The last great-memory dining experience that topped my list of all-time favorite knock-my-socks-off culinary endeavors for regular people was Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in New York. Dining last night on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas at their 150 Central Park upscale dining venue, I expected a top-shelf effort but never an experience that would blow away Flay, Bourdain and Despirito, my trio of favorite superstar chefs.
I’ve been on board Allure all week, reporting on the CruiseOne/CruisesInc national conference, an annual event that brings together some of the best cruise-focused travel agents in the business for a week-long intense session of education, networking and cruise industry news-making events. Maybe the non-stop schedule of inside cruise news let me be caught off guard, allowing Chef de Cuisine for 150 Central Park on Royal Caribbean’s Allure and Oasis of the Seas, Maureen “Molly” Brandt to sneak up on me with a prix fixe menu that will absolutely set a new standard of excellence for dining at sea or on land. Maybe I was expecting a good meal for a cruise ship, not anticipating efforts that would knock long-time hero chef Bobby Flay down a knotch. It’s hard to say how the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) sourced superstar did it but one thing is crystal clear: This gal knows how to cook.
One of six chefs in competition for the top job on Allure, all CIA graduates, Brandt won out over all in a contest held prior to the ship’s launch over a year ago. It was a major accomplishment for the Minnesota-bred graduate. Her background could very well have resulted in a nice dining experience. The exquisitely designed space 150 Central Park occupies would have made it better. The attentive front-of-the-house staff that does not miss a beat in well-choreographed service might have sealed the deal.
But in a rare, lazer-focused menu design, Brandt has infused comfort-food elements with multi-star runaway success courses that simply blow away anything else I have experienced at sea if not on land too.
The eight-course dining experience ran well over two hours but moved along at a pace timed perfectly and paired with nicely matched wines from the venues 150 label (thus the name of the place) collection.
Here is how good this was: If I go into great detail on the menu creations, I feel like I would be giving away the ending to a great book or film. I can’t remember ever saying that.
Here is how good this was: I have had just about enough of the “dining experiences” that drag on for hours. There was no dragging here.
Here is how good this was: I was seated with an A-list of well-traveled writers and cruise industry executives who all agreed: this was good. Travel writers rarely agree on anything. Period.
Here is how good this was: While other top dining experiences have left me feeling like I either wasted a whole bunch of food I could not eat or ate it and consumed nothing for days because I was so full, the amount of food here was just right.
Coming up: A course by course rundown and photo gallery on this must-do addition to your onboard programming when sailing Allure of the Seas- stay tuned.
Inside Cruise Vacations Tip: This is one of the things your good travel agent will tell you when booking that your click-to-buy internet cruise broker won’t.
- On board Allure of the Seas: Central Park-view staterooms offer convenience and luxury (chriscruises.net)
- NO RESERVATIONS: Bourdain to push limits on new season (Gadling.com)
- Allure of the Seas: Big ship, little features (chriscruises.net)
- Exciting travel agent conference kicks off on Allure of the Seas (examiner.com)
- Good morning from Allure of the Seas (chriscruises.net)
- Tonight’s Cruise Video: Royal Caribbean fleet enhancements (chriscruises.net)