Having read Mirielle Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat, my aim aboard a 6-night trans-Tasman Emerald Princess Cruise is quality over quantity. Diversity over similarity; and when all else fails take the stairs. Often.
Fortunately, Emerald Princess offers so many food options it is almost impossible to dine at all of them. Included or specialty, there are many ways to eat well from the healthy to the indulgent. The inclusive options from Horizons buffet, the International Cafe to the main dining rooms or a pizza and a movie under the stars are all good.
Some might ask why spend extra on the specialty restaurants? If a cruise holiday is about enjoying yourself why not?
Each of the Emerald Princess specialty restaurants offer something different: Crown Grill, The Salty Dog Gastro Pub and SHARE by Curtis Stone offer exemplary service, delicious food and wine and an experience to be remembered.
Crown Grill is unashamedly old school with full silver service; and that’s what makes it so, so good. Traditional American steakhouse fare with an upmarket approach zeroing in on flavour is served in a warm, clubby dining room. The menu comprises 4 Appetisers, 4 Entrees, Mains of succulent Steaks and Chops or equally delicious Seafood. You get to look over the meaty merchandise on arrival.
To complement the mains there are three gourmet salts to choose from: Hawaiian Black, Yakima (my favourite) and Himalayan Mountain Pink. To finish? A choice of 5 Desserts or why not share the Crown Dependence – a sampler of lusciousness.
Starting with the light panko-crumbed Lobster cake with tarragon foam & grilled Asparagus proved a good move. Followed by the marinated goat cheese and sweet heirloom tomato salad the Danzante delle Veneize Pinot Grigio was a perfect match.
From mussels to lobster, filet mignon to porterhouse and no less than 5 different chops, this is a carnivore’s dream. Aged, hand-cut steaks are cooked to order. I take the advice of the Executive Chef and I’m surprised by the flavour and tenderness of the New York Strip. Without a char grill (or any naked flame) the grill cooks do an impressive job. Served American style with a baked potato and creamed spinach it is epic. The extensive wine list includes a superb Palacios Remondo La Montesa Garnacha.
Purely for the interest of our readers I break through the barrier to enjoy the spectacular Crown Dependence. Mouth-watering molten Dutch Chocolate Fudge Obsession, a very different take on Lemon Meringue, a Seven Layer S’Mores stack and my absolute fav – the milk chocolate Peanut Butter Bar. The quantity of food is a challenge but you’ll be so glad you did.
The Salty Dog
From the man who bought you ketchup leather – a savoury fruit rollup (that is also his social media handle) Chef Ernesto Uchimura is a darling of the LA food scene. He’s renowned for elevating the foods most of us love – burgers, fries and mac & cheese to new heights.
Buenos Aires born and LA bred Chef Uchimura made Umami Burger a legendary dining destination in the City of Angels. His passion for concentrating flavour led him to much experimentation. Not quite to Heston Blumenthal extremes but he did make it his mission to serve Angelenos the very best burger.
Stealthy planning is best at Salty Dog; you must leave enough room to really enjoy the smoky, salty well-cooked goodness of the Ernesto – a burger with attitude. Choose the Lobster Mac & cheese as it oozes parmesan-umami goodness with a touch of truffle. The traditional Maryland-Style jumbo lump Crabcake is light and served simply with a roasted garlic remoulade.
Onto the starring attraction: Fresh ground rib eye and short rib patty, grilled pork belly, cave aged gruyere, caramelized kimchi, beer battered jalapeno, charred onion aioli, smoked salt & pepper brioche bun with you’re your choice of Truffle/Parmesan or Sweet Potato fries. Different textures and tastes combine to make Burger Nirvana. Drinks here are not only signature Princess beers, cocktails and wine – there are whisky flights!
SHARE by Curtis Stone
From a career apprenticing at London’s Savoy, working for Marco Pierre White, hosting numerous hit television shows, being fired from Celebrity Apprentice and a stint as one of Oprah’s cutie-pies, Chef Curtis Stone has extended his empire to Princess Cruises. Today, he presides over two Beverly Hills venues, Maude and Gwen – both with long waiting lists for tables.
SHARE by Curtis Stone is a somewhat revolutionary restaurant concept for Princess Cruises. From the mid 20th century Scandi muted blue and grey fit-out to the mod-Oz menu it is a new direction in dining. Why SHARE? It’s less about share plates and more about sharing holiday experiences over a delicious dinner celebration aboard Emerald Princess.
From the expert hands of chef Stone’s executive chef Christian Dortch, the short menu showcases awesome produce. Over a wine tasting and two very special nights we were able to taste (and thoroughly enjoy) most of the outstanding 6-course menu.
Vegetarians should rejoice with some well-considered dishes especially the Ricotta Cavatelli with roasted sunchokes and a hidden underlayer of pickled beets. All three desserts are also vege-friendly.
Charcuterie features translucent slices of San Daniele Prosciutto, a fennel infused finocchiona or traditional salumi. The mustard seed sprinkle gives crunch and the required cut-through.
The tomatoes and burrata are sublime and a testament to the ship’s F&B staff. Course three is a choice of the Cavatelli or oddly multi-cultural Thai pork curry filled ravioli in lemongrass cream with a Mexican flourish of chilli and chicharrones. Somehow it works well.
A butter poached lobster tail, resting on roast potatoes and crispy pancetta in a delicate white onion soubise is beyond imagination with perfectly cooked sweet lobster in an awe-inspiring sauce.
The finest lobster dish this reviewer has ever been lucky enough to taste.
But wait there’s more. You can guiltlessly enjoy Duck leg confit, strip loin steak, lamb loin or a mushroom ragout because the portion sizes are just right. The toffee cheesecake is ethereal – not a dense slab of cream cheese. The $39 price tag is an absolute bargain for food of this calibre, served expertly.
Princess Cruises have brought an end to the cruise food = snooze food equation. Both inclusive and specialty restaurants pride themselves on presenting pleasurable dining experiences. If eating well is an important part of which cruise to choose, Emerald Princess fits the bill perfectly. http://www.princess.com/