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Gastronomical ramblings

EPIC Food adventure @ Vue de Monde

Readers beware: This is a post that contains over 50 photos. This is a post that took me a few nights to finish writing and editing. This is a… super, duper long post. You have been warned.

Smack back in the middle of our eating adventures came the mama of all eating adventures. The one place and one menu that could potentially, and did, change our palates and tummies as we knew them. Behold:

The Gastronomes Menu @ Vue de Monde.

As we approached The Rialto building, I was feeling quite giddy and excited. And a little jittery with nervousness. Who knew that food could make me feel that way?

And back to giddy and excited again.

Through the doors we walked and into a vast, expansive lobby area with nary a hint of activity. A counter was situated towards the back and there stood a lady who greeted us and ‘buzzed’ up us. We noticed that the ‘55’ button was missing and it made sense why we had to be let up.

Pamooola and Wak were already at the Lui Bar nursing some drinks whilst waiting for Laiwah and myself. Once we joined them, we were guided to our table inside the restaurant (separate to the bar area).

Wak mentioned that we were at the ‘Chef’s table’. Practically situated right next to the kitchen, we were privy to the flurry of activity that went on as the night progressed.

With the restaurant located on level 55, the view of Melbourne was bound to be impressive. Tick. Watching the sun set over Melbourne was an amazing view and it’s something you don’t get to see very often.

Some snacks to start of with: Chips, with dip.

In my frenzy of taking in the view, taking photos, and taking notes, I was only able to taste one chip before it was taken away. My first impression was that they had cracked open a bag of potato chips and emptied it into the cup. I should have known better. Vue de Monde would never do that. The chips were definitely fresh and made in-house. The texture was closer to that of a potato crisp but also shared some resemblance to a potato chip. Think Kettle-chips-crispy on the outside, but not ‘dry’ all the way through. This was the first of what was served and I was already impressed. It certainly bode well for the rest of the menu.

Our table setting.

"Oooooooh, look at all the pretty rocks… all sorts of different shapes and colours…" It turned out these rocks weren’t there just for decoration. They were props that feature at some point during the night. Whether it be used to rest our cutlery or to serve some sort of food, they each had a role to play.

Still pretty to look at.

Most of our cutlery rested on what I thought was a piece of twig. To Wak, a wine-enthusiast, it meant much more than that. One of the waiters explained to us that the twigs were taken from the oak barrels used to make Penfolds Grange wine. After this explanation, Wah kept eying the twig, no doubt keen to take it home. However at the end of our savoury courses, the four twigs were taken away.

I wanted a non-alcoholic beverage and they surprised me with this very, berry creation. We were oohing and aahing over the vibrant red colour of the drink when the waiter who served the drink, clearly amused by our reactions, wanted us to perform a taste test and guess the flavours. We each took a sip and I failed to identify a single correct ingredient. Pam and wak got one correct each. Turns out it was cranberry, raspberry and apple.

Amuse Bouche

The Amuse Bouche was comprised of four selections:

Oyster

Venison roll

Celeriac, sunflower seed

Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar.

The oyster.

Surprised? I was. It’s definitely not your conventional oysters in a shell.

Check out that gelatinous outer layer. And that finger print… Mine I hope.

If you can imagine savoury-tasting jelly with an oyster dip filling, this is what you’d get.

One of the waiters preparing the venison rolls.

Many of the waiters and waitresses who served us were very friendly. They conversed with us and also at times joined in on the joking and laughter. In this particular instance, the waiter joked about not being able to use chopsticks properly.

Venison rolls with a vegetable emulsion.

I would never be so game as to order something like this normally but given the set menu and the fact that my friends now say to me ALL the time “you have a food blog, you have to try it,” I braced myself and tried it. It actually wasn’t too bad. Texture was similar to sashimi but minus the seafood taste. The meat was very tender. The vegetable emulsion was quite salty, and provided the overall flavour for the dish.

Celeriac, sunflower seed, in filo pastry.

Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar.

The eel was very crisp on the outside, with the crispness of the upper layer very similar to the hardy caramel coating on crème brûlée.

Entrees:

Spanner crab, green strawberry, saltbush, parsley

More info: Queensland spanner crab with green strawberries, salt bush, pigface and strawberry meringue powder.

This was one of many dishes that showcases Shannon Bennett’s culinary ingenuity behind his dishes. So many contrasting flavours and yet when combined, they fuse into one single delicious entity. Even now as I sit here writing and reminiscing, the ingredients just don’t seem to fit together. But somehow he made it worked.

Pine mushrooms, walnuts, bird’s cress, cona infusion.

And here comes the ‘theatrics’…

Presenting… the cona infusion.

As the pressure builds up, the flavours from the various herbs fuses with the mushroom consommé (the soup).

This enriched mushroom consommé is then poured onto the dish.

It looked just like one of my mum’s home-cooked herbal concoctions. You can see from the texture of the soup that it was going to taste quite rich. This appearance was not deceiving. Every spoonful reminded me of my mum’s herbal soup (must be the flavours from the ‘Asian’ mushrooms), save for the bitterness. It was a non-bitter version if you will. The saltiness of the mushrooms was quite pronounced and further added to the very rich flavour of the soup.

Bread bucket.

I thought the appearance of the bread bucket reminded me of a dented billy can and added to the Australian outback feel. I should mention here that the tables were covered in kangaroo leather and our seats had kangaroo fur at the back so it wasn’t only the rocks that were part of the theme.

There was a hot piece of rock inside the bread bucket to keep the bread warm! Luckily none of us picked it up thinking it was bread!

Butter in a huge barrel.

Wow, so much butter. How do they possibly use up so much butter?!

Fresh warm bread.

Great bread: soft and warm on the inside with a very crunchy crust. I had to refrain from taking any more bread after finishing this first piece.

Marron, kholrabi, caviar, tarragon butter.

At first I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of just another seafood dish but the marron turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The marron tasted like a giant prawn (which makes sense now because it’s a crayfish) with barely a, if not no, trace of fishy taste. What really sold the dish was the tarragon butter. Think of how tasty herbed butter is, multiply it by say 100 and you get tarragon butter. It was another favourite dish on the night.

Pouring sauce on top of the yolk. My memory fails me and I can’t recall what the sauce was. After the sauce, they whipped out a grater and onto the dish went some grated truffle.

Fried duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle. (photo courtesy of laiwah)

The duck yolk looked perfect. To such an extent that I was hesitant to destroy it. I did eventually pierce it and the yolk seeped out, mixing with the sauce to form a heavier and almost creamy-like texture. It was another dish that tasted quite salty. Luckily I had some bread left to help balance out the saltiness but even then there was much sauce left over.

The Cleanser

With this dish, we actually got to get our hands dirty. Figuratively. We were each given a pestle and were told by the waiter to throw it at one another. He was kidding. We were about to find out what to do with it…

Fresh flowers and herbs. So pretty.

Here comes the liquid nitrogen… poured onto the bowl…

And it started to bubble and boil. With the pestles, we had to grind it up.

Funny story, Pamoola and Wak held the pestle incorrectly, using it upside down. Even funnier story, I was holding in the right orientation, but then flipped it thinking they were holding it correctly…

Cucumber sorbet, crushed herbs.

Once crushed, the waiter came around with a scoop of cucumber sorbet. The cleanser was DELICIOUS. Not too sweet, tasted like cucumber. Probably could have done without the herbs. Hang the cleanser, I would happily eat the sorbet for dessert… Perhaps I should try and get my hands on some liquid nitrogen in the lab…

The mains:

Rabbit, white asparagus, smoked potato, rosemary.

More info: rabbit prepared three ways; roasted loin, shoulder and belly if I remember correctly? And finished with rabbit juice.

Prior to this dining experience, I had never tasted rabbit before. To say I was hesitant would be an understatement. I sat there for a probably two minutes staring at it, taking up a forkful, staring at the forkful, putting it back down and so forth before finally trying it. (“You have a food blog, you MUST try it”)

The rabbit belly tasted like pork with crackling. Same texture and all. The sauce was very delicious but again my memory eludes me and I lack the words to describe it. Admittedly, the overall dish was quite delicious. Sorry rabbit. I was feeling a little sad, especially because there had been a stray rabbit loitering near my house for the past few days.

Whiting, herb emulsion, prawn, smoked bone marrow.

More info: herb foam, bone marrow butter sauce. (Note to self: must work on memory or dictation skills…)

I frequently say this, and will have to mention it here again: due to my aversion to seafood, I dislike anything remotely fishy. This, unfortunately, was one of those dishes and I was happy to let the others finish it for me. At this point, the skirt I was wearing felt a tad tighter, I was sitting more upright and starting to feel quite full; one main course less meant that I had more room for dessert. No complaints from me.

Blackmore wagyu beef, rose petal, anchovy dust.

I’m not the biggest fan of beef in general and was also thinking ‘meh, nothing amazing’ as I tried a piece. But then I took a little bit of everything in one forkful and it transformed the meh into an ‘mmmmmm’. It’s no surprise but again the flavours just fitted together so well. I felt sad that I had wasted a piece of beef.

The others kept mentioned how super sharp and fantastic the knives were and I kept thinking “really? It’s worse than a butter knife.” It took me longer than I am proud to admit to realise I was holding it the wrong way…

Cheese course
We skipped the cheeses to make way for desserts. As sad as that makes me feel, there would have been no way to fit in both the cheese and dessert courses.

Desserts

Pre-dessert: passionfruit, licorice, coconut.

Passionfruit and licorice beer to be exact… What a peculiar combination. It tasted nothing like beer and luckily nothing like licorice. Just a very bubbly and fizzy passionfruit drink.

Close up shot of the coconut balls.

Ice cream on the inside. Not too sweet and a nice way to warm up for desserts.

Deconstructed lemon meringue pie - lemon meringue ice cream, white chocolate, lemon curd, parsley.

Kudos to Shannon Bennett are in order here. Definitely one of the best desserts I’ve had to date. The presentation was very creative and perfect in appearance. Each element was delicious in their own way and together made one unbeatable combination. Even the most stubborn of dessert-haters (is there EVEN anyone like that out there?!) don’t stand a chance. Most lemon desserts have a very sharp and sweet taste but surprisingly this wasn’t the case here. The texture of meringue was 110% spot on - you wouldn’t know it from the appearance but it was quite delicate. It crumbled and slowly melted away in the mouth. The lemon ice cream was again not too sweet and tied together all the elements on the plate physically and in taste. I tried to retain the presentation as I ate but it got to the point that it was too delicious and sort of gave up on keeping it neat. A delicious mess.

As we all started to recap on what an AMAZING dish the lemon meringue pie was, the waiter told us that when he first tried it, he went straight to the kitchen to ask for seconds. We couldn’t do that so we had to settle for eating our plates clean. Not a single meringue crumb left.

Tonka bean souffle, smoked cocoa ice cream.

Dunking the smoked cocoa ice cream in.

As you can see here, it was a very fluffy souffle.

From where we were sitting, we could see one of the pastry chefs working away practically all night, making souffles. At last, it was time to try them. I haven’t had much experience with souffles so I’m not sure fluffy is what they’re going for. All the souffles I’ve tried on previous occasions were much more dense… more cake-like if you will. I think if you love your chocolate desserts, then you’d like the souffle. I’m not so much a chocolate lover and I had also just eaten what may be the world’s best dessert (lemon meringue pie) so the souffle paled by far.

Petit fours.

If you weren’t ridiculously stuffed by this stage, there were still the petit fours. If the other courses didn’t do it, this will. You’re guaranteed to roll walk out of the Rialto Towers feeling stuffed.

Chocolate mousse lamington.

They weren’t kidding about the mousse interior. Quite airy and fluffy. Not too sweet.

Golden gay time.

After dinner mint marshmallows.

You don’t expect marshmallows to taste so minty…

Gin and honey jubes (if I heard correctly)

Odd…

Our selection of teas.

5 hours later, our epic meal was finally over and we exited via their wine cellar. SO. MUCH. WINE… The waiter started showing us the more pricier wines and… Hmmm, can’t imagine how much that bill would come up to if you had wine with the meal…

The fun part…

And there we have it. One seriously epic menu that allows you to explore tastes that you normally don’t get to experience. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Though it was a bit more pricier than what I normally fork out for a single dinner, it was well worth it (so long as I’m not doing it every week or so…) From the spectacular views to the delicious thrills dished out to your palate, the Gastronome menu offers one amazing dining experience that is a must for all food-lovers.

Vue de Monde on Urbanspoon

Vue de Monde

Level 55, Rialto Towers

525 Collins St,

Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.

(03) 9691 3888

http://www.vuedemonde.com.au/