I have wanted to eat here since I started coming to Disney as an adult; its a very formal meal with multiple course, wine pairings, attentive service and food best described as culinary masterpieces. Its also a boatload of money. So, long ago, I decided that on my 40th birthday I would eat at V&A’s, splurge or not.
Thank goodness Jake agrees!
180 days ago I called to make the reservation, and was able to secure an 8:30 for Sunday, October 3. In the main dining room there are only 12 (I’m guessing) tables and the restaurant only has 2 seatings; getting a reservation on the first try during the Food and Wine Festival made me very happy. There is also a more exclusive dining room (more money!!) that has only 4 tables and 1 seating and the chef’s table. The meals take approximately 2.5-3 hours and each table has two waiters, the two waiters typically only serve two tables per seating. Clearly, this is slow and personal dining. You also can’t really be sure what will appear on the menu as the chef’s base this decision on what they can acquire fresh and in season. Oh, and I forgot; there’s a dress code (Jake is in heaven!!): jackets and collars for men, dresses or pantsuits for women.
Who knew in the end it would be the dress code that gave me the most angst!! After discovering that we are going to be parents, I also discovered that pretty much all of my more formal dresses don’t fit anymore. One week before we were to leave for Disney I was like a mad woman in Macy’s searching for a dress that would be formal, attractive, not mother-of-the-bride, and accommodate my growing front (and back, if truth be told…). While I was crying in department store dressing rooms preparing for my long anticipated dinner, Jake was making plans of his own for this meal.
We arrived at the Grand Floridian about 30 minutes early, valeted the car (we were feeling pretty high end in our rented Hyundai Accent without power locks, windows or cruise control…) and headed up to Mizner’s for a pre-dinner drink. Its sort of obvious who is going to V&A’s; there were several couples over dressed for Disney, looking at their watches at the same time we were. Other guests eyeball you a little, like ‘where are you going?’ and all we can think is ‘this better live up to its reputation.’
We checked in at the podium (behind a frosted glass door; keeps the riff raff from seeing the dining room!) and were asked to wait for a few minutes while our table was set. At 8:45 we were seated. The dining room is dim, victorian in décor, and very quiet. Except for the harpist. Who was playing the Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ when we arrived. We also heard ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘California Girls’ before dinner was over. Seriously. Oh, and the Aladdin theme song.
Before you have a chance to see menus, you are greeted by a pair of waiters, John and Sherry in our case, who explain the evening to you. They review drink options, wine pairings, any allergies you may have, and the service you will receive. We opted for the wine pairings and were immediately given glasses of Taittinger Champagne to accompany the amuse bouche that would arrive shortly. While we sipped champagne our personalized menus were brought to us and reviewed. We were allowed several minutes and many questions before our order was taken. Now that I think about it, I believe John and Sherry took this from memory…
Our amuse bouche arrived shortly after we ordered our meals. The plate had four small bites; a lobster roll with caviar, a salmon panna cotta with salmon roe, an heirloom tomato with pesto, and a salmon flan in an egg shell dish. While all four bites were outstanding, the salmon flan was easily my favorite. I’m pretty sure Jake liked the pesto and tomato best, mostly because he looked at me and said that it was taking all of his impulse control not to lick the remaining pesto off of his plate. Class all the way, we are.
Our first courses were Balsamic Charred Cuttlefish with Watermelon and Tomatoes paired with Two Princes Riesling and Minnesota Elk Carpaccio with Olives, Artichokes, and Chorizo Vinaigrette paired with Domaine King Estate Pinot Grigio. We both loved our selections. Jake can’t get enough cuttlefish and carpaccio is easily one of my favorites. In sharing our plates Jake conceded the win to me, mostly because my plate came with garlic crackers to load with the carpaccio and other toppings, included dehydrated olive oil (who knew you could do such a thing, but it melts in your mouth). And before you say anything about the wine, yes, I ordered the pairings, and I drank a sip or two from each. I’ve been allowed a glass or two of wine a week now that I’m out of the first trimester and I decided I wanted to taste what they had to offer. Jake finished all that I didn’t!
In between courses we were brought bread and butter, each time a unique style and flavor, while our tables were completely cleared and reset.
The fish course was next. I ordered the Citrus Poached Halibut with Warm Verjus Vinaigrette paired with Micheal Redde Sancerre Les Tuilieres. Jake had the Sake Soy Marinated King Salmon with Bok Choy and Soy Beans paired with the lighest sake I’ve ever tasted! We both declared the other to be the winner of this course, Jake preferring my citrusy fish and I totally craving the soy and salmon combo.
Again, full clearing of plates, some conversation about wines, travel and Robert Plant with Sherry and bread.
The third course included Corn Soup with Petite Crab Casserole for me and Duck Breast, Duck Sausage, and Confit with Strawberry and Rhubarb. We were told that the corn soup was made completely via reduction, with no roux, and it tasted like it; it was as if an ear of corn had transformed itself into soup. My favorite though was the duck, in all its carnations. I LOVE duck and this duck was outstanding.
For our main courses I ordered Veal Tenderloin with Marble Potatoes and Sauce Soubise. The plate included veal sweetbreads as well. It was my first taste of sweetbreads (it’s brains…) and I will admit to loving it. Seared crispy on the outside, tender and melty on the inside and a flavor that was equal parts buttery and sweet. The veal tenderloin was also excellent, and I especially loved the sauce soubise, a sort of onion cream sauce that was just lightly dotted on the side of the plate. Jake did not love sweetbread and he’s not a huge fan of veal (something about a cow named Penny and living on a dairy farm…). Jake ordered the extra on the menu (there are items you can pay an additional charge to have): Kobe Beef Tenderloin with Smoked Garlic Potato Puree. We learned something very important: there is a reason kobe beef costs so much and it’s because it’s the best tasting beef ever. Get it if you can. The potatoes were also outstanding, topped with shortrib and with a strong garlic flavor.
The plates are small, but we found ourselves getting increasingly full!! And we’d been at dinner for nearly two hours.
The cheese/dairy course is next, we ordered both options. Jake had White Chocolate Gelato with White Chocolate Shavings and I had the cheese sampler that included Stilton with Tuppelo Honey, Chevre with Dates, a fig bar with a cayenne pepper coated macadamia nut, Gouda and a house made Blue Cheese paired with a port. The gelato cam with Moscato. Both were amazingly well paired; we love port and had never tried it with blue cheese. Moscato was new for both of us but I think we could have kept drinking it until the bottle was gone!
Here is where Jake’s planning comes in. Our plates were cleared and there was bit of a lag in our service when the manager appeared with a platter covered with a silver dome. She apologized for delaying our dessert course and said she had a small surprise for me. I assumed this was because it was my birthday (not really, but that’s why were there, my real birthday was a week ago). When she pulled the dome off the plate, this is what I saw:
Now, this requires some explanation. Jake and I are not married, mostly because we have both been there before and felt very comfortable with our commitments to each other without needing the official documentation. When we discovered we were having Beanie (our name for our currently gender mysterious baby) we decided that we would get married and have planned a private ceremony in Mexico later this month. I honestly never really thought about a proposal. But Jake did. He said I deserved one!
He called V&A’s a couple of weeks ago, told them what he wanted to do (with some help from my mother—he told my parents first!!) and knew that Disney would help and do it right. Well, they did and it was. When we first arrived at the restaurant to check in the hostess seemed to pause for a very long time while looking at the names. Turns out she was reading the instructions. After we were seated Jake asked the hostess for the restroom and left. That’s when he gave her the ring and his camera. And then this!! They put it together, the hostess and manager took pictures, I cried, the other patrons applauded. Everyone knew but me!! Our waiters knew. My mother. The hostess. Even our neighboring tables were asked to remain very quiet.
And then we had dessert!
I had the Carmelized Banana Gateau and Jake had the Grand Marnier Souffle. Honestly, both were excellent, but I was so distracted by the amazing turn of events that I didn’t pay much attention. But I did clear my plate. We also had coffee with our desserts, made in a Victorian style percolator that is truly a science experiment. It was also great coffee, and I don’t much like coffee, so that’s saying something.
When the meal is over at V&As, the waiters package your personalized menus (we had two versions, a birthday one and a congrats one), a rose for the ladies, any leftovers you might have (in our case, the chocolate rose) and a loaf of orange date bread for breakfast. The service we received from John and Sherry (who are married, by the way) was without question the best we have ever experienced. Three hours and nearly $500 later and I can truly say my life has been changed forever!!