Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Dining Experience Like No Other

USA Trip 2013:  Blog Post #11

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” 
― Virginia WoolfA Room of One's Own

Palo's glass chandelier 
Remy.  Look out for all the hidden images in
the furnishings.
While you could happily spend the whole week trying out the fun range of dining options that are included in your cruise fare, for an extra fee you could also try out one of the two optional adults-only restaurants.  Take it from me - you will be missing out on something very special experience if you don’t. 

The first is Remy; a French restaurant named after the rat from Ratatouille.   However, there is nothing rat- or cartoon-like about this restaurant.  At $75 per head, or $150 per head with wine pairings, it is one of, if not the, most expensive restaurants at sea.  With a menu designed by a Michelin star chef, this restaurant is hailed to be an experience like no other. 

Because this level of fine dining is not something Scott or I are accustomed to (or even find easy to justify) we gave Remy a miss for this cruise.  We did, however, visit the restaurant during a tour of the ship, and if the attention to detail in the decor was anything to go by, then this restaurant is bound to be a special experience.  I think that if I were to cruise the Fantasy again, I would throw caution to the wind and give this restaurant a try.
If you have to ask what these wines cost, you can't afford them.  One bottle was in the tens of thousands.

The other restaurant is Palo.  With dishes inspired by those served in Northern Italy, it is a much easier to swallow $20 per head. 

Is was nice to have this time just the two of us.
This restaurant has an almost cult-like following on online forums.  People wax-lyrical about both the service and the food, and most commonly, the chocolate soufflé.  Keen to add my opinion and photos to the multitude that already exist online, I booked Scott and I in for both a dinner and a brunch.  
Strawberry Soup

Because of Palo's popularity, all available bookings are snatched up fairly shortly after they open online.  They do hold some bookings back for arrival to the ship, but for the best chance of securing the day and time you want (or in the case of the brunch - getting a booking at all), you need to be online the minute bookings become available.   This involved some pre-planning on my part.  Since our booking window happened to fall on the same day and time as an important work meeting, I had left Scott with some very carefully detailed instructions on how to make the bookings.  My husband made me proud and got the exact dates and times that I was hoping for.  Was it worth the hassle?  Absolutely!  These meals ended up being two of the best dining experiences of our lives.  I might even go as far to say that the Palo dinner was the best meal we have ever had. 

The brunch was a buffet paired with an optional menu.  The menu was typical breakfast and lunch style meals such as eggs benedict, pancakes, pasta and pizza.  The buffet - the highlight of the meal - was a plethora of all that is good in this world.  From delicious delicatessen meats, fine cheeses and delicious seafood, I was in food heaven.  In typical cruise ship style, you can eat as much or as little as you like. If you feel like gorging yourself on the buffet before ordering 3 meals from the menu, then that is what you can do.  

I ordered the chilled strawberry soup off the menu.  I was hoping for creamy smoothie like drink as opposed to a soup, and that is exactly what it turned out to be.  Yummy!  On recommendation from our waiter, I also asked for a half serving of the lasagne.  While it was certainly tasty, I feel like it filled up precious stomach space that would have been better dedicated to the delicious buffet.  

For both the brunch and dinner we had the same waiter.  His name was Predrag and if I had to give him a grade for customer service, he would receive an A++.  He struck the perfect balance between conviviality and professionalism and he contributed greatly to our overall dining enjoyment. 

Picking a night to dine at Palo is always going to be a bit of a gamble.  Just prior to boarding the ship you are given a dining timetable that tells you which restaurant you are assigned to each night of your trip.  If our Palo night fell on the same night as Animators Palate (a very unique interactive restaurant that I will describe in a future post) I was prepared to change or even cancel our Palo reservation.  Given how much I enjoyed the show at Animators Palate, I still believe that would have been the right choice.  Luckily I was never forced to make this decision as the nights never clashed. 

Palo dinner consisted of roughly 7 courses (I can't remember the exact amount), and all were as delicious as the last.  When it comes to good food, a picture is worth a thousand words. 


Finally a decent coffee


Breads and a shared antipasto platter to begin with

Palo's version of a caprese salad.  The tomato is wrapped around the mozarella.

Melt in you mouth lamb.

The famous souffle.

Panna cotta and sorbet.  I'm going to risk a tar and feathering and say that I preferred this dessert.  It was light and refreshing after such a heavy meal.  According to Predrag, this is the chefs favourite dessert.   However the restaurant hardly gets to show it off because everyone orders the souffle.

A delicious alcoholic digestif.  (licks lips)

This was awaiting us when we returned to our room.

It's the small touches that make all the difference.

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