This vacation was our second cruise, and in my post from the last one, I mentioned that for the most part, I wasn’t impressed with the food. Or, should I say, not as impressed as I thought I would be. This time was not much different, and in fact I think the lunch/breakfast buffet was not even as good as the last one. And, dinner in the main dining room was just okay. The appetizer might be good, and the entree just okay, or vice versa, and the desserts just weren’t all that. But! And that is a big BUT!!! There was indeed good food to be had on board. As I mentioned, those roast beef sandwiches were outrageously good, but the really good stuff came in when you actually pony up some cash for the “specialty” restaurants. We enjoyed our meals at Giovanni’s Table, but the absolute highlight was 150 Central Park.
Did you check out that link? Do you recognizze that chef? I thought I did too – yeah, he was a judge once on Top Chef. So, he has restaurants in Miami and he designed the menu and hand selected the on board chef, the cutie on the left who we met that night.
The service was incredibly attentive. They even provide your choice of white or black napkin, so you don’t get contrasting lint on your nice outfit. I hate it when that happens! It’s a chef’s tasting menu, so no difficult choices to make – there are six courses and you are getting them all. Works for me. We were all given our own personalized menus to follow along.
And then the fun began with this:
Six different kinds of salt to try with the delicious rolls and sweet unsalted butter. And, in case you actually seemed that interested, and we were, we got a little salt cheat sheet too:
Our waiter described the different salts and he wasn’t kidding when he said the Indian one had notes of “egg.” (code for “stinky.”) I tried the Washington State salt which had a smokey flavor, and the Australian salt which has floral/herbal notes. Then the real show began!
This is Marinated Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tartelette with greens in a champagne vinaigrette. The orangey stripe across the bottom of the plate is a tomato reduction. The marinated tomatoes in the tart were the tomatoiest tomatoes I have eaten in a long time. I thought the vinaigrette was just a little too acidic, but everyone else loved it so don’t listen to me.
Next up – Kabocha Squash Soup with spicy chorizo, spiced pumpkin seeds, watercress and pumpkin seed oil. Holy squash soup greatness!! This totally blows my regular butternut & acorn squash soup away. (Which, by the way, I actually managed to completely ruin the last time I made it. I left the squash and onions in the oven WAY too long. Trust me on this – there is such a thing as too much caramelization. Ick.) Anyway, back to the good soup. The sausage gave it just a gentle kick but in no way overwhelmed the soup. And, the little nibbles of pumpkin seeds gave it just a little unexpected and enjoyable texture.
I have to admit I was afraid of the third course. It’s Pan Roasted Pacific Halibut with braised baby fennel, whipped carrots and shaved fennel and parsley salad. And that’s fennel pollen scattered on the plate. That’s a fennel triple threat and dude, I do not like fennel. I do not like anything that tastes like licorice. In fact, I’m pretty sure the waiter also said there was Pernod in the braising liquid, so make that a quadruple helping of licorice nastiness. Or was it?
Apparently, the chef is some sort of magician because somehow, it wasn’t nasty at all. In fact, it was delicious. The fish was tender and delicately flavored and somehow the carrots and the parsley all worked together with all the fennel madness and I was living in the bizarro world where I like fennel. Go figure.
I forgot to take a picture of the next dish before I dug in, so I took a picture of my husband’s which I thought looked a little less disheveled. Maybe not. Okay, it’s not a pretty picture but just trust me on this. It’s Papparadelle with braised beef sugo and homemade organic ricotta. The beef sugo is apparently made from beef short ribs that are slowly cooked until they break down into a rich, deeply flavored sauce. This whole dish just melted in your mouth, and the homemade ricotta, which is made with buttermilk and has a little tang, was as wonderful to taste all by itself as mixed with the sugo and pasta.
And then there was this. Dear God. This. Listen up. I don’t care. I don’t. You can tell me all you want that you don’t like lamb, but you are wrong because you would like this. It’s Lamb 2 Ways; pan roasted loin, braised leg, roasted eggplant, pistachio, French feta and pomegranate. It’s complete insanity. I tried the loin and thought it was the best lamb ever until I tried the leg but that was the lamb ever. Both – exquisitely tender. Melt in your mouth, this is why you are not a vegetarian, umami perfection. The pistachio schmear, the microgreens, the arils, the feta – it all just worked and balanced and elevated and complemented. I bow to you chef. You rocked my world.
Finally, Toasted Almond Panna Cotta with roasted pears and port wine reduction. It was light yet rich at the same time, I loved the crispy almond-y brittle type triangle thingie, and oh my, just the roasted pears with the port wine reduction alone could make me a happy, happy girl.
See how happy I look there? That was right before dinner. Before I even knew how amazing it was going to be! Well, keep smiling, past me – you are about to have a great, great meal. Enjoy! Love, future me.