Updated: Jan 29
A few weeks ago we talked about the changes that were coming to the Costa Cruises fleet, including new gastronomicexperiences. In this post, we will get to know the new Archipelago proposal, which arrived at the Costa Smeralda andwhich recently arrived too to Costa Firenze at the Ristorante Casanova. In a few days, it will be featured at CostaLuminosa, replacing the classic Ristorante Samsara, as well as it will in the rest of the ships.
Archipelago is directly inspired by the sea, destinations, and sustainability. In it, a gastronomic proposal designed by three award-winning chefs comes together: Hélène Darroze, from France; Bruno Barbieri, from Italy; and Ángel León, from Spain, also known as El Chef Del Mar (The Chef of the Sea). Each offers a five-course menu, dessert included, with a wine pairing option.
The space in Smeralda has been redesigned with natural elements recovered from the sea, and for each menu, a contribution is made to the Costa Crociere Foundation, which carries out social and environmental projects. On ships like Firenze, the space already existed as Ristorante Casanova but the gastronomic offer and the service are new. In it, we find great inspiration in the style of Michelin-recognized restaurants, with some dishes finished at the table, many waiters, and some products or techniques typical of haute cuisine.
All menus start with the same appetizer, a bubble that explodes and reveals a vegetable juice with veggie spheres. The taste is simple and pretty flat, but it's a surprising way to start the menus. In addition, the experience is complemented by a varied selection of bread, which I loved.
I had no chance to try the Darroze menu, but we will quickly review it. According to Hélène, her proposal is based on the search for new ingredients and flavors to experiment with. Specifically, she tells us about Passito di Pantelleria, a DOC wine that she integrates into one of the dishes.
The Darroze menu consists of the following dishes: red tuna tartare with ginger; vol-au-vent with carabineros red prawns; confit cod with garlic oil; duck breast with sultan's spices; and babà soaked in Armagnac Darroze. Without a doubt, I have it pending for the next time because every one of the dishes looks very good. Also, her dishes that were served some nights in the main restaurant were delicious, with deep and balanced flavors.
We move from France to Italy with a menu that, according to Bruno, is based on his roots from the past and his look to the future. In particular, he speaks about the Tropea onion, an Italian PGI variety unique for its growth in lands near the sea. In this case, I was able to see and taste the menu by my companion.
It consists of sea scallop fritter with zucchini scapece; gramigna with aubergines and sausage; lobster salad with peaches and pancotto; lamb chops with black truffle; and milk cake with caramel.
I would positively highlight the fritter, the flavor of the gramigna, and the texture of the meat. I was expecting more from the salad and the dessert. Overall, I would summarize the Barbieri menu as good, with more traditional and perhaps less surprising flavors, but very well executed. Ideal for those who want to try the experience without risking too much to try something more exotic.
I want to end with the menu I ordered, Ángel León's menu, clearly inspired by the sea and the cuisine and research he carries out in his land, Cádiz. The leading ingredient could not be other than plankton, the origin of the marine flavor. I had never had the opportunity to try it, and I have to recognize I was quite afraid I may not like it since it is present in almost all dishes.
We started the menu with a roll of puffed plankton bread and marine ham. It is something halfway between a muffin and a bread, with plankton powder and accompanied by what looks like ham but is actually a piece of tuna treated like Spanish ham. In fact, it is served in front of you by cutting the piece as if it was a regular ham, something really surprising. You fall in love with its flavor and texture from the first bite. What a wonderful way to begin.
We continue with a sea urchin cream, sea urchin crudité, plankton hollandaise sauce and citrus crème fraiche. It is a cold dish like the previous one and it plays with the textures and a deep-sea flavor, similar to the taste of mussels. If you are a fan of cold seafood, this dish will not disappoint you.
We reached the middle of the menu with the sea-stuffed squid ravioli, potato and squid cream, and potatoes confit with squid ink. The first thing that surprised me is that the ravioli consisted of a thin layer of squid instead of pasta. I would describe the dish as a smooth and pleasant flavor that plays with the different textures and the perfect balance between sea and land.
We move on to the last main course, the creamy cuttlefish rice with hydrated plankton. It was topped by three points of an aioli sauce type and that I recommend mixing with the rest of the plate before eating. The flavor is brutally intense, pure cuttlefish with a touch of seaweed but without being excessive. Definitely, the integration of plankton in the dishes makes all the sense, and if you are doubting about trying it, I encourage you to do it because it will surprise you very pleasantly.
We finished with a whipped biscuit cream, milk ice cream quenelle, and cocoa. In this dessert, we move away from the sea with a more classic flavor but that works very well as the end of the experience, just before the petit fours that come on all menus, which we can accompany by a coffee or tea. My overall assessment of Ángel's menu cannot be other than a 10.
Rating of the experience
All menus are priced at €44, with the optional wine pairing for €30 (€22.50 for CostaClub members). It is the specialty restaurant with a higher price of the entire Costa fleet, similar to Teppanyaki, although compared to restaurants of other cruise lines it is a moderate price. I don't usually opt for paid restaurants because the food on the ship is already delicious, but I needed to try this experience and without a doubt, I affirm that I was very satisfied and that I will repeat.
I am looking forward to trying Ángel's menu again since it is a unique and very accessible opportunity to be able to taste his gastronomy and doing it on the high seas is a privilege. The Casanova staff at Firenze were very pleasant and careful at all times, with special mention to Hilton, the maitre who introduced us to the essence of the experience and who together with the entire team made us enjoy like never before on a cruise. Will you give it a try?
Here you have the complete menu that they offered us: