Day 2 (21 Sep 21)
Travel during Covid isn’t easy. Travel to foreign countries during Covid presents several unique challenges, like can we even get in to restaurants or shops? Well, the answer to this is maybe. It depends on the country you are going to and the country you are coming from. Are you vaccinated? Have you been tested within the past 3-days? Do you have a Covid QR code for the country, if required? Argh! So many questions. Will someone just hand me the wine please?! Thankfully, dining on a cruise ship does have advantages to all of this. Although you have to wear your mask when you leave your state room, you are able to enjoy dining without it. And since Privee is tucked away in it’s own quiet corner, it was even easier and more comfortable to put the mask away and really enjoy our experience.
Privee is deemed the “ultimate chef’s table”, an exclusive dining experience by Oceania Cruises and did not disappoint. Let me preface this by saying that I have only had one other Chef’s table experience, so I don’t have a lot to benchmark this against, but it was awesome. That being said, it does cost extra to book the room and wine pairing is not included in the cost. This specific dining experience was booked in honor of a birthday celebration for our new extended family member (my husband’s son’s new mother-in-law). So it was a special occasion, which I feel justifies the extra nugget.
The room was absolutely spectacular, designed by Versace (I think?). I mean, I don’t think it was by the actual Versace, but likely someone from the design company…but what the hell do I know? The table was incredible! Stark white with a beautiful red design in the middle. Clean and structural. Not typically my style, but it worked and definitely set the mood for the structured, coursed meal to follow.
First of all, what the hell is Amuse Bouche? I will start with my definition…I think it should mean “happy mouth”. But I think it is supposed to mean a single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre that is different from appetizers because they aren’t actually ordered off of a menu. The chef provides them to compliment and prepare you for the meal to come. We were provided with a tempura battered shrimp (yes “a”, meaning one Shrimp) with a lemon confit (meaning it was cooked in duck fat) and some sort of a basil type sauce. I assume it was a basil based sauce because there was a singular piece of basic on the top of the shrimp. I want to say it was brilliant, but to be honest it tasted a little flat. The tempura shrimp felt like it had been prepared an hour or so ahead of time, so it was cool and the batter was blah. The confit lemon didn’t really add much to the dish. The basil sauce was tasty, but short of dragging my finger through the sauce to savor it, the entire dish just didn’t work. Have you ever had cold McDonald’s fries? Think about that in your mouth. Now think about piping hot McDonald’s fries with the perfect amount of salt. You probably have the idea now. It could have been magical, but instead it missed the mark. My mouth was not amused and I only prayed that it would get better.
On to the second course, a Soufflé Au Fromage or Cheese Soufflé. I’m honestly not sure I have enough room to entirely convey this experience. I’ll start with the presentation. The Chef came in to present the soufflé and tell us a little bit about the dish, which was a very nice touch. I mean it just looked like an ordinary soufflé, and judging from the starting dish, I wasn’t sure what was so special about it? Then the dining room lead, began to prepare the soufflé for serving table side. This was a cool experience. I probably would have destroyed the thing. I can’t even cook an adequate soufflé, so serving one…I wouldn’t even know where to start. Needless to say, they did an amazing job. Slow and methodical, akin to some sort of serving foreplay. Can I say “foreplay” in a food blog?
The Soufflé was served with the same basil type sauce that was served in the Amuse Bouche and let me say it was way more incredible with the soufflé! Holy crap, I actually wept when I had my first bite. I’m not sure how weeping and foreplay go hand in hand, but I’ll just move on now. I felt a little foolish with a tear or two trickling down my face, but good god the flavor with the sauce was delicate and practically disappeared after it hit my tongue. This was the magic I was looking for! Yes, Yes, YES! I’ll have THAT again please 🙂 I’m sure my family thinks I’m insane, but I WEPT.
After pounding the entire serving of soufflé, we moved on to the third course Risotto de Homard, which is a fancy way for saying lobster risotto. The risotto was absolutely delicious, although I can’t quite get used to “al dente” cooked rice. I know its the correct way to prepare but I still like rice best when it is well cooked and a little sticky. Anyone else out there feel the same? Back to the risotto, the flavor was excellent, I assume the sauce it was cooked in was likely a lobster bisque or something. The Lobster was wonderful, delicate, and prepared perfectly.
Now, I try to take the best pics possible and realize that the risotto probably doesn’t look that great (I had one comment that it looked like vomit), but the flavor was on point. So I get it, I will sort out how to take a better risotto pic next time.
The fourth course was a Bar en Croute, or Sea Bass filet in puff pastry crust, with beurre blanc sauce and holy shit… We will call this the bonus course. This was an optional dish, with Filet de Boeuf Roti being the other option. I actually chose the Beef filet, but because the fish was a large dish there was plenty to share, so everyone wins!
Delicately, they cut through the flaky pastry shell. My brain immediately registered, that this was not freezer aisle store bought puff pastry! Some pastry angel, flapped her (or his) wings and created this master piece. I didn’t even care how the fish tasted, because the pastry was so perfect. Actually, I did care and the fish was juicy and masterfully prepared. I was genuinely impressed. But wait! This wasn’t even my dinner choice!! I had more.
MY fourth course choice, was just coming out and I wasn’t sure how the hell I was going to eat another main course. None-the-less I pressed on, and the Filet De Boeuf Roti (roasted beef tenderloin, foie gras, truffle sauce, sauce perigourdine) arrived and was blowing me kisses. Was that foie gras on top? NO! It couldn’t be. Oh, man, it totally was foie gras. Not my cheap chicken liver version, but the real thing, straight from the goose. And look, I know there are plenty of folks out there that follow the plight of the foie gras goose and I am truly sorry that it tastes so good. But it does and I was not going to waste this poor goose’s life, so enjoy it I did!
This filet of beef was damn delish! Like knock your socks off delish. Cooked medium rare and the liver… I mean foie gras was exactly the right pairing with this dish! The foie gras added just the ideal amount of fat needed to compliment the beef filet. In the picture above, the white stuff is truffle sauce and it was exactly the bit of flavor needed to elevate this dish one notch more. It would seem the soufflé that literally made me cry was a million miles away and had happened years ago, not two courses ago! But wait…there’s more!
The fifth course was being teed up before I could even finish the last bite. Brie De Meaux Aux Noix Et Laitue (Boston lettuce hearts) was waiting in the wings. Now I know this doesn’t sound like much, but one of the take aways from a European vacation is observing how different cultures experience food. I love the salad course being at the end. A couple of points with this order. First, it actually helps with digestion to eat salad last. Especially when you use a vinegar based salad dressing. The vinegar helps to kick start the digestion process, which leads to point two. If you enjoy a good glass of vino with your meal (who doesn’t), then you definitely want to eat your salad last as the acid in vinegar reacts with the acid in wine changing the flavor. There. Now you can say you actually learned something from this blog post!
The salad was served with a large piece of brie type cheese, but I was so stuffed, I could barely get the salad down. Also, I didn’t get any pictures of the salad, but I did get a few pictures of the excellent wine!
If you are still hanging in there with me for this post, then first off thank you and secondly…yes, there is more!
The sixth and almost last course was the Mille-Feuilles (birthday girl’s favorite), with a raspberry sauce (my new favorite)! I will call this the first dessert course. This is basically a French Napoleon dessert. It is prepared with a custard between the layers and this one had the best raspberries I’d ever eaten nestled in between the layers. Each layer was a slightly flaky very delicate piece of heaven. The raspberry sauce was surprisingly not sweet but an excellent compliment to the custard. The custard was light and fluffy, not the heavy stuff I’m used to with these types of desserts.
The last dessert course was an offering of several petit fours. And if you ask me, they could have just let this part out, but since we are headed to France tomorrow, this is a wonderful homage to our next stop, so when in France- nom, nom, nom!
This FINALLY concludes our amazing dining experience at Privee. In summation, do the Chef’s table. Wherever you are and whenever you can, if there is a special occasion, then go for it…or BE the Chef’s table and create your own experience at home. I will share some super easy recipes that mirror this experience soon, so check back!