Without question, dining on Scenic Eclipse is ambitious and creative -- and absolutely delicious. Under the guidance of executive chef Thomas Goetter, who worked hand in hand with the company as it developed its restaurant concepts, meals are an experience, regardless of which of the eight restaurants you're enjoying. The sheer variety of restaurants onboard is unheard of considering the small number of passengers, yet the food is prepared with great care and passion. The culinary team (which includes two full-time pastry chefs) grows and dehydrates spices onboard.
Meals are heavy on both style and substance, and even the toughest dietary requirements are accommodated with ease, thanks to recipes that naturally require ingredients that are both vegan and allergy friendly. (For example, all cream-based soups onboard use almond milk rather than dairy, while pesto sauces might be prepared with hemp seed rather than nuts.) Each meal on Scenic Eclipse is a delight.
We adore the creative approach to dining -- and if you are lucky enough to get an invitation to the exclusive Chef's Table, it will be a meal you'll talk about for a long time. The only downside of having eight venues (plus 24-hour in-suite dining and an epicurean-class experience) is that, despite a large kitchen staff, meals can take a while to be served. Service in all venues is friendly, even when restaurants are busy.
All restaurants are included in the cost of your cruise, and you can eat at any of them -- except for the Chef's Table -- as often as you'd like. Menus at Elements, Azure Bar & Grill and the Yacht Club change daily, while specialty restaurant menus change about every three to four days. Goetter says it would take people just over a month to eat all the food onboard.
Elements (Deck 4)
Meals: Dinner (D)
Elements is the ship's main restaurant, serving up a menu that is heavy on Italian, along with a variety of five meat and seafood options. You'll have pasta courses, daily specials and homemade bread, along with a rotating selection of desserts. If you're a fan of cheese for dessert, this is the spot to do it: The venue has a separate cheese refrigerator that includes must-trys, like a 24-month aged Parmesan. The menu changes daily, which means if the cod looks great in Canada on Tuesday morning, it could end up on the menu Tuesday night. Elements doesn't require reservations and we saw no waiting on our sailing. Service here is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable.
Yacht Club (Deck 7)
Meals: Breakfast (B), lunch (L)
Located at the back of Deck 7, the Yacht Club is a casual venue serving up breakfast and lunch each day. It's a buffet for both meals. At breakfast, you can find options like scrambled eggs, smoked or pickled fish, grilled potatoes, sausage and bacon, along with cold options such as yogurt, muesli and pastries. You can order eggs a la minute through one of the chefs overseeing the bar (or with your waiter or waitress, who will bring you coffee, tea or juice). At lunch, you'll see a small salad bar and hot selections like fish or pork, along with pasta or potatoes. There isn't a lot of choice, but the options are delicious and filling -- we heard no complaints on our sailing. One bit of weirdness about the layout that we noticed at lunchtime: The salad bar is the first spot most people stop at for lunch, and it's located close to the door, so if a line begins, it quickly stretches out the door, clogging traffic lanes.
Lumiere (Deck 5)
It's rare to find a French restaurant that balances traditional heavy, rich dishes with lighter takes prepared in the French style, but Lumiere does it well. Open only for dinner (and by reservation only), Lumiere offers dishes like frog legs, juicy lamb chops and lobster with cream sauce. The menu is somewhat set; diners choose their entrees and can pick which courses they want. Fans of cheese for dessert will also appreciate Lumiere's offerings: We're still dreaming of the delicious Roquefort with balsamic glaze drizzle.
Arrive early so you can have some bubbly (and an amuse-bouche) at the restaurant's Champagne bar.
Azure Bar & Grill (Deck 5)
Meals: B, L, D
Ostensibly a tapas bar, we love Azure Bar & Grill as an alternative dining venue for when you just don't feel like a formal or drawn-out meal. It's beautifully designed, with lots of natural light and even outdoor space for dining when the weather is pleasant. It also has a sizable bar and gleaming Italian-style coffee machine for excellent espressos and cappuccinos. In the morning, you can order the selection of the day -- perhaps a play on eggs Benedict or a specialty omelet. You also can order eggs your way or pick from a variety of freshly made breads and pastries. Lunch offers premade sandwiches, salads made-to-order or pizza prepared as you like it. Desserts are beautiful and imaginative, with playfully prepared lemon tarts or dark chocolate mousse flecked with gold leaf. Dinner is more traditional tapas, with Spanish staples like hand-carved Iberico ham and olives, along with Parmesan cheese. Rarely crowded, Azure is the only venue that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Koko's (Deck 4)
Meals: L, D
The Asian fusion restaurant is a quiet yet beautiful spot for lunch and dinner. Adorned with captivating floor-to-ceiling art by Hush, the restaurant has a distinct Asian feel. For lunch, passengers can dine on bento boxes with salad, meat skewers or Indian dishes and rice. The lunch menu here changes daily, so if you're a fan of fusion, you can experience plenty of variety. Dinner also offers an assortment of dishes, with lean proteins and seafood, noodles and rice.
Sushi @ Koko's (Deck 4)
A sushi bar within Koko's, this spot seats 10. It's available on a first-come, first-served basis, so if your heart is set on sushi, plan to arrive as soon as it opens for dinner. Your waiter is also your bartender, offering up hot and cold sake, Japanese beers, wine and spirits. The menu is set, starting with edamame and miso soup, and then sashimi and rolls, but you can go off-menu a bit, ordering hand rolls and skipping nigiri, for example. One sushi chef prepares all the sushi by hand in front of cruisers using ingredients flown in from Japan. It does mean you can find yourself waiting between courses, especially if diners arrive at different times and are in different places in their orders. Our favorites were the hand rolls, which were fresh and creative. But, you can expect sushi standards like California or Philadelphia rolls, for example. Also, nonfish eaters will find cooked chicken and beef options if they want to join their sushi-loving friends for a meal.
Teppanyaki @ Koko's (Deck 4)
This private dining room is located at the back of Koko's and has space for up to 10 people around an open grill. Serving up teppanyaki-style dishes, it's a private-dining experience that requires reservations. It offers two seatings a night. Meat and seafood dishes are tossed around a grill, alongside veggies and rice, making for a spirited dinner experience. But, don't go in expecting a Benihana experience; this is more traditional teppanyaki, where food is the focus.
Chef's Table @ Elements (Deck 4)
Tucked unassumingly behind a door in Elements, the Chef's Table is an unforgettable experience. Available by invitation only -- passengers who are staying in the top-level suites or those with the highest loyalty status are most likely to be asked to join -- the Chef's Table takes place about every other night. Seating only 10, it's the smallest dining venue onboard. And, what a meal it is.
Dinner at the Chef's Table is truly a culinary journey designed to echo the ship's journey, from inception to launch, through food. A lot of the menu is based on the principles of molecular gastronomy, though it feels accessible. Perhaps that's because there's an element of interaction required -- you have to do a little work for your food. For example, a foie gras lollipop is served under a mass of sugar-free cotton candy, requiring diners to spritz the dish with raspberry vinegar. When the cotton candy melts over the lollipop, the result is a sublime sweet and tart sauce that pairs perfectly the rich, salty foie gras. Course after course (and there are at least 10 of them) is designed to surprise and delight. The chef tells the story and offers instruction along the way, while his partner -- a skilled sommelier -- pours the wine, carefully selected to match each course. This is the experience you'll be talking about for years.
One of our favorite dining perks on Scenic Eclipse is its 24-hour menu, with hearty items like spaghetti Bolognese and a delicious cheeseburger. You can order from the menu, and your butler will set up your meal in your suite. Or, you can order a room service item to be delivered to a restaurant (like Azure Bar & Grill) if you don't want a faster, more casual option. In addition to the 24-hour menu, there's a breakfast menu, where passengers can order a variety of hot and cold items delivered before they head out for the day. Just fill out a menu card and hang it on your door the night before.