For my husband’s birthday, I surprised him with a 1 night stay at the Polynesian & dinner at Victoria & Albert’s restaurant. Unfortunately, I was unable to get Chef’s Table reservations, but Chef Scott very kindly agreed to serve us the Chef’s Table menu in the main dining room. The servers said that this is common, especially during the summer time, so might be a good option for those who would enjoy sampling everything but who prefer the romantic restaurant atmosphere to the kitchen atmosphere.
I am a pescatarian, so I will eat seafood, but not meat, which you will see reflected in my dishes.
When we arrived, we were greeted immediately by Israel, the Maitre d’, and were escorted to our table. Our table was one of the 4 tables located under the dome in the center of the restaurant, which will become important later.
Initially, the service was extremely slow. It took several minutes for the servers to even acknowledge our presence, then another few minutes for them to bring water to us. After this, they brought us some other couple’s menus, which we realized right away, because it had this other couple’s names printed on it.
After about a 20-25 minutewait, we were served our amuses bouches. As always, the presentation was creative and artistic. The first amuse that we tried was the Ohio Tomatoes with Ahi Tuna on a Himalayan Salt Plate. The tuna was delicious: rare, soft, and tender, and the salt plate added a nice saltiness to the tuna. I am not usually a fan of raw tomatoes, but these were incredible, not bitter at all, and very flavorful. We enjoyed this first offering very much.
Next was the Shrimp Gyoza with Coconut Broth. This was amazing, and Andy liked it best. It was served warm, with notes of soy and sesame, and the coconut broth paired beautifully with the gyoza.
Our third amuse bouche, and my favorite, was the Deviled Quail Egg with Russian Sevruga Caviar. This was so soft and creamy and mild. The smoothness of the egg yolk paired nicely with the salty bubbles of caviar, and I am a caviar fan to begin with.
The last amuse bouche was the Vanilla Skewered Crab Sphere. This had the most creative presentation, as it was served on a whisk, but it was the weakest of all 4 selections. The flavor was faintly sweet, but very mild, so much so that it ended up being a bit bland. We had saved this for last, since we both really enjoy crab meat, but we were disappointed in the mildness of the flavor. The taste of the crab was overwhelmed by the breading.
My husband had chosen the wine pairings, so his wine with the amuse bouche course was a Heidsieck Monopole “Blue Top” Brut Champagne. It was crisp, light, and citrusy, but not terribly memorable.
After the amuse bouche course, we were given our first course. For me, this was Braised Fennel, Radishes, and Satsuma Tangerine Vinaigrette. Andy had the identical dish, except that his was Fennel Seared Colorado Buffalo Tenderloin, Braised Fennel, Radishes, and Satsuma Tangerine Vinaigrette. Basically, they just left the buffalo off of my portion. This was crisp and tangy, and very refreshing. I enjoyed it, and appreciated the fact that it was light, as I knew we had a large portion ahead of us. My husband’s buffalo was very tender. It was sliced thinly, and the outside had a smoky, peppery, jerky taste that he enjoyed very much. His wine pairing with this was the Chehalem Pinot Gris, Willamette 2005.
Next, we both had the Maine Diver Scallop with Salsify and Cauliflower in a Saffron Emulsion. This was delicious! It was cooked perfectly, which is a difficult feat. The inside was tasty, because of the caramelization, but the inside was just barely warmed through. Because of this, it was very tender and flavorful. We both enjoyed this dish very much. The scallops had just arrived that day, and it was obvious that they were very fresh. My husband’s wine with this was a Trimbach Gewurztraminer, Alsace 2003. This wine had a very floral nose; it smelled very strongly of roses. The taste, though was dry, which contrasted oddly with the sweet, floral bouquet.
Our next courses were different again. I had Pappardelle Pasta with a Truffled Egg and South African Porcini Mushroom Sauce. My husband had virtually the same dish, except that his had lamb: Colorado Lamb with Wild Mushroom Ragout, Porcini Pasta, and Truffle Foam. The pasta was good, but a bit bland, and I didn’t want to fill up on pasta, knowing how much there still was to come. The wild mushrooms were delicious, very meaty and flavorful, but our favorite was the truffled egg. This was an egg shell that had been filled with a mushroom mousse. It, too, tasted light and yet meaty. The salt wasn’t distributed quite evenly, though, as some bites were tastier than others. The mousse was topped with with very crispy, thin fried mushroom, and the crunchiness of this paired beautifully with the creamy mousse. My husband’s lamb was nice and tender, not too gamey, and was very mild and flavorful. He said that he could have just ripped it apart with a fork. His wine with this was the Toad Hall Pinot Noir Dijon Clones, Carneros 2003. This wine was good, but we personally enjoy the Adler Fells Pinot Noir better, so we were making that comparison as we tasted this wine. It did go well with the food, so that the flavor of the mushrooms brought out a richer taste in the wine.
Next, I had the Roasted Delicata and Pumpkin Cream Soup with Styrian Pumpkinseed Oil. This was so rich and creamy, and just faintly sweet. I enjoyed it very much, as I’ve enjoyed all of Chef Scott’s cream soups. I remember when he used to serve a soup course, where the diners could choose from either a cream soup or a consommé, and I miss this course.
My husband’s next course was a Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin and Belly with Florida Corn and Cipollini Onions. The first piece to this was the tenderloin. It was very good, with a hammy taste, and was so tender. The middle piece was a piece of the pork belly and a large piece of pork fat. Some diners may not like the fat, but he enjoyed it, and didn’t find the fat to be too greasy. The final piece was the shredded pork belly. This was good, but not as good as the pork belly he’d had in August with Chef Aimee. It tasted like a dry barbeque and was very flavorful. He did not enjoy the corn cake very much, as he thought it was a bit dense. His wine with this was a Perez Cruz Reserva Carmenere, Maipo Valley 2002. As with other Carmeneres that we’ve had, this was a big, big wine. It tasted better with the food than standing alone.
My next course was the Seared Wild Turbot with Toasted Capers and Meyer Lemon. When this was brought out, our server told us that it was a 700 pound fish, line caught, and it had cost the restaurant $1500. It was the biggest fish that she had ever seen. This fish was nice and moist, a bit fatty but not unpleasantly so, and the white flesh came apart beautifully. The capers and lemon added a pleasingly tart contrast to the mildness of the turbot.
My husband’s next dish was a Pan Roasted Foie Gras and Fuji Apple Tart with Mostarda di Cremona. The foie gras was a touch overcooked on the outside, though the inside was perfect. It was soft and melted in his mouth. His wine with this was a Royal Tokaji Azsu 5 Puttonyos, Mad Tokaj-Hegyalja 2000. I enjoyed this wine very much. It was sweet like an ice wine, without being quite as thick and syrupy as an ice wine.
My next dish was John Dory over Braised Greens and an Almondine Sauce. The John Dory was crusted with almonds, and because of this, I found this fish to be a bit dry. It was leaner than the turbot, and was flavorful, but I felt that the almonds made it a little too dry.
My husband’s next dish was the Australian “Kobe” Beef Tenderloin, served with Lobster and Artichoke Risotto. My John Dory also had the Lobster and Artichoke Risotto, and this was the first dish I’ve ever tried at Victoria & Albert’s that I felt to be inedible. The cheese used for the risotto was so sharp that it burnt my mouth to eat it. I tried picking out the lobster pieces, which were large and luscious, but I couldn’t enjoy them with the sharp flavor of the risotto. DH did not have the same problem, as his risotto did not burn his mouth, but it was so heavy that he did not finish it. His beef tenderloin was served incredibly rare, with an oxtail jus. It was very tender and enjoyable, but he’d had this dish the past 4 times we’ve eaten at the Chef’s Table, and he felt it was a bit played out. He would have liked to try something different for this course. His wine with this was a Chateau Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc 2003, which he enjoyed.
We had the same next course, which was a cheese course consisting of Comte Saint Antoine, Pierre Robert, Wabash Cannonball and Gorgonzola Stuffed Pear. The cheese in the pear was a Gorgonzola Dulce, which was, again, too strong and burning for me. I let my husband eat my pear. I enjoyed the other three cheeses, particularly the Comte Saint Antoine. My husband’s wine with this was a Cockburn’s 10 Year Old Tawny Porto. It was sweet and nutty, as opposed to the raisiny taste in a red port. I prefer a 20 year tawny port, just because I find the flavors to be much richer, but this was also very enjoyable.
Our next course was the chocolate course, which we both had. I feel like a chocolate course before dessert is a bit of overkill, and I would prefer to have the former soup course or sorbet course. By the time we get to dessert, we are always unpleasantly full. We can enjoy the chocolate course, but that puts a cap to the evening, and we are done after that! This chocolate course consisted of a Miniature Chocolate Pyramid, Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle, and Orange Chocolate Napoleon. The chocolate pyramid was a delicious, rich mousse topped with a gold flake. We’d had it and the napoleon the past 2 times we’d eaten at the Chef’s Table, so we knew what to expect for these.
The Napoleon was not a favorite of mine, because I am not a fan of dark chocolate. I did like the way that the orange tasted, when paired with chocolate, but I just don’t care for dark chocolate.
The dish that was new to us was the Kona Chocolate soufflé. This was delicious: very hot and creamy and melting. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our final course was the dessert course, and we parted ways yet again. I had a Poached Pear with Cassis Mousse and Spiced Cake. This was a pleasant surprise, since the past 4 or 5 times I’ve eaten at the Chef’s Table, I’ve been served the Grand Marnier Souffle, so this was a pleasing departure. I don’t usually care for the graininess of pears, but this one was delicious, because of the cassis mousse. The mousse was light, tart, crisp, and refreshing, and it was the perfect way to end a long, heavy meal. The spiced cake seemed out of place, to me. It tasted like a very crisp, light cross between a ginger cookie and a meringue, but it really didn’t seem to have much to do with the pear and cassis mousse. It seemed like a different dish altogether, and I didn’t particularly care for it, so I just ate the pear and cassis mousse.
My husband’s dessert was a Vanilla Crème Brulee with fresh berries. This was crisp on top and creamy underneath, as all good crème brulees should be, but he was too full to really enjoy it.
At this point, we finished dessert and then sat for a good 15 minutes waiting for our server to clear our plates away. We were obviously done and had set our napkins on the table, but no one came to clear. The same thing happened last time we ate at Victoria & Albert’s, and we’ve noticed that the quality of the service is intermittent. As we were leaving, we saw one couple seated outside, waiting for our table, and I couldn’t help but think they’d have had to wait a full 15 minutes less if only the servers had cleared promptly! Or 35 minutes less, had the servers begun serving us when we entered, instead of waiting 20 minutes.
All in all, though, it was a wonderful experience. This was my first time eating in the main dining room, and I enjoyed the romantic atmosphere and getting to hear the harpist. It was nice to pair this with the variety of the Chef’s Table menu. The fact that we were seated under the dome was odd, because, due to the shape of the ceiling, we could hear everything that the couple directly across from us was saying. It was so strange; it sounded like they were sitting right next to us speaking, because, without them raising their voices at all, we could hear every word of their conversation. The couple across from us were good sports about it. The lady sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to my husband, and we had a few giggles about the very strange acoustics. They could hear our comments about the food, and after we were finished with the scallops, they said that they could tell how much we’d enjoyed them. I would imagine this was entirely attributable to the dome, since we couldn’t hear the conversations of the other tables around or next to us, only the table directly across from us.
And here is a photo of my husband, after he’d finished eating all that food: