Restaurant Review

Restaurant Review: Comidas Caseras Tonita

In:
10Mar2014

I'm a proponent of "getting out there" and trying local foods when exploring the ports of call Royal Caribbean ships take you to.  To me, eating at a Hard Rock Cafe, Margaritaville or McDonalds while in a foreign port is a wasted opportunity.  So when I went to Cozumel last month while on Navigator of the Seas, I got a chance to go back to my absolute favorite restaurant and see if it holds up.  

Atmosphere

Located a few blocks from the main street of Cozumel, Comidas Caseras Tonita is a family run restaurant that serves up freshly made, authentic Mexican dishes.  

Part of what makes Comidas Caseras Tonita so appealing is just the look of the place.  Walking in, I feel like someone took their dining room and opened it up for the public to come by.  

We had eaten here back in 2011 while on Freedom of the Seas and fell in love.  I think reviewing a restaurant after having such a good experience makes it tougher for the restaurant to do well because expectations are that much higher.

Just like our last trip, none of the people that work at Tonita speak any English.  It's pretty easy, nonetheless, to order but then again we ordered everything off the menu with no special requests.  I suppose if you wanted them to not add salt or put the cheese on the side, you should Google the translation and memorize it prior to eating here.

The cooking is done in the rear of the restaurant with a mother/daughter team (at least, I think they are mother daughter.  Two women and one looks older than the other) that make everything as the order comes in.

Where you are seated is pretty basic, with plastic tables and chairs adorned with a basic tablecloth.  Tonita didn't bother investing in better furnture because, well, it's Mexico and this is pretty good. All around the restaurant are old posters and advertisements for cruise ships and cruise lines (mostly Carnival), reflecting Cozumel's role as a tourist hub.

Eats

Your menu comes in both Spanish and English, which helps in the ordering process since you can look at what you want in English and then refer to what the name of it is in Spanish by looking at the other side of the menu.

Tonita serves up a number of Mexican dishes, including breakfast.  There aren't any descriptions, so it's really up to you to guess as to what exactly the dish will be but I find that kind of fun.  I think most people know they are in the mood for chicken, shrimp or fish so they can order appropriately.

To start off with, we ordered a couple of sodas, which came in glass bottles.  Note that Diet Coke is called Coke Light in Mexico.

For appetizers, we ordered chips, guacamole and salsa.  If you order nothing else, please do yourself a favor and order the guacamole and salsa because they are the best guacamole and sals I've ever eaten and the gold standard I compare everything else to.

Like all the food at Tonita, the guacamole and salsa is made fresh after the order is placed. Nothing out of a can and nothing out of a fridge.  I joked with my wife I should have asked the staff to allow my wife to observe them making it so that she can remember how to do it at home.

A word on the freshness, I think they were out of tomatoes because nothing happened for about 10 minutes until another girl came into the restaurant and delivered a bag of tomatoes (among other food) and only then were the appetizers made.  Wow!

Not to be forgotten, the chips are also freshly made there.  No bagged chips here!

For our entrees, I ordered the fish Mexican style while my wife ordered the grilled chicken.  Because I had so fallen in love with the appetizers on our last visit, my memory of the entrees became somewhat fuzzy so I barely remembered how good anything was.

First up was my Mexican style chicken, which is essentially a grilled white fish cut up into strips and covered in a tomato cilantro blend, served with rice and beans.  

I have no clue what fish they used but it was tender and tasted great.  It didn't taste like fish with tomatoes, but rather something unique on its own (tomato fish?).  I ate every bite.

Remember how I keep mentioning the freshness of the fish?  The table behind us ordered a whole fish and the waitress brought out three uncooked and I presume recently caught fish for the man to choose from. 

My wife's chicken was equally impressive and while it didn't rewrite the book on grilled chicken, I really believe the freshness of the ingredients and the mild spices they used to cook the chicken gave it a little something else.

We also had fresh tortillas to eat our entrees with, which is a great way to enjoy the sides with the food (and I had saved a little salsa and guacamole for it too).

Overall

After my second visit to Comidas Caseras Tonita, I stand by my assertion that it is my favorite Mexican restaurant I have ever been to and the gold standard I hold all other Mexican food against.

The combination of atmosphere, fresh ingredients and euphoria of being on a cruise vacation all made this yet another great meal.  

Also noteworthy was the price because, if memory serves me correctly, I spent $20 for the entire meal, including gratuity.  That is a great deal.

If you are going to Cozumel on a cruise (or for any other reason) and want to have real Mexican food, this is the place to go.  

Location: Calle Rosado Salas 265 between avenidas 10 and 15.

Walking directions: Walk south from the plaza on avenida 5 Sur for 1 block, then turn left on calle Salas and walk east 1 1/2 block and the restaurant will be on your left.

Restaurant Review: Izumi on Navigator of the Seas

In:
04Mar2014

Another brand new specialty restaurant to Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas is Izumi Japanese Cuisine.  For fans of having sushi at sea, this is the place for you to get your fix!

Atmosphere

Izmumi is located all the way up on deck 14 near the Viking Crown Lounge and offers a great view of the ocean and pool deck below.  

The restaurant itself is a blend of reds and blacks and feels like a modern sushi restaurant you may have been to back home.

The layout of the restaurant is somewhat crescent shaped, but it's mostly one large room with a small sushi bar in the back.  Most tables have a view out a window.

Izumi's decor is simple but has the feel of a classy Japanese restaurant. As you are seated, the waiter will bring you a warm towel to refresh yourself with and it helps sets the tone for your experience at Izumi.

Eats

On our Navigator fo the Seas cruise, we sampled the lunch menu, which is an all-sushi menu.  The dinner menu does offer non-sushi Japanese food, so keep that in mind when booking if you prefer more variety in your options.

To start with, Izumi currently offers complimentary edamame (a preparation of baby soybeans in the pod boiled in water together salt, and served whole)  and miso soup.  Both were good but I think the edmame was better.  I found the miso soup to be interesting given the color of the broth, which is usually clear but this was darker.  

The sushi menu at Izumi offers a number of choices to consider.  Another difference between lunch and dinner is at lunch there are no daily special rolls to also consider.  Lunch seems to be a strictly small menu with dinner greatly expanding the offerings.

The choices of sushi rolls range from pedestrian to more elaborate in nature.  Knowing that everyone has different tastes in sushi, I'll say I found the selection to be average.  I wasn't blown away by the variety but it was still on par with most sushi restaurants I've found on land.

I ordered a number of hand rolls during my visit to get a sense of the quality and size of the rolls.  For me, really good sushi will not only have fresh and good tasting fish, but it will also be large in size.  

The signature rolls definitely passed my test for what constitutes good sushi for the good size of each piece and the freshness of the fish. 

I believe there are two comparissons to make, how Izumi compares to land restaurants and how it compares to cruise ship sushi.  

Compared to sushi on land, I'd say Izumi is at least average if not slightly above average.  The traditional rolls were fairly tame (but then again, tuna rolls are hardly anything more than tame) and the signature rolls tasted as good as something I'd expect to find on land.

Compared to cruise line sushi, it blows any sushi I've ever had in the Jade section of the Windjammer out of the water by far.  It certainly held up to my memories of Izumi on Oasis of the Seas and I think Izumi is a great choice for sushi fans who are cruising.

The other good thing about Izumi was the rolls were not only large in size but ample in serving.  Each roll I ordered came with 8 pieces, which is a lot for any sushi roll.

In terms of value, the pricing of Izumi has changed from what you may remember.  Izumi on Navigator of the Seas has dropped the cover charge and simply charges a la carte.  This is good since a cover charge was silly but the price of the rolls were more than I remember on Oasis of the Seas.

Most signature rolls were $10 or more, which isn't cheap for sushi but the traditional rolls were all in the $6-7 range.  I've seen far worse in terms of pricing and the complimentary edamame and miso soup does add back a little bit of value.

Overall

Admittedly, I am a sushi fiend and can't get enough of the stuff so Izumi certainly made me happy while eating there.  I think it's a great place for lunch or even pre-dinner appetizer.  

While the variety of sushi isn't the best I've ever found, I did find what they did make tasted great.  Sushi is as much an art as it is a means of sustenance and Izumi balances this fine line quite well.  

In terms of value, it's about what you would pay for sushi at home from a decent sushi joint, so I think it fits the bill when you want a little Japanese flavor during your cruise. 

Izumi is open for dinner from 6:00pm to 9:30pm and for lunch at noon to 1:30pm.  We reviewed Izumi on Navigator of the Seas.

Restaurant Review: Giovanni's Table on Navigator of the Seas

In:
27Feb2014

Of all the specialty restaurants on Navigator of the Seas, the one that slides in "under the radar" has to be Giovanni's Table and I'm not exactly sure why.

Giovanni's Table serves family-style Italian food and replaced Portofino's as the Italian specialty restaurant onboard Navigator of the Seas in February 2014.  

This is our second time eating at Giovanni's Table, with our first back on Oasis of the Seas in 2010.  I rather enjoyed my meal last time so this time we wanted to try lunch and see how good (or bad) Giovanni's Table is on Navigator of the Seas.

Atmosphere

Giovanni's Table is located on deck 11 near the Windjammer and across from Chops Grille.   As I stated earlier, it was added as part of the ship's refurbishment and I made reservations online as soon as they became available.

When I showed up at 12:30pm for our lunch reservation, I found literally no one else in the restaurant. At the time this was our first specialty restaurant of the cruise so we thought maybe they just weren't popular but later found all the other specialty restaurants onboard packed. 

The space Giovanni's Table occupies is a large rectangular room, with lots of blues and whites. There's no checkerboard red and black stereotypical Italian restaurant decor here, it looks more like its upscale Portofino sister than Sorrento's Pizzeria.

The nice thing about eating lunch at Giovanni's Table is you can see the ocean quite easily.  We were seated at a window table and being able to watch the ocean during our meal was calming and quite beautiful.  

I often point out Chops Grille misses out on having a view since it's only open for dinner and glare from the lights prevents from seeing outside, so it's nice having a view with our meal at Giovanni's Table.

Eats

The menu at Giovanni's Table offers a number of choices, which are all supposed to be family style.  Family style usually means it's a large serving meant to be shared among two or more people.  

Frankly, I found most dishes to be small enough for just one person to enjoy, although I may be a victim of gluttonous American dining standards.  That's in contrast to my time on Oasis of the Seas a few years ago when our meal at Giovanni's Table had much larger serving sizes.  That isn't a bad thing necessarily, just pointing out the difference.

As with many Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants, you can order as much as you like from the menu so we started off with appetizers.

The Caprese salad is always a good choice and we were quite pleased with the freshness of the ingredients.  

I also ordered the baked eggplant parmigiana.   I'm a bit of a connoisseur of eggplant parmigiana, as it's become my go-to Italian dish in recent years.  It wasn't just fried eggplant in sauce with some cheese, rather the eggplant was more lightly fried and then baked in with a combination of a great sauce and light cheese.  I really enjoy it.

Last, but not least, my wife also wanted to sample their Caesar salad.  My wife's ideal Caesar salad is a salad where it's only made up of the dark green lettuce leaves, as opposed to the light green crunchy part.  This salad was about as close to perfection as she's seen in some time in that regard.

For our entrees, I decided to keep it traditional and try their lasagna and meatballs.  First came the lasagna, which is described by Royal Caribbean as a traditional meal lasagna. 

What I liked about the lasagna was that it was topped in meat sauce and a light use of cheese (not the shredded kind).  I feel like lasagna should be more about the meat and pasta and less about the cheese and this hit the nail on the head.

I ordered the meatballs because the waiter mentioned the meatballs as being what the restaurant was known for and I think I read a few other places about the meatballs too. 

Being someone who usually goes for a "When in Rome..." kind of attitude, I ordered the veal meatballs to give it a try.

I will be honest and say I did not love the meatballs, however, I feel that could be because I don't really like veal and not because the meatballs were of poor quality.  

Dessert at Giovanni's Table is offered from the dessert cart (there is no menu, per se).  The waiter brings the cart over and you pick out what you would like.

My wife decided to try the pappardelle pasta in a radicchio cream and pancetta.  It sounded good to her but it was something she had never tried before.

She found the pasta to be interesting and she ate it but different than what she was used to ordering at an Italian restaurant.  I think she liked it overall but noted it was a little more different than she thought it would be.

I was stuffed so I took the chocolate cake to try and it was tasted great, although I chose not to eat more than a bite or two.

My wife sampled the canoli because in her perfect world, after the Caesar salad with only dark green leaves are served, it will be followed by a parade of canolis.  She really enjoy their canoli and gave it a thumbs up.

Overall

Giovanni's Table stood out for us because of the freshness of the food we had.  My pet peeve is food that tastes like it just came out of a microwave but I really felt like what we ordered was prepared at the time and tasted wonderful.

It's also worth noting lunch is only $15 per person, which for what you get is a great value.  Given what you get for the money, it's one of the better deals on Navigator of the Seas and for lunch it was well worth it.

I also need to point out how good our waiter was because my daughter was in a foul mood that day (she needed a nap and was hungry).  Had the restaurant not been empty, I'm sure me or my wife would have brought her back to the stateroom as not to bother the other diners.

Our waiter really went above and beyond by trying to entertain her with tricks, tours of the galley and even letting her sit on the Vespa scooter that is near the entrance.  The little things he did to keep her happy really made our meal enjoyable and stood out as why specialty restaurant waiters are among the best Royal Caribbean has.

I think the food at Giovanni's Table is quite good and if you like Italian food at all, it's hard not to go wrong here.  I won't pretend that the food at Sabor and Chops Grille were tastier, but considering Giovanni's Table is open for lunch whereas the others are not, I think it makes for a perfect choice for lunch.

Giovanni's Table is open for lunch 12:00pm to 3:30pm and open for dinner 6:00pm to 10:00pm and we reviewed Giovanni's Table on Navigator of the Seas.

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille on Navigator of the Seas

In:
24Feb2014

Chops Grille on Navigator of the Seas isn't new to the ship but since the ship emerged from drydock in February 2014, they were the first ship to debut a brand new menu that if successful will be rolled out to the entire fleet.  We took it upon ourselves to try out the new menu to evaluate it for all of you (it's a tough job, but someone has to do it!).

A little background first, Chops Grille has been renamed, "Chops Grille: The New American Steakhouse" and is decribed as marrying "contemporary flair to traditional steakhouse offerings".  What this means is Royal Caribbean wanted to match what land based steak restaurants are doing with adding dry-aged steaks to the menu.

Like Sabor Modern Mexican, this new change is part of a larger effort by Royal Caribbean's new head of food operations to bring more contemporary food choices to the cruise line.   And also like Sabor, Royal Caribbean is using Navigator of the Seas as a test for how guests react and if positive enough, will roll the changes out to other ships in the fleet.

Atmosphere

The location and general decor of Chops Grille remains the typical dark wood with reds and gold you may be used to seeing at Chops.  

The restaurant on Navigator of the Seas has two distinct rooms that are connected, the first room is rectangular in shape and is what you see when you walk in, with a circular room attached to the end of the first room.

There was not much, if anything, noticeable that changed here since the refurbishment.  I can only assume the chairs or tables have been updated but it looked like the typical Chops Grille experience.

There is one wall of Chops Grille that is made up of glass that overlooks the ocean, but because it's night, the glare of the lights inside the restaurants makes seeing outside virtually impossible.  

Eats

The menu at Chops Grille is where the changes have really occurred and aside from the dry-aged steaks, there have been minor menu changes.  

We noticed some entrees and appetizers have been removed or changed.  As an example, there used to be two options for the filet mignon (6oz and 8oz) and now there is just one.  Most of the signature favorites remain on the menu.

There are some new options to the menu such as the Veal Chop Parmesan, slow broiled with caramelized shallots and topped with parmesan herb butter, a Slow-braised Short Rib of Beef with Bordelaise sauce, and a Dry-aged Steak Burger served on a brioche bun and topped with melted gruyere and pancetta.

The big change is the addition of the dry-aged steaks. There are two new premium selections, a 16 Oz. dry-aged NY Strip Steak and a 20 Oz. dry-aged Porterhouse Steak (an additional $18 and $19 respectively), each USDA prime beef, dry-aged for four weeks to achieve the pinnacle of flavor, tenderness and aroma.

Royal Caribbean is touting the fact it is the first cruise line to offer dry-aged steaks to its guests.

There are also new sides added to the menu, Truffled French Fries and Gruyere Cheese Tater Tots

Also new is the bread you are served when you are first seated.  Now you get a pretzel bread roll with spread (the salted butter spread appears gone).  Being a fan of pretzel bread, I liked the change and as far as I know, it's the only place onboard the ship to get pretzel bread.

For appetizers, I started out with two favorites from previous trips to Chops Grille: the charred beef carpaccio and french onion soup.

The beef carpaccio is very delicately sliced beef that you literally have to scrape off the plate to eat.  You certainly won't fill up eating this but it's mighty tasty and it's something I seem to always try.

The french onion soup is always a good choice at Chops Grille too, especially when you compare it to the french onion soup offered one of the nights in the main dining room.  It doesn't taste like soup that came from a vat, and the baked cheese that sticks to the side of the bowl is just perfect.  

My wife opted for the crispy goat cheese salad, something new to her, and found it good as well.  I prefer my goat cheese au natural (not fried) but I sampled a few bites and found it a good salad choice overall.

For the entrees, I felt obligated to try the dry-aged steak to see what the big deal was all about. For those unaware, dry-aged steaks is the process of hanging the meats and letting time and microbes do their magic to enhance the flavor of the beef.  

Dry-aging beef takes time, usually 21-28 days, and as a result costs more money because the restaurant ties up cash in inventory that’s just sitting around, losing water weight and literally shrinking.  The benefit is the flavors get concentrated, similar to how a reducing sauce becomes richer.  It's become a big fad among steakhouses these days and Royal Caribbean wanted in on the action.

It will cost you extra to try the dry-aged steaks, about another $20 to be exact.  So your $35 meal jumps to $55 for just one person, but you are getting an opportunity to sample arguably one of the best cuts of steak at sea and when you factor in the appetizers and desserts you also get for the price, it's still not a bad deal overall.

I chose the dry-aged NY strip steak and as you might imagine it tasted really good.  Sometimes when I order steak I get halfway through and start to feel "steak fatigue", but this cut was quite good and I really enjoyed the whole thing.  

I'm by no means a steak expert or someone who knows steak well enough to really know if the extra cost was worth it but I figure if you are going to order steak, go with their best choice.  It certainly among the better steaks I've ever eaten.

My wife, far less adventurous than me, stuck with her tried and true filet mignon.  She reported it tasting as good as ever and that's one thing I really enjoy about Chops.  It's a very consistent experience and one place you can count on for an excellent meal.

As I mentioned earlier, there were two new sides and we ordered both the tater tots and fries, along with mushrooms.  The tater tots weren't as good as they sounded but the truffle fries made up for the difference.  The mushrooms were great as always and remains one of my favorite sides at Chops Grille to have with my steak.


 

Dessert was next and of course I felt so full by this point, like I do every time I eat at Chops.  Nonetheless, we ordered some dessert to try.  

My wife wanted to order just the fresh baked cookies but our waiter actually warned her to order something else too.  He didn't say the cookies were bad by any means, but that they were not nearly as good as some of the other dessert options.

The cookies were better than what you could get anywhere else on the ship but the waiter was correct in that they were not overly special.

I went with my tried-and-true red velvet cake.  There had been rumors it was removed from the menu but it was available, although it did seem smaller and with less frosting than other red velvet cakes I've had at Chops.  Nonetheless, it's hard to go wrong with red velvet cake and I enjoyed it.

My wife ultimately chose the huckleberry cheesecake, which the waiter reported was not only new to the menu but also quite popular.  What I liked about it was the huckleberries were not baked into the cake, but just adorned on top.  Once again, the waiter was right that this is a great choice for dessert.

Overall

This visit to Chops Grille was about evaluating the new menu and seeing if this is something we think Royal Caribbean should expand to other ships and I think the answer is a definite yes.  I think the new menu offers quite a bit of choices that do not cost extra but for steak lovers, the dry-aged steaks are a real treat.

For me it came down to the cost of paying extra to eat at Chops Grille to begin with and then adding more cost for the dry-aged steaks.  Considering a very good steak on land would likely cost around $50 alone, it's still a good value overall considering you get your other food with it.  

For Royal Caribbean, it will come down to how many people opt for the dry-aged steaks versus do not and if there are enough people ordering them, then perhaps we will see this option on other ships soon.

Otherwise, eating at Chops Grille was a treat and as good as any other Chops Grille I've dined at.  

Restaurant Review: Sabor Modern Mexican on Navigator of the Seas

In:
18Feb2014

The newest specialty restaurant to be added to Royal Caribbean's fleet is Sabor Modern Mexican, described as a contemporary twist on traditional Mexican food. 

Sabor first debuted on Navigator of the Seas in February 2014 and we had a chance to try her our to see what exactly "modern Mexican food" really is.  The short answer is it means amazing food.

Atmosphere

Located on deck 4 of Navigator of the Seas, Sabor is in the former Dungeon nightclub.  Unlike any of the other specialty restaurants on Navigator of the Seas, there are no windows to the sea so its a dark establishment with lots of red, yellow and brown colors around you.

It looks like the designers wanted a chic look, so the decor in Sabor is definitely not like your favorite Tex-Mex place down the street.  No maracas, sombreros or cactus' here.

When you walk into Sabor, you will see the restaurant is divided length wise by a divider, with the section farthest from you the longest.  It's not a giant restaurant but certainly not the smallest specialty restaurant either. 

The modern look is what Sabor emphasizes and we found the atmosphere eating in Sabor to be like that of a new restaurant that opened up that everyone is talking about.

Eats

Once you're seated in Sabor, you get the usual menu but one of the complimentary things you will receive is guacamole made right at your table.  

A waiter brings a cart of ingredients around the restaurant and stops eat each table to explain how guacamole is made and shows you as he/she does it right in front of you.

The output is some of the best guacamole I've ever eaten.  Combined with the chips that are also freshly made (I could see the oil on them from the creation process), it's really quite tasty.  

Part of what Sabor tries to do with modern Mexican food is to make sure everything you order is made fresh.  There's a large emphasis placed on how fresh the food is and any foodie will tell you fresh food always tastes the best.

There's also freshly made salsa available as well that is complimentary and it too was quite good.  I'm a salsa fanatic and for me, there is no such thing as too much salsa.  The salsa I sampled was terrific and like the guacamole, some of the best I've ever had perhaps.

Speaking of food made at your table, Sabor also features two margaritas that if ordered can be created at your table as well for $12 each. There's a margarita cart that will come around to create either the sweet and spice margarita or the Sabor Grand Margarita. 

There are a number of other margaritas available, although they are not made at your table.  Just like the guacamole cart, the margarita waiter explains how the drink is created and pours it for you on the spot. Once again, a very tasty margarita albeit an expensive one.

Sabor also features a number of tequilas and tequila flights to choose and if you enjoy a good tequila, there's no question this is the place onboard your Royal Caribbean ship to sample one.  Unfortunately there isn't a way to have a tequila or three without going to the restaurant and paying the cover charge.

Moving onto the food, there's a lot to choose from the menu.  Like most specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean ships, you can choose as many dishes as you care to order.

The menu offers some traditional Mexican items like tacos and burritos as well as "platos fuertes", which are more authentic Mexican fare.

Assuming you did not fill up on the guacamole and salsa earlier, there are a number of appetizers to consider.  We tried the Queso Fundido, Oaxacan Ceviche of Red Snapper and Sopa de Tortilla.

The queso fundido is your typical cheese dip with a myriad of vegetables mixed into a block of Mexican cheese that is melted down.  Perfect for dipping chips in, the queso was above average what you may find at a Moe's or Chevy's.  

The ceviche was a small serving of fish and fruit and once again, you could taste the freshness of both.  It was light and quite tasty. I think it's a good sign when the reviewer finishes the entire dish alone, and this was the case with the ceviche.

Also unusual was the tortilla soup.  I've had a lot of tortilla soup in my day and this was by far not your typical tortilla soup.  

I felt it was more like Mexican minestrone soup to some degree but aside from its appearance, it was really quite tasty.  It was one of those dishes that is so different than what I'm used to that it's hard to compare but the bottom line is it was good.

By the time you get to your entrees, you might be getting full.  We had to force ourselves to stop eating the guacamole and salsa to save room for our main courses.

Our waiter recommended the chicken and roasted corn empanada and give that I wanted to try something other than a taco, this sounded great. 

The empanadas are fried chicken and corn in a green mole and peanut sauce.  The menu says spicy but I didn't find it spicy at all.  A little kick but nothing I'd warn anyone about.

The empanadas reminded me of a Spring roll that you might find at a Chinese or Thai restaurant.  It was a small dish and definitely something different than what I've ever had. Still, it was quite good and with a little leftover salsa that I put on top, I found this to be really good.

My wife ordered the tres quesos quesadilla, which came out just like she wanted.  I found them a little bland on their own but when dipped in the provided salsa (or dip it in the guacamole), it was a big hit.

Of course there are also side dishes that are really meant to be shared family style with everyone at the table.  

Yuca fries were interesting, reminding me a lot of plantains.  The calabacitas (zucchinim roasted poblano pepper corn, black beans) sounded better than they tasted.  I was trying to be adventurous but I think simple Mexican rice would have been a better choice.

Did we mention dessert yet? If you manage to save room, the good news is Sabor made the dessert ordering decision for you because each table gets an assortment of desserts to share.

I think the shared dessert idea is great because most often in my experience, desserts are something you want to share and something you rarely finish on your own.  Everyone raved about the chocolate banana empanadas, which I enjoyed too despite my aversion to cooked bananas.

Overall

Let me be blunt: Sabor was my best meal I've ever had on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Period.

The quality and taste of the food blew us away and I think it's going to be a massive hit.  In just the two cruises Sabor has been open, the staff at Sabor reported they've been busy every night with customers and I think it makes perfect sense.

The cost is $25 per person, and I've read plenty of people who think it's too high for Mexican.  I think you can easily get your moneys worth and if I had to pick a Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant to eat at tonight, it would be Sabor. The freshly made food really stands out and the quality of the food was impressive.

Sabor is one of the initiatives of Royal Caribbean's new head of food and it along with the new Chops menu is part of the new wave of restaurant choices coming to ships.  If Sabor does well, you can expect it to be added to other Royal Caribbean ships, most notably Quantum of the Seas.

I was quite impressed with my meal at Sabor and for the rest of the cruise, we wished there was an option to eat at Sabor for just the guacamole and chips or the drinks.  To me that says a lot when you want to go back again that quickly.

Sabor Modern Mexican is open for dinner between 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. and we reviewed Sabor Modern Mexican aboard Navigator of the Seas.

Restaurant Review: Seaview Cafe

In:
14Oct2013

Few restaurants on Royal Caribbean ships enjoy the cult status that the Seaview Cafe does and rightfully so.  It has become a beloved complimentary restaurant to dine at, building its reputation on really good freshly made food.  And while many Seaview Cafes have been removed to make way for new restaurants, we had a chance to check out Seaview on Jewel of the Seas and get a sense of why everyone raves about this place.

Atmosphere

The Seaview Cafe is kind of like your local neighborhood deli that offers a simple, yet tasty menu.  The theme here is basic cafetria style restaurant.  The restaurant overlooks the ocean (hence its name) and features full length windows along most of the indoor eating spaces.  The outdoor tables are close to the railing and give an even closer look at the sea.

The seating area reminds me of the sort of tables and chairs you might find near a pool.  Light color wood and hard plastic that is less formal than the Windjammer seating but nicer than the tables and chairs found near the Jewel of the Seas pool.  Call it casual yet practical.

There's a fair amount of seating available in the Seaview Cafe, but not a ton. During busy times of the day (like lunch on a sea day), it will fill up quite quickly.  Since there's just one person to take orders, a line out the door is common but it usually moves quickly if everyone knows what they want to order.

Seaview Cafe does retain a bit of that nostalgic nautical motif that is found in the Windjammer and elsewhere on Jewel of the Seas, but it's far less pronounced.  It kind of looks like the casual eatery cousin of the Schooner Bar.

Eats

When you enter the Seaview Cafe, you walk up to a staff member who takes your order on the spot.  The menu is printed in a few places and offers sandwiches, soups, snacks and that's about it. It sounds simple, and it is but the simplicity is the restaurant's strength.

Once you order, the staff member gives you a number to place on your table and you find a table on your own and then wait for your food.  There is self-service drinks available (water) or you can alternatively order beer, wine or soda from the drink bar.  

Food is cooked on a first-come, first served basis and will be brought to your table by the staff.  They try to bring the appetizers, soups and salads out first although depending on how busy the kitchen is, it may all come out at once.

Coming into Seaview Cafe, I knew lots of people raved about this place and once I actually started eating, I knew why.  The food is cooked fresh and to order and you can taste it.  Unlike the Windjammer that cooks dozens of burgers at once and then leaves them under heat lamps, here your food is made on the spot.  Of course, the downside of this custom cooking is the time to actually get the food may take a while.

Over the course of our seven night cruise, we ate at Seaview Cafe perhaps a half dozen times and tried a number of different items on the menu and quite frankly, everything we had was really tasty.  My favorite was the Reuben sandwich, which was among the best Reuben sandwiches I've ever had.  

Other favorites were the fish and chips, hot dog and onion rings.  Again, the freshness of the food made a difference and compared to what we found in the Windjammer, we could taste the difference.  I think most of the food came out tasting like one might use as a reference for what other people making the dish should use as an example.  

There are a few items that change each day on the menu, such as the soup and some dessert options.  It's worth asking when you order what specials are available.

Overall

The Seaview Cafe offers passengers really tasty, comfort food for free.  Granted it may take a while for the food to come out depending on how busy it is, but then again that free price tag is what sells it for me.

Sadly the Seaview Cafe is a dying breed and while it's unique to Radiance Class ships, Royal Caribbean is planning on getting rid of the Seaview Cafes from all ships once the fleet-wide renovations are complete.  While the replacement specialty restaurants may offer different and arguably better tasting options potentially, the fact is passengers will lose a quality complimentary dining location in lieu of somewhere that costs extra.

Nonetheless, if you get a chance to eat at the Seaview Cafe before they close the last one, I recommend indulging here as often as possible.  On our cruise, our group often had "second dinner" late at night because the food was just so darn good.  Also going late at night is a good time because it gets the most crowded in the early evening hours.

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille on Jewel of the Seas

In:
03Oct2013

Chops Grille is an iconic Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant and is consistantly a restaurant Royal Caribbean fans flock to on every cruise they take.

So when our cruise on Jewel of the Seas came around and we had just one night to check out a specialty restaurant, everyone in our group picked Chops Grille and so we gave it a try (again).

Atmosphere

On Jewel of the Seas, Chops Grille is located on deck 6 near the Schooner Bar.  Walking in, you will find a restaurant that looks like the Chops Grille on other Royal Caribbean ships.  Dark woods complimented by lighter brown and beige colors in a large room of tables of various sizes.  Because of the restaurant's required dress code, you will find the restaurant with a more upscale look than other places on the ship.

Something we noticed immediately as we walked in was the noise.  Not from the restaurant, but from outside at the Schooner Bar.  Our reservation was at 8:30pm (the latest reservation possible) and the Schooner Bar was playing their music quite loudly.  So loud that it came right into the restaurant and since Chops Grille keeps its doors open when in operation, it was easy to hear the music inside the restaurant.  We asked for a table much further inside the restaurant and there was less noise but you could still hear the bass as well as cheers from the bar. 

I mentioned the noise factor to our waiter, who seemed to agree with me but kind of shrugged it off as just something that they can do about it.  She was sympathetic about it but mentioned that's just how it is.

Unlike our experience at Chops Grille on Freedom of the Seas, the entire restaurant was in one large room.  One wall is made up of glass that overlooks the ocean, but because it's night, the glare of the lights inside the restaurants makes seeing outside virtually impossible.  Perhaps someone sitting at the window might be able to see something if they peered against the glass directly but I can't comment on that.

Eats

The menu at Chops Grille is pretty simple and I think that's part of why it's so consistantly good.  Bread is served to you upon being seated with two spreads.  Starting with the appetizers, there's a lot to choose from.  Our group of 4 chose the Asian-Inspired Spicy Tuna, Not So Traditional Caesar Salar, Oyster Duet and Cheese N' Onion Soup. 

Three of us got the Spicy Tuna, which was more of a tartare than say thin slices of tuna.  From a consistancy basis, some might not love it but I found it very tasty (I have yet to find a tuna appetizer I have not loved).  The wasabi and chips that accompany the tuna were great compliments and as someone who loves sushi, this was right up my alley.

Next I had the Cheese N' Onion soup, which is essentially french onion soup.  I commented to my tablemates was certainly not something out of a can and or me, the first sign of a good soup is determining that it was infact made from scratch and this one certainly fit the bill.  I thought it was good at the time but I didn't get a real appreciation for it until later in the cruise when they had French Onion Soup on the menu in the main dining room and I could see (and taste) the difference.  

The oyster duet was also quite tasty and a nice choice for seafood fans.  It's also not a typical steakhouse appetizer, which was nice to see as a choice.  The oysters tasted fresh and since there were no side effects health wise later on, we deemed it a good appetizer as well.

Lastly, the Caesar salad is, well, massive and came across as good.  My wife had the Caesar salad at dinner every night in the main dining room and commented this Casear salad from Chops was definitely better.

Now was time for entrees and not surprisingly, we all opted for steaks.  If you recall from my Freedom of the Seas Chops Grille experience, the waitress talked me out of getting the New York Strip steak because of complaints from other guests. So this time I once again tried to order the New York Strip and succeeded.  I found the strip steak to be quite good, albeit not as flavorful as say the porterhouse.  That being said, I found the strip steak to be a much more manageable cut of meat and part of my reasoning for ordering the strip instead of the porterhouse was to not eat so much steak that I could not enjoy the sides.  Overall I liked the strip steak and found very little fat on it.

Our table ordered two filet mignon steaks, which were both cooked to perfect and as tender as steak gets.   The girls loved it and for anyone unsure of what to order at Chops, I'd recommend the filet because it's consistantly the best cut available and the safest bet.  I should mention my wife ordered her steak with bleu cheese on top, which is not standard.

The porterhouse was as big as expected and a really juicy cut of meat.  The porterhouse offers arguably the best flavor but does have a fair amount of fat to cut around.  Having had the porterhouse on Freedom, I was okay not having it this time but next time I might just order the porterhouse and only eat what I feel like (although I have yet to actually leave food on my plate in Chops Grille).

From our last trip to Chops Grille, we knew about how great the sides are here and so we made sure leave plenty of room for them.  We ordered the mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes with prioscutto and parmesan and the broccolini.  I really think the side dishes are the hidden gem of Chops Grille so leave plenty of room for them.  The roasted potatoes were probably the best of the sides, with the melted parmesan cheese on top mixing with the soft potatoes.  

As good as the entrees were, the desserts at Chops are also really good.  All over the restaurant we saw tables ordering the crème brûlée, which was noticable because the dish came out of the kitchen on fire.  From my last visit I remember the red velvet cake so I had to get that.  

The crème brûlée was good, but the red velvet cake was just as good as I remember.  Frankly, the cake part is just fine but it's the icing that is amazing.  I'm sure it's the pure sugar combined with some sort of animal fat that makes it so tasty, but if I ever need a food to eat before the apocolypse, this is a strong contender.

Overall

What I like about Chops Grille is the consistancy and on Jewel of the Seas, it was another solid meal.  The price per person is $30 is a bit pricey but if you need one night out for dinner, then it's hard to go wrong at Chops Grille.  And given the amount of food you get for the money, it's still a good value.

In terms of the food offered it's good steakhouse food and if you like a good steak, then this is the place to eat onboard.  Given the uninspiring steaks offered in the main dining room, there isn't much choice really for anyone looking for a good steak dinner.  The ambiance, despite the noise factor, also make it one of the better romantic places on Jewel of the Seas.

In short, Chops Grille is a great choice for a specialty restaurant meal on Jewel of the Seas, despite the price and noise outside the restaurant.  The food holds up and even across Royal Caribbean's fleet, Chops Grille is too consistant to worry about having an off night.

Restaurant Review: Johnny Rockets

In:
08Apr2013

Johnny Rockets has become famous for its simple menu of burgers, fries and milk shakes combined with a 1950s décor and for many years now, Royal Caribbean has offered passengers the chance to experience Johnny Rockets at sea aboard a few of their cruise ships.  Today we review this specialty restaurant and look at what is available for you to enjoy.

Johnny Rockets is featured on Freedom class ships, Voyager class ships, Oasis class ships and Majesty of the Seas.

Atmosphere

If you've never been to a Johnny Rockets before, on land or sea, it's a '50s style diner that features a lot of chrome, white and red.  It's simple enough and its staple is serving up "all-American favorites" like burgers, milk shakes and fries.  The Royal Caribbean experience is pretty similar to what you find on land, with perhaps a smaller venue but largely it's hard to find differences between the two.

Johnny Rockets offers three seating options, indoor booth, outdoor booth and indoor bar stools.  By far the indoor booths are the most popular because of the climate control but since most Royal Caribbean cruises that feature Johnny Rockets serve warm-weather ports, sitting outside is usually a viable option. 

As you walk in, you will find the restaurant playing music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with nickel operated jukeboxes at each booth (although none of them were functional on our cruise).  There's old fashioned straw dispensers on the table and every so often the entire staff of the restaurant breaks into a dance number to entertain the guests.

Eats

The Johnny Rockets menu is pretty straight forward in terms of what is offered.  Burgers are what the restaurant is known for, but there's melts, salads, hot dogs and a sandwich or two to round things out.  Their milkshakes are also famous for being quite good.

To start with, everyone is served french fries and onion rings.  They are on the menu but my guess is they are so popular that Royal Caribbean decided to just serve them to everyone in the way other restaurants serve bread as you are seated.  The fries and onion rings are fine but you can tell they were frozen and have been microwaved.  As a matter of personal taste, I did not care for the onion rings because there was more breading than actual onion, never mind that they are probably the same quality onion rings I can buy in my supermarket's frozen food section.

Looking at the menu, I felt compelled to order what Johnny Rockets is best known for and opted to start with a bowl of chili and then ordered the Rocket Double burger and a strawberry milkshake.  For the purposed of the review, I wanted to get what I felt was representative of the restaurant.

First up was the milk shake and I have to say this did not disappoint.  Milk shakes are the one item on the menu that costs extra on top of the cover charge to eat here and it I'm sure the rationale behind that decision is because everyone enjoys these bad boys and would otherwise order milk shakes constantly.  My shake was quite good, with the right thick consistency that is more than just ice cream in a cup without going overboard.  Definite two thumbs up and frankly, I probably drank too much of it before my meal came out.

The chili was fairly bland, although the grated cheese and chopped onion on top helped.  In addition, the chili was luke-warm and once again I suspect this was pre-made (probably frozen) and just reheated.  I saved a little bit to add to my burger but it's not something I'd recommend.

After a long wait, my burger arrived and it looked okay but once again, I was not impressed.  It was just okay and I'm not sure I could not have come up with something similar at the Windjammer lunch buffet for less cost and probably a lot quicker.  Yes, the burger is better than your average fast-food burger but it's nothing great and about half way through I decided it was not worth finishing.  Considering this is what Johnny Rockets prides itself on, I was disappointed.  

Overall

This was my third time at a Johnny Rockets on Royal Caribbean and my experience here is similar to my past times as well.  The food here just is not that great and everything tastes like it was once frozen.  If I'm paying extra to eat here, I expect the quality to be better than what I received.  Combined with the fact there's almost always a long wait to eat here and the cover charge, I find it hard to recommend dining at Johnny Rockets.

I will say the milk shakes are quite good and if you can get a coupon in your Crown and Anchor Society ultimate value book for buy one get one free (as we did this time), it's probably worth it.

My recommendation is if you do eat at Johnny Rockets, just munch on the fries and order a milk shake and skip the rest of the menu.  The slow service and mediocre food just aren't worth it and I felt like we were better off dining at the Windjammer than here.  Given the fact that my experience this time mirrors other times dining here and more than likely there is a Johnny Rockets near your home town, you are best served to skip the one at sea and save your money for another specialty restaurant onboard.

Johnny Rockets is open between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. and we reviewed Johnny Rockets aboard Freedom of the Seas.

Have you eaten at Johnny Rockets?  Do you agree with our review? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Portofino

In:
12Mar2013

For Italian food, Royal Caribbean offers its specialty restaurant Portofino aboard many of its cruise ships.  We decided to try this popular alternative restaurant and see if this restaurant is worth checking out.

Portofino is featured on Royal Caribbean's Voyager class ships, Freedom class ships, Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.

Atmosphere

We ate at Portofino aboard Freedom of the Seas and compared to Chops Grille, located across the way near the Windjammer, Portofino is much brighter and seems slightly more open.  Where Chops has dark woods with light accents, Portofino goes for lighter colors all around and seemed less "dark" than Chops. 

The word "portofino" is actually the name of a small fishing village in Norhern Italy that is famous for its picturesque harbor and historical association with celebrity visitors.

Like Chops, the restaurant has two "rooms" that make up the restaurant.  The first room is where you enter and has tables lined up against the window for views of the ocean (assuming it isn't too dark to see outside) and the second room is more of a cul de sac, with tables arranged around the room.

Eats

Portofino prides itself on Italian food, with a mix of classic dishes and some new things the chefs have come up with.  They aren't trying to change what we think of when it comes to Italian food, rather, they just want to provide quality Italian food that you can't find elsewhere on the cruise ship.

The menu at Portofino is simple, with an antipasti (appetizers) and pietanze (main courses) making up the menu.  All the food is referred to by their Italian names, although the descriptions for each item is sufficient to getting an idea of what the food is.

Like Chops, there's a bread appetizer that is served for everyone although there's a greater variety of breads and spreads to find.  I was very, very tempted to indulge myself here and try them all but I didn't want to fall for the faux pas of eating too much bread before my meal (thanks mom!). The spreads consisted of cloves of garlic, a pesto paste and Kalamata olive spread.  

For our appetizers, I chose the minestrone alla Genovese along with the Carpaccio di Tonno (I just can't say no to tuna).  My wife opted for Insalata alla Cesare (Caesar salad) and Prosciutto in Insalata.

When I saw the minestrone soup, I was a little surprised because every minestrone soup I've ever seen comes in a tomato broth.  This was a clear broth and definitely not traditional.  That being said, it tasted wonderful and I could tell this was not soup from a can or anything else of that low quality.  I could taste the freshness of the ingredients and really enjoyed it.

My tuna carpaccio was again, not what I was expecting.  Rather than deep red tuna, this tuna was might lighter in color and topped with oranges and a citrus-dill dressing.  It tasted good and I enjoyed it, although in this case, I think I prefer a more traditional tuna carpaccio but that's just my personal taste.

My wife started with the prosciutto and enjoyed the different take on her dish.  By now we realized the appetizers were not what you'd find at your local Olive Garden and that was a definite plus.  We may not have known what we were ordering, but every appetizer we tried was interesting and a welcome change. Her Caesar salad was probably the most "routine" appetizer we had.

For our main courses, we went with the tonno ai ferri (I really, really can't say no to tuna) and the taglierini al pesto.

The tuna filet was great not just because of the tuna itself, but the marjoram-garlic drizzle and vegetables it came with.  When I combined it all, I really enjoyed the dish and wished I had more of it to eat.  

The pasta in pesto sauce was just plain good.  It's a classic Italian dish and I love having "safety dishes" to fall back on to use as a baseline of good food.  The pasta tasted fresh (no boxed stuff here) and the pesto sauce was quite good as well.  I'd recommend this for something to share among your group.

For desserts, the menu is fairly basic and offers some traditional Italian desserts to try.  Nothing jumped out at me, so I opted for the sampler so I could try them all.

The dessert sampler offers four petit desserts to try and for me, it was just enough to get a sense of what they all were without committing to just one.  The chefs here aren't rewriting the book on Italian desserts, rather, it's simple yet indulgent choices.

My wife was intrigued by the tiramisu and went with that.  From just presentation alone, it looked exquisite and after tasting it, it was pretty darn good.  It was really hard to go wrong with any of these choices.

Overall

For the money, Portofino ($20 per person) is a great choice for a specialty restaurant.  The obvious comparison is between this and Chops Grille and given that Chops is $10 more expensive and the experiences between both, I really enjoyed my time at Portofino a little more.  It's not to take anything away from Chops, but if I could only eat at one specialty restaurant aboard Freedom of the Seas, I'd have to go with Portofino.

The other comparison that is easy to make is putting Portofino against Gionvanni's Table. Personally, I prefer individual portions to family style meals and the food at Giovanni's was definitely more traditional than Portofino.  Looking back at both meals, I'd have to lean towards Portofino for the edge it has in trying some new things, especially with my appetizers.

I felt like the quality of the food along with the "je ne sais quois" that the chef provides really made this more than just another Italian dinner.  With an interesting selection of traditional and new Italian dishes, you'll find Portofino is a specialty restaurant worth trying.

Portofino is open for dinner between 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. and we reviewed Portofino aboard Freedom of the Seas.

Restaurant Review: Chops Grille

In:
05Mar2013

One of the oldest specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean ships is Chops Grille, their steakhouse restaurant and today we are going to review this fan favorite location.

Chops Grille is featured on Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships, Radiance class ships, Freedom class ships, Mariner of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Splendor of the Seas.

Atmosphere

On Freedom of the Seas, Chops Grille is located near the Windjammer and looks like a typical upscale restaurant.  There are dark woods complimented by light beige accents throughout the restaurant.  Given the restaurant's smart casual attire, dining here definitely has the look of an upscale appearance.

There are two main rooms, the first room when you enter the restaurant is the larger of the two and offers most tables a window side view.  Unfortunately since Chops is only open for dinner, there's usually not much to see given the glare from the lights inside (Chops is open during the day for high ranking members of the Crown and Anchor Society for use in the Windjammer so those people can benefit from the view).  

A second, circular room is attached to the main room and offers less windows but greatly expands the restaurant's capacity.  Neither room has a real motif or theme to it, it just looks, well, nice.

Eats

Chops Grille offers a fairly simple menu of appetizers, entrees and sides.  The appetizers and entrees are served individually but the sides are served family style. Given the serving size of the sides, it makes sense to share them although it does require some planning to ensure you don't over order.

When you are seated, you will receive a loaf of bread along with two spreads to try.  It's a good starter and the bread and spreads are great, but you're best served to save room for the food ahead rather than loading up on bread (sorry to sound like your mother).

For our appetizers, we went with the Asian-Inspired Spicy Tuna and Not So Traditional Caesar Salad.  In Chops, you can order more than one appetizer or entree if you choose, although for this meal we were not as hungry as we could have been.  

The tuna was quite small and had I known how small it was going to be, I may have ordered a second appetizer.  Nonetheless, despite its small size it tasted quite good.  For sushi lovers, this starter will be perfect because of the rare cut of fish complimented by the unagi sauce (which to me, tasted like wasabi).

The Caesar salad, unlike the tuna, was massive in size and is served whole but the waiter will offer to cut it up for you.  The salad was tasty and  in the grand scheme of Caesar salads, was probably "above average".  The salad was also far more filling than the tuna.

My our entrees, there's a few choices but considering Chops is a steakhouse, you'd be best served to stick with the steaks.  That's a personal philosophy more than anything, with the rationale that you stick with what the cook is best at and in this case, it's steaks.  My wife opted for the petit filet mignon while I went for the New York Strip.  When I went to order, the waitress tried to talk me out of the strip and instead order the filet mignon or the porterhouse.  I asked her why I should not order the strip and she told me the restaurant has gotten a lot of complaints from guests that the New York Strip is too tough and is often sent back.  I commented to her I found that amusing that the strip is a "problem steak" considering on the menu it is bolded with a large black box around at it.  At any rate, I ordered the porterhouse.

The filet mignon is about what you'd expect a filet mignon to be.  It's tender and flavorful and as soft a steak as you can find.  There's no question it's a good choice and considering each entree is the same cost to you, it's hard to go wrong with the filet.  I should mention my wife ordered her steak with bleu cheese on top, which is not standard.

As you might expect, my porterhouse was massive.  The thing I do not enjoy about porterhouse steaks is there is a lot of "work" involved since I choose not to eat the fat and have to cut off the fatty pieces.  Of course, the chief benefit of the steak is its flavor and I did enjoy how good it tasted so it is a fair trade off.

Chops Grille also offers for all their steaks various sauces to try including classic bearnaise, chimichurri sauce, green peppercorn sauce and cabernet reduction.  Personally, I'm of the opinion a steak should taste good on its own, but I did try the chimichurri sauce on the side.  I thought it was a nice change, but I think steak lovers will prefer their steaks to remain au natural.  You can, however, ask for the sauces on the side to try.

To say the least, both steaks were better than any steak in the main dining room and you could tell these were cooked to each guest's request, as opposed to mass-produced steaks.  I will be honest and say above a certain threshold I cannot tell the difference between a really expensive steak from a high-end steak house and a steak from Outback steakhouse.  They both taste good to me and these steaks were about what we expected.

The sides offered were better than we anticipated.  We chose three of them, the double whipped mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes with prsciutto and parmesan and the fried onion rings.  The onion rings were nothing special but both potato dishes were quite good, with my wife absolutely loving the roasted potatoes.  She specifically told me to convey in this review how amazing they were.  Do yourself a favor and order as many sides to share as you can, because they really make the meal.

We just had to try the desserts and I went with the red velvet cake and my wife chose the chocolate mud pie.  These desserts were very rich and very good. I ordered the red velvet cake simply to have a taste but before I knew it, I had eaten half the slice.  Saving room for either of these is a must-do.

Overall

In terms of pricing, Chops Grille is a fairly expensive specialty restaurant with a per person cover charge of $30.  I think it really comes down to your personal preference if specialty restaurants on the cruise ships are worth the price.  For me and my wife, we paid $60 total, which if you factor in the cost of our dinner including appetizers, sides and desserts is still a better value than our local Outback steakhouse.  

Quality wise, their steaks are good, but maybe not the best I've ever had.  Certainly if you want a good steak onboard the ship, this is as good as it gets and when you try for the beef filets they have in the main dining room, Chops' steaks will seem like divine intervention.  The rest of the food (appetizers, desserts and sides) are good choices and all met or exceeded our expectations.

The bottom line is I enjoyed eating at Chops Grille for its good food, but I have reservations about the cost.  For a special night out, Chops is a good choice especially for people that really like steaks.  

Chops Grille is open for dinner between 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. and we reviewed Chops Grille aboard Freedom of the Seas.

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