Thanks to Sarah McGovern for this incredibly intimate review of the Chef’s Table at Victoria & Albert’s. Located in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, this restaurant offers award-winning five-star dining! Savor the review slowly and do not skip ahead to the desserts!! (Well, you can if you want, but then come back to the beginning :-D)
Our first visit to Victoria & Albert’s was during our September 2009 honeymoon. My husband Barry and I are self-proclaimed foodies and this meal was going to be the icing on the cake of our week-long Deluxe Dining Plan extravaganza. It did not disappoint. We were blown away by every aspect of our 2 ½ hour meal. So when planning our next trip to Walt Disney World for our 1 year anniversary, we asked ourselves how we were going to top our last dining experience? The Chef’s Table of course!
My Dad and Step-mom, who share in our passion for food, joined us on this trip, and I was fortunate enough to secure a reservation for the last day of our trip. We arrived just before 5 pm on the day and waited in the atrium outside of the restaurant to be escorted to our table. We were dressed to the nines and ready for our 4 hour meal!
The hostess came out to greet us and led us into the very quiet and formal dining room. We then entered a completely different environment…the kitchen. It was loud and full of excitement. There is so much energy in a professional kitchen. We were shown to our table, which was right there in the center of it all!
Chef Scott Hunnel graciously introduced himself…how exciting! Here is a world-renowned chef preparing and presenting every course of our dinner. Simply amazing. We shared a champagne toast with Chef Hunnel and discussed any dietary restrictions. My Step-mom has a severe mushroom allergy, which they were more than happy to accommodate, but for the most part we put our meal in the hands of the professionals.
To accompany our champagne, we were brought the Amuse-Bouche, which consisted of four incredibly flavorful small bites. A Soft Poached Quail Egg with Galilee Caviar that just melted in your mouth. I am not a fan of poached eggs or caviar, but this was phenomenal. A Crispy Buffalo Mozzarella atop a Smoky Tomato Sauce, which if you could imagine the best fried mozzarella ever – this was it. The Popcorn Crusted Diver Scallop was an interesting combination of texture and flavors, and finally Smoked Salmon Panna Cotta with Salmon Caviar, which was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. If this was how we were starting the meal, we knew we were in for a real treat!
The second course was a Caviar Tin of Peeky Toe Crab with DeSietra Caviar and Petit Herbs. Again, I was skeptical of the caviar, but was pleasantly surprised that this was not very fishy. Chef Hunnel explained the sustainable farming techniques of this particular caviar, as well as the difference between the DeSietra and the Galilee from the first course. It was perfectly complemented by the crab and was a light, refreshing dish. This was paired with a crisp Sancerre.
After the crab we received the first of our three bread courses, a light and simple mini baguette served with unsalted butter from the Vermont Creamery.
Next came the WOW factor! Our third course was a Cold “Smoked” Niman Ranch Lamb with Fuji Apple and Curry Dressing. After the plates were placed on the table, liquid nitrogen was poured over top to create the cold “smoke” in the dish, which was quite impressive.
Lamb is another thing I am not very fond of, but again was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. The subtle curry dressing over the lamb was a unique flavor combination and the sweet Fuji apple medallions nicely offset the spice of the curry. This was accompanied by a sweet Reisling. I will go as far as to say that this was my favorite dish of the meal and have now become a lamb convert.
Our server then brought a selection of six different salts for us to taste and add to any of our dishes, all with very distinct tastes.
The table was reset with chopsticks and cold Sake was poured. We were a bit curious about what was coming next. A beautiful Sake-Soy-marinated Salmon with Bok Choy and Soy Beans was placed in front of us along with freshly grated wasabi root. This was my first time having fresh wasabi root and it is nothing like the paste you see at your local sushi restaurant. Fresh and bright with a more mild flavor…the perfect accompaniment to the salty soy glaze.
Our second bread course was a buttery herb brioche with an herb compound butter.
The flavor of sage was predominant, which was a nice complement to the earthy flavors of the next course, a Poulet Rouge with Mushroom-Truffle Ragout and Yellow Chanterelles. Poulet Rouge is a Heritage breed chicken brought to the United States from France and is currently raised in North Carolina. It is rich in flavor and much more tender then the chicken found in a local grocery store. This dish was served with a Pinot Noir to go nicely with the deep woodsy flavor of the truffles. Truffles…simply AMAZING.
Next came the adventurous course…elk. This was a Minnesota Elk Tenderloin with a Braised Red Cabbage Tart. A bit gamier and denser in texture than beef, the elk was cooked to a perfect medium rare and was delicious. The cabbage tart was both tart and sweet and went well with the richness of the sauce for the elk. The wine for this course was a Domaine La Roquete from the Rhone region of France. I would say it is most similar to a Syrah.
We were starting to feel a bit full at this point. The courses may look small, but they begin to add up.
We decided to get up and stretch our legs and try to walk off some of the prior six courses before going forward. We were escorted out of the kitchen and taken to a small balcony off of the second floor of the Grand Floridian. We came out just in time to see the sunset over the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Polynesian. What a beautiful night.
After about a twenty-minute break, we headed back into the kitchen for both our final bread and meat courses. The bread was a hearty multi-grain with salted butter and the meat, Australian “Kobe” Beef Tenderloin with Oxtail Jus. The beef just melted in my mouth. This came with the most buttery, silky mashed potatoes and baby vegetables. I guess you have to get your veggies in, right? Served with a rich Cabernet Sauvignon, this was the perfect culmination to the savory portion of the meal.
To provide this transition from savory to sweet, we were brought the cheese course – always a crowd-pleaser with my family! The progression of the four cheeses began with a mild Gouda Goat, a sharp Cheddar, a smooth Gouda Reypender, and finished with a strong Stilton. All were served with various accouterments such as a date bar, candied fruit and balsamic syrup, and a delicious Vintage Port gave each cheese a new life. A cheese course to remember!
At Victoria & Albert’s they have a very unique way of serving coffee. It is brewed table-side in a strange looking contraption that looks like it came out of a chemistry lab. My Dad and I ordered the Kona coffee, my Step-mom got the house blend and Barry had his favorite Mad Hatter’s Tea Party tea. All were very tasty and we received a science lesson along with it!
As our coffee was brewing, we noticed that one of the chefs was making some sort of pasta. The fun part about the chef’s table is that the chef’s welcome any questions and are more than happy to tell you about how they prepare certain dishes. This chef was making herbed gnocchi, which we enjoyed with our Poulet Rouge. I have never seen someone move so quickly and so precisely at the same time. These are quite talented chefs in the Victoria & Albert’s kitchen.
Next was the first of our two dessert courses. Yes I said TWO dessert courses! This was a Tropical Summer Fruit Pave, which they have nicknamed the “Monorail Dessert.” You can see why from the photo. It was a crisp, refreshing dessert with flavors of passion fruit, guava and white chocolate, served with a sweet dessert wine. It was beautifully presented with a colorful sugar display.
Then came the final dessert…Death by Chocolate. This was a Tanzanie Chocolate Mousse and White Chocolate Gelato served with a spiked hot chocolate. This was rich, creamy and sinful…everything a good chocolate dessert should be. We were all so full at this point that sadly I don’t think any of us finished this dessert.
And if that wasn’t enough, out came the Friandise plate, which is a large assortment of house made chocolates and candies. My jaw just dropped…two desserts now this! Our server was nice enough to package all of these up for us to enjoy when we got back to our hotel room.
We were stuffed to the gills and probably the happiest four people in all of Walt Disney World. This was inarguably one of the best meals we’ve ever had. And the food didn’t stop there…we were also given an orange-date loaf to enjoy for breakfast the next day. Chef Hunnel came out once again to present us with our personalized menus describing all of the wonderful food we just ate, and my Step-mom and I both received roses. I couldn’t leave without getting a photo with all of the wonderful chefs who made this meal for us and they were happy to oblige.
Was this meal cheap? No. It was incredibly expensive, but in my opinion completely worth it. This is not something we would do on every trip or even every other trip, but an experience saved for a special occasion. This was our first trip together as a family, and what a way to end it. I can’t speak highly enough of Chef Hunnel and his staff. If you have the means, it is not to be missed.
As we left the restaurant, we returned to the balcony where we had watched the sunset earlier that night. We were just in time to see the Electrical Water Pageant in front of the Polynesian as it made its way over to the Grand Floridian…a perfect Disney ending to a truly magical evening.