Specialty Restaurants

Video: Specialty Dining at Chops Grille

In:
27Apr2011

Allure of the Seas features more new restaurants

In:
09Sep2010

Showcasing onboard experiences all her own, Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas, the world's next largest and most innovative cruise ship debuting in December 2010, will introduce new culinary concepts and tempting twists to signature Oasis-class restaurants. A Brazilian steakhouse will be a destination restaurant that comes to life for dinner service in the Solarium, featuring authentic Brazilian-style meats and seafood dishes, from Picanha cut sirloin steak to Atlantic salmon marinated with sea salt and garlic, served table-side and sliced straight off the skewer. In Central Park, recently anointed Chef de Cuisine Molly Brandt will present guests with a one-of-a-kind menu and distinct dining experience at Allure of the Seas' 150 Central Park, a signature fine dining experience.

 
"As churrascaria concept restaurants gain popularity on land, Royal Caribbean is taking advantage of having a new ship to introduce a Brazilian steakhouse and bring a new dynamic and colorful nightlife ambiance for adults in the Solarium," says Lisa Bauer, senior vice president, Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International. "Guests onboard Allure of the Seas will have a new arrangement of dining experiences throughout the ship, from the Adagio Main Dining Room to new venues on the Boardwalk and Royal Promenade."
 
Combining the best of classic Mexican beach bars and Southern California's famed taquerias, Rita's Cantina will be a vibrant new restaurant in the Boardwalk neighborhood. Adults and kids alike will enjoy some of their favorite Mexican fare, such as shrimp ceviche tostadas, warm tortilla chips with salsa and fiesta guacamole, as well as entrees, such as fajitas, fish tacos and Chipotle-style flautas. The more casual setting will be a favorite lunch, snack or dinner spot for guests seeking a flavorful fiesta onboard Allure of the Seas. Rita's Cantina also will boast some of the best and widest selection of margaritas at sea, offering both authentic and signature concoctions mixed with a choice from the extensive list of quality tequilas, served on the rocks or frozen in a variety of fruit-flavor combinations. In addition, the restaurant will introduce new nightlife to Boardwalk with live guitar music, drinks and dancing. Rita Cantina's design will include large open breezeways and an outdoor seating area complete with high top tables and stools, and will be located in place of Seafood Shack onboard sister-ship Oasis of the Seas.
 
Also new to Boardwalk's dynamic and engaging scene will be The Boardwalk Dog House, an outdoor hot-dog specialty counter located where The Donut Shop is on Oasis of the Seas. Guests can choose from traditional hot dogs, wieners, brats, sausages and other delicious linked meats and a variety of toppings to split a long bun. The Donut Shop will remain on Boardwalk in a new location next to the Ice Cream Parlor.
 
The following includes a variety of other palate-pleasing options available throughout the neighborhoods on Allure:

THE BOARDWALK

Rita's Cantina: A casual yet vibrant indoor/outdoor restaurant exclusively on Allure's Boardwalk, caters to families by day, and adults by night; traditional Mexican fare, comprehensive selection of margaritas and live guitar music and dancing for evening entertainment
 
Boardwalk Bar: The main bar on the Boardwalk; offering fruit, salads and sandwiches
 
Boardwalk Donut Shop: A classic haunt for casual snacks and delicious treats
 
Ice Cream Parlor: A variety of ice cream flavors and toppings take center stage against a backdrop of 1950s kitsch
 
Johnny Rockets: '50's-style diner with server-entertainers

CENTRAL PARK

150 Central Park: A trendy, upscale and intimate restaurant with a tasting menu and customized wine pairings created by Molly Brandt, winner of the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge co-hosted with The Culinary Institute of America, as well as Food and Wine's 2006 best student chef
 
Giovanni's Table: An Italian trattoria with both indoor and alfresco seating featuring Italian classics served family-style
 
Park Cafe: An indoor/outdoor gourmet market featuring salads, sandwiches, soups, pastries and to-die-for fudge
 
Vintages: A wine bar with pre-dinner tapas and cheeses along with a robust selection of fine wines
 
Chops Grille: Royal Caribbean's signature steakhouse with views of Central Park, and premium cuts or quality meats

POOL AND SPORTS ZONE

Exclusive to Allure of the Seas, the new churascarria, styled after popular Brazilian steakhouses, is an interactive experience where guests choose from a variety of meats, chicken and seafood brought table-side by servers, ready to slice and serve upon request
 
Solarium Bistro: A health-conscious dining option for breakfast and lunch
 
The Wipe Out Cafe: A casual self-service buffet with pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches and fresh salads
 
Izumi Asian Cuisine: Featuring mouthwatering flavors and a sushi bar with hot-rock cooking

ROYAL PROMENADE

Sorrento's Pizzeria: Featuring New York style pizza, with both made-to-order pies and by the slice
 
Cafe Promenade: Offering Seattle's Best coffee, fruit shakes, pastries and sandwiches all day
 
The Cupcake Cupboard: Featuring fresh-baked gourmet cupcakes as well as parties and design classes

VITALITY AT SEA SPA AND FITNESS CENTER

The Vitality Cafe: Offering healthy snacks, sandwiches, wraps, fruit and smoothies
 
THE CLASSICS, Royal Caribbean hasn't forgotten the classics of its fleet:
 
Adagio Dining Room: The ship's main restaurant features a three-tier venue with a 1920s Art Deco style; flexible My Time Dining and traditional assigned seatings, as well as the highly anticipated DreamWorks Character Breakfast
 
Windjammer Marketplace: A casual buffet fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner
 
In-Stateroom Service: Order from the complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, or choose an original Johnny Rockets hamburger or Ghirardelli chocolate cookies from the new Dine In Delights menu

Royal Caribbean announces new restaurant for Allure of the Seas

In:
02Sep2010

There will be a new specialty restaurant on the soon-to-be-completed Allure of the Seas, Samba Grill, a Brazilian-style Churrascaria restaurant.

The new restaurant will be a little different depending on the time of day.   During the evening, Samba Grill will be adults only while during the day it will revert to being the Solarium Bistro, where it will serve light breakfasts and lunches.

Samba Grill will be a notable difference between what you will find on Allure of the Seas' sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, where the Solarium Bistro serves healthier choices for all three meals during the day and dinner in the evening for a supplementary charge of $20.

While eating at Samba Grill, guests will be served by waiters dressed as gauchos, who will offer grilled meat off skewers while live music is playing.

The new restaurant will have a charge of $25 per person, as well as a vegetarian alternative, featuring a wide-ranging salad bar, for $15 per person.

Restaurant Review: Giovanni's Table

In:
09Aug2010

For those looking for Italian food on their next Oasis of the Seas cruise, Giovanni's Table offers family-style Italian in the Central Park area of the ship.  Today, we review this Mediterranean enclave.

Interesting note about Giovanni's Table, prior to our cruise, we tried to get a reservation online but couldn't get one for the time and day we wanted.  We decided to wait until we boarded the ship and try to go to the restaurant on the first day of the ship and get a reservation.  Sure enough, we showed up on the first day and got the day and time we wanted without a problem.  Might be worth trying this idea out if you are in a similar situation.

Atmosphere

Giovanni's Table is situated in Central Park and features a very quaint and somewhat romantic setting.  It kind of looks like that restaurant from Lady and the Tramp meets chic restaurant downtown.  Inside the restaurant, you will find the place small enough to have some charm while big enough to handle a lot of hungry customers.  There are tables that have a window to Central Park as well as seating outside to choose from.  Further inside the restaurant are more tables that can accommodate larger groups.

Giovanni's is meant to remind you of a restaurant in the Tuscany region of Italy along the coast.  With it's northern Italy influences, Giovanni's Table certainly exudes the atmosphere one would expect from an Italian restaurant that serves traditional Italian dishes.  Serving to help sell the idea of a real Italian restaurant is the fresh meat slicer that frequently is used by the wait staff to slice fresh prosciutto ham in razor-thin slices.  The smell fills the room each time and it adds to the charm of the restaurant.

Eats

For dinner, Giovanni's Table offers a fairly large selection of Italian food.  There are three main courses, appetizers and salads, pastas and entrees.  The appetizers, salads and pastas are all served family style, meaning large plates are brought out of each item with the understand that you will share the items between the members of your party.  In most cases, there was enough food on each family style dish to easily satisfy two people and more than likely could be enough for 3-4 people.

To start with, appetizers are the first course and there's a lot to choose from.  For just me and my wife, we found three options that we both wanted to try before we even got to the soups.

For our starters, we chose fresh mozzarella and tomato, caesar salad and focaccia alla Giovanni.  The mozzarella and tomato was good, much like any other time we've had this dish before.  The ingredients were fresh and we chose to add olive oil and vinegar to give the dish a little something extra.  The caesar salad wasn't anything special and tasted perhaps a tad bit better than the caesar salad we had elsewhere on the ship and wasn't something I'd feel obligated to get again.  The foccaccia alla Giovanni can best be described as cheese bread with a little potato between the cheese and the bread that comes with the option of dipping the bread in a pesto sauce along with other accompaniments such as green and black olives.  This was surprisingly good and was the best choice we had among the appetizers.

Next up is pasta and we decided to share one dish, the gnocchi, which are small potato filled pastas in a white sauce.  Gnocchi isn't by any means a favorite pasta of mine, but it seemed like a decent choice.  While the gnocchi was good, we both felt after a few each that the pasta "got old".  As in, it was still good, but we couldn't eat a lot of it at once.  More than likely going to pass on this for our next visit.

By the time we got to our entrees, we were both feeling a little stuffed.  To Giovanni's Table's credit, they give you a lot of food and you're best served to try bites of each even though we felt guilty leaving any of the food on the dish to be thrown out.  For my entree, I opted for the tuna dish, which was kind of like an Italian version of ahi tuna.  A lightly cooked tuna that is rare on the inside (warm on the inside, unlike ahi which can be cold).  This was really good and was easily the best thing I ate that evening.  The sauce was light, which is key because the fish should be the focal point of the taste, not an overbearing sauce and with the baked tomatoes and potatoes along side, it was enough to stimulate my appetite to want to eat it all.

My wife opted for the filetto di Manzo alla griglia, a grilled 8oz beef filet tenderloin.  It was a good cut of beef and definitely better than the steaks we had in the Main Dining Room.  It also wasn't the best steak we've ever had but it certainly was something we could enjoy and I had a bite of it as well. We both thought it was good and were satisfied with the option.

Overall

In terms of pricing, we found Giovanni's Table to be a good option at $15 for dinner per person and $10 for lunch.  We opted to eat here on "lobster night" (neither of us eat lobster) so a night at Giovanni's Table may be best for a night where the menu doesn't look very good in the main dining room.  The wide selection of food and mostly tasty options really left us happy that we stopped by.  I think we both felt like it was worth the extra cost for a nice evening out and found the service better than the food.  

The Italian food is mostly traditional Italian food that many Americans love to enjoy.  The food here wasn't as good as the Italian food we had previously tried at the specialty restaurant Palo on the Disney Wonder, but felt it was still a good meal overall.  We did not try lunch, although we did notice that the lunch menu offers less options than the dinner menu.

Giovanni's Table is open for lunch 11:30am to 3:30pm and open for dinner 6:00pm 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!

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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