When it comes to fine dining, expectations might not be always met during the regular dinner time on cruise ships. The galley has to provide enormous amount of food to hundreds if not thousands of people, so it is inevitable that sometimes the quality suffers or service is not up to par with a high-end restaurant. However, Carnival Conquest pleasantly surprised us with one particular night where we had an opportunity to sign up (for an extra $75 fee) for a private dining experience and savor a sumptuous multi-course dinner hosted by one of the ship’s master chefs.
A select group of 13 assembled in the lobby where we were greeted with a warm welcome by the Sous Chef of the Carnival Conquest.
We were served a glass of bubbly to set the mood for the night while the Sous Chef briefly went over the itinerary which turned out to be a sophisticated 4-hour gourmet adventure.We started off the night with a comprehensive tour of what constitutes one of the building blocks of any successful cruise – the galley. I must confess this was insanely interesting because we got a unique insight into behind-the-scenes of the ship. Being able to witness the backstage craze of the ship and learn more about how the galley operates, what the common rules are and what it takes to feed this massive group of customers was truly fascinating.
Right at the galley, we were offered to sample four hors d’oeuvres prepared by The Chef.Mango Sphere on Rosemary Biscuit. By the look of it I was totally convinced it was an egg yolk. Chef recommended eating it in one bite which provided a wonderful burst of exotic juicy flavor of mango mixed with crispy savory texture of the biscuit.Salmon Tartar Cornets, Sesame Seeds. This beautiful bite packed a punch of flavors, with chunks of salmon which had just the right level of seasoning running through it and there was a delicious contrasting crunch from the sesame cornet.Next was a Beef Carpaccio on Air Pillow with Chocolate Bacon and Apple Ribbons. Another wonderful dish with perfect presentation and great flavor.My favorite part was the bacon (duh!) paired with apple ribbon which lent just the right hint of sweetness to a crunchy and savory strip of pork. Double Cooked Lamb, Tapioca. I was not particularly fan of this course, mostly because I am not fan of a lamb or breaded dishes in general. Some other guests raved about it though.As if all this was not enough, we had a chance to meet with Pastry Chef who demonstrated how to make Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, a signature dessert on all Carnival ships. I was super excited about this part, because I had that dessert on 5 nights out of 8 spent on the ship. It was that good!This concluded the introductory part of the night. We were already filled with excitement for what else was in store for us. Well, we certainly were not disappointed. The Sous Chef escorted us into an elegantly furnished private dining room. The sophisticated ambiance and formal setting matched the standards of a high-end restaurant with white table cloths and silver service. The dinner table faced a podium on which Assistants to the Sous Chef were preparing our courses. You could see how each plate was assembled like a piece of art. Once we were seated a selection of red and white wines were served which paired beautifully with the menu items to come.A beautifully presented bread selection accompanied with bites of ripe sweet red and yellow cherry tomatoes and a clove of pickled garlic were also offered as a starter.Once we sampled our wine and had a chance to mingle a bit with each other, the dinner commenced. Everything was thoroughly staged, well-rehearsed and perfectly executed. Most importantly, taste of each dish matched the meticulous and artful presentation.
Beet Blanket, Spiced Grape Tea. Asparagus, cauliflower, honey carrot tian, mache and lemon streusel.Crab Stack. Corn custard, polenta cracker, tangerine, passion caviar.Duck Textures. Creamy quinoa, parmesan churros, olive snow, port wine jus.Another highlight of the night was meeting The Chef of the Carnival Conquest, who stopped by couple of times and was kind enough to satisfy our curiosity and answer multiple questions. There are tons of work and thorough calculations that go into planning each cruise so getting insight into this demanding job was very interesting.The dinner continued with Bisque Our Way. Two tomatoes, three basil, crisped brioche, garlic chip. How beautiful is this dish??? This candy-colored luscious soup provided a wonderful explosion of flavors with tangy tomatoes, buttery cream cheese and contrasting texture of garlic chips and crisped brioche.Sea Bass. Chorizo crust, fried pop corn pudding, lemon macaroon, lobster foam.While the next course was being prepared we were entertained by the “Magician”. Honestly, this was the least fascinating part of the entire experience as his performance was as boring as it gets. However, I appreciated a little breather until moving on to the next item on the menu.
Wagyu. Bone marrow soufflé, scallion and garlic panisse, gremolata crisp. This highly rated piece of premium beef was cooked perfectly and literally melt in your mouth. You can imagine how full we must have been at this point. However, we yet have to brace ourselves for a platter of heavenly dessert.
Pastry Chef. Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Key Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream.This concluded four hours of ultimate indulgence. Was it worth the time? Absolutely and I cannot recommend it highly enough! And for the price we paid, it seemed like a huge win in terms of getting superb gourmet experience paired with outstanding service. In fact, if I could choose one experience where Carnival excelled on this cruise, it would be the Chef’s Table.
Tip: since the seating is limited it is recommended that you sign up early. We made reservations at the ship’s Guest Services desk. As far as I know, Carnival offers this service on all its ships.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, we fully covered the cost of the dinner and all opinions expressed are my own.