Cruising Cuisine II – A Review

by artfuldiner on February 14, 2023

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Culinary Criticism, Opinion, Special Events, Wining and Dining

As I mentioned in a previous article, cruising – like other forms of travel – has its advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage is, of course, that you Silversea Silver Whispermust endure the onerous rigors of unpacking/packing only once. Also, however – and certainly not a minor consideration – is the fact that you need not worry about the possible consequences of indulging in a wee bit too much vino over dinner, as the comfort of your stateroom is just a step or two away.

On the other hand, one of the major disadvantages – at least from my perspective as a food, wine, and travel writer – is that, apart from a few shore excursions that may include an excellent lunch, afternoon high tea, or other epicurean delights, one is limited to the culinary vicissitudes of your ship’s floating kitchen(s). And, given the length of some cruises, it is no exaggeration to assume that the quality of the food may owe infinitely more to creative cryogenics rather than innovative cookery.

My most recent encounter with cruise line cuisine occurred aboard Silversea’s Silver Whisper on a 12-day voyage from Reykjavik, Iceland, to London. Silver Whisper - BarSilversea is obviously intent upon providing a more sophisticated/upscale environment for its passengers, especially during dinner services, as it spells out the preferred proper dress code – casual, informal, formal – in its daily bulletins. During the several “formal” evenings, for example, ladies are expected to wear either cocktail dresses or pantsuits; for gentlemen, tuxedos, dinner jackets, or dark suits & ties are considered de rigueur (Pictured: Silver Whisper’s Bar, traditional gathering place for preprandial libations).

There are several venues for onboard dining… The Restaurant, the ship’s main dining area, is both elegant and airy, sporting floor-to-ceiling windows and Silver Whisper - Main Restaurantsparkling chandeliers (pictured). The Restaurant offers a traditional breakfast menu; lunch features appetizers, soups, pastas, hearty salads, wraps, carving du jour, entrées, and an Asian specialty. Dinner is more comprehensive, with “formal” nights offering an array of possibilities. Guests can expect a suggested four-course menu showcasing a particular country, special evening recommendations, fresh fish & meats, and vegetarian options. And, although the onboard cuisine generally had its ups and downs, The Restaurant – which had significantly more ups than downs – proved to be our favorite haunt for dinner.

Appetizers were especially notable. Our first evening onboard, for example, I began with Asparagus Ravioli in Silver Whisper Cuisine - Fantasia of SalmonCream Sauce, my dining partner with Shrimp Salad. Both were excellent. Other winners included Study of Artichokes, Velouté of Tomatoes, Chef’s Salad with Mandarin Orange Dressing, Spring Rolls, Stockfish (Cod) Croquettes, Pear & Blue Cheese Salad, and the spectacular Fantasia of Salmon (pictured) that was as photogenic as it was delicious. There was an occasional clinker – like the Welsh Rarebit that needed more cheese, or the ho-hum take on Foie Gras – but, for the most part, starters were definite high points.

… As were the delightfully innovative desserts. Items such as Walnut Cake with Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Silver Whisper Cuisine - Death by Chocolate BuffetRaspberry Mousse, Lemon Meringue Tart, Orange Cake with Mandarin Orange Ice Cream, Rice Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Blueberry Almond Tart proved to be marvelous conclusions to our evenings at table and feasts for the eye as well as the palate. Without doubt, however, for true dessert addicts, the pièce de résistance was the incomparable “Death by Chocolate Buffet” (pictured) served up in the ship’s Panorama Lounge. Kudos to the pastry chef.

So much for the culinary “ups.” However, with the arrival of the entrées, the “downs” became a tad more Silver Whisper Cuisine -Beef Bourguignonprominent. As I mentioned above, our first dinner onboard began with two first-rate dishes, Asparagus Ravioli in Cream Sauce and Shrimp Salad, respectively. Unfortunately, these two excellent efforts were followed by a so-so Corvina, a white-fleshed fish that is similar to sea bass. Like the majority of items that emerge from Silver Whisper’s kitchens, this one was beautifully presented… but it was also totally devoid of flavor. Conversely, the very next evening, the kitchen served up an absolutely superb Beef Bourguignon (pictured), which was thoroughly enjoyed.

“A foolish consistency,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson once remarked, may very well be “the hobgoblin of little Silver Whisper Cuisine - Spiced Lamb Cubesminds…” It is, however, the absolute sine qua non of a successful restaurant. And it is precisely at this point that Silversea’s main dining room – and numerous other floating eateries – seem to fall short. There is absolutely no question that Silver Whisper’s kitchen, for example, turned out a number of excellent entrées: Their Yellow Stuffed Pepper with risotto topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce was absolutely first-rate. Ditto the Scallops of Veal, Wiener Schnitzel, Shepherd’s Pie, Grilled Branzino, and Spiced Lamb Cubes Rosh (pictured), a superlative Indian recipe… But then… the Swordfish on a Bed of Spinach was woefully overcooked, and the Steak & Ale Pie (which is similar to the aforementioned Shepherd’s Pie but also sports a piecrust) was as dry as a bone and in desperate need of a resuscitating gravy infusion.

On a brighter note, a complimentary red and white wine are poured nightly, or you may choose a different complimentary bottle or order from the premium wine list. On one particular evening, not happy with the evening pours, we sampled a Chenin Blanc & Pinotage from South Africa, both excellent. On another evening, we ordered a bottle of white Burgundy, Joseph Drouhin Mácon-Bussiéres Les Clos 2020; and we enjoyed it so much that the wine steward, Amis, had another bottle placed in our stateroom fridge at no extra charge.

La Terrazza is the venue for Silver Whisper’s breakfast and lunch buffet, with a menu similar to that of The Restaurant. At lunch, diners are offered an array of sushi, shellfish, smoked fish, high-end deli meats & cheeses, an expansive salad bar, carving station du jour, numerous hot dishes, and desserts. A gluten-free station is also prominently featured.

At night, however, La Terrazza is transformed into a reservations-only Italian restaurant with an intimate romantic ambience. The evening is likely to Silver Whisper Cuisine - Complimentary Charcuteriebegin with a glass of Prosecco, complimentary charcuterie (pictured) & bread basket. House-made pasta may be ordered as either an appetizer or entrée. Main courses include such items as King Prawns with Cognac and Grilled Duck Breast. Desserts showcase Gelati, Italian Cheeses, and Chocolate Molten Cake.

We enjoyed three dinners at La Terrazza and, like the main dining room, it generally provided more palpable hits than misses. The disappointments were minimal – a so-so Eggplant Parm entrée… and the Insalata Caterina de Medici (mesclun salad, arugula, cherry tomatoes, walnuts), which seemed to promise much but delivered little.

The soups here, however – Lentil and Rich Tomato – were first-rate and made excellent starters… ditto my dining partner’s Caprese Salad and my Pasta Silver Whisper Cuisine - Lasagna alla Bolognesewith Pesto. Other high points included: Mushroom Tart; Scallops of Veal; Grilled Branzino; La Nostre Conserve, tuna-stuffed bell peppers, porcini mushrooms, and Tomino cheese; Penne all’ Amatriciana, homemade penne pasta, pig’s cheeks, fresh tomato sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, and red pepper; and a superlative Lasagna alla Bolognese, lasagna pasta, Bolognese sauce, Bechamel sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh herbs (pictured).

Over the course of our three evenings at table, we sampled several excellent wines… a first-class Nero d’Avola from Sicily; an Orvieto, a white wine produced in the region located in Umbria and Lazio that is a blend of Grechetto and Trebbiano; and a superbly succulent Valpolicella.

Silver Whisper Cuisine - Limoncello CakeBut the real stars of the show were the beautifully prepared and presented desserts. If you want to keep it simple, for example, there’s Baklava accompanied by a scoop of Gelato, which is made onboard, by the way. Then, of course, there’s the Cannoli – crispy fried pastry tubes with ricotta cheese, pistachios, candied fruit, and chocolate chips – and the decadently rich Cream Puffs. Nothing, however, quite comes close to the incomparably deliciously Limoncello Cake (pictured). Downright addictive, it simply bewitches the taste buds. Not to be missed.

The Grill is a casual alfresco restaurant located on deck 8 next to the pool and the hot tubs. At lunch, diners Silver Whisper Cuisine - Grill Entreesmay choose from sandwiches, salads, burgers, hot dogs, and grilled fish specials. On sea days, poolside lunch buffets are enhanced with live music.

The big drawing card here, however, is dinner, which features wildly popular hot rock dining, where passengers cook meat, fish, or vegetables over a hot lava stone. The server provides some cooking instructions… he also drapes you in an apron to protect your clothing. Diners begin with a choice of salad and then have a go at the grilled items accompanied by a number of sauces and side dishes.

The Grill certainly makes for an interesting dining experience, especially for families with children… But there are some drawbacks. First of all, the starter salads are basically generic and nothing to write home about. Secondly, timing is a major issue. By the time you finish cooking your entrée – in my case the filet – your side dishes are cold and must be sent back to the kitchen to be reheated. By the time your side dishes make a reappearance, your entrée could very well be half eaten or cold – or both.

Silver Whisper Cuisine - The Grill Apple TartBut take heart, the best is yet to come, as desserts are a high point. And, as you would probably surmise from the alfresco ambience and unpretentious cookery, they tend to be on the casual side. We sampled the Cheesecake and Apple Tart with Cinnamon Ice Cream (pictured), and both were sublime in their simplicity – but feasts for the eye as well as the palate.

Paying a visit to The Grill? My advice… sit back and relax, take in the sea air, sip a little vino, forget the damn lava stone – and all the possible grief attendant thereto – and let the chef do the cooking.

La Dame is Silver Whisper’s bastion of haut French cuisine. The setting is diminutive with a maximum capacity of 24 diners; and there is but one seating. The table is yours for the evening.

The menu is a showcase of luxuriant ingredients, with appetizers ranging from caviar to foie gras to lobster salad and a variety silky, intensively-flavored soups. Entrees are equally sumptuous, headlined by Limousin beef from France – ranked as one of the world’s best – served with truffles. Breads are unique to La Dame and are accompanied by creamy Normandy butter. The meal may be concluded with an assortment of French cheeses and/or the star dessert, a Grand Marnier soufflé. The quality of the presentations is commensurate with that of the ingredients; so, as you can well imagine, photo ops abound.

But – and it seems like there’s always a “but” – whereas all meals at the above-mentioned restaurants – as well as room service and an elegant afternoon tea served daily in the Promenade Lounge – are included in the price of your cruise, dinner at La Dame sports at $60.00 surcharge per passenger, per visit. The added cost, however, apparently does little to diminish demand; as, once onboard, reservations are notoriously difficult to come by. It’s best to book online before sailing.

Silver Whisper - La DameIn their assessment of La Dame, Cruise Critic offered up only two negative assessments… First of all, they noted that the wines matched up with what was available in The Restaurant… but thought – as I do – that they should have been a “notch above.” Secondly… the real bone of contention is a flaw in the seating design. The tables, arranged in a circle and often occupied by all couples, are situated in such a way so that everyone’s back is to the wall, staring into the center of the room at other couples, rather than facing each other.  The suggestion has been made – and I think it is certainly worthy of consideration – that a more intimate arrangement needs to be forthcoming. As you may observe from the photo above, the setting isn’t terribly romantic. Perhaps screens between tables and the addition of flowers and/or candlelight would add considerably to the ambience.

So… is La Dame worth the added expenditure…? Only your pocketbook knows for sure.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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