Vue de Monde – 10 December 2013

I didn’t know too much about Melbourne on both my 2012 and 2013  visits, so trying to figure out which restaurant to book was a little tricky. I had failed to book Attica in 2013, around about the time it was ranked 21st in the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants list. The only place I had really wanted to go to was Cumulus Inc/Cumulus Up, so after thinking and taking a stab in the dark, I chose Vue de Monde.

It sits in the Rialto tower and gets a view of the city, though not really a pretty view or anything. What was exciting though, was this was probably the most fun and interactive degustations I’ve had, especially considering I had dined at Momofuku Seiobo not even two weeks prior.

 
 

 
These were pre-meal snacks on our “Stonehenge” table – smoked eel with white chocolate candy and caviar, salt and vinegar chips with macadamia butter, truffle marshmallows, and oysters. The table decorations were amazing as the rocks formed part of the service, and cutlery was placed on pretty pieces of wood. Vue de Monde has two types of drink pairings: wine, and tea. They even have a dedicated tea sommelier! However, I wasn’t aware of the tea pairing back then, which means I should find an excuse for a revisit!

They also have a very interesting food structure – you get to opt between 5 and 10 courses, and the price of the meal will adjust accordingly. Being my first time here, I opted for the full 10 – which meant that the food alone set me back $250pp, making it the most expensive restaurant I’ve been to.

 
The last of the appetizers was cured kangaroo, rolled with flowers on a slab of pink salt. The waitress was very deft with chopsticks! And as you can see, the cutlery here is very ornate.

Ox tongue, beetroot, creme fraiche

This was our first course, with confit ox tongue. The tongue was cut into small cubes, and was very tender.I found that by itself it was rather salty, but it was offset quite well by the tanginess of the creme fraiche snow.

French onion soup

I was very excited at this – which was only the second course in! Like Momofuku, the chefs bring out the food for you – but this time there was a syphon! All my coffee related dreams have come true and now I have more reasons to buy a syphon! This was a french onion consomme that was heated to bring the liquid to the top chamber to infuse with the dry/who ingredients, before being poured onto the following:

Which was cheese two ways, picked onion, onion rings, grilled onion, macadamia gel, and croutons.

When combined it was super tasty and very strong in flavour – I think I could recall the flavour for many days. It wasn’t strong in a bad way – it was just very, very lingering. It was so rich and so delicious!

Butter poached marron, sweetbread puree, shredded lamb

Ah, marron. Cute, cute, tasty, tasty marron! A simply cooked and lightly salted marron, with a side of sweetbread puree. This one was eating using hands, and a warm towel was provided. I rather enjoy degustations that are highly interactive, require different utensils and often involve finger food, and having chefs bring out the food. It makes the experience just so much more memorable!

Eggs on toast

Yes, it really is a fancy version of eggs on toast! And for those who’ve spotted this, yes, there’s saltbush! Hooray! I love seeing native ingredients being featured! A soft poached duck yolk was hiding underneath the pear circles, sitting on a bed of truffle sauce, and saltbush and thin toast lined the outside. Extra bread was also provided at this stage, perfect for soaking up extra yolky goodness.

 
This was a palate cleanser, and came with our own wooden pestles. The waitstaff warned us that there was tough work to be done! So lo and behold, we received a bowl of violets and leaves, then liquid nitrogen was poured over them. I love liquid nitrogen! We then received the privilege of crushing and smashing those plants with our pestle! I was also so eager to take this shot that the wait staff may have recommended that I was supposed to take a picture of the chef and then the food. In any case, this was then topped with a cucumber sorbet.

Barramundi, lemon, potato

Our degustation then continued with a beautifully prepared seafood dish. The barramundi was perfectly cooked and had a slight charcoal flavour because it was cooked in charcoal I think, I can’t actually remember. The potato was delicious and in a way, this was fancy fish and chips, just as we previously had fancy eggs on toast.

Pigeon breast with jus, pear, and shaved truffle

Pigeon leg with buerre blanc

This was a two part dish, pigeon breast and pigeon leg. The waitress had asked us at the beginning if we were up for anything, including game, and we both were eager to eat everything! So we got some pigeon, which I was very happy about as I haven’t had pigeon in a very long time. Both were great, but I think I enjoyed the leg more simply because it’s much more satisfying to pick it up and devour it with hands.

Beef, pear, maraschino cherries

What an awesome looking dish, and what a tasty dish. Diced David Blackmoore’s full blood wagyu beef with pear and maraschino cherries – and it works! When the dish first came out I thought there might be a marrow element, but alas there wasn’t. That didn’t make the dish in any way disappointing though – it was fantastic.

There was then another palate cleanser as we were now moving into dessert. It was a shot of mint, kale and celery juice topped with coconut cream. A punchy shot but so cleansing!

Buttermilk sorbet

Sadly, I”ve forgotten what the different sauces that surrounded the sorbet were. It was a very pretty dish; reminding me of a bird nest.

White chocolate ganache, poached rhubarb, coffee ice cream, chocolate dirt

Obviously, I remembered this dish more! It was a pleasantly light ganache, so that it wasn’t heavy or overpowering, with poached rhubarb and chocolate malts. The coffee ice cream was also pretty awesome.

Chocolate souffle

Oh my goodness. This souffle. If I could spam these pictures ad infinitum, I would. This souffle is nigh unbeatable, I’d say. I’ve had plenty of souffles before, and plenty of souffles since, but nothing quite matches the perfectness of the chocolatiness and fluffiness of this culinary masterpiece. It has spoilt me for all other souffles! When I say that it’s the perfect chocolatiness, I do mean it – it was a flavour that wasn’t bitter or sour, but also wasn’t too sweet. The best way to describe it is a close to 50% cocao Belgian chocolate couverture. There was also a beautiful quenelle of vanilla ice cream so skillfully and gracefully plunged into the heart of the souffle, allowing sauce to spill out in a most delicious looking way!

This was the most Australian set of petit fours I’ve ever had. Orange jelly two up; white chocolate, olive oil, seaweed seashells; cherries and lamington; and lastly, my favourite, the eucalyptus ice cream. That ice cream! It reminded me of my primary school days with the eucalyptus drops as it tasted exactly like them. This was the best finish to a degustation, and alas we had demolished Stonehenge. But wait, there’s more! Even after all that food, we were escorted out via their expansive wine cellar, which was cold and pretty, then we were presented with a morning after care package containing brioche, tea, honey and cookies. How fantastic! This was such a wholistic dining experience – from the beginning when we entered the lobby of the Rialto, all the way through service with a dedicated sommelier, attentive waitstaff, very nice chefs, a whole heap of interaction, a “tour” of their wine cellar, and even a take home package. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, except maybe the chef’s table and the presence of Shannon Bennett. That’d be something else.

Overall, I have no clue why this place doesn’t rank higher than it does – what amazing food, with a great level of interaction and hands-on experience. I’m also impressed by the fact that they can do any number of courses between 5-10 to cater for everyone, and far outdoes Momofuku (considering I’ve just had that too!) in terms of awesomeness.

Here, my top three out of everything served would actually be the marron, souffle and eucalyptus ice cream.

This place is definitely worth a re-visit for the souffle and the tea pairing, and is my new benchmark for epic degustations. Oh, and did I mention they have the most adorable little pop-up book of cocktails?

There’s also a joke about the serving sizes here – that one can eat through the degustation and then walk out and purchase and consume a big mac from the local McDonalds. I can also confirm that for a $250 meal, you will be left with plenty of room to spare! At no point did I feel full, and could definitely eat more, though I wouldn’t say that it leaves you hungry. The only disappointment you should be experiencing after a place like this is that no other restaurant will do!

As a side note, their bathroom is amazing. It was so trippy and fantastic because it was a proximity/weight activated fountain tap thing that dispensed super saline water! I was so confused when I was using them as the solution was so concentrated that it felt soapy, so I had no idea how to “wash” off the soap. There was also additional soap and moisturiser, and in the end I figured that if the water was soapy feeling, it probably evaporated in the Dyson hand drier. Only then did I come across the sign that explained the hand washing system: the saline solution is all that’s needed to clean hands hygenically and that the soap was an optional item for those who weren’t comfortable with the saline solution, and my hands did indeed feel normal once I’d dried them. This was an 11/10 restaurant bathroom!

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