Dining is a highlight of the Scenic Spirit experience. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Crystal Dining Room, with cakes and sandwiches available in the River Cafe from about 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Meals are, with few exceptions, excellent; we heard zero complaints from passengers regarding the food onboard Spirit and we enjoyed every meal we had. (OK, the grilled chicken on the classic fare menu was a little dry, but aren't most grilled chicken dishes.)
Dietary restrictions can be catered for, but you should always let Scenic know ahead of time. For some restrictions, like gluten-free, options might be limited by what can be sourced in Asia. (We brought our own gluten-free pasta with us and the chef was over the moon because he cannot get gluten-free pasta over there.) Fish allergies, likewise, are hard for the chef to cater to as most food in Asia is cooked in fish oil. Again, let Scenic know what your requirements are and consider bringing some supplies with you to give to the chef.
Vegetarian options are always available and are delicious.
Crystal Dining Room (Deck 2): The Crystal Dining Room is the main restaurant onboard Scenic Spirit. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here; there are no assigned tables (though set groups form quickly and often dine at the same table night after night) and dinner is just one seating. You'll find two-, four-, six and eight-top tables.
Breakfast and lunch hours vary by the day's touring schedule and are usually buffet style. (On the one long day in Phnom Penh, dinner is provided buffet style and lunch is a la carte.)
Breakfast hours can range from anywhere between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m. Buffet choices include lox, a variety of cheeses, fresh vegetables and fruits, six yogurts, rotating cereals (if you don't see the one you like ask for it), bacon, hash browns, pastries and breads, and an omelet station. There's also an a la carte menu with eggs Benedict, assorted dim sum, waffles, pancakes, French toast and minute steak.
Lunch is usually served from noon to 1:30 p.m., is almost always buffet style and features a selection of starters, salads, soups, main courses, sides, a carving station, a pasta of the day and desserts. Starters might include caviar-stuffed eggs, vegetable sticks in an avocado spread, scallop ceviche, mini chicken pizzas and sushi rolls. There's a make-your-own salad bar, as well as pre-made salads such as green mango and basil, Asian-style curry Waldorf salad or a banana blossom and marinated pork salad. Soups on offer might include miso, hot and sour mushroom, taro root cream soup or lychee and coconut. In the carving station you might find lamb, coconut beef, five-spice chicken or pork belly. Main courses include breaded calamari, bean curd and vegetable cakes, tofu and bok choy, a fish of the day and, our favorite, a cabbage wrap with vegetables and rice noodles for which we asked for the recipe. Sides always include deliciously sauteed vegetables, potatoes and a rice dish. Desserts always include vanilla ice cream and a sherbet or ice cream of the day, as well as a selection of pastries such as banana cake, dragon fruit mousse, bread and butter pudding, dark chocolate and chili mousse, plus handmade milk chocolate and dark chocolate cookies and a selection of international cheeses.
Except for one night in Phnom Penh, dinner service starts at 7 p.m. and typically ends around 9. Similar to lunch, dinners feature starters, soups, a main course and desserts. At the top of every menu (except the Tastes of Asia dinner), is the chef's recommendations for the meal. Starters might include chicken terrine with shrimp crackers, crepes with shrimp and smoked ham, a Vietnamese quiche with salami, soft rice paper roll with prawns and pork or beef salad with herb dressing. Soup choices can include seafood soup with okra in a sweet and sour pineapple broth, cream of broccoli with a peanut froth, cream of vegetable and a tom yum seafood broth. Main course options might be a seafood cassoulet, duck breast cooked in root spices, a bean curd and roast vegetable napoleon, prime beef rib with Asian spices, grilled cobia or barramundi fillet and zucchini picatta.
For dessert, choices might include mango sticky rice and coconut sorbet, chocolate mousse cake, mango creme brulee, and Vietnamese coffee tiramisu. Fresh fruit, ice cream and a cheese platter are also always available for dessert.
Available every night is a small selection classic fare menu with options that include Caesar salad, chicken breast, salmon steak and a sirloin steak that got rave reviews from more people than we could keep track of. All but the salad are served with coleslaw, french fries and an herb butter.
Once per cruise, the chef offers up a Taste of Southeast Asia menu with dishes from Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. Items include Hanoi shrimp fritters, Burmese-style chicken salad, Thai vegetable curry with rice log and Mok Pa' Lao steamed fish in banana leaf with steamed rice and vegetables.
River Cafe: Located on one side of the Spirit Lounge is the so-called River Cafe, which is really just two tables situated next to a couple of glass display cases. Inside, between about 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. are a selection of five or six cakes and six or so sandwiches and wraps. Oddly, the cakes are labeled but the sandwiches are not.
Room Service: There is a 24/7 menu of room service items, as well as a small breakfast menu of consisting only of beverages and pastries. Options include garden salad; the Scenic triple deck sandwich (with chicken, bacon and egg), a tofu club sandwich with tomato and pesto, a Hanoi grilled chicken banh mi (a filled baguette), fresh or deep-fried chicken spring rolls, a soup of the day, three burger choices and minute steak. Room service desserts include assorted cheeses, green tea opera cake, chocolate fudge cake and ice cream. You can also choose to order dinner from the evening's Crystal Dining Room menu if you'd prefer.