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 impossible to dine at them all. Included or specialty, there are many ways to eat well – both healthy and 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 very good.
Some might ask why spend extra on the specialty restaurants? Why not?
Each of the Emerald Princess specialty restaurants offers something a little different: Crown Grill, The Salty Dog Gastro Pub, and SHARE by Curtis Stone offer exemplary service, delicious food and wine, and an unforgettable experience.
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 four appetisers, four entrees, Mains of succulent steaks and chops or equally delicious Seafood. On arrival you can look over the meaty merchandise.
To complement the mains, there are three gourmet salts to choose from Hawaiian Black, Yakima (my favourite) and Himalayan Mountain Pink. To finish? There are five Desserts, or the Crown Dependence – a sampler of lusciousness.
Starting with the light panko-crumbed Lobster cake with tarragon foam & grilled Asparagus proved a good move. Up next, a marinated goat cheese and sweet heirloom tomato salad perfectly matched the Danzante delle Veneize Pinot Grigio.
From filet mignon to porterhouse and no less than 5 different chops, this is a carnivore’s dreamscape. Aged, hand-cut steaks are cooked to order. I take the advice of the Executive Chef, and I’m astounded by the flavour and tenderness of the New York Strip. Without a char grill (or any naked flame), the grill cooks excel. Served with American-style baked potato and creamed spinach, it is delicious. A superb Palacios Remondo La Montesa Garnacha completes the moment.
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 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 to much experimentation. Not quite on the Heston Blumenthal scale 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
There’s not a whole lot Curtis Stone hasn’t done. From apprenticing at London’s Savoy, and working for Marco Pierre White, he went on to host numerous hit television shows. After being fired from Celebrity Apprentice, he became one of Oprah’s cutie-pies, the celebrity chef presides over two Beverly Hills venues, Maude and Gwen – both with long waiting lists for tables. He’s now extended his empire to Princess Cruises.
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.
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 tasted (and thoroughly enjoyed) most of the outstanding 6-course menu.
Vegetarians should rejoice with some well-considered dishes, especially the Ricotta Cavatelli with roasted sunchokes and hidden pickled beets. All three desserts are also vegetarian-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. 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 all works.
A butter-poached lobster tail resting on roast potatoes and crispy pancetta in a delicate white onion soubise is exquisite with perfectly cooked sweet lobster awe-inspiring.
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 more than fits the bill. http://www.princess.com/