Thursday, March 22, 2012

RESTAURANT: Vue de Monde

"We need to talk."
*sigh* "Look, when we started this thing, we both knew that it wouldn't last forever."
"What are you trying to say?"
"Ben... please..."
"I... I don't understand."
"At the beginning, I told you. I told you that I wasn't the sort of girl that could be in a relationship forever."
"I know what you said then, but..."
"But what?"
"But I'd kind of hoped that things had changed between us; that we might... last. We've had fun, haven't we?"
"We have, Ben. We've had fun but that's what it was and now it has to finish. I told you that I was the sort of girl that you could only be with until 7:45... Baby, look at me... it's 7:45..."
"I suppose I should leave now..."
"Look. Take this with you."
"What is it?"
"It's a brioche. The scent of decaying bread will remind you of me. If you need it."

Above, poached duck egg with celeriac puree, lamb sweetbread, sourdough, onion and shaved truffle.

Along with last night's Flower Drum, Vue de Monde is another restaurant that has been on my wishlist for ages but never quite got realised.

With their website not allowing bookings for just one, I called up to get a table and was told that the table has to be cleared in 1 hour 45 minutes. Precise. I wondered how they were going to deliver their 10 course tasting menu is such a short time. Short answer is they weren't. I take a seat, get smashed with a delivery of various snacks and get told that since the clock is ticking, it will only be 6 courses plus dessert. Right.

On to the first course. It's all happening so quick it's hard to keep up. Crab with rockmelon and roe and something else. It's nice, refreshing. A flurry, everything is cleared, the sticks and stones that were on the table at my arrival are rearranged for the next course, everything is set.

A totally killer dish. A perfect piece of marron with 2 small round discs and a tarragon sauce. Sandwich the marron with the discs, dip it into the sauce and eat with your hands. Amazing.

The stones on the table keep on moving. A circle is cleared so a waitress with a yum cha trolley can come over and put a warmed kangaroo pouch filled with bread on the table, with a healthy quinelle of butter. I raid the pouch for some bread. I remember reading that the table is topped with kangaroo leather, in lieu of linen. It would be a nice touch if it wasn't starting to look a bit ragged with the seems barely hanging on in places and other scrapes and scuffs in other places.

Next, the pictured dish. It's everything you're expecting. The egg oozes around the plate, encompassing all of the rich flavours together. It's excellent. For some relief on the palate, a match to the extremely interesting 95 Blanc de Noirs from Yarra Yering.

Staff are rushing everywhere. I think everyone in the first sitting has the same hourfourtyfive time limit, which is only do-able if the staff execute everything perfectly so there are no delays. I feel tired just seeing their partial reflection in the window as I enjoy the sunset.

A DIY palate cleanser. Some herbs go into a bowl, get topped with liquid nitrogen and you're given a grinder and told to go to work. Once you get it t the right size, they add a quinelle of cucumber sorbet. Extremely refreshing.

Ling, beautifully pan-seared comes with a sheet of pressed prawn, young shoots and a tarragon (I think) emulsion. Straight forward, good flavours.

We're an hour in and things are starting to wrap up. Main course time. Sous vide and BBQd chunks of Blackmore's 9+ wagyu, with pear discs and a caramelised ring of pear. It's an oddly sweet dish and an interesting use of sweet/savoury for the main course.

A pre dessert of "beer and nuts" isn't even finished before dessert arrives. A deconstructed lemon meringue pie. It's superb, if extremely rich.

I've been slamming food into my mouth like a champ and my time isn't quite up, so they offer cheese. And let me tell you, they're legit about their cheese. A cheese trolley is a hard thing to do in Australia where cheese isn't eaten with every meal (unlike Europe). But here, all of the cheeses are in spectacular condition. Make your choices and try them with various jams, purees, breads and wines. A great end to the meal, improved further when a few petit fours arrive out of nowhere. And it's definitely the end: I'm over my allocated time.

All up, superb food and excellent wine in an amazing setting, ruined by such an unachievable time limit. Such tremendous thought has gone into every aspect of the restaurant: the way the stones and sticks move about the table, the aesthetics of the the black leather tabletops and the fur on the back of the chairs, the numerous courses where the guests get involved by eating with their hands or grinding their own palate cleanser, the gift bag on exit filled with treats for the next day's breakfast. So it's such a shame that it's all undone by such an overarching vibe of "get the fuck out we have to do two sittings."

I get that it's hard for restaurants to make money these days and the rent for level 55 of the Rialto must be insane, but come on. People don't want to pay $300-400 a head to feel like a liability that you'd sooner see the back of. I'm totally down with being rushed out at a cheaper place when the bill hits the table before I even finish chewing the last mouthful, not here.

I could be wrong, but I think the time limit only applies to the first sitting of dinner (before 8 perhaps), not lunch or late evening. I have no doubt that lunch or second sitting dinner are delightful, relaxing experiences, where the staff aren't rushing around to shoo away the vermin on time. So by all means check out Vue at one of those times because the food and wine is excellent. But avoid the first dinner sitting like the plague. Even if you don't care about the rush and only want to sample the food, go to one of the other sittings where you won't be given a cut-down menu.

Vue de Monde on Urbanspoon


MissPiggy said...

Sounds like a bit of a disappointing meal - having to rush SO much food in such a short time is never fun. Did you actaully pay $300??

Ben said...

It was around 4 I think.

I was pretty much fine with eating a lot quickly since I was only there to try the food and when dining solo I don't need to stay for ages and stare into my dining companions sad eyes. If I had have been there with others on a more special occasion it would have made it impossible to enjoy the place and their company.

I think that if they're going to stick with the time limit then they need to better communicate it and say that the normal tasting menu is off the table up front and only offer a short menu that will give the staff some breathing space so they aren't rushing constantly. I've been to places where the early sitting has a time limit but it never felt as rushed as this.

Anonymous said...

We had a 9pm sitting and the 10 courses and we didn't finish until about 12.30am.

We didn't even have matching wines, so it wasn't the drinks that kept us there late. It was nice to take time with the food, and the view, apart from missing the sunset, I definitely recommend the late sitting!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, got kicked out after paying $600+ for two.

Not happy, great food, service was rushed and cold.

Could of been a great restaurant