Friday, September 16, 2011

Victoria & Albert's Chef's Table Review

I’m just bursting at the seams with excitement over writing this review for Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table!  Exactly 180 days before our tenth anniversary, I contacted Victoria & Albert’s, hoping to get a reservation and was super excited when they told us we had succeeded.  I was so excited (and also in a hurry to take care of our other reservation requests) that I forgot to ask if the Chef’s Table was available until weeks later.  When I called back, not only was the Chef’s Table booked, but there was a waiting list. Shoot!  Content with having one of the most sought after reservations already, I put the thought of eating at Chef Scott Hummel’s table out of my mind, after adding our names to the waiting list anyway.

One day before leaving, we get a phone call from the restaurant, telling us that there had been a cancellation and that we could experience dinner at the Chef’s Table on our tenth anniversary. Excuse me? Of course I checked the caller ID to make sure it was actually V & A’s calling before demurely responding “Absolutely, ma’am.  That would be lovely.”  A sophisticated diner at the Chef’s Table would never excitedly exclaim their eagerness to eat at such an exquisite establishment.  Inside, I was screaming and jumping up and down like a six year old who was just told they were going to Disney World, which is exactly what I did when I hung up the phone.

Disney 2011 338On the night of our 5:30 pm reservation, we put on our “Sunday Best,” left our little one safe in her room with the super awesome Ellen from Kids Night Out, and boarded luxury travel accommodations provided by Florida Magical Tours, also highly recommended.  Upon arriving at Grand Floridian, we were awed at how beautiful the resort was, and vowed to stay there on a future visit.  A bit early, we were asked to sit just outside the restaurant.  When it was time to be seated, we were greeted by Isreal, a gentle giant, who was pleased to take my camera backpack and inform us of the magnificent meal we were about to have.  After meandering through the restaurant seating area and kitchen we were led to a massive table, placed in full view of the surprisingly quiet, but busy kitchen.  Chef Scott was not available, but left us in the very capable hands of another wonderful chef, who’s name I won’t mention since he hasn’t emailed the recipe for his potato purée, yet.

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A very hungry, Kyle
After reviewing our dining requests, our wait staff offered complimentary champagne to share in a toast with the Chef. Since Kyle doesn’t drink, we politely refused and opted instead for sparkling cider.  Now about those dining requests…my poor husband is terribly allergic to all seafood and most poultry, which I assumed would be a bit awkward a request for the kitchen to handle.  Not so.  We had completely different plates nearly every course served, and I was happy to eat a little bit of his and all of mine with each coming plate.  My family owned restaurants I love to cook and have eaten just about everywhere imaginable, but this meal proved how much I don’t know about culinary arts. I learned a ton, but still claim vast ignorance on the subject.  The chef was happy to explain exactly what it is we were eating, but I was more interested in the preparation and photographing each plate. 

First Course:
Kyle – Amuse-Bouche, Vegetable Roll, Squash Tortellini, Burrata Alla Panna with Jamón Ibérico and Butternut Squash Soup
Lottie – Amuse-Bouche, Soft-poached Quail Egg with Galilee Caviar, Lobster Panna Cotta, Burrata Alla Panna with Jamón Ibérico and Butternut Squash Soup
I’m not a big fan of eggs, no matter who cooks them, but since I’ll always try anything once, I ate the quail egg anyway. The caviar was divine, but the egg left the same funky taste in my mouth that it always does. Palate cleanser, please!  The lobster panna cotta was wonderful, as was the creamy butternut squash soup.  Surprisingly, Kyle ate his vegetable roll and really enjoyed it, as well as the squash tortellini.  His “Manly Man” food preferences didn’t let him enjoy the soup, so I got a double helping.
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Kyle's First Course
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Lottie's First Course

Second Course:
Kyle – Applewood Smoked Buffalo “Waldorf”
Lottie – Maine Lobster, Mango, and Passion Fruit Pearls with German Caviar
Step aside! Manly Man coming through! Kyle loved the buffalo salad.  The “Waldorf” was candied, crushed walnuts on the side. I didn’t get a crumb of his plate.  Again, he happily ate the veggies, while commenting on my passion fruit pearls. He was happy to have recognized something on my plate, but did not want to taste them. Who would have thought about putting mango with lobster? It truly works well together.  The salad was fresh, creamy and crispy.  The touch of saltiness added by the caviar made this a scrumptious salad plate.
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Buffalo "Waldorf"
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Maine Lobster & Mango Salad

Third Course:
Same – Cold “Smoked” Niman Ranch Lamb with Fuji Apple and Curry Dressing
Check out the action shots on this course! Our waiters poured warm apple cider over the plate and cold “smoked” the lamb.  The very best in food entertainment! After the smoke dissipated, the lamb was tender and flavorful.  Curry was made for lamb, and this was the best I’d had.
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Fourth Course (Fish):
Kyle – Vegetable Ratatouille in Calamarata Pasta
Lottie – Sake-Soy marinated Alaskan King Salmon with Bok Choy and Soy Beans
I could end this review here.  The salmon was the best dang salmon I have ever eaten, and that’s saying a lot since my family owned seafood restaurants.  Ahem! I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will return to Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table just to enjoy another plate of this fantastic fish.  Yes, I dropped my fork after taking a bite. It was that good.  More vegetables for Kyle, which he wasn’t totally thrilled with, but tasted them anyway and was surprised at how much he enjoyed the ratatouille.  There were Remy jokes bouncing all around, and we both looked under the table to see if he was hiding in the kitchen somewhere.

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Best Dang Salmon Ever!
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Is Remy behind this deliciousness?
Fifth Course:
Kyle – Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin with Corn and Black Berry Succotash
Lottie – Roasted Quail with Asian Pears and Serrano Ham Jus
During dinner, the chefs in the kitchen will pose for photos, answer questions and talk to you while they prepare the meal.  The chef who prepared the quail stopped by our table to see if I was enjoying it since it was his favorite dish.  It was a highly sophisticated version of chicken cordon bleu, and it was delectable. The perfect crispy crunch of the fried quail, paired with the sweetness of the pears and the salty Serrano ham jus made this one of the favorite courses that evening.  So caught up in my plate, I forgot to put my fork in Kyle’s, and it was completely clean before I could get a crumb.  I cook pork and corn together often at home, so his plate was 90% familiar and 100% gone in seconds. 

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Roasted Quail
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Pork Tenderloin
Sixth Course:
Kyle – Marcho Farms Veal with Chanterelle Mushroom Ragout
Lottie – Veal Sweetbread and Shank with Chanterelle Mushroom Ragout
Sweetbreads. Not exactly what comes to mind when you read the word.  There is nothing sweet about them and there is no bread involved.  Sweetbreads are typically the part of the animal that no one wants to eat; varying glands and other organs.  Did that totally disgust you? After a brief, apprehensive pause, I decided to dive into the dish and was pleasantly surprised.  Uneasiness settled with each forkful of this tender, gently fried, delicacy.  Kyle didn’t realize what he was eating until his plate was clean.  With a napkin wipe of his mouth, he shrugged it off and decided that it was time for a bathroom break.
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During this highly encouraged break, Kyle was asked to put his jacket on while we were escorted to the front of the restaurant.  After the wonderful, luxurious service displayed, I fully expected to see leather toilet paper, champagne flowing from the faucets and Mickey Mouse as a restroom attendant, but alas, it was your typical really posh Disney bathroom.

Seventh Course (Main Entreé)
Same – Australian Kobe Beef with Garlic Potato Purée
According to our chef, this particular cut of beef was one of the best cuts on earth.  This is served for an extra fee in the main dining room and the extra cost is easily justifiable.  The potatoes, with fermented black garlic and miniature vegetables were impossibly tasty.   Watching my husband’s eyes roll into the back of his head while he sank into the chair after the first bite was worth the price of admission.  To this very day, he walks past me and says, “…but the potatoes!” and I instantly know what he’s craving.  While I’ve tried in vain to duplicate this, I am still waiting on the recipe, which the Chef insisted was just lots of butter, potatoes, milk, garlic and patience.

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But the potatoes!
Eighth Course (Cheese Plate)
Same – Southern Belle Chevre , Gouda Goat, Colston Bassett Stilton, 24-Month Parmigiano-Reggiano
There’s a farmer’s market near us and I frequent their expansive cheese counter weekly.  So, when the cheese course arrived, I was feeling pretty smug.  Kyle knew absolutely nothing about the items on the plate in front of him, while I had previously tasted each one of the cheeses or a comparable complement.  The Colston was my favorite and the Gouda was a close second. Kyle didn’t like any of them.

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Say Cheese!
Ninth Course
Same – Orange Panna Cotta with Chartreuse-Pineapple Sorbet
The first dessert course was met with sweet sorrow.  We were happy that the meal was ending because we were both totally stuffed, but sad that our experience at V & A’s was coming to a close. Time was moving swiftly, and we hadn’t realized that we had been there nearly four hours.  The pineapple sorbet got big thumbs up from Kyle, though he coyly pushed aside the panna cotta. A double helping would have been my preference, but I was already feeling as if I needed a wheelbarrow to leave.

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Cherries & Pineapple Sorbet
Tenth Course
Same – Mocha Scented Tanzanie Chocolate Mousse Timbale and Chocolate Cocktail
Although we both agreed to steer clear of the alcoholic beverages that evening, I did indulge in the chocolate cocktail at the Chef’s insistence and it was delicious!  Warm, smooth, scrumptious and gone within a couple sips, I was happy to finish off Kyle’s while he awkwardly attempted to annihilate the awesome candy creation in front of him.  We didn’t have leather toilet paper in the bathroom, but we did have gold foil on our dessert; I suppose that is an adequate trade.

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At the end of our meals, I was presented with a long stem rose and our choice of chocolates and fruit cake to take home.  Coffee is offered, but we did not indulge because we were much too full.  At $200 per person, plus tax and gratuity, the Chef’s Table is something you do for special occasions.  We will most certainly return, and bring friends, if we’re lucky enough to get a reservation again.
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Kyle learning about the vegetables he won't eat at home

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