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Feb 28, 2007 03:09 AM

Melbourne's Best vs Sydney's Best

Hi all Melburnian and Sydneysiders out there,

out of my curiosity, if any of you have tried both Melbourne's pinnacle: Vue De Monde and Sydney's pinnacle: Tetsuya's, which one do you think is best ?
And please no Syd vs Melb topic.


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  1. You can't have a best unless you compare apples with apples.

    Tetsuya's style is Japanese fusion, Shannon Bennetts's Vue de Monde cuisine is a modern interpretation of French ... it's incomparable, both are incredible gustatory journeys in wonderful venues, to be enjoyed and ruminated over as landmark life experiences.

    15 Replies
    1. re: stickyfingers

      I disagree. A high end restaurant experience is comparable especially when the subject matter food are both "modern" interpretations. I would understand if you're trying to compare Flower Drum with Vue De Monde but Tets and VDM is certainly comparable.

      And now that I've tried both (visited Tets last Friday), VDM is ahead of Tets by a LONG stretch. The seafood dishes at Tets were the highlight of the meal but the meat dishes were only so so and the desserts were plain terrible and the petit fours... don't even get me started.

      And the sommelier at VDM was amazing. It was about a year ago that we went to VDM now and to this day, my friends and I still talk about the amazing wine pairings the VDM sommelier did - e.g. port in the middle of a meal with a truffle soup! It blew our minds. As compared, the tets food and wine seem contrived, in a cookie cutter format and had lack of imagination. To put it honestly, the wine pairing was just bad (by $300 per person a meal standard!).

      VDM is definitely hands down the best.

      1. re: moiandtoi

        Iew, surely Tets can't be that bad ?
        I do expect Tets as the most formidable match VDM can think of!

        1. re: MarvellousMelbourne

          Well, that was what I thought.

          Mighty disappointed. Especially with the wine pairings and desserts - it all felt very production line/cookie cutter. They need to get themselves a new sommelier and pastry chef!

          E.g. when we had the first 2 wines and made it known to the sommelier that 1) the wines were ordinary and 2) we weren't that price sensitive so bring on the good stuff (the first wine was like a very unimpressive 2006 Tas riesling), the sommelier proceeded to bring us 2 types of wine for each course for the rest of the meal!!?? Err, quality not quantity! I guess the sommelier's logic is if we were toasted enough, we can't tell anymore?

          On a food/wine/overall experience level, I would say Flower Drum is a more formidable match than VDM - I left Flower Drum feeling like an Empress! Than again, I haven't visited other Sydney greats.

          Tets was a beautiful restaurant though! I like the deco better than VDM.

          1. re: moiandtoi

            Did you go for the REAL chinese menu in Flower Drum ?
            I heard that they have two menus.
            One containing average stuff like lemon chicken and normal take away stuff and
            another containing real chinese delicacy like abalone and shark fin.

            Yep, I agree with you on Tets decor.
            Hard how you can fault that Japanese garden that lush. Btw, do you find the cuttlery ( including plates of course) in Tets is of lower standard than VDM ?

            1. re: MarvellousMelbourne

              Haha, yes I think I went for the REAL menu (I am Chinese so I don't think the waiters dared suggest Lemon Chicken). I didn't have abalone or sharks fin but the drunken chicken i still talk about till this day.

              YES! I'm glad you brought up the cutlery and tableware! Without sounding wanky, you gotta give props to VDM's Laguiole cutlery, Villeroy and Boch plates (and specially crafted VDM plates), uber Riedel decanters over Tets Tablekraft cutlery (scratched nevertheless). At least they used Riedel glasses. =P

              How did you find Tets?

              1. re: moiandtoi

                Never been there but about to. 2-3 months time. =)

                1. re: moiandtoi

                  I suppose that this is not - as previously feared (LOL!) - a Sydney/Melbourne debate, but one of food snobbery. The opinions of those who require a certain ambience, toadying, and level of decor to match the menu, Vs those who genuinely pursue food with a passion regardless of the peripheral accoutrements.

                  Both Shannon & Tetsuya are amazing in their skill and inspiration. Both miles apart in style. Does that mean that one then judges who is better on the merits of decor, pastry and wine? Surely not? BTW VdM's acclaimed pastry chef has left for greener pastures.

                  On the matter of Tetsuya's Vs Flower Drum, I am also of Chinese heritage and know the former owner of Flower Drum. I have also taken classes with their head chef and current co-owner.

                  It is well known in the local Asian Community that Flower Drum is oriented to the Western customer not the Chinese foodie. The ingredients are well sourced and dishes produced in an efficient and technical manner, but the scope is limited by who they perceive is their core customer - the Occidental business man.

                  Similarly, Tetsuya's are well aware of the limitations of the Sydney businessman, and like it or not, they have different preferences. Friends in the hospitality industry who have moved north have had to quickly come to grips with this, especially in terms of wine lists and the Sydney perception of what is considered healthy eating over traditional flavours.

                  As an Oriental foodie, you could not conceivably say that Flower Drum has the best Chinese food in Melbourne, and it is definitely not on par with Tetsuya Wakada's cuisine in terms of innovation, preparation time and technical difficulty.

                  Certainly it has cachet and snob value for being mentioned regularly in The Good Food Guide by writers poorly educated in Oriental cuisines, and is one of the few 'upmarket' Chinese venues. But if your aim is for fine service and wine lists(wine is superfluous when it comes to Chinese dining), and you want to eat Chinese food from expensive porcelain, in fine surrounds that cost millions of dollars in the manner of Vue de Monde, then go to Silks at the Casino. There you will find all the affectations and pretensions that food snobs crave, in addition to a similar technical proficiency as FD.

                  To eat the best Chinese food Melbourne has to offer, one needs to drop the affectations and peruse some of many more humble outer suburban eateries in places such as Glen Waverley, Box Hill, Blackburn, Doncaster and Springvale. There you will find even the wealthiest local Chinese eating some of the best and most innovative Oriental food Melbourne has to offer, albeit without custom made utensils and architect designed decor.

                  Perhaps it is because I am not overly concerned with the peripherals that I say that one must compare apples with apples when it comes to restaurant comparisons. My personal preference is to examine signature dishes in a comparison, because it is the genius behind the cooking that I treasure.

                  I am equally happy - as I was last week - hunkered down on a low stool by a hawker stall, eating roast goose for one meal and at L'Atelier de Robuchon for the next - in so far as taste and service, both were exemplary experiences.

                  1. re: stickyfingers

                    Yeah but goose experience is different from Roubuchon, no? IMO, an experience has to be measured in context and expectation. I'm sure Roucouchon probably easily cost more than 10X the goose?

                    I think Flower Drum has very well executed Cantonese cuisine. Some of my favourite ethnic eateries are in Richmond, Caulfied (e.g. Chicken and the cow, Pacific House, Almazett's) - they do what they do very well but they are not the same thing. I have not been to Silks but I do hear that Silks or Empress of China for that matetrs is on par, if not better value than FD.

                    Admittedly, I don't cook much Chinese food or have I done extensive reading into Chinese/Asian cuisine but it was one of the best Chinese meals I've ever had. Of course I've never visited your top HK chinese restaurants but I've been to a few Singapore places. What I loved above all was the service and the whole experience. The waiters made service an art and the food tasted darn good on my perhaps not overly educated Chinese palete.

                    Therefore, IMO, comparing a place like FD to your suburban greats/goose experience is indeed comparing apples to oranges.

                    However, comparing FD to VDM or to Tets is more of a reasonable exercise. When I go to a joint like FD/VDM/Tets, I expect to be BLOWN AWAY as part of an experience in food/service and ambience - of course there is a snob factor - its called ambience. And ambience in measured in context.

                    E.g. The other 2 fellow Tets diners and I shared a $60 meal of salt and pepper soft shell crab, mixed mushrooms and mixed roast on Sunday at Pacific House and we left as happy campers - it was delicious, filled with MSG but served its purpose. The ambience was great, for a suburban Chinese restaurant.

                    Also, wealth and cost aside, Tets/VDM/FD are not the type of things you eat everyday, at best once or twice a year - they're considered haute cuisine for a reason. They're too rich, too different for everyday eating. On the other hand, I tend to pop into places like Pacific House, Dessert House, Chicken and the Cow (haha don't know its real name, its that Pho place) probably once a month. If I could get nice goose here, I probably would eat it often too.

                    It's a differing view but my preference is that all things have to be measured and compared in context.

                    P.S. would be interesting to see how VDM does with a new pastry chef. I'm a woman and I LOVE my desserts!

                    1. re: moiandtoi

                      Hi, have you seen the latest World 50 Best Restaurant 2007.
                      THis is just so bizarre and unfair!
                      How come VDM is ranked lower than Rockpool and Tets?
                      This very same guide puts FD in 30-odd rank twice a couple years back, what could have made them not do this to VDM ?
                      Ok, outperforming Tets may not happen but being outranked by Rockpool is just very bizarre!
                      Do you seriously believe Rockpool has what it takes to outrank VDM ?

                      1. re: MarvellousMelbourne

                        What is the link to view the list of the 50 Best?

                    2. re: stickyfingers

                      Hi. Can you tell me where the local Chinese normally go to for authentic Chinese cuisine (somewhere that specialises in seafood within 30km of the CBD)? I'm on a tight budget but don't mind splurging a little if the food is really good. A no frills place suits me just fine...

                      1. re: GraceH

                        * Pacific Seafood House at either Toorak Road, South Yarra or Victoria St, Richmond.

                        * Rock Kung at Kingsway, Glen Waverley

                        * Crystal Jade Palace, Waratah Place, Melbourne CBD. They do have bizarre seafood like LIVE eel, lol.

                        1. re: MarvellousMelbourne

                          From a visitors perspective and in purely foodie terms, there is no comparison. It is Melbourne every time. A great food city

                          In the last couple of weeks I have been to both Tetsuya and VDM and, while I enjoyed both, VDM definitely had the edge. Comparable pricing ( about US$250 a head)

                          Here is what I thought of VDM

                          And this about Tetsuya

                          both worth trying but I would go back to VDM before Tetsuya


                          1. re: Simon Majumdar

                            Yep, me too (and I live in Sydney)

                            It's odd though. I got a table really easily at Vdm without any of the hassle you write about Simon. What are others' experiences? Should I plan my next trip rather than calling the day before? What's the standard waiting time for a table here?


                            1. re: Suzi Edwards

                              We got a reservation on the day - called at 11 and by 1pm we were seated and starting the meal - granted it was lunch, but friends have had no problem getting in for dinner on the day also...