Since going on a cruise costed us virtually nothing (Cassie earned it from her job), we thought it would be a fun experience to partake in the special Chef’s Table dining experience. We really didn’t know what it involved, but for $95 each including wines paired with each course and gratuity, we figured, what the hell?!
It took us a couple of nights to decide whether this was an expense we wanted to incur, and it filled up fast. We actually had to call to see when there was availability. It wasn’t optimal, but we were able to score two of the last seats on the fourth night. The dinner began just as we were leaving the port of Falmouth, Jamaica.
(They had our sexes backwards. I don’t ask questions.)
This was the actual menu.
The first thing served was a plate of small breads for the table.
A chef came out to describe every course and answer questions. She was not the one who designed the menu; she just executed it. More on this later.
We had a special sommelier assigned to us that evening. He opened and poured the wines and provided a description of why he chose to pair them with the dishes.
Our first wine was Thierry el Pascale Matrot Meursault Blanc (Bergundy, France).
This was paired with a Spinach and Ricotta Blini with Graved Lax and and smoked halibut.
This dish was sort of spotty. The blini and sauces were nice, as was the caviar. The graved lax, or gravlax, was buttery and had a nice flavor. The halibut was very strong and fishy. It went well with the wine. Honestly, though, the wine didn’t help elevate the dish and vice versa.
The next dish was a trio of soups, sunchoke cream, asparagus consomme, and tomato soup with basil foam.
It was served with Cakebread Cellars Chardonay (Napa, California).
This dish was also spotty. The sunchoke cream was extremely gritty but had a very nice flavor. The tomato soup with basil foam tasted like jarred tomato sauce; I’m serious. The asparagus consomme was absolutely delicious. It was the essence of asparagus in liquid form. I would have been happier with just a cup of that. But, the other issue reared its head. This soup didn’t play well with the wine at all; asparagus seldom does. The other two did; I thought the wine helped the two soups I didn’t really like, but not enough to make me like them.
Next, we were served Belle Glos, Pino Noir Blanc, Rose “Oeil de Pedrix” from Yorkville Highlands, California.
The dish that accompanied it was Miso brushed North Atlantic Black Cod with sauteed baby corn, bok choi, parsnip puree, candied meyer lemon, and carrot beurre blanc. (That’s a mouthful!)
I was skeptical about this dish because (a) it was fish, and (b) there were so many components. It was fabulous. The fish was perfectly cooked. The miso created the most deliciously sweet with a hint of umami crust, and that flavor penetrated the whole fish, even the moist center. The vegetables were more or less plain, but the combination worked well with the fish. The wine was nice with this dish, as it didn’t overpower anything.
Next, they brought us some big ass knives.
They poured us a Cabernet Savignon from Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, California in a glass that was big enough to hold an entire bottle of wine.
This was paired with a Pink Roasted Beef Tenderloin with black truffle spaetzle, asparagus, yellow baby carrots, and port wine reduction.
The tenderloin was sous vide to medium rare and lightly browned on all sides on a flat top. I took a closer shot before they poured the reduction on top.
This was the first time I’ve tried sous vide beef. I was impressed. I hate saying this, but the tenderloin melted in your mouth. It was soft and you could taste the quality of the beef. The port reduction was very strong and complimented the beef well. The accompaniments also worked nicely with the dish. The spaetzle were slightly crispy and had an intense truffle flavor. Delicious.
The red wine went well with this dish, but I’m not big on cabernet savignon. The Mondavi cab had nice body and was fairly complex. I think the flavors in the wine paired better with the truffle than the beef, but that’s just me.
By the time dessert came, we were stuffed.
It was an Orange Crunch parfait with Marscapone Fruit Zabaglione, and it was served with chilled Amaretto Disarono.
This dessert was fabulous. The zabaglione (left) was warm and slightly bruleed which helped increase the intensity of it. The orange crunch parfait was light and had a bit of an overpowering orange flavor. The amaretto paired nicely with this part of the dessert.
They also brought out some delicious petit fours.
I ordered an espresso to guild the lilly.
The meal was very good and worth the price.
I was a little annoyed that the chef who described the dishes wasn’t the chef who designed it. Someone actually asked who did, and she told us that it was designed in the corporate offices. I thought this was a bit of a cop out, and was glad it was well executed.
Another glaring flaw with this meal was the ingredients used to construct the meal. Pretty much all of the components in the dishes were used for other meals on the ship. Maybe the sunchoke and the tenderloin weren’t, but all of the components in the dishes were mass market ingredients. This is a ship that cruises alternates between cruising the eastern and western Caribbean; the ingredients they could pick up at the ports could be used to construct an even greater, fresher, more local meal.
These are important values to me, but, honestly, I’m more pleased that a great meal was served to me. I like that the staff is dedicated to cooking a high quality meal. The food at this meal was leaps and bounds better than the stuff in the main dining area, and certainly better than the stuff on the buffets.
If money is not a major consideration for you, I would highly recommend enjoying this experience on the cruise. It was a very special meal, and the wine was a nice touch!