We were delighted, as always, to have the opportunity of dining at the Chef’s Table at Victoria & Albert’s. This experience is always the highlight of our anniversaries.
We were seated and began with a series of amuses bouches.
The deviled quail egg with American caviar was excellent, very light, fluffy, and refreshing. The tomato carpaccio with charred octopus was my least favorite, not because the octopus wasn’t good, but because I should have told them that I’d prefer not to eat octopus. This was completely my fault; I said pescatarian, and I didn’t qualify. The tomato with this was delicious and very flavorful, while the octopus had a smoky flavor. Next was the heirloom tomato sorbet with olive oil powder. This was interesting: a savory sorbet with a tartness to it. We then moved on to Italian buffalo mozzarella with pine nuts, which was also very light and delicious. Our final amuse bouche was tomato fennel custard baked in the shell. This was lovely, so creamy and rich. I scraped every last bit out of the egg shell! The wine pairing with this dish was the Pommery Royale Brut NV, which was dry and quite enjoyable.
Our next course was a sesame crusted Big Eye tuna with tat soi salad and tamari honey foam. The sesame-crusted tuna was excellent; it had a lot of flavor, and the tamari honey foam was a wonderful complement. My favorite part of this, though, was the tuna carpaccio. This was melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious. My husband’s wine with this was the Marcel Deiss Pinot Blanc Bergheim, Alsace 2005.
The next dish had an interesting presentation. It was “cold smoked” Maine lobster with apple-relish salad and curry. The lobster itself was covered in a curry yogurt that was light and added flavor without overwhelming the subtle taste of the lobster. The small plate with holes in it was served on top of a larger plate of dried ice, producing the icy “smoke” that flowed around the lobster. The wine was Caymus Conundrum, California 2001, which is one of our favorite whites.
We moved on to two small bites on one plate: Florida grouper with Zellwood corn and bamboo rice ragout and Monterey abalone with toasted capers and Meyer lemon. The grouper was my favorite of the two dishes. It was light and flaky and flavorful: just what a fish should be. The Zellwood corn was excellent, so creamy and smooth, and it complemented the grouper beautifully. My husband preferred the abalone. I don’t see the big appeal with this; I thought it was pretty good, but not wonderful. The Meyer lemon butter sauce was superb, though; I wanted to tilt the plate up and lick every last drop. The wine paired with this was a Langtry Sauvignon Blanc Guenoc Valley Estate 2007.
My husband and I parted ways with our next course, since he was moving on to meatier things, and I was sticking with the pescatarian route. He had duck breast, sausage and confit with salsify, cherry sauce. The breast was very tender, and barely required a knife. The most flavorful of the three was the confit. The cherry sauce was a nice, tart accompaniment. His wine pairing was a Toad Hall “Lavendar Hill” Pinot Noir, Carneros 2006. This was a good wine, quite light and fruity. My dish was a Gulf shrimp with rhubarb and cherries. The shrimp was plump and quite good, but my favorite was the salsify. It turns out that I am a huge fan of salsify! Who knew?
My husband then moved on to the Niman Ranch lamb with spring vegetables and celery root. The lamb was seasoned wonderfully, and lacked the typical over-gamey-ness of many lamb dishes. The celery root puree was great, and the turned vegetables were very pretty in their colorfulness, if not terribly tasty. Paired with this was a Castillo Perelada La Garriga Samso, Catalonia 2005. I had a wild mushroom tortellini with yellow chanterelles, black truffles and vegetable consommé. I enjoyed the depth of flavor in this dish very much, though I am ashamed to say that I am not a fan of black truffles. They don’t detract from the dish for me, but they don’t seem to add much. The yellow chanterelles were excellent, though, and the consommé was so flavorful that this dish was quite hearty.
My husband’s next dish was a tasting of Australian “Kobe” beef tenderloin and Japanese Wagyu strip loin with oxtail jus. Ah, the beef course- the sirloin won on pure taste. The tenderloin won on texture, but even the sirloin was a picture of tenderness. Both had a great sprinkling of large salt crystals that added to the perfect sear. Oxtail jus accompanied as always, but was provided on the side in its own mini-pitcher. This touch was much appreciated since he prefers the natural flavor of the beef sans jus. The third portion was a roasted/braised beef done in the style of their usual pork course. The beef worked just as well as the pork, with all the savoriness concentrated in a small shredded mound. He thought the pork couldn’t be beat, but this gave it stiff competition. The wine served with this was my favorite: the Benziger “Tribute,” Sonoma Mountain 2005. This wine was high in alcohol, but had a very complex, enjoyable flavor. My dish was Coho salmon with California asparagus, crab and sauce béarnaise. The Coho salmon was wonderful. It was cooked so that the bottom was well-done, but the top of the filet was rare, making for a beautifully tender piece of salmon. The crab and tarragon balls were light and mild in flavor, but because they were fried, it was a bit difficult for me to eat them at this stage of our dinner! I felt that I was too full to do justice to this dish.
We then moved on to the cheese course: Coach farm’s goat, Gouda Beemster XO, 36 month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Thomasville Tomme, and Colston Bassett Stilton and cheesecake. The Gouda did not appear on the cheese plate, but Chef Scott brought us out a piece to taste, since he’d used this cheese earlier in the Zellwood corn ragout. My favorite of the cheeses was the Coach Farm’s goat, which was light and creamy and not as tart as some goat cheeses I’ve had. The cheesecake was excellent, very smooth and faintly sweet. The wine paired with this was a Quinto do Crasto late bottled vintage Porto 2002.
Our first dessert course consisted of blackberry sorbet, vanilla bean crème brulee and caramelized banana gateau. Of these, the crème brulee was my least favorite. It was good, but it was a fairly standard crème brulee. The banana gateau was very light and fluffy, and it reminded me of a really good version of the banana pudding that I used to enjoy as a child. The blackberry sorbet with the crystallized violet was excellent; it was very refreshing and enjoyable.
The second dessert course was the chocolate course, to which we are always too full to do justice. This was a Tanzanian chocolate pyramid, Hawaiian Kona chocolate soufflé, and Peruvian chocolate ice cream and puff pastry. I’m not a huge fan of the Peruvian chocolate ice cream, just because it’s not quite sweet enough for me. The chocolate pyramid was very creamy and delicious, though, and the Kona chocolate soufflé was incredibly rich and decadent. At this stage of the game, though, I’m always too full to really enjoy something so rich and decadent. After dinner, we rolled out of the restaurant and upstairs, just in time for our view of the fireworks from our bedroom window!