PHOTO: Slow Cooked Crispy Lamb at The Chef's Table on Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Vista. (photo by Jason Leppert)
One thing that particularly stood out to my wife and I aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Vista was just how wonderful its food is.
True, its main dining room is still nothing to write home about, but plenty of its complimentary eateries and certainly specialty restaurants are—in particular, The Chef’s Table experience.
I have partaken in similar dining events, but never on Carnival. The venue’s location aboard the Vista originally grabbed my attention: As I was reviewing the ship’s deck plans, I noticed The Chef’s Table was actually positioned within the main galley, not just as some separation within the main restaurant. Intrigued, we gave it a try for $100 per person.
We are sure glad we did.
This is not merely a fixed 8-course tasting menu paired with included wine, (itself quite an outing). It truly is a full experience exclusive to only 16 guests at a time. Once we were escorted into the galley, we were taken to a preparation area and given a glass of champagne to enjoy as some high-concept culinary ideas and tastes were introduced to us, including unexpectedly delicious Kalamata olives and spun sugar—salty and sweet together.
Just to the side is a private, air-conditioned dining room with its own demonstration kitchen. There we proceeded to enjoy a quick bread service. Next up was a Spring Peas & Matcha Soup that was poured into our bowls as we whisked it to perfection. The flavors burst accordingly.
Berkshire Pork Belly, Shrimps with a veil of yuzu mustard and crustacean essence all followed: Another fine example of culinary combinations.
READ MORE: ‘He Said, She Said’ Cruise Review: Carnival Vista Part 1
A galley tour then commenced. I’ve been on plenty of these but never during service hours. The chef and wait staff activity added a level of interest not regularly seen, including many more warm courses being freshly prepared. We were also treated to a demo on how to make Carnival’s signature Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, (which, as you might suspect, requires lots and lots of butter).
Back inside our private dining room, the presentations continued with theatrical reveals: Smoke dramatically emerging beneath a cloche; multiple waiters and waitresses delivering each course to our seats and topping off our wines. Next was a Slow Cooked Crispy Lamb with roasted beet and port jus that was especially delicious with its savory sauce on top.
On the seafood side, the Olive Oil Poached Seabass with asparagus and white miso was already excellent, and the added touch of passion fruit “caviar” was just brilliant. The Quail, Wild Mushrooms and Carnaroli with parmesan, pepper threads and pasted onion jus was also exceptional as was the Veal, Crushed Green Apples with light cheese broth.
READ MORE: ‘He Said, She Said’ Cruise Review: Carnival Vista Part 2
All along the way, each dish’s individual elements were expertly described with many assembled and presented on-the-spot in order to fully appreciate their added effect to the overall flavor. The chef was always open to taking questions from us at the table as we discovered each course.
Not yet finished, the evening concluded with not one but two desserts: Citrus Cream with lime snow and elderflower caviar, along with Chocolate Hazelnut with basil moss, cocoa logs and chocolate soil. The former was a light sendoff while the latter was a heavier contrast, both of which were amazing in their own right.
Altogether, the experience is one all foodies must put a reservation in for as soon as possible: It is entirely worth the surcharge and quickly fills up.
As for me, this is one I intend to try on a Carnival cruise yet again in the near future.