizo Aberico Bellota Vacio, Roast Pork and Salami.

As well as Honey Ham and Air Dried Beef, with a bunch of dips.

At the revisit, the cold cuts were slightly changed up, with Roast Pork, Air Dried Beef and Saucisson d'Aurergne.

and Chorizo Aberico Bellota Vacio and Pork Mortadella.

They also had a platter of Parma Ham with Melon, salty ribbons of fatty silkiness.

Foie Gras and Pork Liver Terrine at the tasting.

At the revisit, the selection of terrines were the same

French Duck Rillette with Toasted Baguette at the tasting

At the revisit,they also had the same French Duck Rillette with toasted mini baguettes.

The Sunday Brunch also has a small selection of Smoked Seafood, which i personally don't quite take to. Smoked Escolar with capers and red peppers at the tasting.

Smoked Marlin with capers, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers at the tasting.

Smoked Salmon with capers and pearl onions at the tasting.

At the revisit, the selection of smoked seafood was slightly different, but they kept with the perennial fave of Smoked Salmon

Smoked Escolar with fish roe and pickled ginger at the revisit.

The new kid on the block at the revisit, Smoked Tuna with pearl onions at the tasting.

The brunch also has a limited Sushi and Sashimi Station. I like that they keep the selection small and don't try too hard in creating avant garde stuff, so the stuff at the tasting were pretty decent.

At the revisit, the Sushi and Sashimi were just as fresh, which I appreciated very much.

There's also a Seafood Counter, just as small but so very fresh.

There's also a small selection of main dishes here, also cooked only upon order and served right to you, The best of the lot at the tasting was the Beef Bourguignon, a couple of cheeks braised till fork-tender in red wine sauce and served with truffle polenta, bacon, mushrooms and onions.

At the revisit, the Beef Bourguignon was also the Hubs' favourite main, which, of course, he had 2 portions of.

At the tasting, the Foie Gras Dumplings with shimeiji mushrooms and asparagus was a surprise hit, because it was so light. 

The Foie Gras Dumplings was probably my favourite main at the revisit due to its delicate nature. This was very balanced and nuanced.

At the tasting, I also liked the Miso Salmon, with soy sprouts, spinach and a dollop of wasabi mayo.

At the revisit, the Miso Salmon was just as good, but the beansprouts could have stayed in the wok a little longer, these were still a little raw.

At the tasting, we were all tickled with the presentation of the Lobster Singapore, a luxed up version of our local chilli crab, served in a kitschy mason jar.

At the revisit, I realised that the Lobster Singapore packed a wallop. The sweetness of the eggy sauce belied how spicy it actually was!

At the tasting, the Beef Burger, with a thick slab of juicy minced beef tongue and coulommier cheese was a hit.

At the revisit, the Beef Burger made just as big an impression on the Hubs, with the perfectly grilled patty dripping with robust juices soaking up the buttered fluffy buns .

Sunday brunch also offers a vegetarian option of a Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Quiche with onions, this was one of the least favoured ones at the tasting. I really liked the pomegranate seeds though.

At the revisit, the Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Quiche was just as moist and flavourful, with the liberal use of tangy sundried tomatoes and green olives.

At the tasting, Lamb Loin with babaganoush and mint sauce was very fresh, with nary a taste of game.

At the revisit, we concluded that despite the Lamb Loin's freshness, it really isn't our cup of tea.

At the tasting, the Foie Gras and Char Siew Dumpling was quite the fail. It just wasn't moist and juicy enough. This was unanimously our least favourite of the lot.

At the revisit, I realised what was wrong with the Foie Gras and Char Siew Dumpling: it's its "packaging". If this had been wrapped in a filo pastry and flash fried, it would have been great. The flavour is great, and it's moist, but it's not dripping with juices. Because we're familiar with how juicy a typical "siew mai" usually is, the juiciness fell short of what we'd expect of a "siew mai".

For sweets, there are 3 desserts cooked ala minute, and the rest are for your picking at the buffet table. At the tasting, we opted for the Crepes to be done with chocolate and fruits, and left out the mascarpone, nuts.

At the revisit, we had the Crepes done with nutella chocolate, which was awesome!

At the tasting, the Blueberry Pancakes were my favourite, even if they were lacking a bit in the aesthetics department. These had blueberry compote lined inside the chewy cakes.

At the revisit, the Blueberry Pancakes were notably beautified, with a smattering of fresh berries topped over a drizzling of maple syrup.

At the tasting, the Belgian Waffles, with berries and a drizzling of chocolate sauce, were the prettiest, and the most popular.

At the revisit, we liked the Belgian Waffles very much as well. This time, we opted for maple syrup instead of chocolate sauce.

Sunday Brunch at the Hilton has pretty awesome range of cheeses at their Cheese Table. Their cheeses may be a little unknown, but no less luxurious or delicious. I went back for seconds at the tasting.

At the revisit, the range of cheeses was varied, with Bleu Doux.

Manchego

La Marotte, my favourite for its sharp pungency.

Tomme

Brie

Roblochon

Leyden

Chaumes

They have a limited but very good line up of desserts at the Dessert Station. If anything, you absolutely must try the Cheesecake. Hilton's cheesecakes are legendary, and for good reason. The balance, the moistness and the nuanced sweetness, all make for a creamy and rich but not cloying cake.

The Fruit Tarts are also fairly decent. The fruits are properly ripened and sweet, not tart, and the biscuit crust is buttery and crumbly.

There are 3 variations of Tiramisu, all delicious and absolute must-trys as well. This was the one with a strong cocoa accent.

The second one had a distinct caffeine slant.

The third one was more like a cookies and cream breed of Tiramisu. 

The Chocolate Trio, with milk, dark and semi-sweet chocolate, will be loved by chocoholics.

Tis the season for Log Cakes, both of the traditional chocolate and zesty calamansi flavours.

I liked the Mille Feuille for its juxtaposition of the crunch of the flaky puff pastry and the soft buttercream of the custards.

The Macarons here aren't very good though. The cream fillings were too soft and gooey.

Variations of what we know as fruitcake: the Italian Panettone and German Stollen.

At the revisit, the dessert selection was slightly varied. There were a lot more log cakes this time, beginning with the Chocolate and Calamansi Log Cakes.

There was the refreshing Yuzu and Tropical (mango) versions.

And the Cheese Log Cake, which was a good twist on the classic.

Italian Pannetone

German Stollen

The Tiramisu had 2 variants this time instead of 3, the cookies and cream version.

And the caffeinated one.

Italian Caprese Cake, decorated like a Christmas village

They also added Lemon Tarts to the Fruit Tarts at the revisit.

Macarons

The Drinks Station, with freshly squeezed juices and yoghurts, and of course, alcohol for a boozy brunch. The alcohol here are all curated exclusively from boutique wineries from both the new and old worlds. We noticed at the revisit, that they offered smoothies as well.

Thanks to HGW for the invite and Stephanie for being a gracious host!

Checkers Brasserie
581 Orchard Road
Hilton Hotel Singapore Level 1
Tel: 6730 3390
Open daily from 6am to 11pm; Sunday brunch from 12noon to 3pm
Sunday Champagne Brunch prices:
$80++ for free-flow of smoothies, juices, coffee and tea
$98++ for free-flow of wines and Bloody Marys
$128++ for free-flow of champagne
$40++ for children

7 comments:

andmorefood said...

omg bernie, that was a lot of photos!

merry christmas to you, and a happy new year - I know I'm a bit late but I just came back from holiday, and I finally have a modern web browser from which I can comment on your posts!

we used to come to checkers many years ago - they had great sashimi, but then standards seemed to drop and we stopped. but perhaps it is time to give it a go again!

Bern said...

yeah, it was a freaking long post and took me ages! but yes, u shd give this place a go. the hubby said that their eggs are as good as wild honey's, if not better. i swear we walked out heavier!

belated merry christmas and have a blessed new year's babe!

sharon said...

Hello bern,

You seriously ate all that? I am really impress. Another great post with great photos. Happy new year to you.

From an avid reader

Bern said...

err...well, almost everything. just not the stuff i'm not a fan of like beetroot or leek or eggplant or terrines. basically, the stuff i didn't give a description of its taste, i skipped it. but i made up for it by ordering seconds (or thirds!) of the stuff i loved, like the eggs (biglove!) and honey baked ham. i'm such a glutton, i tell ya. i swear the hubby had to cut me out of my dress when we returned home. *sheepish*

have a wonderful New Year yourself too! :)

p.s. thanks for being an avid reader!

rw said...

You got me at the Italian- memories of eating Tunisian breakfast at Wild Honey is flooding back!

Wishing you a Happy New Year and many more good food to come! :)

FoodieFC said...

so much food!!! The food looks good! Was the brunch worth the price?

ps: Happy New Year to you and your family. To good health, prosperity, joy and delicious food!

Bern said...

@rw: save up tummy space for this one. my advice is not to eat dinner the night before. it's THAT filling. we were still waddling around a day and a half after!

@FoodieFC: totally. the hubby was pointing out that technically, one meal here is like 3 times at wild honey, and since the brunch here is so filling u only eat once a day, it's really value-for-money isn't it?

We'll definitely go back for sure. it's our other favourite brunch place apart from wild honey.

happy 2014 to both of u too!! may you both be blessed with good health and lots of love and happiness.

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