Silver Spirit Dining
With its innovative and exciting cuisine, Silver Spirit raises the bar for at-sea dining -- and not by a little, but by a lot. Menu selections -- particularly in the three new restaurants debuting on Silver Spirit -- are not only creative but exquisitely presented. It's not often I put "food" and "art" in the same sentence, but in this superlative context, they belong together. On all levels, Silver Spirit gets it right. So right, in fact, that some of the concepts innovated here – such as The Grill's hot rocks menu and La Terrazza's new robust dinner menu -- are due to become staples fleetwide.
I wondered why our waiter didn't ask how we wanted our steaks cooked when we placed our order at The Grill, where we dined under the stars on Deck 10, just above the pool. Little did we know we would grill our meat to our preferred "doneness" tableside on lava rocks heated to 400 degrees. The beef, Sterling Silver Premium, comes in all manner of cuts and sizes, as do the veal, pork and lamb chops along with the salmon steak, Madagascar prawns and fresh fish of the day. The grill is accompanied by Mediterranean veggies, a side salad and a baked potato. The sizzling of the hot rocks and the sloshing of the water in the pool present a whole new twist to dining al fresco. It's very sensory, and a perfect way to celebrate a sailaway or a sunset. As with the other dining venues, wines are complimentary except for those on the Connoisseur's Wine List.
The two restaurants unique to Silver Spirit, Seishin and Stars, are sheer dining bliss. They couldn't be more different in terms of cuisine but they share the same aesthetic: food so beautifully arranged it demands to be photographed.
Seishin, on Deck 4, is an intimate space with seating for 24 where diners can watch the chef artfully sculpt sushi and sashimi at his centrally-positioned chef's station. It's a little like theater. There's a four-course "teaser" menu, featuring, as an example, a sashimi platter, waterpaper roll of spider crab, tiger prawn tempura and a green tea sorbet. The nine-course menu includes signature dishes such as teppan grilled wagyu beef and carpaccio of king scallops with flying fish roe. With Seishin, Silver Spirit honors cuisine naturelle with impeccable Asian flair. A per-guest fee applies. A teaser meal costs $30. With two glasses of wine or two Japanese beers, it's $40. The nine-course meal with a premium sake pairing is $80. With a premium wine pairing, it is $200.
Stars, on Deck 7, is a throwback to a 1930s supper club but its menu is anything but vintage. The five courses celebrate cuisine from five continents -- playfully presented on stylish, small plates. Oysters poached in sparkling wine, sashimi wrapped in curried aioli, asparagus paired with caviar cream, roasted beetroot with gorgonzola, pine nut and red wine dressing -- all part of an inventive menu that invites what maitre d' Darlene Parker calls "purposeful pauses" between courses. It takes time, after all, to digest not just the food but the experience. At 10:00 p.m., live jazz begins with dinner and dancing lasting well into the night.
The Restaurant, on Deck 4, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with selected evening specialties from Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef Jacques Thorel. This is the traditional dining room, contemporary but classical, and while it seats 456 passengers, it still manages to feel roomy. Seating is open at all meals so passengers can choose when -- and with whom -- to dine.
Breakfast is what you might expect: eggs to order, freshly baked breads and pastries, pancakes, waffles, fruit, yogurt, cereals and a selection of sausage, bacon, and corned beef. The menu includes a "wellness option." At breakfast, that could mean couscous with honey and dates, grilled peaches topped with fresh honey, or a low-fat milk smoothie.
With its incredibly varied menu, lunch in The Restaurant has something for everyone. Every day, the chef recommends a three-course selection. Here's one for the record books: to start, a tower of marinated crab meat accented with avocado, poached quail egg and American caviar, followed by cauliflower cream soup with vegetable pearls, and finished with slow-roasted goose in a raspberry jus. Of course, there are desserts as well: pink Champagne sorbet, pastries, a low-calorie fruit gratin and a selection of cheese. There is also a daily carving trolley (marinated short ribs one day, salmon coulibiac the next) and Oriental specialties such as Thai seafood and vegetable stir-fry and Malaysian beef curry. Vegetarian selections are part of the mix, among them a leek and emmental tart with baby leaf and walnut salad. Wellness options on the luncheon menu include pan-fried chicken medallions with crab topping and salsa or a char-grilled chicken and vegetable salad.
One thing I appreciated about lunch was the reasonable portion size. There's nothing outsize about them. Some diners will also find it useful that the wellness options include a per-serving calorie, fat and carbohydrate count.
As for the dinner menu, each one features three signature dishes created by Chef Thorel, who owns L'Auberge Bretonne in France. Imagine, if you will, beef filet mignon with foie gras-poached potatoes and shallot jam, a layered partridge tart with Rouennaise sauce, and wild boar ragout with porcini mushrooms. Who knew wild boar was a wellness option? It's just 198 calories per serving with four grams of fat and seven carbs. In fact a number of the wellness options were quite inventive, including the smoked eel tower with lemon salad and the fresh salmon tartare with passion fruit infusion. In addition to "La Collection du Monde" dishes, which made their debut on Silver Spirit and have since rolled out fleetwide, there are other items both on the menu -- and off -- to explore. Have a hankering for pomme frites and they're not on the menu? Just ask. One thing Silver Spirit executive chef Jerome Foussier also pays close attention to is buying locally. On our cruise, that translated into plenty of Mexican tilapia, fresh tuna and mahi mahi dishes.
One of the most surprising elements about the dining line-up involves, of all things, the popular buffet-style breakfast and lunch in La Terrazza on Deck 7, which offers both indoor and al fresco dining. Call it the un-buffet as it's a completely different experience from most grab-and-go buffet bars. This one is absolutely service-focused with kitchen staffers distributing an array of hot items, passengers selecting their own choices from a variety of "cold" bars, and waiters carrying guests' plates to an appointed table and taking special orders if asked. Much of what appears on The Restaurant menu is also offered here. In fact, breakfast options, are pretty much identical.
Lunch is another matter, which leads me back to that word associated with Silver Spirit: big. Consider this hot bar selection: roasted beef, endive upside down tart, pizza, meatloaf, gratinated mussels, pasta, grilled ostrich medallions, roasted pumpkin soup and Thai beef stir-fry. On top of that there's a daily selection of wraps, sushi and sashimi, salads, cheeses and desserts.
At night, La Terrazza features an Italian menu that's been enhanced on Silver Spirit to offer a regional selection of Italian antipasti, a wide variety of handmade grano duro pasta and specially selected cheeses. There's also a wine-food pairing recommended with each course that contributes nicely to la dolce vita. Starters include traditional fare such as beef carpaccio, caprese salad and salami and cold cuts served with Tuscan bread. Incredibly, there are six pasta offerings, among them: Ligurian ravioli with a vegetable and herb filling and topped with walnut sauce; parpadelle pasta with duck ragout; and linguine with seafood and fresh tomatoes. The post-pasta course includes veal scaloppini, the fresh catch and grilled fillet of salmon. And what would dessert be without tiramisu, amaretto flan and pistachio creme brulee? The menu remains the same for 10 days, then changes.
The poolside grill, on Deck 9, features the just-introduced Wellness Breakfast offering smoothies, blended fruit and vegetable drinks, and a smattering of low-calorie entrees like cumin-scented egg-white omelette Florentine. It's a nice option for people who want to eat right after an early morning workout. The grill, open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., does a big business at lunch with casual fare including a variety of pasta dishes, all-in-one salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, hot dogs and grilled salmon, steak and chicken breast.
Notably, the in-suite menu, available 24 hours a day, is the same as the poolside grill's although you can order from The Restaurant's menu during dining hours. There is also room service breakfast, served from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Along with wellness options found on the poolside grill menu, there is a wide selection of juices, freshly baked bread, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereals, pancakes, waffles, eggs and pork products.
Last but not least is Le Champagne, a 24-seat wine restaurant with menus prepared in partnership with the Relais & Chateaux cooking school. It's a splurge. With premium wine pairings, this upscale experience costs $200 per person. For the meal only, it's $30 per person with bottles offered for purchase separately. Dining at Le Champagne revolves around luxury seasonal ingredients such as truffles, foie gras and, on the night we dined, asparagus. The menus had our names printed on them, a neat touch that speaks volumes about Silver Spirit's gold standard when it comes to service. Four of the six cleverly presented courses involved asparagus, including asparagus consomme with a truffle-coated scallop, shellfish with asparagus sorbet and smoked salmon with asparagus tips. Once again, the food is so beautifully arranged you hate to even disturb it.