Vue De Monde

It’s Friday! Yay! Was so so tired last week and was tempted not to write this but thought of my 10 followers (hehe actually, its 11 now! thank you email follower! please comment to let me know who you are!) and said “what the hell”. I have some time after work so I went and looked for a little meeting room and try to take a nap. I ended up chatting the hour away before having to run off to Vue. A bunch of friends booked the mega chef’s table at the new Vue de Monde. We almost had the full 18 but after a miss count, only 17 bums were on the seats. I was really looking forward to this night since I have been to the original Vue on little Collins St before the move and some of those dishes….just wow. A few of the people who shared that night with us were coming again for a repeat experience so expectations were high. We still talk about some of those dishes today! If you have been, you will definitely remember the burnt butter marron, chocolate/coffee smoked kangaroo, cranberry marrow waygu and “the egg”. Magic.

I finally drag my ass to the Rialto and was greeted by one of the many staff under The Shannon Bennett. I am escorted to the lift and head to the 55th floor where I am again greeted by another lovely lady who then passes me off to a guy who then passes me to our eventual maître d Chris. Chris is the bomb and shows me to our private dining area. I see that some of my friends have made it and get chatting. The dining area sits just outside the kitchen so I get to see the food being prepared. There is also a wall of glass overlooking the Yarra and Southbank which looks spectacular at night. There is also an outside balcony and a telescope to again enjoy the “vue”. We get greeted with champagne but I opt for the hard stuff, water and some fresh air. Some of the people are at the bar ordering some cocktails which I get to sample. The martini is pretty good! The cool thing about the bar is the block of ice they cut up and shape into cool things like a diamond or a sphere. Yes yes I know, easily impressed but it is cool!

The Lui Bar

We have a chat to Chris who asked about dietary requirements, wine list etc. Because of the size of our party, we get to tailor our own menu so I ask for a marron sandwich followed by some marron and the staff figure out I have been here before 😛 We get a semi set menu with some differences and also opt for the less expensive wine matching.

At 7.30, we all get ushered to the table and find our seats. Canon’s Nikon’s and Iphones flood the table and we exchange pleasantries with Chris. We all decide (hehe, decide, as if we would do anything else) to go with the degustation or Gastronomes as it is called at Vue de Monde with all but two of our party going with the wine matching.

The Vue with the hidden snacks

NV Larmandier Bernier ‘Cuvée Vue de monde’ Vertus Champagne AOC, France

The table is decorated nicely littered with rocks of various shape and sizes, grape vines and a big shiny metal thing. Apparently everything on the table will have a purpose throughout the evening and we got to guessing. After visiting the Fat Duck I made sure that nothing was edible and stumbled across some chips and dip! These quickly evaporated but I did manage to get one. Not sure what the dip was but the chips were like kettle chips.

I eventually get promoted from water to champagne and have a glass of what everyone else is drinking. This champagne is a cuvee made just for vue du monde, 100% chardonnay and no dosage. I think I ordered it too late because after the first sip, the sommelier (maybe the head sommelier?) walks over to ask about the wine menu. I explain that most of us will be having the wine matching bar two and that Nat and I will be sharing. A few minutes later our personal Rocco comes round to introduce himself.

Our sommelier Rocco & maître d Chris

Both Chris and Rocco are really good at what they do, very engaging and lovely to chat with. You can see their really enjoy their work and made the evening very enjoyable. I make sure to ask if we can have a tour of the cellar (even if you don’t like wine, you should check it out) when “finger food arrives”.

Oysters  & lime

Salt cured venison

Celeriac, Sunflower seed

Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar

I was sitting close to the centre of the table and the plates were sort of scattered around. There is a mad scramble for the eel which happened to be the bomb diggaty. There is this clear layer of crunchy white chocolate under a dollop of caviar and it was divine. One unlucky camper on the table missed out so we got another plate. There were a few extra pieces so I had to help him out…hehehe The oyster cream and the celeriac aka samosa’s came out at the same time but were clearly outclassed by the eel. The venison came out last and was a contender for the best of the finger foods. Very light and delicate, melts in your mouth venison with a touch of creamy wasabi cream. This is going to be a good night.

After the fingers have been licked clean, the wait staff came round with the fanciest cutlery you have ever seen.

The Fancy Silverware

I found out later that night that a set of the cutlery cost them something like $68,000!!! Some of the other cutlery was ebayed and dipped in black chrome and purposely miss matched for the vue effect. Some of the plates were also purposely made to order to match specific dishes. Very posh and fancy indeed. The cutlery was placed neatly on the grape vines or in some of the stones with slits cut in them. The grape vines were made from old Grange vines and looked very cool, really adding to the atmosphere.

Before the dishes arrived, Rocco would pour us the wine and give us a little explanation. I was probably enjoying the little pre-dish wine talk more than most. So, here we go!

Spanner crab, rockmelon, salmon roe

2009 Hochkirch Riesling, Henty, Victoria

I was especially lucky here for two reasons. The first is that no one told Rocco that Nat and I were sharing wine so I ended up with a full glass for this dish (I told him as he began to pour for Nat). The second reason is that this wine was really really good! The first wine was a Riesling from a Victorian winery in Henty. It is supposedly the first Victorian vineyard do go with biodynamic wines, meaning little to no human input to the growing to the grapes and letting mother nature do all the heavy lifting. Usually done by lazy wine makers hehehe :P. This Riesling is meant to go well with delicate dishes. It has a creamy yet flinty nose, buttery like a Montrachet and comes off like an aged Riesling for an 09. Like! It has an overall elegant attack and feel throughout, very clean crisp and minerality. Nice balance and very good clean flavours. Like I said, lucky me.

The dish was spanner crab sandwiched between two slices of rockmelon long with sea herbs and drizzled with rockmelon juice, salmon roe and lemon rind. Beautifully presented and I found the crab/ melon an interesting match. For me, the rockmelon was the main flavour of the dish with crab undertones and a nice saltyness from roe. As you ate, you got more of the crab flavours and the rockmelon dissipated. Wine matches really well and added some beach and sandy earthyness to the dish whist giving you a semi palate cleanse for the next bite. I also found the wine matched more with the melon than the crab. Overall a great textural dish with firm melon and creamy crab. Taste? Interesting. I wish I had more crab 🙂

Tomato, fennel, watermelon, wasabi

2011 Moss Wood Semillon, Margaret River, Western Australia

The second was a treat. 2011 was a warm vintage for Semillon in WA giving this wine big ripe fruit flavours and great texture with more in the mid palate. The nose is fresh, lively, sea salts, sour nectarines, mixed apples and nashi pear skins. Attack is salty and has a very seaweed and some sashimi kind of taste. Medium bodied and again, great minerality, length and smoothness on the palate. Nice wine!

Our second dish was tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes, tomato gel made from consomme, compressed watermelon cubes, dried apricot, fennel, blast frozen wasabi rocks and more smoked tomatoes. When this was explained to me, I was a bit….wtf? After digging in, I can tell you, the next time you eat a watermelon, add some wasabi. The combination is awesome! The wasabi rocks was a perfect offset to the sweetness of the watermelon and tomatoes. I think the tomatoes add a base and depth to the dish but it’s never in the forefront. The whole dish tastes like a Japanese smoked eel. The wine also matches with this like a sushi dish, perhaps adding that sea slat and seaweed aspect. Strange but you have to try this. O and by the way, watermelon and wasabi = sick!

Marron, kohlrabi, caviar, tarragon butter

2010 Kurt Angerer ‘Loam’ Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria

At this time we were given some bread and some butter churned from at the table. Yup. Hardcore. Our cutlery was getting set up again and we were using some flat stones which became out bread plates to which I asked “is the bread to soak up the burnt butter sauce?”. Little did I know what was coming….

Marron tail with garlic flower and burnt butter sauce. The burnt butter sauce is indescribable. Nutty, tarragon and a caramel kind of taste. So so so good. The marron added texture and some beautiful flavours but nothing compares to this sauce. Unreal. Lapped up the rest of the sauce with the bread of course. I also had to clean up someone else’s plate! I think they could have used anything else like lobster, yabbies, prawns and this would still knock my socks off. Have to say, wasn’t as good as the first time but still awesome.

Oh and we had some wine, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. This had a fresh Riesling nose (though the smell of the butter really affected me here). Like most of the other whites, flinty, salt flakes on the palate but heavier in body and had a touch of lime. I think this mid palate profile matched the dishes textures very well. Finishes discretely and long.

The Cellar

It was probably at this time I needed to break the seal. Had to get this part in cos the toilets are strange and cool at the same time. Anyways, at this time I happen to sneak into the cellar and ho-lee crap what a cellar! There is stuff in there that people can only dream off and seeing it in the flesh is an experience in itself…and this is ment to be the “crappy” cellar! Apparently there is one on level one where the “good stuff” is kept (btw…wtf!??!?) as well as Shannon’s personal cellar. Pow! I would have loved to see this but alas, I don’t have clearance. Gonna have to settle for the ’71 Dom, Salon, 60 something Cheval blanc, Petrus, HB etc etc etc. Sigh….

OK back to food….

Fried duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle

1995 Yarra Yering Blanc de Noir Sparkling  Yarra Valley, Victoria

When the champagne glasses came out I knew that the slow cooked duck egg was coming! Last time we had Dom Pérignon accompanying this dish (and it usually does) but this time we had a ripper. Yarra Yering, if you have not heard of it, is a great little winery in the Yarra Valley and is not usually known for the sparkling. The late Bailey Carrodus wanted to make some but past away before finishing it, thus leaving the wine sit on lees for over 10 years before someone found it (or so the story goes). Not sure if it was this particular wine though. This Blanc de Noir is made with 100% Pinot Noir and was incredible. The nose is unreal and actually smells like a Pinot noir. Came with fennel, caramelised onions, flowers and sticky tape/wrapping plastic characters. Very thick and heavy wine but not viscous. Almost salty on the palate with caramel onions, a little bit woody with a spiced and balanced acidity. Excellent and truly impressed, sad to see that stocks are running out fast. If you want to try this, get in now or else you will be “stuck” with the Dom…only…

Now for the egg! The last time we had this dish (or a similar version of it) Shannon was there with a hand full of white truffle and a shaver. I though that I would maybe get one or two slices but he put so much white truffle on it I couldn’t see the original dish! Needless to say that this dish was going to have to meet some very high standards.

Slow cooked duck egg, 30mins at 46 degrees in a Vue de Monde oven, served with ciabatta croutons, pickled and crisped onion, celeriac sauce and sweet bread sausage. Sprinkled with black truffles and drizzled over with an onion sauce. Beautiful sweet onion sauce mixes with a wonderful texture of egg. Not gooey, more runny, not sticky. The truffles adds a note woodiness and mates well with the sweet breads. This matches the wine quite well which lifts the dish, giving the bold earthy and rich flavours of the dish a backbone and some added spice. A very nice dish, not sure if it met last time’s standards.

Two wonderful dishes left the table split on a winner. Marron or egg?

The Kitchen

After this dish, a few of us were lucky enough get to a tour in the kitchen. This is some bad ass kitchen. There are giant stock vats, super pressure cookers, ice cream machines, liquid nitrogen drums, vacuum sealers, the works. It was really nice to see the inside of the kitchen and you get to really appreciate the work that goes into the dishes because of the freshness and timeframe the chef’s have to cook them. Part of the kitchen sits within the main dining area where we would have been sitting if our party wasn’t so large. There you can see the teams at work, the desert team, seafood, meats etc. From the looks of it, there are teams of two to four at each station prettifying the dishes. They all looked very professional and focused on the job. Thanks heaps for the tour, now to work on my kitchen!

Cucumber sorbet, crushed herbs

We came back to our tables knowing what was coming (having taken a sneak peek whist in the kitchen). Here we have a cool little palate cleanser. A mix of paisley, cress, alfalfa and lemon balm. The guys came round and hit it with liquid nitrogen and then we could bash it with a stick. It’s a pretty cool sensation to crush frozen herbs (yes, probably said it before, but easily amused). After that, the chefs came round and added a scoop of cucumber sorbet. As you can imaging, this was a very fresh, grassy little number. If you were drunk, you’re awake now!

Snapper, herb emulsion, prawn, smoked bone marrow

2010 Vinero ‘South Gisbourne’ Pinot Noir, Macedon Ranges, Victoria

Now were on to the reds. The wine that came out was actually made or co made by the sommelier from Circa, Matt Brooke who happened to be a friend of a friend of mine also at the dinner. This was a pinot and I was looking forward to try it. The pinot is very light, almost like a rose and has a fruity, fruit salad, pear tart nose. Attack is light, semi gamey, grassy and fresh, light bodied on the palate. Has a touch of ground and smooth rock flavours which makes me think terrior driven? Finish is light, has an acidic backbone and a little bit of a watered down Ribena flavour (some of this was on the mid palate also) and some length mixed with some heat.

This light acidic pinot style went with a fish dish. Pan roasted snapper, flattened buckwheat, wasabi leaf, herb emulsion and smoked bone marrow sauce. The smokey marrow flavours worked really well with the snapper and the wasabi lifted the dish and added a touch of freshness. The bone marrow sauce also ties in with the herbs. Not sure what the flattened buckwheat does (or if it is buckwheat!). Snapper flakes apart so nicely and was cooked perfectly; firm and delicate. Yum Yum! The wine matched the weight of the dish and the acidity of the pinot paired well with the smokeyness of the sauce. It also brought up some sweetness in the wine, some kind of candied fruits which gave a nice finish to the wine and the dish.

A well mixed and balanced dish and I think it was an unsung dish of the night. I would happily eat this again and again.

Pigeon, carrot, clove, orange

2007 Jamsheed ‘Yarra Valley’ Shiraz, Yarra Valley, Victoria

When this dish came out, I was really looking forward to it because we saw the giant vat of stock for this dish (or I assume so, apparently they go through about 200 pigeons a night for the stock). We had pigeon breast, confit pigeon leg, textures of carrot, bush apples, brown butter oranges and clove. The pigeon was cooked beautifully, soft and juicy. However, we did get some sinew and bone :(. It was also very gamey in flavour which wasn’t to my liking. The carrot goes well to offset this and also add some sweetness but the clove killed some of my taste buds.

The wine was a shiraz from the Yarra Valley. It had an interesting nose, spicy shiraz qualities, goats cheese, cherries and a touch of bay leaf. Attack is sandy tannins, a little chilli into a lot of chilly at the mid palate where the acidity kicks in and mixes with dark berries, peppercorn, bark and a dry outback flavour sensation. Finish is dense though only medium in weight, some liquorice, sprinkles of vanilla pod seed, some acidity here like a green mango. Very layered and complex shiraz.

The wine looked to contrast the dish but also to perhaps support the gamey flavours of the pigeon. Not a huge fan of this dish, my least favourite of the night.

Wine does contrast the flavours of the dish. Bold shiraz spice and flavours to perhaps match the gameyness. Not a fan of this dish.

Blackmore wagyu beef, fig, pear

1999 Parker Estate ‘Terra Rossa’ Merlot, Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia

We come to the last of the mains and this had to meet the high expectations set last time with the unforgettable cranberry and bone marrow waygu *dreamy*, but first the wine. 99 was an exceptional vintage for this winery coming off with a fresh and again interesting nose; some musk, fairy floss aspect with fresh blue berries. Attack is a touch acidic with a line of pinecones dryness and gum nuts. Mid palate becomes very salty with flavours something akin to Chinese crispy duck skin, clove, fennel then flipping the scrip with some white peach, figs and light musk. Finish is very long but a bit with some heat. Like the previous wine, a very complex wine, juicy, fleshy, bit older still with nice tannins. Maybe the first wine from Coonawarra I kinda liked.

Le boeuf! Charred sirloin, poached rib, figs, seared pear and fig sauce. As soon as this dish came down, it smelt like buttered popcorn, the microwave kind. Very aromatically seductive. The meat was so so soft and smoky and it would melt in your mouth. Faultless. Well, ok, some bites were a bit salty but whatever, the caramelised pear offsets this well. The wine is accented by the dish, giving it an aged wine feel with better balance. Well played. Pear and fig match with the beef’s fattiness and its full flavour. Sauce tastes a bit like smoked sesame which again balances and adds to the meat well.

Ripper of a dish. Very different to the previous beef dish I experienced first time round. Both are very very good but I still think the cranberry and bone marrow sauce had the wow factor which knocked my socks off.

Assortment of cheeses, bread, jams

NV Eric Bordelet ‘Poire Granite’, Normandy, France

We were greeted with three delicious cheeses; a sapphire blue, bruny island cheddar and tassie camembert with sides of granny smith apple, caramel onion, fig jam and beetroot bread. There was some other stuff but I was too busy nosing the wine which happened to be pear cider.

The pear cider was made from fruit of 300 year old trees in the Normandy/Loire valley. The wine maker is from Burgundy using whole bunch press, this particular cider is known as ‘Poire Granite’ which is code for Grand Cru pear cider.

I cannot get over the nose of this guy. Brilliantly fragrant, creamy and well layered with a dry clean minerality. Made you think of eating cheese on a sunny afternoon at the picnic. The blue cheese was the highlight of the cheeses, so creamy and fragrant, great with the apple, fig, onion and wine. Pretty sure we stole from the other cheese boards! I even got more cider to match! I had to think of the half empty bottle, didn’t want it to go to waste am I right?

Passionfruit, licorice, coconut

After being all cheesed up, we find ourselves at the second palate cleanser to prepare for the deserts. Here we had some coconut and ice cream balls which were so so yummy. Had a lovely mouthfeel with milk chocolate and coconut covered ice cream. We washed this down with a passionfruit beer. The drink was very light and a little bit frothy with a slight aniseed/liquorice flavour in the back palate along with coca cola with veggies of some variety. I shall have another, so long as it comes with another coconut ball.

Lemon meringue ice cream, white chocolate, lemon curd, parsley

2007 Pressing Matters ‘R139’ Riesling, Coal River Valley, Tasmania, Australia

I had recently become a fan of sweet Riesling so when this came out I was a happy camper. This guy comes from Coal river in Tasmania bringing with it big peach and poached pear nose with a nice lemon lime note. The attack is not viscous on the palate. It’s nicely balanced with lemon, lime skin, pear skins and golden delicious apples. Sweet finish and again light, not heavy. I believe I do like it.

The wine goes well with the desert, a deconstructed lemon pie. Swiss , lemon curd, white chocolate aero bar, brown butter soil, parsley oil and lemon meringue ice cream. Please eat together. The sticky meringue, powdery butter soil and creamy ice cream makes for a desert to die for. I love the mix of textures (sticky, powder and smooth) and the lemon curd. Such a lovely dish and gives the wine some acidity. Another well balanced and textured dish. I like this one.

Chocolate soufflé, chocolate mousse, crème anglaise

NV Romate ‘Cardenal Cisneros’ Pedro Ximenez, Jerez, Spain

At this point I am completely stuffed so didn’t get to really enjoy this as much as I would have liked. This is one of Shannon’s signature dishes, one that will never leave the menu. Dark  chocolate soufflé, chocolate mousse and crème anglaise. Very very light and fluffy, almost no mouthfeel to the dish with some hits of cream, fluffy chocolate and a little egg. Feeling fat now.

The matching wine was a sherry PX which was heavily coffee/chocolate flavoured, very powerful with the taste to boot, though not to my taste. Someone got seconds.

We are almost done guys! I need to be carried off even after writing this!

Petit Four

Chocolate mousse

Miniature ice creams

Jin and honey jubes

After dinner mint and thyme marshmellows

The petit fours came with coffee or tea. If your really full and only want to eat a little something, go straight for the miniature ice creams. Like little bites of heaven they are. The jin jubes were a bit tasteless but fun to feel with your hands and mouth. The chocolate mousse disguised as a lamination bled jam everywhere and will be enjoyed by chocolate lovers and the marshmallows really did taste like after dinner mints! But again, go for the ice cream!

Whew, we made it. The bill comes and we are floored, just under $7,000. The most expensive bill I have seen bar a wedding (guess it’s expected for 17 desgustation and 14 wine pairings). I had a really fun time at Vue de Monde. The food this time round was all very good and consistently good and the wine matching was extremely well done, easily better than before. I used and heard the word “perfect” many times over the course of the night but for me, it lacks the WOW factor of my first experience. Which is better? I think that discussion should be had over some marron 🙂

Kenny de monde

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