Food on Viking Polaris is varied and delicious, although people who have been on the ocean ships will see some familiar favorites. All of the restaurants are included in the fare, although oddly, Viking Polaris designates its main dining room, The Restaurant, as a specialty and requires reservations. This can be annoying -- and walk ups are usually accommodated -- but on an expedition ship when the daily program can deviate completely, the casual World Café and its stations are a great default.
Once during our sailing when the weather was nice, the Viking dining staff put on an outdoor BBQ featuring upscale surf & turf: lobster tails, shrimp, sea bass and T-bone steaks. Does food taste better when you're south of the Antarctic Circle? We think it does.
House wines are available at both lunch and dinner. If you have the Silver Spirits package, you can choose other wines by the glass; we never had a problem with the staff getting us the varietal we wanted.
World Café. The Viking buffet has been expanded and upgraded on Viking Polaris, with more differentiation between its stations. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served here, although be careful if you eat on the late side or have later expedition activities; the staff starts shutting things down around 8:30 p.m.
Pastries, breads and specialty lunch items are available toward the front of the World Café. Make sure you check what's new. One lunch on our sailing featured a full chocolate buffet, while another lunch had mussels in white wine sauce on order. The gelato station is here, and the staff will actually make rolled ice cream sundaes, similar to what you might find at Cold Stone Creamery.
The main buffet section changes daily, with different hot and cold choices. There's a large salad bar, with pleasing extras such as anchovies for those who love them.
Toward the back of the World Café, you'll find two stations that almost present as mini-restaurants on their own. The first of these is the Grill. At lunch, you can choose from a variety of burgers and hot sandwiches, or build your own, along with excellent French fries and onion rings. At night, though, the Grill comes alive with a plethora of choices. Have grilled lobster tail every evening if you want; the version here was better than what we found in the fancier restaurants downstairs. There's also a Tomahawk steak and other cuts of meat that you can order.
On the other side, you'll find an expanded Sushi and cold seafood bar. Rolls, sashimi, seaweed salad and miso soup are available every evening. The seafood bar has piles of King crab legs, langoustines, shrimp, octopus salad and more. Don't forget the drawn butter.
The Restaurant. The elegant main dining room has two menus, one that changes every day and one with classic favorites. Service can be a bit slow, but the food is generally worth the wait. If you didn't pack fancy duds in your expedition suitcase, no worries -- most people dress fairly casually (although jeans are still frowned upon). Even on a day when you're running in and out of the rain or snow, it can be nice to sit down to a non-buffet multi-course meal (and don't worry, the portions aren't too big). If you see Chilean sea bass topped with crabmeat on the menu, order it.
Manfredi's. The Italian steakhouse that's popular on Viking's ocean ships is replicated onboard Viking Polaris. Meals here start with a fantastic bread basket filled with perfectly salted breadsticks, focaccia and rolls. But don't eat too much, there's still appetizers, pasta, a main course and a dessert to get through. We love the pastas that can be ordered half size, as well as the duck and Dover sole. End with tiramisu and you'll sleep well that night.
Mamsen's. The cute Norwegian café named for Chairman Torstein Hagen's mother has a slightly larger space on Viking Polaris. You can get sandwiches and sweets here from mid-morning until around 5 p.m., and then some late-night soup. If you're missing the afternoon tea that's served in the Wintergarden on the ocean ships, note that you can get it here, along with scones and clotted cream. Sadly, the Mamsen's waffles are not made-to-order like they are on the ocean ships, but you can make your own, along with the requisite brown Norwegian cheese and sour cream.
Room Service. Viking Polaris has a room service menu available 24 hours that includes the Chairman's Special of poached salmon. Breakfast can be ordered the night before from a door hanger.
Fish and seafood are standouts in all Viking Polaris venues; salmon and sea bass were consistently delicious. We thought we would miss being in the main dining room, but we loved the expanded Sushi bar, as well as the Grill, and could have been content having all of our meals here. That being said, there's something about a white-tablecloth meal with solicitous service when you're sailing at the literal end of the earth. Make sure you make time to go both Manfredi's and the Restaurant.
Viking Polaris makes it easy for people with food allergies to know right away what's available. All items in the World Café are labeled for ingredients such as gluten, nuts and seafood. In the Restaurant, items are labeled vegetarian, gluten free or no sugar; gluten-free bread is available on request. Waiters in all venues ask about allergies or sensitivities before you order.