The Exquisite Cuisine of Oceania Cruises’ Riviera
Photo by Jason Leppert
I had always heard that the food onboard Oceania Cruises was one of the line’s highlights, but I did not quite understand to what degree until first sailing aboard the Riviera this week in the Mediterranean.
Generally, I had just assumed it would be comparable to that found on upscale competitors Azamara Club Cruises and Viking Ocean Cruises, but, in fact, the cuisine overall exceeds the fare I’ve enjoyed even on luxury lines.
You’d think a seven-day cruise would be enough time to enjoy all the food onboard a midsize vessel, but truth be told, there is so much choice that the repeatability factor across the Riviera’s restaurants extends well beyond – from the main dining room to the specialty restaurants, all free of charge, with only reservations required at the latter.
The first night, as I recovered from jet lag, we enjoyed dinner quickly in the Terrace Cafe buffet, and already the culinary bar was set high.
Nowhere else have I seen the option to order complimentary lobster from such a venue, but here it is most impressively available. Desserts are plated to perfection, looking ready for table presentation at any other formal dining room, and even lunch during the day is excellent as pizzas and more, read ice creams and sorbet, are very tasty. And the grill outside further amazes with a wagyu beef burger and surf and turf sandwich.
We have yet to even sample the main dining room fare, but will the last night of the cruise, as there are just so many specialty options. La Reserve by “Wine Spectator,” the only added-cost restaurant onboard, pairs a different glass of wine with each of seven courses, as the sommelier educates diners on flavor nuances every step of the way and guests savor every delightful sip and gourmet bite, including mouthwatering pumpkin ravioli and 72-hour braised short rib.
Of the four other specialty restaurants, the Polo Grill steakhouse and Toscana Italian one sit on an upper deck with the Privee private dining room nestled in between. Here, we could’ve ordered any item off either restaurant’s menu but kept to Polo Grill to save the Italian, including its olive oil tasting menu, for later this evening.
The steakhouse offerings were considerably more extensive than the usual meats and few other options available at comparable dining rooms elsewhere. I enjoyed a wonderful pancetta wrapped veal filet topped with lobster, for instance.
Downstairs, the Red Ginger pan-Asian restaurant amazes with everything from fresh sushi to a hearty portion of savory teriyaki beef, and there’s even a tea menu and wide selection of chopsticks to choose from. Flavors burst with every course here as well as across the way at Jacques – the namesake French restaurant of master chef Jacques Pepin, the line’s Executive Culinary Director, and my favorite thus far. The explosive flavor profile of the poached scallop gnocchi with lobster appetizer (pictured above) that I savored might just be the best dish I have ever ingested aboard a cruise ship, but the sauteed dover sole entree was not far behind.
Quite simply, the food onboard Oceania Cruises is the best I’ve ever experienced at sea.
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