Monday, May 21, 2007

Vue de monde, Melbourne

Given that Melbournians will tell you that Melbourne is the best food city in Australia, it's fair to assume that the best restaurant in Melbourne will be the best restaurant in Australia right? Vue de Monde, which has won Australian Gourmet Traveller's restaurant of the year for the past two years and was named by the Age as the best restaurant in Melbourne, gets higher plaudits than that. The Age says "Here’s the proof that not only is fine dining in Melbourne not dead, it has soared to unprecedented heights. Vue de monde is not just one of Australia’s best restaurants; it’s probably one of the world’s."

I went with a couple of friends last week and I'd say that it's a good fine-dining experience, but one that just misses out on perfection too many times to quite merit that hyperbole. That said, it's the first restaurant that I've been too for a while where I am interested in getting to know the Chef a little better, so I will be back.

The "twist" with Vue de monde (I hate that missing capital) is that there are no menus. You tell your waiter how hungry you are and how much money you want to spend and off they go. Our pass side seats meant that we were able to see everything that went out of the kitchen and there were points where the three of us were craning our necks to see what people wer
e getting. This place is cooking as theatre, in fact Chef Doherty talks about competing with theatres and shows rather than other restaurants for customers' money and the kitchen is completely open, right in the dining room. There's even a mirror above the pass so you can see exactly what your neighbour is getting. Perfect for the voyeurs among us.

First up was a pumpkin puree with scallops marinated in yuzu with Sterling caviar. I can see where the dish was going, but the pumpkin was a little too sweet and overpowered the scallop, which in turn ov
erpowered the caviar. This is posh nursing home food (no chewing...) and wasn't a patch on the snail amuse with mouselline chicken that really set our palates going.

Things took a turn for the better with this cep risotto which was paired with one of Vue de monde's own wines, a 2005 Pinot Gris by T’Gallant on the Mornington Peninsula. This was a very successful pairing, the wine really enhancing the earthiness of the ceps. Some good technique here too (I sound like Ron Atkinson commentating on the FA Cup) with dehydrated cep powder and a cep foam adding layers of flavour to the risotto. Chef Doherty amkes judicious use of some more modern techniques and uses them throughout the meal to add accent and contrast, but never just for the techniques sake.

Next came a dish I was really looking forward to; a
terrine of rabbit with foie gras and pistachio mousse. I love the visual of this, it's a really modernist, bright and colourful terrine, that my terrible mobile phone camera doesn't do justice so I won't share the photo. Each part of the terrine was carefully thought-out; the foie gras contrasting with the pistachio mousse and a layer of serrano sludge that was really well flavoured. And serving rabbit with carrot always makes me smile. The terrine was let down by a layer of clarified butter between the rabbit rillettes and the ham that was just too claggy and fatty, especially on a cold terrine. So, a really beautiful well conceived dish with great elements, just let down by a slip.

Our fish course, red mullet wrapped in crayfish and then blanketed with carrot julienne was an interesting fish course, but was just a little sweet for me. I think I've been ruined for all fished courses ever since I had that seabass cooked tableside at Moto in Chicago. There was something about the simplicity that just was the perfect expression of the ingredient. This dish was a little too complicated and lacked depth in terms of the flavour profile. Might be improved by serving the essence of bouillabaisse that came in a little stopped test-tube with the fish, rather than as a shooter.

The wine pairing here was phenomenal though, a premier cru Chassagne-Montrachet that made up for the slightly unsuccessful dish.

We were then served a palate cleaners of an intense tomato consomme which appeared bubbling with dry ice. We've all seen the trick before, but it did make me smile.

On the left is the lamb dish that was our last savoury course. I've never eaten lamb belly before and the consensus was that it wasn't the best treatment. The sweetbreads were my favourite, all unctuous and savoury, although my companions preferred the confit lamb loin which you can see on the right. This was all really well flavoured meat and the whole dish was really well balanced.

Desert was a classic Souffle Rothschild which showcased the kitchen's some solid French roots and I enjoyed the counterbalance to the frozen kiwi fruit lolly we were served as pre-desert palate cleanser.

All together an enjoyable meal with some neat technique and good flavours. I'm looking forward to getting back here and understanding a little more about what Shannon Doherty's food is all about.

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Anonymous Murbee said...

please post the terrine pic. Puleeeese?

6:19 AM  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Like me, Suzi, you are showing your age

I kept typing Shannon Doherty too ( instead of Bennett ) and had to correct myself.

Too much watching Beverly Hills 90210, I guess


10:22 AM  
Blogger Suzi Edwards said...

LOL. I'd edit it but I think I prefer my mistake.

Thanks for letting me know Simon

5:05 PM  

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