Specialty Restaurants

Maureen Brandt wins final cooking competition to become chef of 150 Central Park

In:
06Aug2010

The final cooking competition is over to become the next chef at 150 Central Park on the soon to be launched Allure of the Seas and it's Maureen Brandt of Stillwater, Minnesota.  Brandt won the fan vote last month and today competed with five other chefs for the right to become the next Chef de Cuisine of 150 Central Park, the signature restaurant onboard Allure of the Seas.

Brandt competed in a day long competition and cooked three meals for the panel of judges.  Her specialties included chilled Lobster, provencial Lamb Loin and a pistachio cake.

Chef Daniel Fein came in second place and CruseCritic is reporting he has accepted the position of Chef of 150 Central Park on Oasis of the Seas, whose chef has announced previously that he will be leaving.

With Brandt winning, she completes a long trek of winning the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge, which started back in early July 2010.  She submitted a video of her cooking a dish and explaining why she should be considered for the contest.  She then made it to the final six competitors, won the fan vote and today has won the cooking competition.

Brandt is a 1999 graduate of Stillwater Area High School and she is also a "Certified ProChef Level Three" by the Culinary Institute of America and CEC through the American Culinary Federation.

The panel of judges for the cooking competition included Culinary Institute of America Chef Lou Jones and Dr. Victor Gielisse and from Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, Lisa Bauer; Vice President of Food & Beverage Operations Frank Weber.

Restaurant Review: Seafood Shack

In:
05Aug2010

Tucked away on the Boardwalk area of Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is the Seafood Shack, one of nine specialty restaurants found aboard the world's largest cruise ship.  For those who need a seafood kick, this is your place to go.

Atmosphere

The Seafood Shack is located in the Boardwalk area of the Oasis of the Seas and fits right in.  In fact, it probably is the best themed element to the Boardwalk motif, as it does feel like the sort of restaurant you would find along an ocean front boardwalk.  The restaurant is decorated with a lot of surf items, from surf boards to water buoys, it's all about the ocean here.  

In fact, the menu you get is designed to look like a kickboard and is made of a hard wood.  These little elements really help establish one of the better decorated restaurants found aboard Oasis of the Seas.

The Seafood Shack is an open air restaurant, meaning it's not air conditioned and subject to the outside temperature.  Eating here in the middle of July for lunch, it wasn't terrible as it's shaded from direct sunlight and there are fans overhead to keep the air moving.

Eats

Before we jump into the food, we need to discuss the ordering system here.  The Seafood Shack has a cover charge you must pay per person, similar to other specialty restaurants.  However, the Seafood Shack differs from the other specialty restaurants in that your cover charge does not allow you to order as much as you like.  Rather, you can order one appetizer, one entree and one dessert.  You can order extra food on top of that for an additional fee per item ($3.95).

At first, I thought this would be a problem as the staple of any restaurant on a cruise ship is ordering as much as you like.  Once I tried it out, I found there to be plenty of food between the three courses you are allowed and it should be more than enough food for most people, especially once you start sharing some food around the table.

The menu at the Seafood Shack features, yes, a lot of sea food.  From fish to crab to shrimp, there's a lot to choose from. I was actually surprised by the amount of non-seafood on the menu as well.  Lots of chicken, beef and pork can be found to choose from, which is good for picky eaters or those who aren't keen on just eating seafood for the entire meal.

Be sure to ask before you order your meal what the fresh catch of the day is.  The fresh catch routinely changes from day to day and if you enjoy fish, you know whatever is freshest is often the best choice.  On the day I ate here, a butter fish was fresh and I opted to give it a try.  But before we get there, let's start with the appetizers.

I had the New England clam chowder, which came in a large sourdough bread bowl.  The soup was good, but the bread bowl was better.  There's just something about the combo that really made it so good and I had to forcibly stop myself from eating the bread bowl because I didn't want to fill up on that before the rest of the food came.  My wife opted to have the cajun potato wedges, which were your typical good tasting large french fries.  In both cases, we found there to be an abundance of food and we barely dented my wife's potato wedges.

Most of the appetizers that aren't soups are served wrapped in faux newspaper to look like the sort of thing you might find in England.  I've only seen this previously with fish and chips, but other appetizers came in this fashion which seemed to give people a kick.

Back to the entrees, my butter fish arrived grilled along topped with a fruit salsa and served with mashed potato and some other veggies.  The fish itself was okay, but I found the salsa on top of it to be really tasty and combining the two really made it a good meal.    My wife opted to get the Bermuda onion burger (can you tell which of us likes seafood?) and found it to be an above average burger.  Not great, but better than the usual burger you find around.

By the time we got to dessert, we were both pretty stuffed.  My wife got the cookies and cream ice cream sundae while I just got a regular ice cream sundae.  The great thing about ice cream is it's nearly impossible to screw up so as you might imagine, it was quite good.

If you have kids (or adults who like to behave like kids), every so often there's a song and dance the staff do for the children.  Basically, they parade around the restaurant singing a song (yes, it's a sea shanty) and the kids that we saw seemed to really enjoy it, so be ready to jump into the parade should it occur.

Overall

The Seafood Shack is an interesting restaurant offering a wide enough selection of food to be able to cater to most taste pallets.  If you can, avoid this restaurant around times when there's something in the nearby Aqua Theater as it seems whenever a show or event ends there, there's a bee line made for the Seafood Shack and Johnny Rockets.  It's best to check out the Seafood Shack for lunch, as it seems to be the least crowded then.

Considering there is no cover charge for kids under the age of 13, if you have young kids, this may be a good option among the specialty restaurants to check out.

Cost:

  • Lunch: $7.95 per guest fee
  • Dinner: $9.95 per guest fee
  • There is no cover fee for kids under the age of 13

Seafood Shack is open for lunch from 11:30am to 3:30pm and dinner from 5:30pm to 10:00pm

And I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been here! What did you order? Any suggestions or favorite items? Let me know in the comments below!

Restaurant Review: Izumi

In:
04Aug2010

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas features a number of specialty restaurants that are available to book for an additional fee and Izumi is one of them.  Featuring a selection of Japanese food, today we take a closer look at this offering.


 

Atmosphere

Izumi is a Japanese restaurant that features a lot of brown and orange with an Asian flare.  You will find a lot of bamboo and cherry blossoms adoring the interior of the restaurant.   Located on Deck 16 of Oasis of the Seas, Izumi partially overlooks the ocean as well as the sun deck and to a lesser degree the pool deck.  Only tables near the windows will allow for much of a view.  There is also a rather large sushi bar that encircles the chefs that prepare the sushi.  Seating here can vary in terms of something to see, as it can be difficult to see the chefs at work while sitting at the bar.


 

Upon entering the Izumi, you will check in and be seated.  There isn't much of a waiting area should you need to as the restaurant as a whole is rather small.  Once seated, the waiter will bring you a warm towel to refresh your face and hands.  This is a staple of any good Japanese restaurant and nice to see.

Eats

On my recent 7 night Oasis of the Seas cruise, I ate at Izumi every evening except one, so I like to think I got a good idea of the food here.  Izumi is a Japanese restaurant and has a few options beyond just sushi.  Sushi was the driving force that brought me here, but for those who aren't fans of raw fish, there's also some other interesting options.

To start with, Izumi currently features complimentary edamame (a preparation of baby soybeans in the pod boiled in water together salt, and served whole)  and miso soup.  Both were good and tasty and you can have as much of either as you choose.  You will also be offered a choice of various sparkling waters (this does cost extra).  Not being a fan of Peligrino or its similar counterparts, I passed on it.

Let's start with the sushi.  If you're looking for sushi on Oasis of the Seas, Izumi is your only option. Unlike other Royal Caribbean ships, there is no sushi offered in the Windjammer Cafe.  In addition to the set sushi menu, there's usually a special roll created each night by the chef.  I found the chef's roll to be the best sushi option each night, as they were routinely large portions, fresh and interesting combinations.

The sushi on the menu offered some good options, however, I found the options fairly limited compared to the various types of sushi rolls one can get at your local sushi restaurant at home.  That being said, there were still many more sushi options in Izumi than I've found in the Windjammer on previous cruises.  The sushi itself was fresh and most sushi rolls featured 6 to 8 pieces per roll.  Given the price of most sushi to be about $5 per roll, I found this to be a good value.

Beyond sushi, the most interesting item on the menu is the hot rock plate.  Basically, you get a heated stone the size of a small book along with uncooked meat (beef, chicken or shrimp) along with some vegetables.  You take the meat and veggies, stick them on the plate and they cook in front of you.  The first time we did it, we had the question of "When do I know when it's done?".  The waiter was very helpful in not only telling us, but helping us cook the first batch.  

This is definitely a fun dish to share, and kids are sure to really enjoy it and a good option for those not keen on really ethnic food.

In terms of pricing, I found Izumi to be mostly fair.  Entree dishes were good and there is no cover charge, the fee at Izumi is a la carte.  There were some items that I found to be rather unfairly priced, however.  I ordered a bottle of hot sake and that was $24 (there was no other option) and that special sushi roll of the day cost $10 (most other sushi rolls cost about $5 or $6).  It's always a good rule of thumb to ask how much something is when it isn't listed on the menu.

Overall

Overall I found Izumi to be a good option for fans of Japanese food, specifically sushi.  While Izumi features a few different dishes that aren't sushi, I feel their strongest suit is their sushi offerings.  I only wish they had a few more rolls to choose from, but given the price of their sushi, it's hard to go wrong.  

Izumi is open for dinner from 6:00pm to 9:30pm and for lunch at noon to 1:30pm.

And I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been here! What did you order? Any suggestions or favorite items? Let me know in the comments below!

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