After over 150 posts of me talking about myself I want to hear about you! I want to hear the all time best foodie experiences of you guys – my foodvixen readers. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive – the best meals are often the cheapest meals! For me food is all about the experience – who you dined with, where you dined or what you ate. It doesn’t have to be overseas, it could be a memorable picnic on the Cairns Esplanade or fish and chips at Palm Cove… Whatever is it I want to hear about it! For those of you that have followed my blog some of you might remember me recounting my top foodie experiences in previous posts but for those of you that missed it, I’ll recount one more time in the hope of unlocking some of your top foodie experiences.
1. Peking Duck in Beijing – I travelled to China for the first time in 2006 and as part of the tour we were on my family and I ended up at a restaurant in the heart of Beijing. I had never had Peking Duck before – the world famous dish that actually originates from Beijing and was first prepared during the Imperial era – nor did I know what it entailed. The duck was sliced in front of our table by the chef and then the waitresses showed us how to eat it with spring onions, cucumber, sweet bean sauce all wrapped up in a little pancake. The thin and crispy skin of the duck was out of this world and to this day I still dream about returning to Beijing to eat their amazing Peking Duck.
2. Oysters in Florida – Before the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – 2004 to be exact. My family and I did an RV tour of the USA and we stopped in at the Eastpoint Oyster House in Florida for some fresh seafood. There is nothing my family loves more than fresh seafood – apart from my sister who only just discovered wine (yes she hasn’t quite grown up yet). We bought 12 dozen oysters to eat between three of us – me, mum and dad. The oysters were only US$3.99 a dozen if you shucked them yourself. Having owned a seafood factory for many years my dad was and still is no stranger to shucking oysters. He would also tell you he once won a prawn peeling competition against the prawning peeling ladies that worked at his factory. What he won’t tell you is that he cheated and those ladies should have beat him hands down. Anyway we sat out of the front of the Eastpoint Oyster House on a rickety old table overlooking the Apalachicola Bay, surrounded by mountains of discarded old oyster shells and ate dozens of Apalachicola Bay oysters straight from the shell with savoury biscuits, hot sauce and lemon. Absolute bliss.
3. Chicken Biryani in Colombo – I travelled to my mother’s birth country in 2011 where I did a three week Intrepid tour with my cousin. The first day that we arrived in Sri Lanka we found ourselves at a rundown little restaurant on the main strip not far down from the famous Galle Face Hotel. We had no idea what to order so we pointed to what everyone else was having which turned out to be the best Chicken Biryani of my life for all of about 200 rupees (about AU$2). Although I was the only female in there the owner made us both feel very welcome, in fact he was beside himself with excitement at having some Australian tourists dine at his humble roadside restaurant. It was the perfect beginning to what was an amazing 3 week adventure in Sri Lanka.
4. Stand up noodles in Osaka – Tachigui soba is a fast food that is unique to Japan and literally means ‘standing up eating’ soba noodles. I first travelled to Japan in 2009 where my friends and I stumbled upon a tiny Tachigui soba bar in the Osaka suburb of Fukushima (no not that Fukushima). The four of us crammed into the noodle bar on a cold and wet day and slurped our steaming hot bowls of noodles with a couple of friendly Japanese business men who found it all highly amusing. It was my first introduction to stand-up noodles and I made sure that I returned to this very place in my most recent trip to Japan in November last year.
Others moments worth a mention are gobbling up cherries the size of a baby’s fist at the Salamanca Markets in Hobart, baby back ribs in a dingy bar in Nashville, a birthday picnic organised by my love MS and courtesy of Davy at Mama Coco at Lake Eacham, a 10 course degustation atop the Rialto in Melbourne at Vue De Monde also with my love, xiao long bao amongst Chinese breakfast-goers in Shanghai and fish and chips on Bondi Beach in Sydney. I could go on forever here because I have had some truly memorable foodie moments in my travels. As you can tell I love food and I love travel but this was only supposed to be a relatively short post. Now it’s over to you x
Anyone that regularly reads my blog – or at least ‘likes’ my Facebook page (that’s all of you right?) might recall that I have a bucketlist of food experiences that I keep in my phone consisting mostly of restaurants that I want to dine at around the world. Some of the restaurants listed are fine dining (Tetsuya’s, Las Bravas and Ultraviolet), some aren’t (Tim Ho Wan, The Salt Lick, Pimenti’s) and some are simply food experiences that I want to tick off (eating oysters at Coffin Bay, fish and chips on Bronte Beach, lobster rolls in Maine). There are only a few restaurants within Australia that I have listed and the first one that I was able to tick off last month was Vue De Monde in Melbourne.
Late last year MS tried desperately to get us a reservation whilst down in Melbourne for our birthday weekend in December but to no avail. VDM is so popular that it can be booked out months in advance. It just so happened that we planned another Melbourne trip for the Fitness Expo in March and lucky enough this time around MS was able to secure a booking on a Friday night for the two of us. MS knows the way to my heart – through food. The guy on the other end of the phone at VDM took a deposit after asking MS “You do know how much this restaurant costs right?” – ahem yes thank you very much! Yes it wasn’t going to be a cheap night out that’s for sure but not something we do very often (if ever).
Now I’m not going to go into logistics or fancy words in my ‘review’ of VDM because this restaurant has been reviewed countless times by much more qualified and ‘in the know’ people than this Vixen however I thought I would give my take on the whole experience…
After setting off from our holiday apartment in St Kilda with ample time to arrive at our destination – the Rialto only 6km away – we ended up getting stuck in crazy afternoon traffic on St Kilda Rd and arrived 20 minutes late for our 6pm booking (we left at 5pm!!!) There is nothing that gets me more wild than being late for something and I managed to keep my cool for the entire time, only losing it in the last 10 minutes. So then of course ultra cool, calm and collective MS lost it totally as well. Great start to our romantic evening together. FML.
We finally arrived and leaving the car with the valet we made our way to reception where we were met by a friendly lady that took us to VDM personal elevator. Less than a minute later we were 55 storeys up and being greeted at the elevator door by a male host. He led us past the bar and to a large tinted glass door to which he opened to the restaurant.
As the door opened we were greeted with a breathtaking 180 degree view of Melbourne – hence the name Vue De Monde. The dining room with its 20 or so tables each with a candle flickering, polished black floors and enormous windows looking out onto the twilight was nearly equally as impressive. The host led us to our table for the evening where we were seated and left momentarily until we were again greeted by our host for the evening.
Since we were seated slightly back from the windows with an empty table directly in front of us he asked if we would like to move closer to the window to which we happily obliged. He then explained the course of the evening to us – basically they bring out 7 courses and then you decide if you want to continue (are you still hungry?) or if you have had enough. Directly behind us the busy kitchen was a hive of activity with no less than 20 chefs cooking up a storm at various cooking stations. It was actually quite theatrical to watch and as the sun went down the reflection of the kitchen behind us provided a beautiful backdrop for our prime position overlooking Melbourne. Damn I’m poetic.
The host left us momentarily whilst the sommelier came over and introduced himself. He handed the two of us the wine ‘bible’ which I reluctantly took drawing in a deep breath as I opened the first page. I mean I don’t want to sound cheap but I know how much the wines cost at these kind of restaurants. I’m happy to spend a few hundred dollars on dinner once in a blue moon (don’t think I’m a toff because I’m really not) but I sure as hell won’t spend $80 on a glass of wine.
The sommelier asked me what kind of wine I liked – I’m a white wine kind of girl – and directed me towards some ridiculously expensive wines. To an uneducated wine drinker like myself the difference in taste between a $200 bottle of wine and a $20 bottle is negligable (ha who am I kidding – I’ve never had a $200 bottle of wine). In the end I tastefully directed the guy towards a cheap(er) glass that he recommended (AU$38), although I did feel a bit of pressure to go more expensive, something that made me mildly uncomfortable and I did feel a little judged by Mr Sommelier. Pfft. He then moved onto MS who asked him what wine he preferred. MS is no wine drinker – this man barely drinks at all – so he ordered a cider and after getting the shock of his life when the sommelier recommended an AU$80 bottle of cider (for 330ml!!!!) he chose the cheapest one on the menu (AU$18). Although I can’t remember for the life of me what we ordered, both the wine and the cider tasted pretty darn good.
And so the meal began. First off we were given some salt and vinegar crisps with hazelnut cream pate to entice our taste buds. Someone must have secretly called ahead and told the kitchen about mine and MS massive penchant for anything Salt and Vinegar – my favourite flavour. It used to be Atomic Tomato until I got really drunk a few years ago, ate an entire large packet to myself and then threw it up again. Yeah, you know what? A post about Vue De Monde probably isn’t the right place to talk about that story. And so the meal progressed from there.
In the middle of our table was a collection of, well they can only be described as rocks, but nice smooth ones of all different shapes and sizes. Through the course of the evening our waitress overturned them to reveal various grooves for holding the ornate cutlery and hidden reserves of salt and pepper. It was quite cool as I initially thought they were just for decoration.
Following our salt and vinegar ‘chips’ a selection of grilled meats on skewers were brought out. We ate eel, oysters, rock wallaby, sea urchin, ducks tongue and lambs hearts. And although neither of us would normally eat some of the things (namely the lambs heart and duck tongue) that were laid out in front of us we both respected the prestigious restaurant that we (I) had chosen to dine in – and as they say ‘when in Rome…’
We even had some tea…
Each dish was presented by a different chef, sometimes in a very theatrical way that even sometimes required diner participation – we used a pestle to grind up our own mortar of wood sorrel that had been frozen with liquid nitrogen. After crushing the wood sorrel the waitress added a small scoop of refreshingly different cucumber sorbet. Unfortunately the photo below was post grinding and sorbet. The presentation of each dish, as one would expect, was flawless and each presented in its own creative way.
About 4 dishes in our waitress brought out a large basket of ‘butter’ with freshly baked sour dough bread. Both MS and I were in awe of the enormous amount of hand churned butter that she presented in front of us and I can honestly say this ‘bread and butter’ was one of the highlights of our meal. Yes, it’s true. We were dining at one of Australia’s premier restaurants and we were loving the bread and butter. To say that I slathered that butter on thick was an understatement. It was TO. DIE. FOR.
Later on our host for the evening came over for a chat and asked what our favourite dish had been so far. Old Cadbury ‘one glass of wine goes straight to my head’ me couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the dishes that had come out off the top of my head other than the bread and butter. I think he was a little taken a-back that that’s what I came up with but he did bring us another serve since we liked it so much. High fives all around!
Earlier I said that although MS and I don’t normally eat adventurous things like duck tongue and lambs hearts but we try to go with the flow at a place like VDM. MS was doing surprisingly well, that was until the duck yolk came out. He just has a thing about runny yolk and not even dining at VDM was going to make him eat it. I however thought the velvety duck yolk was absolutely delicious especially paired with the pear and truffle that it was served alongside. The egg was cooked sous vide at 64 degrees resulting in a rich, creamy and delightful egg yolk. Wow it was just so damn decadent that I ate MS’ as well. Yes I may have to change my name to fatvixen soon.
And yet there was more! (In no particular order – not that I could remember anyway).
The desserts followed not long after our parade of meals. First up was the Chocolate Souffle. Now I don’t know about you but I tend to get disappointed with souffles. They look so damn delicious and then you stick your spoon in and it’s mostly air. I’m a lover of dense and moist desserts but the souffle was sweet and decadent, nonetheless.
Our final dish for the evening was a selection of petit fours… (I forgot to take a photo of the Eucalyptus Ice Cream)
Lastly our host asked us if we would like anything else, to which MS replied that he would love some tea. Uh oh. Big mistake. The tea sommelier ensued with his book of teas from around the world. I think the cheapest tea in the book was AU$33, and that was for only one person. After receiving the rundown of all the teas that were available and where they had come from – some so damn expensive you would think they were grown in a hydroponic setup on Mars! MS was ever so forthcoming when he asked if he could just have ‘normal’ English Breakfast tea. The tea guy did his very best to hide his disgust but I saw it flit across his face ever so gently. In the end we got some whizz bang flash tea that was a little higher in price than we expected but still very reasonable compared to what was on offer.
When we finished up there was an awkward period of not knowing if all the meals were finished or still coming and how we actually paid the bill and left. Do you just raise your hand and click your fingers in a fancy restaurant or is that only in the movies? In the end we figured it out and upon leaving we were given a foodie gift bag filled with tasty sweets as well as all the ingredients for an impromptu Vue De Monde breakfast ‘for the morning after’. Inside the bag was cookies, tea, a freshly baked loaf of brioche, honey, muesli and a book of restaurants around the world. The cookies were gone before we even made it back to our apartment – MS didn’t want his so I ate them both (oops fatvixen strikes again). It was a lovely surprise to receive upon leaving and certainly not something I expected. It really topped off what was a fantastic and memorable evening for both MS and I.
In conclusion (my long drawn out one): I thought that the food was exemplary at Vue De Monde but it didn’t blow my mind. We tried some things but that we would never have eaten had we not have been at a very fancy restaurant. Still, the beef tongue, lambs hearts and duck tongues were actually kind of tasty. Hmmm, ok well you can have the duck tongues, the texture was just too weird for me.
The only drawback(s) from our fantastic dinner at Vue De Monde was, for both MS and I, the wine guy and the tea guy. Although we only saw the tea guy once, right at the end of our meal, unlike the wine guy who came to our table fairly regularly, they both made us feel uneasy. Maybe it was because I felt that the wine guy was (secretly) hell-bent on trying to sell us a $200 glass of wine and that made me feel pretty uncomfortable and almost obligated to buy expensive alcohol. It’s hard for me to convey in this post – without sounding like a complete twit or even worse ‘stingy’ – why I think that spending $200 on a glass of wine is unreasonable especially considering how much dinner had cost us.
Anyhow it was the experience of a once in a lifetime meal with the love of my life that really made it for me, as cliché as that sounds. It certainly wasn’t to sample the extensive wine list that was so carefully chosen by Vue De Monde’s team of sommelier’s over many months. And then again I don’t want to take away from the exemplary job that both the tea and wine sommelier were doing but I guess wine and tea isn’t really something that I have learnt to appreciate – certainly no where near as much as food anyway. Again I think I sound like an idiot attempting to explain myself and my amateur review but I guess that’s just it. I’m an amateur blogger that does restaurant reviews in her spare time as a hobby. My regular posts consist of things like ‘where does one find the best fish and chips in Cairns?’ and where I think the best Som Tum is. I don’t review restaurants like Vue De Monde on a regular basis but it’s nice to get all fancy and posh once in a while whilst taking in the views of the Melbourne skyline from the 55th floor of the Rialto and gushing about just how amazing their bread and butter is.
PS: And just for the record, the next day MS and I went to Nando’s for lunch.
PPS: The total bill at Vue De Monde for anyone that would like to know came to $579… That was for 2 degustations, a glass of wine and 2 ciders.
Vue De Monde
Level 55 Rialto 525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9691 3888