The Chef’s Table on board the Carnival Spirit

Ever since the move to Sydney, I have been a little more interested in cruise ships. There is usually one docked at the Circular Quay which is one of the walking paths on the way to work. Even Mister has suggested a cruise holiday recently but I’ve yet to follow up. What is the appeal of going on a cruise holiday? Is it big enough for one to hideaway? Will there be enough of activities to keep me interested and entertained? How about the food? So many questions. The invitation to experience The Chef’s Table on board of Carnival Spirit was the opportunity to peek a big cruise ship and what it may have to offer.

I took this photo the morning when The Carnival Spirit first docked at Circular Quay. It is massive and even the news has taken a great interest in this American cruise liner that will be calling Sydney home. The Carnival Spirit has been “Aussified” to attract the local market. They have even ditched the American filter coffee and brought in Shoji Sasa, Single Origin Roasters and the 2012 Good Cafe Guide best barista winner to train onboard barista on how to make a good latte!

The Carnival Spirit

It has been awhile since I’ve been on a cruise ship. I was too little to remember what the experience is. One will have to do the usual checking in as you will at the airport. Bags were checked and then I was brought up to the reception area where I caught up with fellow food bloggers – Sneh from Cook Republic, Simon for The Heart of Food and Rebecca from Inside Cuisine and greeted with a glass of bubbles.

The first part of The Chef’s Table is actually held in the mammoth ship’s kitchen. I have not seen such big soup pots and so many of them. Imagine your trash big and double it. That is approximate size of one soup pot. The ship has to serve about 2600 passengers and 6 times a day. Massive amount of food goes through this kitchen and this is excluding cooking for the staff which is about 300. The number sounds crazy and it takes a lot of organisation and precision to cook this amount of food day in and day out.

Our chef of the day is the very talented, Sanjay Dhall. The last time I saw a chef using tweezers when plating was my experience at Royal Mail Hotel. I love the attention to detail that he had. That is translated in the dishes that we ate that day.

Reception menu (In the kitchen):

  • Lychee, Pistachio, Pink Hawaiian Salt
  • Sake Sorbet, Duck Sauce
  • Cured Beef, Ginger Cream, Salmon Roe
  • Unagi Cucumber, Jicama, Soy Glaze, Papaya & Red Pepper Splash, Tobiko
  • Fermented Pear, Cilantro Blossom on Kalamansi
  • Quinoa, Double Cooked Pigeon, Oyster Sauce
  • Purple Gazpacho, Mustard Sorbet

The stand outs for me in this menu was the fermented pear and pigeon. The fermented pear has a light bouncy and chewy texture. It is hard to describe. A clean balance and love the tartness from sucking on the kalamansi at the end.

I love the crunchiness of the quinoa against the tender pigeon meat. The oyster sauce completed the dish and gave it the umami taste.

In the kitchen on board of Carnival

That was just the beginning of the meal. Executive chef, Daniel Arulraj, escorted upstairs to the main dining room  where we were seated for dinner. I was seated in between lovely Lyndsey (Pulse Communication) and Cyrus Marfatia (Vice-president (F&B), Carnival Cruise Lines.). Every dish that came out from the kitchen was introduced by Daniel. The bread course was very interesting. It was bread that is rolled in Parmesan twirl and served with parmesan cream.

bread course

The proper first course is Tomatoes Our Way – Aerated tomato juice, cocoa butter coated tomato and Chardonnay poached tomato.

Tomatoes course

Second course – Southern Bluefin Tuna Banh Mi – Lemon bread, sesame crisp, miso cream and avocado gel. I do like this dish but too sure about the name.

Tuna sandwich

Third course – Spatchcock – Caramelised, Butternut squash and sofrito. In the shallot cups are caviar and parmesan balls. I am in love with the balsamic sauce. Luxurious!

Spatchcock

Fourth course – John Dory – Herb pesto, cured tomatoes, carrots, fava, mushroom earth, condense beets. The John Dory was hand picked by the chef early in the morning from the Sydney Fish Markets.

John Dory

Fifth course – Wagyu – Slow stewed short ribs, potato pebbles, pumpkin fudge and tomato dust. Super tender and very moorish.

wagyu

Dessert course – Always ending on a sweet note. Chocolate 32C – Aerated pistachio and mango cake with mascarpone cream, guava and caramel praline. Very pretty dish!

Chocolate dessert

A surprise birthday cake for birthday boy, Mark Tamis (Senior VP of Guest Relations). Even the birthday cake was delicious!

Mark Tamis

The Carnival Spirit boasts of three primary restaurants - Empire Restaurant, La Playa Restaurant and the fine dining Nouveau Restaurant. Each restaurant has its own specialty. To Aussiefied the cruise ship further, they have introduced Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ, which offers many popular BBQ delights. To top this, room Service is also available 24/7. The prices on the menu is mainly between $3 – $5. That is awesome. And the most awesome thing is that there is 24hr pizza and ice cream for free around the clock!

The Chef’s Table is not included in the package but it’s only $75 a head and that includes wine and lovely entertainment during dinner. What is included in the package is:

  • La Playa Restaurant
  • Empire Restaurant
  • Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ
I never thought that food on a cruise ship can be anything special or good. I had the perception that it was boring and crap food. So I was pleasantly surprised. I will seriously consider a cruise holiday. There is no need for a planned itinerary, good food can be easily found and included in the fare unless I wanted something special and there is plenty to do.
By the way, I told Mister about this and he said “I told you so”. Whatever!
Thanks to Carnival Spirit and Pulse Communications for the invite.