Wednesday, November 17, 2010

vue de monde

Physical: 430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne

I finished my last assignment (ever, probably) yesterday. My last assignment after seven years of university. This called for something nice. Something nice came in the form of a lunch at Vue de Monde.

At lunch, Vue de Monde offers numerous options. The standard tasting menu, at $100 per head. The 'chef's menu', more expensive still ($250 at nighttime--not sure about during the day). And, too, the lunch special: $55 for 2 courses and $70 for 3. Both specials are inclusive of a glass of wine, appetisers, a palate cleanser and two sides. $70 is a lot to pay for lunch but, let's face it, you're getting plenty of food (I came out full) at Melbourne's only three hat restaurant. They throw in a glass of okay wine. The service is fucking amazing.
Pretentious, yes. Everything is 'excellent, sir' and 'wonderful choice, sir' and your glass of water is never allowed to be less than 3/4 full. But yes, it's amazing. The deal is pretty good.

The appetisers were simple but nice: house-made potato chips with sour cream that'd been laced with caviar and, too, some olives.

The entree involved four of my favourite things: baby squid, duck tongues (actually, I'd never had duck tongues before, but I love duck), leek and bone marrow. Everything was beautifully cooked and presented. I was sitting near the kitchen and was in awe seeing how long it took the kitchen team to present even a single dish. Every little detail mattered. Was fussed over. I've eaten in nice restaurants and had nicely presented plates of food before--Embrasse's medley of vegetables, for example--but this, man, this was something else. The duck tongues, now, the duck tongues were my favourite element of the dish. They confit them and then, I believe, roast them. They come out crunchy. I could eat massive quantities of them while drinking beer and be very, very, very happy.

The palate cleanser was a nice touch: a celery sorbet. I liked it.

The main was truly special. I'd never had marrons before--another first--but I liked these. The pairing with the richest braised beef cheek I've ever had--which was so tender you could eat it with a spoon--was clever. A nod to the classic surf and turf paring of steak and lobster or prawns. The accompanying wild flowers added attractive flashes of colour to what would've otherwise been a two tone plate.

Included with the lunch special are two sides: a very simple salad with a mixture of sweet and bitter (radicchio) leaves and a--as in singular--rather impressive chip of a size you could use, if you really wanted, to construct houses. The chip was lovely. Very crisp on the outside, due to double frying, and fluffy and awesome on the inside. The recipe is, I think, in one or maybe both of Shannon Bennett's recipe books and would easily, even with your standard $2/kilo suprmarket potatoes, be worth reproducing at home.

The dessert was light and refreshing and, really, everything I like in dessert: some pieces of fresh pineapple, a quenelle of mango puree and a fluffy coconut souffle.

For $70, Vue de Monde offered an amazing experience. It got everything right, from the big things--the entree, main, dessert and service--to the little things like providing somewhere you can spit your olive pits (always an awkward moment, when nothing appropriate is provided, which is far too common). Just really, truly, totally fucking flawless. I can't wait to come back here for the degustation at some point.

Too, on a side note, the French butter--and yeah, I've had French butter before, but this was epic--made me understand, on some level, why Escoffier and Larousse put butter in everything at least twice.

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