Allure of the Seas Dining Review

L&R on Allure of the Seas –  Focus on Specialty Dining (Sailing Dates 9/4/2011 – 9/11/2011) Eastern

Hello to everyone who is curious about the Specialty Dining on the Allure!

This is the second report of three (We will write separate reports for Allure Overview and Bars).

All cruises are not equal as it depends on who you are, what your budget is, what you like to do, etc. So in order to set expectations a bit about us (L&R) we are empty nesters 40-50 years old, like fine dining and love the nightlife. We are platinum Castaway Club members on Disney and quite frankly felt the Dream was a huge step backward in terms of satisfying adult cruisers. This led to our exploring other lines and RCL is one that we like quite a bit. We had a balcony room- 11282 Port this trip. For us morning occurs around 10AM on a sea day and bedtime is about 3AM. Booked and paid for Diamond wine package, all specialty restaurants and excursions in advance. Total out of pocket expenses once on board $2K for the seven days at sea, in ports, gambling.

Embarkation Day – We boarded around 11:45 in group 1 (right after the club level folks) and went straight to Park Café in the Central Park area for the “world famous” Roast Beef sandwich, and you know what? The darn thing is pretty good! We had ours with spicy mustard and au jus.  We think it is a combination of the salt buns and the high quality roast beef. The salad bar is great (make your own) and we assembled a salad nicose to accompany our lunch. A word of warning here, we were in the first 150 people to board and Park Café was already crowded with a line out the door.  As we found later in the week this place is always busy (soup is good too).

We took a walk up to look at Windjammer and the great unwashed masses (I kid, a little) were engaged in combat to attack the various food stations and seats were in very short supply. As mentioned in so many reviews once everyone gets spread out you really do not notice the people except for dining times, show times, life boat drill and entering/leaving the ship. Don’t get too stressed out upon boarding to find everyone aggressively trying to cram in the 4 available food venues (it will get much better).  I think we will just grab a lunch before we board next time and avoid the aggravation.  (Lori adds- You wish Buddy! We’re elbowing our way to the roast beef sammies again. I’ll stand outside and eat it!)

We had Samba Grill, the Brazilian Steakhouse, scheduled for night 1 and were really interested in eating there as it is one venue that people seem either to love or hate. We always dress for dinner and tonight Rick wore a sport jacket Lori wore a skirt. We found that we fit in just fine with a mix of suits down to the occasional pair of shorts (not encouraged at dinner!!!).  Samba enjoys the best view of any of the restaurants being at the front of the ship on deck 15 and is all encased in glass. As you enter Samba you are met and seated by a host or hostess, the chairs are quite comfortable and the music is at a low enough volume that you can chat. The up charge is $25 per person as I recall.

The waiter (thank you Juan Carlos) comes out and explains how it works (there is a very nice salad bar arrangement with soup and fresh seafood) and we had a very nice antipasta plate and ordered a bottle of Cline Zinfandel.  The waiter gives you a little table top light that will light up in white, green or red. White means we are ready for dessert  (bet you don’t  have room for that), green means bring on the meat and red means we surrender and need some time to eat what we have on the plate.

As you enjoy the evening, a Samba dancer will appear about every 45 minutes and put on a ten minute dance show (If only all of those calories she was burning could be credited to me!) after which she will walk around and visit each table with an offer to teach the Samba steps to you and she will pose for pictures. Several folks got up to learn a few steps (as we were already eating I had enough concern for my circulatory system than to subject it to exercise while eating a week’s worth of meat).

The “gauchos” bring you the meat on a skewer and cut it onto your plate. There are three of them and they seem to enjoy getting into the role. There are 9 types of meat presented over the course of the meal (chicken, sausage, lamb chops, and several cuts of steak). Now let’s get this out there as it seems to be the crux of the review problems- will every piece of meat be the best you ever had?… of course not! If you are expecting that you really should not go and if RCL is expecting that they should charge a $150 per person for the upcharge and use the meat from Park 150. Rick loved the Filet and Lori loved the Lamb Chops, they were all cooked properly (medium rare) to order and certainly were tasty and juicy cuts.

We finished with a shot of chilled Sambuca and thanked our servers with an additional $20 tip. We had a great time, a leisurely meal and enjoyed the experience (So much so that we came back with friends on night 4!)

Day 2 – We started the morning with breakfast on the balcony of our room at around 9:30AM, nothing special really just egg beaters (a tribute to the meat consumed last night) fresh fruit, grilled tomatoes and some orange juice and champagne.

For lunch we gave the often raved about Boardwalk Dog House a try… once again the reviews are right on as the meat is all quite different in taste and texture. Lori loved the Wonder Dog with mayo, ketchup and grilled onions. Rick kept trying different dogs and toppings and seemed to enjoy them all. A side note here is to the potato salad fans (Rick thinks this is one of God’s perfect foods) and the Doghouse has the best potato salad at sea in his opinion.

We then walked over to the ice cream store and got two dips each (as you might suspect each dip is about the size of a softball) and all flavors sampled were very satisfying!(Try the Ogre- green apple and caramel ice cream with gummy worms!) The ice cream shop on the Boardwalk is at a la carte pricing.

Tonight we dined at the Chef’s Table (upcharge of $95). You meet the other 12-14 people who will dine with you in the concierge’s library on deck 11 while sipping champagne cocktails. You then are escorted through the concierge lounge and up the steps to the deck 12 dining room overlooking the Aqua Zone and Boardwalk. There is assigned seating with name cards at the table so you will get to make some new friends! I think everyone was in formal wear (it was formal night).

You are met by your server, wine steward and the chef and they explain that the meal will take 2.5 to 3 hours and they present the menu to you (it has your name on printed on it). The chef then presents two carved chocolate sculptures that would take a small army to consume.

Each course is described and presented by the chef (as he describes the cooking techniques and ingredients) and then the wine steward presents and describes the wine pairing.

Course 1 – Smoked orange duck salad with caramelized fennel chips and Grand Marnier drizzle. Wine pairing was a Fairview Chenin Blanc, Darling, South Africa. This was a big hit for Rick as he does not like this wine but it really paired perfectly with the salad and was enjoyed by all at the table.

Course 2 – Soup Trio, Butternut Squash Cream, Tomato Consume and Lobster Corn bisque. Wine pairing Louis Jadot, Meursault, France. All good and served in cute little sipping cups, the consensus winner was the Butternut Squash Cream.

Course 3 – Serrano Ham Wrapped Diver Scallops. Wine pairing Devil’s Lair Chardonnay, Margaret River Australia.  OK it was good but maybe a bit too much in the flavor department. I am of the school that good seafood is best served with minimal interference (a little butter and garlic will be fine).

Course 4 – Roasted Milk Fed Veal Tenderloin. Wine pairing Charles Krug, Merlot, Napa. This was great with the mushroom confit and truffle glaze (not much better than tortured baby cows as our friends at South Park would say!) GREAT WINE! Lori thought this was amazing and was more than a little tempted to lick the plate…..

Course 5 – Flourless Roasted Hazelnut Chocolate Cake accompanied by Chilled Fragelico. This, as you might suspect, was very rich and the perfect ending to the meal.

After dinner more champagne and chocolates were presented along with a cookbook gift and a chance to take photos with the chef. All in all it was a very nice meal and venue!

Day 3 – Breakfast on the balcony again, this time with Bloody Mary’s and some breakfast rolls.

For lunch we stopped back into Park Café (still crowded so we took our plates outside into Central Park). The Roast Beef sandwiches were perfect again and we each built salads to meet our tastes. Love the concept of this place.

Dinner tonight was at 150 Central Park (a $40 upcharge without wine pairing $110 upcharge with wine pairing).

As a side note, I have maintained that the best meal available at sea is on the Disney Dream in Remy. (With the wine pairing and tip you can get out of Remy for $500) The meal at 150 Central Park was just as good (maybe better in certain areas) and less expensive. We will eat in 150 Central Park at least twice a trip from now on!

All the mystery is gone, you already know we loved it. The menu is a prix fix that only changes once a cruise (so you can only get two different dinners a cruise). When you enter this dining venue the word elegant jumps to mind with huge overstuffed chairs (almost thrones actually) couches and spacious tables. The chargers and menus are done in actual gold especially for the restaurant. Rick was in a suit and felt a bit undressed.

The fun starts when your server (thank you Evan) brings you a basket of warm rolls and unsalted butter. He then brings you a tiny lazy susan that has 6 different salts from around the world. Each has a distinctive taste and is to be sprinkled on the buttered roll. This is sooooo much fun! We ordered a nice bottle of Belle Glos as we choose not to do the pairings tonight and the Park 150 specialty martini to get things started.

Course 1 – Modern Panzanella (ricotta, tomato marmalade, torn cibatta, cucumber caviar) this may have been the best thing Rick has ever put in his mouth. We both loved it and left a very clean plate.(it’s a salad, by the way….yeah, I know, fancy names for everything….)

Course 2 – Toasted Hazelnut Veloute (grilled cheese finger sandwich of fontina, roasted peppers and serrano ham. This was one of the best soups ever (blows away all the soups at the chefs table). You could have made a meal of this course alone it was so yummy.

Course 3 – Paupiette of Dover Sole (yuzu beurre blanc, crisp forbidden rice, ponzu pudding, sea beans and soy glazed watermelon). Got to tell you that this was a special dish as well the soy glazed mini watermelon balls put it over the top! It was so good that we never got a photo of it- by the time I remembered it was already gone.

Course 4 – Smoked Potato Gnocchi (leak sauce soubise, pancetta cubes, aged cheddar, chive batons).  A beautiful presentation but not our favorite dish (a little too smoky) and it is this minor downfall that keeps us from declaring this the clear winner of the fine dining at sea contest. (The good news is now we have to go back to both Remy and 150!)

Course 5 – Roasted Bison Tenderloin (cassoulet of summer beans, merguez sausage, pistou yogurt, espelette pepper, natural juice). This meat is from the giant Bison farm in central California and if you have eaten the meat you know exactly what we were tasting. The bison are all free range and the taste is vivid and distinct… may not be for everyone but we loved it.

Course 6 – Dark Chocolate and Passion Fruit Gateau. What can we say here other than this is the perfect dessert course to complete the meal.

Course 7 – Assorted Cheese Selection

We followed this up with a good port. A quality 3 hours of conversation in a lovely environment. Please do not miss this dining opportunity!

Day 4 – Breakfast on the balcony (we are getting in rut here I believe) we had some red stripes with tomato juice, eggs and fruit.

Lunch today was back to the Dog House (still good!)

Dinner tonight is back to Samba grill…. Same excellent experience (and same bottle of wine)

Day 5 – No breakfast as we are off to shore excursion and know where we are eating lunch on Orient Beach (love the Mahi Mahi over saffron rice)

Dinner tonight is in Chops (as we all know RCL has the Chops down to fine art!) This visit was no different with regard to food quality and service. We both had the usual Chops Salad, Mushroom Soup and Filet with Béarnaise Sauce. Rick wore a sport jacket and felt comfortable. One thing we did notice here (maybe just bad luck) fidgeting and crying little ones which we have not encountered in Chops before. After about a half an hour one mother took her little one outside, the other one stayed until the dinner was completed noise be dammed!

Day 6–Back to breakfast on the balcony egg whites, grilled tomatoes and a bottle of Rose Regal.

Lunch in the Solarium Bistro was our first foray into the hand to hand combat that is the buffet line on ships anymore. The usual rudeness was encountered by people acting like they had never seen a line before, etc. The choices here are great as they offer a variety of healthy breakfast/lunch alternatives.  Always a few vegan choices as well. Food and servers were great (wish the fellow passengers would follow suit).

Dinner tonight in Izumi. This is a very romantic setting and the food is very good. Our server here (Jeanette) stood out above all of the servers this trip be sure and request her. We started with edamame and miso soup accompanied by a delicious sake martini.  This was followed by a “hot rock” tray of seafood and vegetables where you grill you food on a 550 degree rock. Lots of fun to cook, share and try the various sauces. Then we had a couple of sushi roles (crispy salmon and the eel) both were very good. We had an after dinner drink then headed out to the bars. There is an upcharge here and ala carte pricing, but everything was very reasonable and excellent quality.

Day 7 – Ha, see we did get out of the room! We went to Solarium Bistro for breakfast and it was not quite the competition it was yesterday for lunch. Check out the goat cheese and roasted veggie stuffed crepes.

Had to visit the Dog House one final time for lunch

Dinner was in the dining room tonight (had to go and drop off tips). I have to say the food was a little sub-par, even for the lowered expectations. The strip steak was tough to cut and tougher to chew and the desert menu was truly uninspired….  Not the best way to end the cruise but we have already booked another one to this marvelous trip.

What would we do different?

Prepay the tips and not go to the Dining room at all, eat in 150 Central Park twice, eat at Chops twice, eat tapas at Vintages and skip the Chefs table next time. This ship will spoil you and you will never be happy with less options at sea!

 

4 responses to this post.

  1. Wow. Just wow. I think I have to go hit the treadmill just from reading this. Right after I clear the drool from my keyboard. Nice job.

    J&S

    Reply

  2. Yum! I understand Lori & Rick are foodies and enjoy fine dining. A cruise on RCL costs less than one on DCL, does the price “savings” get “eaten up” by the upcharges for dining?
    I understand the better restaurants costing more, but ice cream is also an upcharges? What other foods are extra cost and what are included? How many restaurants are available included in the cost of the cruise?

    Reply

  3. Lyn, there are both options that cost extra and are free on RCCL. For example, there is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on some ships and there is an upcharge for this, but there is also soft serve available for free. There are many complementary options. The upcharges are comparable to many other cruise lines and are not out of line. We are noticing a trend towards more specialty restaurants on ships.

    Reply

  4. Posted by George on September 5, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Nice report on the dining. Will definitely use this for our Oasis sail in April 2013. I’m a be drooling. 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: