Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 5 of Vacation - Cruise Day 2, Chef's Table

The much talked about Chef's Table as per the members over at Cruise Critic, we had previously tried to book the Chef's Table on our last Princess Cruise but were unsuccessful.  On this cruise the first thing we did when boarding the ship was to call the Dine line to get our name thrown onto the list for the Chef's Table.  At $95 pp is it worth it?

At 6:45 we met outside the Patisserie where we met Maitre D'Hotel Giusseppe Gelmini followed by a quick tour into the galley.  After meeting with executive chef Shaun Candon we received a glass of champagne to start our first of four hor d’oeuvre’s served in the galley.

The experience of speaking cordially and frankly with the executive chef was simply amazing in the insight provided, things such as food cost, menu planning, and generally how the galley operated were things that we would not have learned of otherwise.  

This being our first Chef's Table we were not really sure what to expect, outside of Helen having an allergy to eggplant and me having an aversion towards seafood we were in for an exciting night.

Anyways on to the food....

Ok, so I should have taken a photo before we all grabbed a piece...

Terrine of Foie Gras with Balsamic & Port Wine Syrup – I was a little concerned at first as I have never had foie gras before and am not a fan of liver.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was no liver taste and it was actually quite pleasant.  The texture was smooth and creamy and the balsamic was not overpowering. 90/100

We were informed that the foie gras used by Princess was procured from geese that are not force fed in the traditional sense but instead naturally fattened by eating acorns that are high in fat content.

 Each of the courses was presented to us by a different sous-chef.

Roasted New Potatoes with Sour Cream and Caviar – Uh oh great, another new experience and to make it worse “fish eggs”…  Well the caviar did not taste fishy whatsoever and I quite enjoyed this.  85/100

The caviar procured by Princess is supposedly from farm raised sturgeon from Tennessee, it is rather amazing the amount and variety of food that is produced on a budget of $13 per passenger per day.

Seared Inupiat Venison Loin Carpaccio with Herb Crust & Cranberry – This is the one item I did not enjoy the venison was very tough and difficult to bite thru.  This was quite awful and as it was a Carpaccio it really felt like chewing on a raw piece of meat. 40/100

By this point I was onto my 3rd or 4th glass of champagne.  I had read complaints about Princess cutting back on the alcohol but it did not appear to be an issue on the Coral Princess.

Ceviche of Wild Alaskan Halibut & Ginger Cocktail – This was rather surprising as I was dreading “raw fish” but alas it was very refreshing, the fish had no fishy flavor and had the texture of chicken the citrus and ginger did an amazing job in cutting thru the “fishiness” of this dish. 100/100

I did not take one of these as I was really concerned that I would not be able to stomach this but sucked it up and gave it a try.  In the end I ended up finishing Helen's.

Following the light nourishment in the galley we proceeded to the dining room and were placed at a lavishly setup table for some photos with the Chef and the Maitre D'Hotel.  Notice the amazing bread basket and center piece.

Southern Italian Asparagus Risotto with Grilled Shrimps & Green Onion Vinaigrette- “Wow” this was the best risotto I have ever eaten, the rice was cooked just right creamy yet not mush and the shrimp were succulent and sweet in flavor, the only thing I could say was that I did not really taste much in the way of asparagus in the risotto, yet it was so tasty that I jokingly asked for 2nds and actually was offered a 2nd plate that I declined out of fear of bursting before the night was out. 95/100

The risotto course was served with a nice dry white wine (the brand/name/age escapes me, and I wish I took a photo)

Following the risotto we had a palette cleanser.

Strawberry & Cracked Pepper Sorbet – Amazing strawberry flavor, the grey goose vodka added a bit of bitterness and the pepper added some bite that cut the sweetness.  An amazing palette cleanser, this is perhaps the best sorbet I have had all trip. 90/100

Amazing presentation !

Surf & Turf – The chefs yes chefs (there were a total of 7 people who came out) came out with a platter containing a whole tenderloin surrounded by lobster tails.  There were 3 sauces served with the tenderloin, chilli sambal, hollandaise, and green peppercorn sauce.  The beef was so tender that it melted in your mouth, the hollandaise and peppercorn sauces were both excellent.  I did not try the chilli sauce.  

On the other hand the lobster was a complete disappointment, it was so overcooked that there was great difficulty in cutting it with a knife, this was a general consensus of the table. 90/100 for the beef tenderloin 30/100 for the lobster, the surf and turf course was served with a red wine.

Baked Camembert Cheese with Pine Nuts Walnut Bread & Port Wine Reduction - By this point most people were getting pretty full, this was a first for me with the warm cheese and it was quite pleasant.  I tried my best but could only finish about half of this.  This would have been a much nicer course if we had more room left in our stomachs ! 80/100

Did I mention we got a desert wine with this course? Personally I found the desert wine a little too sweet for my liking but it went well with the next dish!

Looking at past reviews on Cruise Critic we expected some sort of sugar desert but this totally blew us away !

Iced Cointreau Parfait, French Vanilla Baby Orange Compote Brandy Snape Tulle - Absolutely amazing I could not resist trying to finish everything except the sugar art, the brittle on top of the ice cream was just the right about of caramel and nuts and the orange compote helped to cut the sweetness of this amazing desert. 100/100

At this point everyone was completely stuffed and were getting ready to get up, and on cue out came the home made biscotti & Amaretti along with the Lemoncello.  These post desert snacks were really over the top and most people packed them to go, they were tasty but it was more an exercise in just eating as opposed to savouring them.

To finish up the evening we were presented with a signed cookbook "Courses" and a Rose for the ladies, every couple received a group photo that was taken earlier as well as a "couples" photo with Chef Shaun and Maitre D Giuseppe.  All in all this evening at $95 a person was money well spent for an amazing experience.  Outside of the subpar lobster course everything else was spot on, as the general quality of the food on the rest of the ship is normally very good we would probably not participate in another Chef's Table unless the menu was significantly different.  The pure volume of food and drink consumed tonight sent me right to bed for the night to hibernate.

One last note, we were told that there were 4 Chef's Tables scheduled on our cruise !


  1. You're right, I do love this post! It's, in my opinion your best yet.
    You poor dear, I was nearly crying during your account over how you managed to choke down CAVIAR. Good thing you had all that champagne to wash it down. ;) Very interesting about the $13/per day caviar budget, I think I should have a daily caviar budget around that amount too!
    Big, big props to Princess for making an effort to raise foie gras gooses in a humane way. I really appreciate that. Great post Alvin, keep em coming!

  2. I suspect the $13 budget covers all of the food on board - they run a 'tight ship'. I considered the Chef's dinner, but my dietary requirements would make it impractical.
    Gret review.

  3. During the Chef's dinner interview they asked about dietary restrictions, we had one person who was gluten intolerant and my wife is allergic to eggplant. Supposedly on Cunard the food budget is nearly double at ~$23 pp.