Ah yes, that moment every other year that reminds me of why Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort is such a remarkably special place. Israel's warm welcome, remembering us on sight some two years between visits, is always both wildly impressive and entirely genuine. And yet this time around, there was an added twist that I would never have expected...
Mr. Jones, I read your blog just the other day...we are all so very appreciative for your kind words.
Wait a minute, you're telling me the Maitre d' at the only Five Diamond restaurant in Orlando....reads my blog?
As Israel led us to a primo table in the center of the dining room, I scrolled those old blog posts in my head attempting to remember exactly what I had written. Feeling both astonished and slightly embarrassed, I soon realized that this really should have been no surprise at all. Attention to detail in service is what Victoria & Albert's does best, and I suppose one could argue that also includes reading obscure blog posts from past guests.
Still, it's nice to know someone out there is reading besides mom and dad.
Our relationship with Victoria & Albert's began 6 years ago, when MJ and I dined here for the first time the day after our wedding. That night, we established the first tradition of our new marriage: a pact to return to V&A's every other year on our anniversary. After enjoying the intimate 10-course experience in the Queen Victoria Room two years ago, which by all accounts is nothing short of spectacular, we decided that for future visits the 7-course offering in the main dining room was just the right amount of overindulgence.
As the champagne was popped and the harpist broke into the theme song from Game of Thrones, our server, Mike, who was with us back on that very first visit, kicked off the festivities...
There's a couple of reasons I always get excited when a meal begins with an amuse bouche. First I just like saying amuse bouche. And second, this plate designed to get the tastebuds ready for the meal ahead is usually quite sinful, with things like smoked salmon and caviar, or in this case...both.
With my palate and tastebuds properly primed, next out was a sumac crusted tuna alongside a black radish slaw. While the tuna was exquisite, the real highlight here was the wine pairing - a Sauvignon Blanc from Jules Taylor whose floral aroma was a party for my outsized nose. Turns out I'm not the only one that loved it...the vintage earned a top 100 ranking from Wine Enthusiast.
Next out for yours truly was an Alaskan king salmon, while MJ went with the masago crusted Maine scallop. The salmon was exceptional, but as I gazed across the table it was clear that MJ had won this round...
As Mike returned to the table in preparation for our next course, the same wine being poured for us both should have been a sign that something was amiss. Sure enough, a surprise course of Wild Turbot arrived for each of us, and a welcome one at that given that I had nearly ordered it to start. The turbot is line caught off the coast of Portugal, where very tight catch limits are imposed on the fish, making its appearance on the menu all the more rare. The dish was easily the highlight of my evening and really should have been my main course...somehow I had to find room for two more plus dessert.
|Seriously...if this is on the menu...order it.|
I was up for the challenge.
The next course is one that always leaves me with a little bit of "entree envy" every time we visit Victoria & Albert's. I went with the Palmetto Farms Quail, which offered a nice break from all of the seafood, but MJ's gnocchi along with black trumpet mushrooms and truffles always steals the show. Every visit I say I'm going to order this on our next one, and every year I manage to forget... Perhaps I should ask Israel to put a note in his file to remind me next time. Or...maybe I just did?
After a few minutes spent mesmerized by the sounds of the harp, the main courses arrived with a bit of flair. It's amazing how something so simple as lifting two domed dish covers at the same time can build so much excitement. But then again, the Australian Kobe had already done plenty of that just on its own.
Finally, following a brief intermezzo of gelato and cheese, it was time for the good stuff. By good stuff, I of course mean the Tanzanian Chocolate Timbale, and coffee courtesy of the coolest brewer you'll ever see. I know its just simple chemistry...or maybe its physics...either way, I'm always delightfully entertained by this thing.
|OK, so they're both pretty entertaining.|
Each of our visits to Victoria & Albert's has been memorable in its own way, and this time around was no different. Specifically, this was our first time doing late seating (8:30-8:45) which had us at the restaurant until just after midnight. Not that we had anywhere else to be, but anyone like yours truly that's of the "early to bed, early to rise" mentality would probably best be served by the early seating. Of course, the one benefit of being the last ones in the dining room was it gave us the opportunity to snap a few pictures.
|Photobomed by our server, Beth.|
As we said our goodbyes and made our way to the frosted glass door, that familiar sense of anticipation returned once more. Only this time, that feeling won't be quenched in a matter of minutes, or days, or even months. However, in two short years we will be back, yes for the incredible food offered by Chef Scott, but more for the warmth of home provided by Israel, Mike, Sharon, and everyone at Victoria & Albert's that night in and night out manage to make so many feel a little like royalty.
Enjoy Your Stay