Victoria & Albert’s: a royal tasting menu experience.

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In a nutshell: When you’re at “The Most Magical Place On Earth”, it’s only fitting that you treat yo’ self and your stomach to a magical experience. The Grand Floridian restaurant delivers an innovative multi-course meal with special Disney touches that make it the finest dining experience on Walt Disney World’s property.

What awaits behind these doors?

What awaits behind these doors?

I could never tire of creamy Mickey ice cream bars, Flintstones-sized turkey legs, and buttery popcorn at Disney parks, but sometimes such a trip calls for something more elegant. Victoria & Albert’s fits the bill. The restaurant is housed inside the Grand Floridian just across the pond from Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. You can take a monorail, bus, or boat once on-property to get there… that is, unless you’re lucky enough to be staying in one of the Grand Floridian’s elegant Victorian-style rooms.

The intimate dining room decked out for the holidays.

The intimate dining room decked out for the holidays.

Located on the second floor just off of Cítricos’ entrance, the AAA Five Diamond award-winning restaurant is headed by powerhouse trio Chef de Cuisine Scott Hunnel, Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek, and Maître d’Hôtel Israel Pérez. There are 3 dining options–The Dining Room, Queen Victoria’s Room, and The Chef’s Table–with variations in where you dine inside the restaurant and how the number of courses prepared. We opted for the 7-course tasting experience in the opulent main Dining Room.

Setting the tone.

Setting the tone.

Lush red roses add a pop of color at the table.

A footstool for your thingamabobs.

A footstool for your thingamabobs.

For those with purses or shopping bags full of Disney merchandise, a footstool (not the Beast’s Footstool, I’m afraid) will appear within moments.

Personalization goes all the way down to the menu.

Personalization goes all the way down to the menu.

Each menu is customized with your name and the occasion you’re celebrating, later packaged up for you to take home. Order your entire menu at the beginning, then let the waitstaff take the lead. (Note that this is a Winter 2014 dining experience.) Our servers brought deep knowledge and seamless service, not to mention great style with their Victorian era-inspired garb.

Maybe I should have picked the harp as my 4th grade instrument choice...

Maybe I should have picked the harp as my 4th grade instrument choice…

Our table had a prime view of the live harpist, who strummed angelic renditions of songs ranging from Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me” to Frozen’s “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” throughout the night. Should’ve requested something from T-Swift’s 1989 album.

Amuse Bouche:

Crab Crepe.

Crab Crepe.

The initial bite that graced our palates was a miniature crepe roll filled with jumbo lump crab, so fresh it tasted like Sebastian was just plucked from the sea that day.

Bread Course I:

Hand-rolled baguette.

Hand-rolled baguette.

A diverse bread and butter flight joined the first few courses. First up: a hand-rolled baguette, its crisp crust and excellent chew tempting us to ask for more. The accompanying 86% butterfat butter was produced by a Vermont creamery.

First Course (Cold Appetizer):

Sumac Crusted Tuna with Black Radish Slaw.

Sumac Crusted Tuna with Black Radish Slaw.

A seared slab of tuna, perked up by the tang of lemony sumac, came sliced almost as paper-thin as the red radishes beneath.

Poussin with Marble Potatoes and Balsamic Froth.

Poussin with Marble Potatoes and Balsamic Froth.

Poisson, as in fish? No, poussin, as in a young chicken. The moist poultry was served chilled with bits of potato and little piles of balsamic in powder form.

Second Course (Seafood):

Masago Crusted Maine Scallop with Coconut Curry Broth.

Masago Crusted Maine Scallop with Coconut Curry Broth.

Encased in a nubby fish roe crust, the massive scallop was nearly as big as my palm. Fortunately, this just meant there was all the more fork-tender mollusk to enjoy. The scallop swam in a wading pool of Thai-inspired coconut curry broth that would tempt anyone to lap up the remains of the dish.

Alaskan King Salmon with Charred Lettuce and Cauliflower.

Alaskan King Salmon with Charred Lettuce and Cauliflower.

The salmon reminded me of the strata discussed in geology: pale pink flakes resting on the creamy purée, glowing reddish-orange flesh in the middle, and crispy seared skin on top. The fish was moist and rich in flavor, surrounded by “trees” and “bushes” of charred green lettuce and deep purple cauliflower.

Bread Course II:

Black truffle brioche.

Black truffle brioche.

Next in the bread lineup was brioche studded with black truffle, served with what else but black truffle butter. This would be heaven in a grilled cheese! Butter it up, slip in a couple slices of sottocenere, toast until golden brown… salivating just thinking about it. #truffleontruffle

Third Course (Hot Appetizer):

Berkshire Pork with Cabbage Tart and Brussels Sprouts.

Berkshire Pork with Cabbage Tart and Brussels Sprouts.

The pork was served two ways, in loin and cheek form, with the latter barely edging out the competition. The meat and accompanying vegetables marinated in the deep red pan juices, adding to the hearty tenderness of each bite.

Gnocchi with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Truffle.

Gnocchi with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Truffle.

The option on the vegetarian menu sounded too decadent to pass up. Indeed, the gnocchi delivered. Savory and earthy, with peas adding a bright vegetal pop, this dish was the kind of meal you’d want to eat tucked under a blanket in front of a roaring fire.

Bread Course III:

Multi-grain sourdough.

Multi-grain sourdough.

The multigrain sourdough was the most impressive bread of the trio, as it was made with grains imported from Herbitschek’s hometown in Austria and used a sourdough levain that he started 20+ years ago. Slather on the rich butter for the ultimate hedonic experience.

Fourth Course (Entrée):

Onion Ash Crusted Lamb Loin and Belly, Baby Parsnips.

Onion Ash Crusted Lamb Loin and Belly, Baby Parsnips.

Of all the options on the tasting menu, this is the one I dreamt about for days after my first bite. The luscious gravy saturated the juicy meat–fragrant from the onion ash crust and not too gamey as lamb can sometimes be–and pillowy ricotta dumplings. Mildly sweet parsnips cut through the unctuousness.

Roasted Duck with Fennel and Leeks, “A l’Orange”.

Roasted Duck with Fennel and Leeks, “A l’Orange”.

Donald at the hands of Chef Hunnel got the classic French dish treatment, a fine combination of citrus and poultry.

Fifth Course (Cheese):

Flagship Reserve, Comté St. Antoine, Wyngaard Chèvre Affiné, Colston Bassett Stilton.

Flagship Reserve, Comté St. Antoine, Wyngaard Chèvre Affiné, Colston Bassett Stilton.

White and golden yellow and blue, firm and crumbly, sweet and salty: the variety on this cheese platter couldn’t be more distinct.

Roasted White Chocolate Gelato with Candied Fig.

Roasted White Chocolate Gelato with Candied Fig.

For those interested in a different sort of palate cleanser, a gelato course outfitted with a chilled silver spoon was also an option. White chocolate shavings and chewy fig added texture to the smooth and creamy gelato.

Sixth Course (Dessert):

Table-side action.

Table-side action.

Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Soufflé.

Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Soufflé.

The soufflé called for table-side action as one of our servers filled the puffy, powdered sugar-dusted cake with a warm, silky chocolate sauce. Thermal and textural contrast came from chocolate ice cream and an angular wafer-like accoutrement.

Tanzanian Chocolate Timbale.

Tanzanian Chocolate Timbale.

Continuing the chocolate trend, fluffy mousse composed the drum-shaped dessert. Sweet strawberries and raspberries cut through the richness of the timbale.

Seventh Course (“Celebes”: Coffee, Tea, and Friandises):

Siphon brewing system.

Siphon brewing system.

White tea.

White tea.

When our server pulled out a miniature Bunsen burner and an hourglass-shaped contraption, I half-expected a science experiment to occur. The curious device is known as a siphon brewing system. The invention employs vacuum physics and is renowned for its ability to provide maximum exposure to the essential oils and flavors. Water boils in the bottom half of the device, rising upwards through a tube as it gets hotter to mix with tea leaves or coffee grinds in the top half. When the heat is removed, the finished brew returns to the bottom half via a mesh-like filter.

We elected for a white tea, rife with flowery notes of jasmine. (“I can show you the world / Shining, shimmering splendor…”)

You can never have too many sweets, and the final plates were the perfect next-day treats to remember our meal by.

Friandises.

Friandises.

The normal plate featured the following:

  • Dark chocolate truffle with cherries
  • Pomegranate cinnamon jelly
  • Spiced shortbread cookie
  • Rum caramel with Australian sea salt
  • Spearmint jelly
  • Gingerbread truffle
Sugar-free Friandises.

Sugar-free Friandises.

The sugar-free plate called for almond, mocha, and milk chocolate truffles.

In addition, tradition called for a red rose in full bloom–as enchanting as the Beast’s rose–for each lady at the table.

This house will turn anyone into Hansel or Gretel.

This house will turn anyone into Hansel or Gretel.

Victoria & Albert’s was an experience fit for royalty. With the 180-day mark coming up for people to make those Winter 2015 reservations, claim your spot to indulge like a king or queen!

Victoria & Albert’s
4401 Grand Floridian Way
Lake Buena Vista, FL
http://www.victoria-alberts.com/
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