Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Grumptastic Restaurant Review: Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table

Chef's Table Menu Envelopes  Have you ever wanted to eat at Victoria & Albert's but were a bit concerned about the quiet and library-like atmosphere of the restaurant?  Well, there is an alternative that can provide a very unique and different Victoria & Albert's dining experience but comes with a bit of a price.

Awhile back, I did a review of Victoria and Albert's.  I also mentioned that it was a piece on the Travel Channel about the Chef's Table at Victoria and Albert's that prompted us eating there in the first place.

During our stay at Walt Disney World in September 2006, my wife and I had the fortuitous opportunity to dine at Victoria and Albert's not once, but twice.  Our first meal was the one I wrote about previously.  Our second time was The Chef's Table.

There are a couple things of note in regards to dining at The Chef's Table at Victoria and Albert's:

  • Nabbing a reservation at The Chef's Table is harder than getting tickets to a Hannah Montana concert.
  • The same dress code applies, but you will have a totally different dining experience

Just like most restaurants at Walt Disney World, the Chef's Table starts accepting reservation requests 180 days Enchated Rose at the Chef's Table in advance.  In order to have a chance of getting a seating, you need to be on the phone calling Victoria and Albert's (we called the restaurant directly) as soon as the open for the day that you are calling.  Make sure you do your math correctly.  If you are even 1 day off, you probably are not going to get a reservation. 

But, don't despair, there is a waiting list.  Granted, the odds of people canceling are slim, but it is still a hope.  The phone number to be put on the Victoria & Albert's wait-list is:  (407) 824-1893. 

When we called, we asked for any available openings for the entire time of our stay.  Then we planned our other meals around that. 

Grumpwurst Enjoying his glass of Champagne (or Sparkling Wine) When our concierge at the Animal Kingdom Lodge saw that we were eating at both Victoria and Albert's and the Chef's Table, we were quickly told that we must've gotten very lucky.  Apparently, according to a few cast members in reservations that we spoke to, there are people who decide when to take their trip to Walt Disney World based on when they could get a reservation at The Chef's Table.

Our seating at the Chef's Table was the night of the first Monday of our stay (September 11, 2006).  My wife got all dressed up in the second dress she had bought for this trip.  I put on my suit again, but this time changed the shirt to coordinate with the dress.

We, once again, took a taxi over to the Grand Floridian because the idea of wearing a dress and heels on Disney Public Transportation wasn't a loveable idea for my wife.  I personally don't see what the big deal is, but I am not a woman so I cannot possibly know what it's like to walk around Disney in such attire.

Possible Hidden Mickey??? When we arrived, we walked up to the host stand and informed the Cast Member on duty that we were here for our seating at the Chef's Table (there is only one seating).  They immediately knew our names and what we were celebrating (my birthday and our honeymoon).

They weren't ready for us at that time, so they walked us to a little seating area near Citricos and brought us each a glass of Champagne (or Sparkling Wine, I'm not sure if was really Champagne). 

We probably sat there for 15 or 20 minutes and someone from the restaurant constantly made sure we were alright.

Quickly, we were told it was time to go into the restaurant.  It turns out the gentleman who was ensuring our comfort while we were waiting in the lobby area, was one of the two gentlemen who were taking care of us for the entire evening.

Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin on a Cormeal Cake and a Cherry Cider Reduction You are brought into the restaurant just as if you were eating in the traditional sense at Victoria and Albert's.  The difference was that you pass right by the dining room and into a place that most patrons don't go.....the wait station!

At this point, you are taught the first rule of dining at the Chef's Table.......

You don't talk about The Chef's Table...... Just Kidding....haha

The wait station marks a buffer zone between the kitchen and the dining room.  There are doors to the dining room and a door into the kitchen.   Whenever entering the dining room, you make sure the kitchen door is completely shut before opening the door into the Dining Room.  This was a very important rule because it was critical to not spoil the dining experience for those in the dining room.

We didn't have to wait long to find out why this was important.  The kitchen is loud.  Not rowdy family Poulet Rouge with Wild Mushroom Ragout, Trffled Egg and Prcini Sauce holiday dinner loud, but organized chaos loud. 

We were now brought into the inner sanctum of Victoria and Albert's.  As some people say, "Where the magic happens". 

My wife and I have both done several tours of duty as employees of restaurants.  I worked as a waiter in a fine dining establishment and I would occasionally moonlight in the same restaurant's kitchen (the chef apparently liked me).  My wife worked in the kitchen of a family-style restaurant.

This kitchen wasn't anything out of the ordinary when it comes to a restaurant except there is a gigantic niche in the back of the restaurant containing a very large dining room table that you might see in a residential home containing a large family.

Elk Tenderloin with Rainbow Marble Potatoes There was lots of wood everywhere in the area that we would be eating at.  Plus, the walls were decorated with various articles and awards for the Chef's Table.

At this point, we found out another bit of information they don't tell you in the literature.  You aren't guaranteed to have Chef Scott Hunnel be your Chef for the evening.  In our case, we were taken care of by Chef Amy (I think that's her name, the curse of time is making that detail a tad fuzzy).

She was fantastic and very confident and you could tell she loved being the head of that kitchen.Roasted Quail with Georgia Peach Tart with Mostardadi Cremona

In addition to interacting with your Chef, you are completely free to interact with anyone in the kitchen.  You don't have to work that hard to get their attention.  Many of them would walk by and ask us if we had any questions about what they were doing.  I don't know if our obvious youth and unpolished social graces promoted this openness.

We also got to witness how the kitchen handles unexpected hiccups in the evening.  During our meal we found out  a party had shown up with several extra diners that weren't on the original reservation and one of the new bodies had very exacting dietary needs.

Seared Australian Apparently, the kitchen is very detail oriented and they pretty much have an idea what everyone is having for dinner that evening and when people show up that aren't accounted for, they must scramble.  The Chef doesn't really like to have too much duplication of the menus at the table and an unplanned extra participant can throw a wrench into the plan.  It would be like finding out that a member of your wedding party is bringing as their guest someone who wasn't well liked by someone else at the table you planned on seating them at.  You must scramble and rearrange.

Because of this, we had a brief period where we didn't get to interact with our Chef as she took care of the current emergency.

Here is another tip we picked up during our time at the Chef's Table.  If you have dined there before, make sure Miniature Chocolate Pyramid, Kona Chocolate Souffle and Orange Chocolate Napoleonto let them know the date when make your reservation (either regular dining room or Chef's Table).  Chef Amy told us that it was very informative to know we had eaten there a couple days prior because she was able to pull up our menu and make sure we didn't get anything to eat that we had the previous trip.

The food is just like you would get in the restaurant except you get many, many more courses than in the regular dining room.

When each course comes out, Chef Amy would tell us what we were eating and any interesting details about the preparation.  We did get to experience Kobe-style beef (which is an extra cost in the regular dining room) and got to find out why it's called Kobe-style beef.

Poached Pears with Cassis Mouse and Spiced CakeAt the Chef's Table there is actually a Chocolate Course.  This precedes the dessert course and is as the name  states......just Chocolate!

Our two waiters were vigilant in their desire to make sure we weren't left wanting of anything.  It really was a small taste of what I guess it feels like to be royalty.  These two gentlemen obviously loved their job.

At the end of the meal, they brought us a little take-away bag that had two greeting cards made out of chocolate wishing me a happy birthday and both of us a happy honeymoon.  We also got our menus with our names on them.  Plus, my wife got another rose.Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle

At one point in the evening we were asked if there was anything we wanted to see in regards to the kitchen.  My wife said she'd love to see where the desserts were made.

At the end of the meal, we were taken to the little nook where the dessert chef worked her magic.  It was at this point we learned a little bit of trivia.  There is a head dessert Chef for all of the restaurants at Walt Disney World.  He designs everything we eat for dessert at sit-down establishments. 

The chefs at each restaurant pretty much picks from a menu of what desserts they want on their menu.  There are minor variations that can be made to the desserts, but for all Enchanted Rose, Chef Amy, and Grumpwurstpractical purposes they are the same.  For example, I had a gigantic pyramid of chocolate at Victoria & Albert's and later saw the same dessert at the Luau at the Polynesian Resort but it was much, much smaller.

There was one thing that the restaurants had a little say in.  That is the ice cream and sorbets.  So, this dessert chef was letting us sample some sorbets she was concocting for Victoria and Albert's.  She was combining flavors to try and come up with something tasty Enchanted Rose and Grumpwurst after the Chef's Tableyet unique for the dining experience.

When it was time to leave, I think it was midnight and we were exhausted and very, very stuffed.  Who would've thought that a bunch of courses of tiny quantities of food would fill you up that much.

We have yet to get another seating at the Chef's Table and once again failed for our trip we are planning for the Summer of 2008 (we are 5th on the waiting list).  We will get there again if it kills us. 

It is an experience that I strongly suggest anyone who has the financial means to experience.  To help you decide if you have the financial means to experience it, it cost my wife and me $384.50 to dine at the Chef's Table.  This price is including Florida Sales Tax and Tip, but is does not include any alcohol.  So, if you want to do the wine paring, expect to pay more.

Chef's Table Menu (Nancy) Chef's Table Menu (Ray)

11 comments:

Eric said...

Great review, Ray. A nice look "behind the curtain" for those of us not fortunate enough to have had the experience. Hope to get the chance someday.

Grumpwurst (Ray) said...

Eric,

Thanks. You got my purpose for writing reviews such as this. There are plenty of regular restaurant reviews on the web, but I like to try and let my reader feel like they were standing next to me.

sambycat said...

i especially like all the food pics! your review of V&A was one of the first posts of yours that i read! i want to do the chefs table. i think you also do a great job of illustrating to the non-foodies out there what to expect and not to be ascared!!!

lisa

Kaz said...

I've heard that, if you ask, you can get the food experience of the chef's table at any of the V&A tables. Of course, you don't get the ambiance experience, but it is an option for people who cannot get the reservations at the table itself.

Grumpwurst (Ray) said...

Kaz,

That is some interesting information. I can say that during my one visit to the "regular" dining room I didn't see any visitations by the Chef to any of the tables (it is a small dining room).

I'd be interested if anyone has successfully got this kind of service in the regular dining room.

But I can honestly say, that, in my opinion, the whole reason to do the Chef's Table is the different ambiance you get eating in the kitchen. If my only choice was to eat in the regular dining room, I'd just stick with the normal dining experience for that location.

I feel the extra cost for the Chef's Table is worth the real one-on-one feeling you get with the kitchen and her staff. If I had to pay to get that service in the regular dining room, I would feel like I had lost something.

But, I can only say that now because I've experienced it in the kitchen.

For those who have not, it may be worth it because you would get a "plussed" experience

Grumpwurst (Ray) said...

Oh, BTW....

Once you go the Chef's Table, you cannot got back....LOL

wdwdlist said...

heh

Grumpwurst (Ray) said...

I should never write comments running on no sleep.

My previous comment was supposed to be a joke and I left out some crucial words....

"Once you do the Chef's Table, you cannot go back to the regular dining room"

Meaning that I'm spoiled and I wouldn't be happy unless I'm at the Chef's Table.....

Sorry for the confusion

Alyssa Collier said...

What an amazing dining experience. I enjoyed the illustration of intricate details, but now I am hungry!

Gord said...

Great review...We also had Chef Amy and we loved her talents and energy. We've been twice and going again on 2011 which is our first "use" year for our DVC.

The number indicated, is this to make a reservation as well or just to get on the wait list?

After going twice, we definitely want to experience the Chef Table.

Anonymous said...

Depending on if you are staying at a Disney resort hotel or not, you will be able to make reservations BEFORE the 180 day mark. I am staying on site July 12-14 and wanted reservations for the 13th. I accidentally called 181 days in advance and was almost shoo-ed off the phone until the reservationist asked if I was staying onsite and I replied I was. She let me know that if you are staying onsite at Disney you are allowed to make reservations for the length of your stay beginning 180 from the dates you check in. Well that little bit of info opened up the reservation for me and I was able to snag the Chef's Table for the night of the 13th.