Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vue de Monde

I was lucky enough to be spoilt rotten by M with a lunch at Vue de Monde for my birthday. He kept the details a secret until the last minute, only informing me that I must dress nice for the occasion. As we neared the Rialto Tower however, it slowly dawned on me where we were headed and I couldn't hide my delight - I'd never been to Vue de Monde before and he'd always raved about how amazing the experience was. Indeed, this hatted restaurant prides itself on not only the quality of food, but the quality of the experience with even the tiniest details paid attention to.

We made our way up to the 55th floor in a private elevator that was all dark mirrored surfaces and exited into a hallway that opened out to the Lui Bar. A set of glass doors then lead to the restaurant, via the extensive wine room of course.

We were seated by the wall-to-wall windows with a stunning view of Docklands and the Port of Melbourne.  After a string of days filled with miserable grey clouds, it seemed as if the sun had come out especially for me (I can dream right?). 

Port of Melbourne
Being a celebratory occasion, we sipped on champagne made especially for Vue de Monde, NV Larmandier Bernier ‘Cuvée Vue de monde’ Vertus Champagne AOC, while we took in the stunning view, the handsome all-black decor and the interesting stone and wood "decorations" lying on the table. We had a great time guessing what each item was used for but the waiter simply told us to wait and find out. After all, it was part of the experience. 

NV Larmandier Bernier ‘Cuvée Vue de monde’ Vertus Champagne AOC
We then had to make the tough decision on whether a degustation or an a la carte menu was appropriate based on time restrictions. The waiter assured us that we'd have plenty of time for the 6 course degustation (he was right), but I was a little annoyed that I didn't get to glance either menu and consequently, had no idea what was coming. Not to worry though because the degustation did a more than adequate job of sating both my appetite and my curiosity, and because expectation is half the fun.

Parsnip Chips
The parsnip chips they provided as snacks were very similar to standard potato chips but were slightly less floury. I won't fool myself into thinking they were any healthier, but really, does any care in this indulgent environment?

It wasn't long before the entrees arrived, interestingly presented on a variety of rocks and gems. Seeing as all four dishes arrived at once, I would have liked a little more guidance on which order in which we should have consumed the dishes. In any case, this is the order in which I though the dishes should have been eaten.

First up, the lightest dish - a little parcel of celeriac and sunflower seed paste.

Celeriac, Sunflower Seed
In all honestly, I wasn't particularly impressed by the dish finding the combination of bitter celeriac, and nutty sunflower seed paste to be clashing, but ultimately somewhat bland. The second dish was a little better, but still failed to impress me.

Oyster Paste in Gelatin
While definitely a marvel of construction (I couldn't figure out how they'd made the gelatin set so perfectly in a circle) and with a strong oyster flavour, I still would have much rather had a fresh oyster instead. Thankfully, from here on in, the taste of the dishes improved substantially.
Smoked Eel, White Chocolate, Caviar

The combination of salty, smokey flavours and crunchy sweet caramel is hard to beat. The smoked eel was soft, while the thin layer of caramel added a nice contrast in texture. Biting into one of those small balls of caviar added to the experience even more though. Pretty much a perfect appetiser that more than made up for the apathy I felt for the other two dishes.

Salt Cured Wallaby
The salt cured wallaby was initially brought out on a large rock of salt. I don't know how long they leave the strips of meat on the rock for, but they must have an awful lot of salt rocks in the kitchen. Whatever they did, the meat was delicious, being both perfectly seasoned, and a new experience for me in terms of flavour.

It wasn't until after all this the degustation itself started. The first dish consisted of six little morsels of spanner crab and avocado, with kholrabi (a type of cabbage that resembles a turnip) and beach herbs.

Spanner Crab, Kholrabi, Avocado, Beach Herbs
The crab was sweet and delicate and the avocado was creamy. The kholrabi was also a little sweet and I found this to be a very refreshing dish. Just as we were thinking a bit of substance would be welcome, the waiter arrived with a literal bag of bread, and a barrel of freshly churned butter that was obviously made in house.
Bag of Bread
Fresh Butter
I rarely eat bread, but when I do, I prefer it to be warm and fresh from the oven. I didn't find this bread particularly good, but at least the butter was smooth and creamy, and presented on one of the rocks that had sat on the table. I could have eaten the entire block myself if they'd provided some tasty sourdough to accompany it. 

Next up was M's favourite dish of the day. 

Roasted Marron, Tarragon Butter
The wafer in the back corner of the picture was light and crisp, and contained a sweet marron puree. I actually enjoyed this more than the marron itself which I found to be a little under-flavoured, but which worked very well with the tiny bit of marron salt they'd provided. The best part of the this? They gave us no eating utensils so we could savour the last hits of flavour as we cleaned our fingers. Who says top restaurants won't let their patrons have a little bit of fun? Finally, we were served with cutlery which the waiter rested gently on the pieces of wood that had previously been part of the centerpiece.  

The dish that was presented next was only partially finished when it arrived at the table. A chef followed the waiter with a grater, and a mouthwatering-ly large chunk of black truffle. 

Fried Duck Egg, Lamb Sweetbreads, Pickled Onion, Truffle
This twist was all part of the Vue experience. You should have seen M's barely contained excitement (the boy loves his truffles). I would be lying if I said I didn't feel extremely happy myself. All you could smell at first was the glorious scent of the fresh truffles. How decadent! The duck egg was saltier than I expected with a glorious amount of yolk that ran freely into the sauce with the first cut of the knife. Initially, I thought the sweetbreads were made of pork rather than lamb, but in any case, they provided a nice solidity to the dish. This flavours in this dish worked wonderfully even though they were all very strong.

After an intense dish though, a palate cleanser was thoughtfully provided, and our interaction was required. Liquid nitrogen was poured on a bundle of herbs and edible flowers, and I was told off by the waiter as I took a picture. It turns out that we were to use a pestle fashioned of wood to grind the freeze dried herbs ourselves.

Crushed Herbs
I was having a lot of fun by this stage, but was still wondering how we were supposed to eat the herbs. Turns out, they were to be served with a light cucumber sorbet.

Cucumber Sorbet, Crushed Herbs
A refreshing combination, although I had issues with the spoon.

Needlessly Fancy Spoon
While decorative, I found it too fussy (and had the same opinion of most of the cutlery) and hated the feel of it in my mouth. I'm obviously used to plain spoons that have no other function than to transfer food from a containing vessel into my mouth.

I didn't have too much time to dwell on this though because I was distracted by the arrival of the next dish.

Barramundi, Herb Emulsion, Prawn, Smoked Bone Marrow
I'm not sure I appreciated any taste added by the froth/sea-foam, but it added to the image of the dish being "fresh from the sea". The seafood elements were indeed fresh without the need for heavy sauces, yet the emulsion added just the right amount of flavour. I particularly liked the crispy sheets that were reminiscent of seaweed but haven't the faintest idea of what they actually were. 

A meal at Vue de Monde wouldn't be complete of course without some perfectly cooked Wagyu beef. 
Blackmore Wagyu Beef, Beetroot, Saltbush
What another beautifully presented dish! The Wagyu was cooked medium rare and deliciously juicy and the beetroot pieces were small and sweet. I love the fact that Vue uses native Australian produce in their food although the use of a hardy, salt-tolerant plant was a little surprising. There were also little wild apples dotted around the dish which I was intrigued by but ultimately disliked the flavour of. Overall, I thought this dish was pretty marvellous though.

When the next set of palate cleansers arrived, I thought, "surely not". I was fairly full by this stage. I always had room for sweets though, and these were very fine sweets.

Passionfruit Licorice Beer
The passionfruit licorice beer was intensely strong on the nose but was light and bubbly in the mouth. I like my ginger beer and usually hate very sweet drinks, but this was almost a hybrid of the two that both surprised me and impressed me.

Coconut Sorbet Balls
The coconut balls were just the right size to pop in your mouth and slowly allow to melt. I couldn't wait to see what they had planned for dessert though and I wasn't disappointed. It was, in my opinion, an amazing feat of engineering.

Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate Mousse, Creme Angalise
Oh, you guessed it would be chocolate souffle? It was brought out to us in all its puffed up glory, but the waiter quickly poked a hole in the top and filled it up with creme angalise.

Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate Mousse, Creme Angalise
The souffle was beautifully cloud-like and the smooth mouse and creme added a rich indulgence to the dish. This is something I doubt I could ever replicate at home but would love to try again. I love being spoilt with dessert (even if my dentist has told me to stay away from sweets).

By this time, the next booking for our table had arrived, so we were happy to be moved to the bar and served our coffee and very unique petit fours there. Continuing with the Australian theme, we were presented with edible gum leaves, chocolate bark, cherry mousse lamingtons and gin jellies.

Petit Fours
The gum leaves and the jellies were pretty to look at, but not that interesting to consume. I initially thought the same of the chocolate bark until it started popping in my mouth. I turned to M with a look of amazement and insisted he try it for himself. Pop-rocks! Pure happiness in your mouth.

The chocolate mousse disguised as a lamington and filled with a silky cherry sauce was also brilliant - like a cherry ripe but better structured and textually more interesting.

Cherry Chocolate Mousse Lamingtons
I floated down the elevator in a state of bliss (probably also helped by a reduction in the effects of gravity) but the experience wasn't over yet. We were sent away with a paper bag of treat for "the morning after". How thoughtful, and definitely left us with something to remember the experience by!

"For the Morning After"
I've had my fair share of top-class dining experiences now (although I'd never say no to more) and although this wasn't necessarily the best food I've had, it was certainly a complete and well thought out experience. The food was fresh and interesting, and the menu was uniquely Australian, the staff were efficient and friendly and the surrounds were tasteful and indulgent. I couldn't have been better spoilt on my birthday, or have spent it with a better person. I'm smiling again as I type up this post - that's what I call a great experience.

Vue de Monde
Level 55 Rialto Towers
525 Collins St, Melbourne

Lunch Tue-Fri, Sun reservations from 12pm-2pm
Dinner Mon-Sat reservations from 6pm-915pm

Vue de Monde on Urbanspoon

6 comments:

  1. Oh you got a goodie bag! That is so exciting. I went once, and I'd read about the goodie bags, but for some reason we didn't get one, and I was devastated! Even looking at yours now, I'm still a teeny bit jealous. I bet you had a yum breakfast the next day!

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    1. The goodie bag was just the icing on the cake. It's upsetting that you guys didn't get one. Did you book?

      Breakfast was indeed yummy :)

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  2. Wah I never got a goodie bag when I had dinner there! Granted this was years ago (at the old site) so perhaps things have changed. I'm glad to hear that you had a wonderful meal despite the WTF first few dishes. I'm definitely going to book a lunch date the next time the bf comes to town :)

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    1. Oh no! It seems like I was very lucky to get it. Lunch date with the bf - a brilliant idea :D

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