Thanks to Lynleigh Cooper for reviewing her experience at the Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table!
When my uncle first told me he would be taking my cousin and me to the Chef’s Table at Victoria and Albert’s, I was a little apprehensive. My taste buds are certainly not adventurous, and I rarely ever experience “fine dining.” I’m a steak and potatoes kind of girl through and through, and I certainly didn’t want my uncle to pay so much for a meal I would eat very little of. Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about, as The Chef’s Table turned out to be the best dining experience I’ve ever had.
The one piece of advice I can give on booking the Chef’s Table is to call right when the lines open 180 days out. Work your other ADRs around this one; don’t lock yourself into one date if possible.
We arrived at about 5:15 to the resort and went directly to check in. (Valet parking is complementary for Chef’s Table guests, so no worries there!) And after being introduced to the maître d’hotel, we were escorted through the main dining room and back into the kitchen where our table was waiting for us. The table was solely ours for the evening, so we had planned on spending about 3 hours there. That’s usually a safe amount of time, and we made sure to plan any other evening activities accordingly.
The table is in the very back of the main kitchen. You can see literally everything that goes on, and watch some true culinary masters at work.
All the chefs are very friendly, and I believe every one of them spoke to us at some point during the evening. There is obviously a strict dress code for the restaurant: dinner jackets with dress pants/slacks and shoes and optional tie for the men; and cocktail dress, dressy pant suit, skirt/blouse or nice dress for ladies. Men are welcome to take their jackets off while back in the kitchen at the table, but if you have to enter the main dining room, to go to the restroom for instance, you must wear your jacket.
We had one main waitress named Teri, who attended to our every need that evening. She was attentive, but not overly so, and she seemed to sense in advance what we would need. In other words, she was absolutely wonderful.
After we were seated, the first part of the dinner includes a champagne toast with head chef Scott Hunnel. Since my cousin and I are both underage, and no one in my family drinks, we opted for some lovely sparkling cider, and we toasted with the chef. (Menu Prix Fixe begins at $200.00 per Guest. Wine Pairings from $95.00 per Guest. [Pricing does not include tax and gratuity.])
The Chef then proceeded to explain a little bit of how the rest of the evening was going to go. Our meal was 13 courses long, including 3 servings of different breads, with ingredients from all over the world. The kitchen can tend to be a little cold, but no worries ladies, V&A’s has large shawls on hand in case you get a little chilled.
And since this is the best dining experience I’ve ever had, I suppose I should talk about the food. Our first course consisted of quail egg with Galilee caviar, buffalo mozzarella, smoked salmon panna cotta with salmon caviar, and popcorn crusted gulf shrimp. I wasn’t a huge fan of the salmon caviar, but that’s totally subjective. The quail egg was wonderful, not overpowering in taste, and incredibly creamy. The mozzarella and shrimp were familiar flavors that were enhanced by the quality of the food we were served.
The second course included a caviar tin of peekytoe crab salad with German Osetra caviar and petit herbs. This was definitely one of my favorite courses of the evening. I’m a complete sucker for crab, especially good crab. The caviar on top was not overwhelming and in my opinion only added to the flavors of the crab. I liked it so much I finished off my cousin’s portion since she wasn’t a fan of the crab. In between this course and the third, we were served bread and were brought six different kinds of salt to use with the bread; the most memorable being the Yak salt, which I tried and actually liked rather well.
The third course was another favorite of mine, Niman Ranch lamb with Fuji apple and curry dressing. The presentation of this course is pretty awesome. They bring the plate out and place it in front of you, and then hot cider is poured over small holes in the plate, which activates the dry ice underneath causing smoke to rise up. The lamb was the best I had ever had, and the sweet flavor from the apples enhanced the flavors of the lamb.
The fourth course was a Sake-Soy marinated King Salmon with bok choy and soybeans. I normally love salmon, and while this was very very good, it was almost too sweet for my tastes. However, interestingly enough, my uncle and cousin are not salmon fans, and they loved it.
The fifth course was a White Holland asparagus with a beurre noisette hollandaise. This particular asparagus is only found in Holland during a short time of the year, and is not always found at Victoria and Albert’s if they believe that the crop is not particularly good that year. The hollandaise sauce was a perfect compliment to the asparagus, and while this was certainly not my favorite course, it was still very good and unique.
The next course had braised red cabbage, Minnesota elk tenderloin, and an apple puree. The elk was incredible, one of the best cuts of meat I’ve ever had, and absolutely no game taste to it at all. The cabbage tart was sweet and tasted nothing like cabbage at all, a very nice surprise in my opinion.
Our next course was considered our main entrée, and featured one of the dishes V&A’s is famous for, the Japanese Waygu strip loin with oxtail jus. It was pretty incredible to say the least. The meat was so tender it basically cut with a fork. My uncle raved about this dish for quite some time, saying that it was “hands down the best beef he’d ever had.” My uncle has had a lot of food from many different places, so that’s saying quite a bit in my opinion.
We were then served some wonderful coffee while we waited for out next course, the cheese plate. This was probably my least favorite part of the meal. We were served 7 different types of cheese, including Beemster Gouda Goat and Mt. Tam cheese, among others. Many were just far too sharp for my tastes, but I am certainly no expert in cheeses. I can imagine that most with more refined taste buds would have rather enjoyed this portion of the meal.
Next came the first of our two dessert courses; green apple mousse between hazelnut cookies and sour cream ice cream. Considering I was looking forward to the chocolate dessert that Chef Hunnel promised us at the beginning of the meal, I admittedly didn’t pay much attention to this one. It was a little too tart for my tastes, but my cousin and uncle really enjoyed it.
The last course of our meal was pretty spectacular. We were served Tanzanie chocolate mousse and white chocolate gelato. The former was actually topped with edible gold. The white chocolate gelato was divine, and the whole plate was the perfect ending to the meal. At the end of the meal, the entire kitchen staff came back and posed for photos with us. We were also given the customary rose and candies, and were told to take as much time as we wanted to take any pictures we desired.
It’s easy for me to say that the meal was definitely worth it, because I didn’t have to pay for it. My uncle graciously picked up the tab, which I believe was around $600 for the three of us. He wanted my cousin and me to have a truly amazing experience, and V&A’s delivered one hundred percent.
Chef Hunnel checked on us between each course and was more than accommodating if we had any questions. The service was wonderful, the food was amazing, and I can’t say enough about the entire experience. So if given the chance I would definitely save up and treat myself and someone special to me to this incredible meal. I certainly hope to get back there one day soon, and in the mean time I highly recommend that all of you give it a well deserved try.
Note: Only one party per evening is seated at 5:30 p.m. Table size can accommodate up to 10 people, but reservations can be made for parties as small as 2. Reservations are required and can be made up to 180 days in advance. Guests ages 10 and up will be served.