Date visited: 31st January 2014
"Vue de monde, at level 55 of Melbourne's iconic Rialto building,
is testament to the belief that restaurant dining can be a wondrous, unforgettable
experience and pays homage to classical fine dining
experience and pays homage to classical fine dining
in a sophisticated, modern context."
So reads the description on Vue de monde's website. They claimed and they delivered. It is said to be Melbourne's best restaurant, and after our experience today, I am inclined to agree. Owned by talented chef Shannon Bennett, with the backdrop of sweeping city views at an incredible height, Vue de monde hands you on a platter, dedication to fine dining as well as the whole theatrical experience itself.
But let's start at the beginning, shall we.
MerlinFan, AS and I wanted to go to visit Vue de monde for Chinese New Year last year, but it was booked out for ages. So this year, MerlinFan (again, impressed with all her initiative in doing the bookings and everything) booked us a table two months in advance - even then the weekends were already gone, so next best was an early session on a Friday evening. That was fine with us, since Friday happened to be the first day of Chinese New Year anyway. Nevermind that I had to swap working days, it was all worth it.
We parked in the dedicated parking down at Rialto Towers (glad I wasn't driving due to the insanely close rat-maze like columns that AS had to navigate through) and rode the elevator up to the Ground Level. We headed to the designated Vue de monde counter where were then brought to a "special" lift.
|Lift up to where the magic begins|
The lift was darkened, illuminated by stripes of blue light. It had only one final destination - Level 55, so it took a surprising mere seconds to reach the top. Once we reached floor, we were led via the quiet cellar through a large swinging door to the spacious main restaurant. It was late afternoon and the sun was scorching in the West, so the shades were down, partially veiling the expansive panoramic view.
There was a large open kitchen right in the heart of things.
Do not expect stiff chairs and pristine white linen - we were seated at tables covered with animal hide, matched with heavy leather armchairs. The whole setting radiated a manly sort of elegance. On each table were the scattering of infamous pebbles, tablets and twigs, all of which serve a greater purpose.
|Sticks and stones|
We were also impressed by their thoughtfulness - the waiter immediately offered MerlinFan a stool to set down her bag, whereas another waitress brought me a bag hook. Why couldn't all restaurants offer this service?
A waitress came to confirm our food preferences and dislikes. And then, another thing that set Vue de monde apart from other fine dining restaurants - our food magically appeared almost straight away. So if you come hungry, fret not, there is no long waiting time whilst they slaughtered a cow/ waited for the hen to lay an egg/ watched the vegetable garden grow. We were in the early session at 6.15pm and had a two hour limit before the next seating, so that was something they were very mindful of.
First came our finger food.
Potato chips with dip
This crisps were paper thin and nicely salted. I was a little overwhelmed with everything arriving so quickly and couldn't remember all the descriptions of the appetisers. I believe it was a macadamia and apple dip.
Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar
Bite through a crisp thin coating of chocolate and you get succulent eel that is beautifully smoked. A gorgeous combination, and this is coming from someone who doesn't even usually order eel. Salivating as I reminisce.
The thin gel circle was sweet, like jelly, with a blob of emulsion inside. Interesting.
We all loved this. An airy, fluffy marshmallow cloud, covered with crunchy panko crumbs.
Salt cured wallaby
Thin strips of wallaby were brought on a large block of pink salt, where they were skilfully rolled with chopsticks (how fitting!) into bite-sized pieces. These were like meaty wallaby sashimi.
We had this cool, orange infused tea. It was rather lovely.
And of course, Water.
After the appetisers, the waitress came to create our menu for the night. Vue de monde is as flexible as they get - you can choose to indulge in up to ten degustation dishes. We went with five mains and one dessert at our waitresses' recommendation. This turned out to be perfect, and I should say as well that each dish was perfectly sized - enough to give you a taste and leave you eagerly awaiting the next dish, rather than leaving you unsuitably full.
Our waitress also brought this board with truffle sitting atop it to tempt us at $60 per person to add into three meals for the night. This one was from Spain, and smelt intoxicating. I was tossing it up, thinking I would like to taste the food on its own, but then again, it may be a once in a lifetime experience... long story short, we partook in the indulgence.
Our table was cleaned and our cutlery replaced. Just look at the intricate swirling designs on the silverware.
Now, the staff are not only waiters and waitresses, but they are also photographers, happy to offer to take photos for you. With the amount of photos they take for diners every day they said, they were pretty skilled - evidently so too, from photos one of the waitress helped us take.
Barramundi, potato, caviar, lemon
I remember thinking this was divine. The fish had a thin, crisp skin and was amazingly salted and seasoned. The potato ribbon was thin to the point of being translucent, rolled into a curl and adorned with caviar and pretty flowers. A drop of tangy, bitterish lemon oil brought everything together. These were huge flavours packed into a pretty little package and I was excited to see what would follow. MerlinFan and I could not stop grinning, nodding vigorously, our conversations punctuated by numerous "mmmm"s!
A change for a rather ominous cutlery setting for our next main. Knife stuck into stone, shadow of fork elongated like a menacing pitchfork.
Blackmore Wagyu, onions, mustard greens, truffle
Next came the yakitori. Little blocks of top grade David Blackmore Wagyu with a marbling score of 9 pierced by skewers were cooked on a hot grill at our table.
I adored the yakitori beef. I savoured the flavour of that Wagyu - it was wondrously smooth and just melted in your mouth.
The other half was 8 hour stewed beef cheek with onion, covered with generous lashings of shaved truffle. MerlinFan and AS both thought this was delicious. Again, melty and ridiculously tender. I liked it too, but the yakitori outshone the beef cheek for me.
Then came the palate cleanser.
Cucumber, wood sorrel
We were each given a mortar with viola flowers and parsley. Now came the theatrics, and the best part? It was interactive, a.k.a. DIY. Liquid nitrogen was liberally poured onto the wood sorrel, and we were instructed to grind them with the provided pestles.
No, I do not have man hands - the waiter kindly did mine so that I could take "action shots." A quenelle of cucumber sorbet was then deftly deposited atop the bed of frozen wood sorrel. This was a refreshing and an excellent palate cleanser.
Egg and toast covered with truffle at 7pm? Only at Vue de monde.
Buried underneath that mound was a giant orb of oozy, gooey duck egg yolk. MerlinFan said the added truffle really shone through here.
And then there was Bread. It came in a leather pouch with hot pebbles inside to keep it warm.
The waiter came out with a tub of their infamous French Echire butter. He was happy to strike a godly pose before making a perfect quenelle.
The butter was unsalted, but you can add salt to your taste.
AS loved the cool homemade tea and wanted something else to accompany our meal. Vue de monde has an impressive tea menu and the tea sommelier can even do tea pairings. We were already halfway through our mains, so we asked tea sommelier to do a pairing for our next dish instead.
|Beautiful tea menu|
He chose a beautiful Sri Lankan tea. He made up the tea at our table as well, which was another bit of fun.
We love tea, and this bowl was warm and comforting. The tea sommelier did a great job, for the tea matched the next dish brilliantly, the aroma intensified.
Duck, corn, octopus
The duck was succulent and tender with a pinkish middle and a crispy, salty skin. Salivating at the memory. Corn and diced octopus on the side complemented it nicely.
Ox tongue, beetroot, snow
Our last main was hot ox tongue and beet root with cold, creme fraiche snow. Do not underestimate the size of the minutely diced pieces - the robust, meaty flavour and texture of the ox tongue were huge, and once in your mouth, it was almost as though there was more than the tiny portion on the plate, as odd as that might sound. Whilst pleasant, I couldn't help but feel a tad squeamish, thinking "I'm eating a tongue" the whole time. Sorry. That was just me. MerlinFan and AS enjoyed the milky snow.
Our tables were cleaned and our palate cleanser appeared.
Kale, celery and coconut
Despite being beautifully made up, none of the above were my favourite ingredients at any given day, so yes. Ahem.
I was over the moon when our soufflé arrived. I had already told AS and MerlinFan, we need to order it if it doesn't turn out to be our dessert for the night. It was speared open at our table and doused with vanilla creme anglaise. As if that wasn't enough, we had another generous lashing of truffle to top it off.
The soufflé was light and airy, the chocolate rich and decadent. Sigh. I felt the truffle may be superfluous here, but MerlinFan insisted that accentuated the flavour of the soufflé and brought it to the next level.
Our complimentary Selection of petit-fours came out shortly.
I couldn't stop smirking to myself about these, wondering to myself if some poor soul had ever tried to eat the real shells. Sadistic, I know. Only the overturned ones, containing what ingeniously looks like pools of sea water, were edible. The hit from the salted olive oil was a shock at first, but as the chocolate melted it was beaut.
Bourbon & Orange Jubes
The shimmery coin was not hard as you would expect (it did look like a foil covered chocolate after all) - it was actually a wobbly but strongly fragrant bourbon and orange jelly. Very nice.
I liked the concept and they were let's face it, adorable. Can't say I loved them though - AS said it reminded her of when she was a kid and her mother accidentally dropped a eucalyptus pellet from her old-fashioned nose sniffer into a jelly she was making, and hence they all had eucalyptus jelly. LOL good times.
Chocolate mousse lamingtons
Last but not least. We mentioned to one of the waitresses in the beginning of our meal that we came to celebrate Chinese New Year, and were surprised that they remembered. It really is the little things that count.
We told the staff we wanted to go out to the balcony to enjoy the view after we paid our bill. The Golden Hour was slipping through our fingers, the sun rapidly setting as we rushed outside to the viewing balcony.
The waitress found us later, brought by our Morning After goodie bags for the next day, containing a brioche loaf, honey, muesli, chocolate biscuits and tea. Another lovely gesture.
Our overall damage was $805 for the three of us, which I felt was worth every penny of the experience. Vue de monde has certainly earned its three chef hat rating. The service is impeccable - attentive and almost fast-paced. The friendly, animated staff are knowledgeable and make you feel right at home. With the truffle option, as indulgent and intoxicating as that was, it is my humble opinion that unless you're an absolute truffle fanatic, it probably isn't necessary as the food is already amazing enough on its own. MerlinFan begs to differ, says you should try it at least once. And if you love tea, you can trust the tea sommelier's choice.
Did I love Vue de monde? Absolutely. Would I go back again? For a special occasion, or to bring other family members, I would have no hesitation. Exquisite food, theatrical performances on a backdrop of sweeping Melbourne city views made our visit to Vue de monde an absolute delight that we will remember for a long while.
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