Right at the top of that list for many years? Dining at The Chef's Table at Victoria and Albert's restaurant in The Grand Floridian.
In October 2015, I was finally able to check that one off the list. Here's how it went...
What it is
I guess we should start with what The Chef's Table is so you can understand why it was such a big deal to me.
Victoria and Albert's is a five diamond restaurant (1 of only 3 in Florida) inside The Grand Floridian and within V&A, there are 3 dining areas: the main dining room, the Queen Victoria room (4 tables available) and The Chef's Table (1 table for up to 10, although a max of 6 is most comfortable).
This is 1 of very few places at Disney World where dress code is important. A dinner jacket is required for men (ties are optional) and dress or pants are required for women. Guests must be at least 10-years-old to dine here.
The main dining room is nice, dimly lit, has a harpist playing music and feels really formal. The meal here is a 7 course meal and costs $150/person (with wine pairings available for $65/person).
The Queen Victoria room is a bit more private with 4 tables, has the same quality staff as The Chef's Table and a menu that's similar to the Chef's Table but with 10 courses instead of 13 or 14. This is the room I'd book if there were just 2 of us on a date night. The cost to dine here is $210/person with wine pairings available for $105/person.
The Chef's Table is a 4-5 hour experience where you are served 13 or 14 courses at a table in the kitchen with a view of the food being prepared, get to ask lots of questions and have a level of service that I've never experienced before. Up to 10 people can dine at the Chef's Table on your reservation at a cost of $250/person (wine pairings are available for $105/person).
Although it's the most expensive of the 3 options, it's also the most casual which I loved for our group of 4 who appreciates some of the finer things in life but isn't especially formal.
Getting the reservation
Since there's only 1 Chef's Table reservation offered each night, this reservation is one of the most difficult to get in all of Disney World. It's definitely one of those reservations that you set your alarm for 180 days beforehand to make sure you are online as soon as the dining system opens up.
Be aware that when you go to make the dining reservation, you may run into it not being available to book a couple of nights during your trip. My theory is that they keep those nights for concierge guests. Have a couple of nights available during your trip, just in case.
Since dining at The Chef's Table is a 4-5 hour event, it begins much earlier than many dinner dining reservations at 5:00.
Our group met in our hotel lobby and took a taxi to The Grand Floridian which I would advise since 1.) taking Disney transportation will not only take a long time, but you may not want to board a bus in formal clothing and 2.) driving yourself after drinking wine all evening is probably not a good idea.
If you do decide to drive, guests here get to valet for free at the hotel.
When we arrived at The Grand Floridian, we were waiting with another lady who had come from the same resort that we were staying at but it took her 1 1/2 hours to get there using Disney transportation. It took us 10 minutes. Well worth the cab/Uber fare.
Once the restaurant opened, we were escorted back to the kitchen and advised to never leave our table without an escort. This is for safety reasons since it's a working kitchen with lots of people constantly moving around.
In fact, when we did request to be escorted to the restroom, they announced "guests coming through!" and pointed out all changes in flooring surfaces to make sure we were safe (I appreciated this since I was wearing heels and falling down wouldn't have been cute).
The first thing that hit us when we arrived in the kitchen was the smell of boiling stock which was close to the table and created a surprisingly good aroma. Somehow I don't think "vegetable stock" will be replacing "baked apple pie" in candle popularity but I'd totally buy it if it was an option.
As we got seated, we immediately had lots of staff tending to our needs, clarifying any dietary restrictions or menu requests (we had none), making sure we always had plenty to drink and answering lots of questions.
The staff included chef Aimee who checked in with us frequently to tell us about upcoming courses, she asked how we liked previous courses and she answered lots of questions we threw her way.
And it also included real-life couple Mike and Beth who were our servers for the evening...
Calling them "servers" just doesn't really do them justice due to how well they execute their jobs and the knowledge they possess. They are really the best-of-the-best at what they do.
Our menus for the meal...
We were given the option of adding a wine pairing to our meal, something I had expected to do but ended up not doing because I had been up with an upset stomach the night before and felt lucky to even be able to attend. I didn't want to push my luck by adding lots of wine to an uneasy stomach.
My husband and I opted to share a wine pairing so I'd at least get the benefit of the wine flavors with the food, but without feeling like I had to drink all of it myself. In retrospect, I'm happy we did this because I'm not a huge fan of white wine and wouldn't have been able to drink all of the options we were given.
I did order iced tea and even THAT was amazing. It came with ice cubes made of tea so it doesn't get watered down. Such a simple idea. I should start doing this at home.
We began with a glass of champagne to kick off the meal...
Pretty soon, the courses began arriving.
Course 1: Amuse-Bouche (lobster with caviar)
Though I'm willing to try anything, I'd never had caviar before and was curious how this would taste. I'm happy to say that it was delicious and it's 1 of the 2 courses I find myself craving as I think about this meal. So good.
Course 2: Alaskan king crab with cucumber gelee
Sometimes food is so beautiful, it's hard to eat it and ruin the presentation but somehow we managed.
Course 3: hot smoked niman ranch lamb with fuji apple and curry dressing
One of the most popular courses of the entire evening was this lamb which was both impressive in presentation and taste. This is the other item I have craved since coming home. Delicious.
Course 4: fennel crusted diver scallop in a salt bowl
Another impressive presentation in these interesting bowls that had a bed of salt. I might sound like a broken record but this was also fantastic.
Course 5: poached chicken egg with corn foam
Probably the least popular of all of the courses of the night, but when else do you get the chance to say "corn foam"? The consistency just wasn't great for us, but not everything can be a home run.
Course 6: Marcho Farms veal with peas, carrots, and chanterelles
My husband was excited to start seeing some red meat arrive. I've previously had veal that I didn't like much, but this was another great course. The pea side dish was less successful, I think, but an interesting mix of textures.
Course 7: Australian kobe-style beef with potato sphere
You know how champagne is only called champagne if it's from France and it's called sparkling wine if it's from anywhere else?
Well, we learned that the same is true for kobe beef. It's only true kobe beef when it's from Japan so this was considered kobe-style beef because it's from Australia.
Either way: amazingly good.
Course 8: Flagship Reserve, Comte St. Antoine, Wyngaard Chevre Affine, Colton Basset Stilton (cheese plate)
As our meal started to wind down, we were served this cheese plate with names I couldn't begin to pronounce. I was happy to have red wine during these red meat and cheese courses since that combo is 1 of my favorites.
Course 9: pear quark mousse
The first of a few desserts, this course had interesting textures and was beautiful to look at. That hard candy sticking up from the plate? Of course I ate it. Or attempted to anyway.
Course 10: Peruvian chocolate timbale with roasted white chocolate gelato
And then a bit of heaven arrived in the form of chocolate desserts. If you're keeping track at home, this meal included a lot of drinks: water, champagne, tea, white wine, red wine and at this point we added coffee to the beverage list to go with our chocolate desserts.
I knew from reading previous reviews that the vacuum pot was going to be fun to see so I requested it right away...
I make French press coffee every day at home so I'm no stranger to putting in a bit of work for my coffee, so I asked if they could tell me where I could buy one. I couldn't even finish my sentence before Mike pulled out a card with info on where it could be purchased.
I was told ahead of time to take it easy on the bread that arrives throughout the evening since it's easy to fill up on it and not have room for everything else. Turns out, that wasn't difficult advice to follow since we weren't really blown away with any of the options that were served.
These beautiful and tasty salts that we added to the butter made the bread much more interesting though...
Just when we thought we were done, this gigantic selection of chocolates came out. I asked them if they could bag it up so we could have them later and they were happy to do it.
They also sent us home with a printed (and personalized) version of our menus so we could remember what we'd eaten.
We ended the evening by paying our bill (pro tip: make sure you've had plenty of wine before seeing the total) and asking the staff to call a taxi for us.
This experience (and you do have to think of it that way due to the quality and price of it) was 100% worth every penny and I'm so, so happy we did it. I'm not sure I'll ever get to do it again, but can highly recommend it to people who want a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they'll never forget.