Monday, January 17, 2022

Chef's Table at Sea

During the 3 nights aboard Spectrum of the Seas during the cruise trip “to nowhere”, we did manage to check out a few restaurants inside the ship. And the most impressive of all was the evening spent at “Chef’s Table”, which is offered as one of their “premium dining option” (which meant we need to pay extra to eat there).

“Chef’s Table” is not a restaurant per se but more like the closest thing they offered in lieu of the former nights in conventional cruise holidays, with a tasting menu offered in a private room setting. With only 12 seats available each evening, we made the dinner booking as soon as we confirmed our cruise journey (that’s a tip! *wink*) While officially the dinner started at 7pm, we were told to meet at the bar some 30 minutes before for a pre-dinner drink along with others who would share the same table with us. Then we were led to the private room inside the Steakhouse where it’s all properly set up for the meal over a long table. 

A 6-course dinner was served along with wine paired for each of the courses. We began with the warm Parker House Rolls with a nice buttery glaze, followed by the first course of a scallop carpaccio. Other than the fact that the scallops were cut too thin (I was impressed by the knife skills, but not impressed by the portion), the dish was well presented with yuzu vinaigrette dressed on the side and garnished with quinoa, celery and peppers. 

Tomato soup was next, with the tomatoes grilled to give a hint of smoky flavor and poured tableside with garlic focaccia croutons and shaved parmesan. The acidity was paired well with the easy going glass of Napa Valley white poured alongside (“a blend of five varietals” as described, so we got a bit of everything in a sip, I guess). The Lobster Salad did remind me of those typical dish I would get in a “fancier” restaurant in the US, with chunks of Maine lobsters served with hearts of palm and a sweet dressing of pineapple, cilantro and vanilla. For sure a pleasing dish with refreshing flavor. 

While I thought they were a bit stingent on the scallop appetizer, the fish course was the exact opposite with a more than generous portion, with two fillets of roasted Branzino served with grilled zucchini and peppers. The fish was done with the crispy skin on and has the texture similar to a sea bass. The rustic flavor combined with the vegetables served ratatouille style (sans tomatoes) underneath and the dark pesto sauce on the side gave it a Mediterranean vibe and well-suited to be served at sea, I suppose. I also loved the touch of grapefruits on top for a tad hint of sweetness for balance. 

The main course was predictably steak, a filet mignon to be exact, and served with the rich bordelaise sauce and truffle mashed potatoes underneath. It was decent with the beef cooked perfectly medium rare and well presented. And another thing I enjoyed about this meal was the dining room was located literally right outside the kitchen, so everything came out piping hot. And Chef Marlon, the executive chef on board the ship, did come out a few times to introduce the dish to us, which I guess was part of our “Chef’s Table” experience. 

Five wines were served in addition to one bottle we brought along to supplement, so we were well taken care of as long as alcohol is concerned. We started with something simpler (a zesty Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy) for our appetizer and moved towards something more complex (the Chablis for the fish and a Cab for the filet mignon). And we saved our own bottle of Brunello towards the end to go side by side to the Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley – full bodied with notes of peppermint, cassis and some black fruits, and structured tannins. 

Chef Marlon made one final appearance along with his pastry chef for the final course of dessert. A bit of cliché with the “chocolate sphere” melted with the pouring of hot fudge on top to reveal the chocolate mousse and salted caramel gelato inside - felt like we were back to the 90s. But again, it sure was a crowd pleaser and it was delicious. And we ended with the espresso martini served as digestif. 

There were plenty of good memories from the short cruise trip and this is definitely one of them, and something we would recommend to others for the enjoyable (and unique) experience. 

When? December 11 2021
Where? Chef's Table aboard Spectrum of the Seas, somewhere in South China Sea
Menu Highlights? Roasted Branzino, Grilled Zucchini, Peppers, Lemon Confit, Pesto
2018 Attems Pinot Grigio Friuli DOC
2016 Conundrum White Blend, Napa Valley, California
2018 Robert Modavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast, California
2017 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru "Vaillons"
2016 Sequois Grove Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
2014 Tenuta Luce Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

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