Friday, January 22, 2010

Vue de Monde

Address: Normanby Chambers, 430 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000 (Look for the red door)
Tel: (03) 9691 3888 (bookings essential, approx 1-2 month wait)

I was advised that Vue de Monde is Melbourne's highlight and it is not only when you leave and reflect upon it that you realise it is true. I now formulate my comparisons based on Vue de Monde as the benchmark as it is truly an aural, visual and taste sensory experience.

The standard is a 5-course degustation menu, but since I was leaving town we upped-the-ante to the 9-course degustation. The staff kindly took your preferences into account prior to commencing the meal and advised that no two tables will be served the same degustation menu. It is all a random, happening affair.

The kitchen is in plain sight, with strategic mirrors placed on the ceiling so diners can view the motion and preparation of each dish.

Our first course (pictured below) was an egg, boiled at 62 degrees celcius, with breadcrumbs and terragon sauce - this was served to stimulate the appetite (and it did, was quite moorish). The plastic squeezy tube reminded me of a science lab - this is symbolic of the scientific & formulaic dishes served up at Vue de Monde.

Since I do not drink, our beverage waiter (yes there is a beverage specialist/master on site!) suggested a peach nectar (peaches grown on the vine?) drink, softened with soda water to make it less dense. Was both refreshing and delectable. (Sorry no pictures!)

As a starter we were served a choice of mustard or olive bread rolls with a cream cheese/butter spread. They were very generous and came around a few times however one must stay on target and save thy appetite for what is yet to come...

Pictured above: Tasmanian Sea Trout cooked at 62 degrees in the oven to ensure even & thorough cooking. It was served on a clear glass plate masked with a glass lid - the waiter lifted the lid and a cloud of smoke disappeared into the air - magical! The trout was indeed cooked through evenly, served with baby beet and a smoke-hickory (salty) foam. Definitely a show for the senses!

Pictured below: Vue de's signature dish - truffle risotto, cooked with several different type of truffle, served with shaved truffle to be folded into the risotto. The green swirl you see is a truffle coulis. Definitely a flavour-filled dense dish!

Below: A salad consisting of yabbie meat, walnuts, baby grape & yoghurt with hazelnut oil. The result is a citrusy tang with a hint of bitterness from the walnut.

Served next was a John Dory dish: basted in wasabi butter, served with green nettle sauce with sesame toast, and snow peas in XO sauce. The fish was a little tough however was fresh because the fillet didnt flake. It was a strange rendition of XO sauce (very dark and oyster sauce-like) and the wasabi flavour was mild and hardly noticeable.

Above: A palate cleanser made with natural yoghurt, grapeseed, cooled by dry ice - I loved this, could have eaten it by the tonne - very fruity and refreshing and suitable for the warmer climate.

Pictured below: Chicken breast dish, topped with chicken leg crispy skin and served with a zucchini flower. One of the most succulent pieces of chicken I have ever tasted - the texture was almost like duck meat.

Above: Log of lamb, finished with almond sauce - 3 types of lamb, my favourite being the last one which was fatty and almost melted in my mouth. The curl on the end I believe is potato which was a cute edible decoration.

Below: Cheese with sourdough biscuit and potato rectangle - I didn't think much of this until I started fantasizing about this particular type of soft French cheese after I left - it had a slightly bitter aged flavour but was quite soft and savoury and complimented the biscuit perfectly.

Pre-dessert: About 5 courses in I was already praying for salvation because I was too full and wanted to walk out. The mood spoiled the additional 3 courses of dessert to come however the frozen kiwi fruit with jelly glaze and raspberry (and apricot?) sorbet (pictured below) was promised to cleanse the palate for the next round. Was an icy, crumbly rendition of sorbet but nevertheless refreshing.

Above: Forest berry sago with fresh raspberries, halved blueberries, blackberry served with a raspberry flavoured 'honeycomb' and bubblegum icecream - I ate the fresh berries and honeycomb pieces (yum yum!) and icecream however was not a fan of the sago.

Pictured above & below: Self-saucing chocolate cake - I pushed it on its side and it literally cracked and oozed liquid chocolate, the chocolate 'sauce' was a thinly textured, strong with slightly bitter flavour, almost like a very consistent hot chocolate drink. The cake was a crumbly texture, more biscuit-like than spongy.

All I can say is wow - if you always thought Melbourne was a little left of centre, this restaurant is definitely the taste experience to confirm it. The chefs behind this establishment are definitely not afraid to experiment and who knew you could be defeated by food. The staff will very kindly offer to hail you a taxi (and believe me, you will need it either from all the drinking or eating or both if you order the 9 courses) while you roll out of the front door...