Sentinel Food Critic
August 1, 2010
I could not imagine how executive chef Scott Hunnel could improve upon the dining experience at Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
The restaurant is a 10-year recipient of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond award, and V&A has won numerous Foodie Awards. Hunnel's creative genius, along with one of the great chef's table experiences in Central Florida, an impeccable service staff and an exemplary food and beverage pairing program, has made V&A a crown jewel in the local dining scene. So it is no surprise that the latest enhancement takes a royal turn.
Queen Victoria's Room is a private room on one side of the main dining room. At V&A, during the preliminary visits for the annual Foodie Awards, I caught my first glimpse of the new addition. From our table, sheer curtains veiled our view of the interior. But we could see that the dining service was quite a bit more grand.
The style is called French gueridon service, a fancy name for a rolling cart manned by highly trained staff who go from table to table to finish or compose elements of the meal. The room has only four tables, but the experience includes 10 courses -- yes, 10 wonderful, perfectly portioned courses. The entire evening can take up to four hours, and the pace is what fine dining is all about: a leisurely repast peppered with conversation.
Royal service comes with a royal price tag of $200 per person, plus $95 per person for wine pairings. But like V&A, this is the place for ultimate special occasions, romantic dinners or the business gathering meant to impress.The scene stealer was the king salmon, cooked tableside on a heated slab of pink Himalayan salt. The fish was lifted off the salt a perfect medium.
Our meal started with an amuse bouche plated tableside. A poached quail egg with Galilee caviar, popcorn-crusted Gulf shrimp, a sultry smoked salmon panna cotta with salmon caviar and buffalo mozzarella were artfully positioned on each plate and served with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut champagne. The sparkler, which had fine poise and a lemony finish, tamed the richness of each bite nicely.
Our meal progressed to include a caviar tin of Maine peeky toe crab with DeSietra caviar and micro-herbs (2008 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc), cold-smoked Niman Ranch lamb with Fuji apple and curry dressing (2007 Kabinett Maximim Grunhauser Abtsberg Riesling), Minnesota elk tenderloin with a braised red cabbage tart (2006 Paraduxx Napa Valley Zinfandel), Japanese Wagyu beef tenderloin with oxtail jus (2005 Torres "Perpetual Salmos") and an exquisite selection of cheeses paired with port.
Pastry chef Erich Herbitschek created two desserts for the lineup. Both were wonderful, but the deep flavor of the chocolate mousse with a white chocolate gelato will long be a great food memory.
I have a rule of dining twice at restaurants. In this case, I only dined once. It was clear that under the direction of restaurant manager Israel Perez the Queen Victoria Room experience is orchestrated finely night after night. Is it worth the price of a babysitter? You bet.
Food Editor Heather McPherson can be reached at 407-420-5498 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dish on Dining: Queen Victoria's Room at Victoria & Albert's
Where: Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 4401 Floridian Way, Lake Buena Vista
When: summer seatings 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday in Queen Victoria Room; regular season seatings and Friday and Saturday during summer are 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
How much: $200 per person, plus $95 for wine pairings
Attire: dinner jackets with dress pants for men, ties optional; cocktail dresses for women; no jeans, shorts, sandals, flip-flops or tennis shoes
Beverages: full bar
Wheelchair access: easy
Noise level: quiet
Credit: all major
Age restrictions: children younger than 10 not allowed in dining room
Reservations: a must
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