Monday, May 14, 2012

Dinner at the Chef's Table at Victoria and Albert's, Orlando

Victoria and Albert's is a modern-American-cuisine-themed restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and before you say what kind of Mickey Mouse stuff is that, let me tell you this was my third trip to the locale and, as in each of the previous times, it was a blast.  The restaurant has impressive credentials: a recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award, a Four Star rating from Forbes Travel Guide, and Scott Hunnel as Chef de Cuisine.  Chef Hunnel, a champion of fresh, locally produced, seasonal ingredients, is a 5-time James Beard "Best Chef of the South" nominee and was named Santé magazine's Culinary Professional of the Year in 2008.

We had been anticipating this event for a few months because: (i) the V&A Chef's Table is one of the  toughest tickets to snag in Orlando; (ii) of the high esteem in which we hold Chef Hunnel's creations; and (iii) of the lineup of wines we had assembled to accompany the evening's stellar fare.  My table mates for the evening were Ron and Bev Siegel (Ron had snagged the table), Steve and Linda Alcorn, the better half of @thewinebarn, and, of course, the lovely Mrs@wineORL.

We were slated to take our seats at 6:00 pm but, eager beaver that I was, we arrived at 5:45.  Israel, the  gentle giant that holds sway over the restaurant from his position of Maitre d'Hotel, quickly took charge of my wine bag and gave me the option of going to the table or waiting until the others arrived to go in as a group.  We opted for exploring our surroundings while awaiting the arrival of the others.  Ron and Bev were the next to arrive and the ladies promptly decamped to the bathroom to do whatever women do in bathrooms.  Ron and I stood around waiting for them and telling each other how great the night was going to be; especially with all the "killer" wines that we had brought.

Eventually the ladies emerged from the bathroom and we made our way back into the restaurant from where we were led to the kitchen and to the Chef's table.  The lighting in the restaurant is subdued, as is the tone of conversation, as you wend your way from the restaurant foyer and then you are catapulted into a cacophony of sound and bright lights that are the hallmarks of a working kitchen.

We spent a fair amount of time determining the seating arrangements because we wanted to be able to see the action in the kitchen (only half of us would be facing the kitchen) while also wanting to be in a position where we could discuss the wines without having to speak across bodies.

We began the evening with a 1998 La Grande Dame Champagne bought off the V&A wine list while Ron negotiated the wine-pouring order with Israel.  We followed that bottle with a 2002 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoch Fleur de Champagne Rosé.

We are primarily Bordeaux and Burgundy drinkers and the still wines that we had assembled for the meal reflected that bias:

  • 1994 Ramonet Batard-Montrachet
  • 2005 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne
  • 1964 Château Cheval Blanc
  • 1964 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
  • 1964 Château Mouton
  • 1964 Domaine René Engel Clos Vougeot
  • 1964 Faiveley Latricieres Chambertin
  • 1961 Château Ausone
  • 1961 Château Lynch-Bages
  • 1961 Château Gruaud-Larose
  • 1964 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve
  • 1958 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino
  • 1975 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
  • 1975 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
  • 1988 Penfolds Grange
  • 2005 Château Malescot St. Exupéry.

During the Champagne phase of the evening, Chef Hunnel made his first visit to the table to welcome the regulars and to determine if any of us had food allergies that he should be aware of.  He revisited the table at the beginning of each course to tell us about the course and its ingredients.

The dinner proceeded as follows:.

Amuse-Bouche: Soft-poached Quail Egg with Galilee Caviar; Chicken Liver Terrine; Cauliflower Panna Cotta; Porcini Miushroom Cappuccino

Maine Lobster with Herb Aioli and Miniature Greens

Alaskan Salmon with Bamboo Rice and Soy Beans

Herb-Crusted Ocala Rabbit and Sausage with Carrots

Poulet Rouge with Calamarata Pasta, Forest Mushrooms and Black truffles

Minnesota Elk Tenderloin with Braised Red Cabbage Tart

Australian Kobe-style Beef with Garlic Potato Puree

Fiscalini Cheddar, Gouda Reypenaer XO, Colston Bassett Stilton, Parmigiano Reggiano

Blood Orange Timbale with Array of Fruits on a Raspberry Veil

This was an excellent night out.  Watching course after course prepared in front of our eyes and then delivered to our table with pomp and circumstance enough to make a Victorian historian proud, and then to caress our palates with a multiplicity of pleasing flavors, was a food-lover's dream.  The eye-pleasing symmetry of presentation was only outdone by the symmetry of the flavors on the palate.

The wines as a group did not live up to expectations.  There were no standouts and there were a number of out-and-out disappointments.  For example, I had had the 1958 Biondi-Santi on January 13th and at that time described it thusly: Orange peel. Burgundian color and nose. Drying tannins. Light on its feet. Lots of cherry and mushrooms. Acidity. Elongated finish. Awesome fruit structure.  Describing the same wine drunk at V&A, Steve Alcorn used words such as: meat, short on fruit,  and acidic.  I was a mite depressed.

Victoria and Albert's should be on your to-do list.

© Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. Amazing that in that rather outstanding collection of labels, none were standouts. What do you think was the reason? Storage conditions?

    1. We buy a lot of older wines at auction and sometimes you get burnt but it is highly unusual for every bottle to fall below expectations.

  2. I belive that though none were real standouts, they're great bottles of wine, I would love to eat there next time I'm in orlando

    1. You will not regret the experience. If you want to reserve the Chef's table you will have to do so well in advance of your planned visit. Happy hunting.