Updated: Apr 1
Ports of call are not the only way of traveling while cruising; gastronomy is another way too. That’s the reason why we usually find multiple proposals around local flavors, as well as exotic ones. Those tend to be part of the specialty dining offer onboard, at an extra charge.
One of the classics we find in many cruise lines is the Teppanyaki: grilled Japanese cuisine. The unique thing about these restaurants is that, beyond the Japanese flavors, show cooking is part of the experience. The interaction between chefs and guests makes it special, with acrobatics between ingredients and utensils. A culinary spectacle.
In my case, I recently tried the experience aboard Costa Smeralda. Main restaurants tend to be that good that I don't usually consider specialty dining, but I was curious about it. They work with reservations, so seating is quick once you arrive. You sit down around a grill with other guests and the show begins, right after choosing your menu. At Costa, we were offered three proposals: the classic menu, the vegetarian one, and the chef special.
All of them start with some appetizers (in Japanese, otoshi): miso soup, wakame salad with beetroot vinaigrette, and edamame - Japanese soybeans. The difference between menus is the main courses. We chose the chef special menu, which included two main courses, with fried rice and vegetables on the side. Something to highlight was the fast adaptation to some intolerances some guests had.
In my case, I ordered duck fillet with asparagus, soy sauce, and red padded; and prawns in ankake sauce flavored with yuzu. For dessert, Japanese green tea ice cream on crispy banana tempura. The cost of the menu, 38€. To drink, we could use our beverage pack, something that other cruise lines do not offer in specialty restaurants. I would highlight the prawn dish (in general, I think seafood is the perfect choice for this type of cooking, much juicier than meat). The rice was delicious and was perfect for the sauces.
Beyond the menu, the cooking experience was a constant show. Our chef had a special charisma, just like the rest of the cookers. They all were playing with the utensils, making acrobatics with eggs, and even singing while cooking at a frenetic rhythm. COVID wasn't a stopper to live the full experience: beyond a glass wall, we could even still catch flying pieces of food with our mouth as part of the show.
If you are looking for an intimate and relaxed moment, Teppanyaki is not for you. The ambient during the dinner is joyful and festive, kind of noisy, and very interactive with other guests. The flavors were delicious and the chefs looked incredibly experienced.
I enjoyed the dinner even though I would not repeat the experience onboard. I mean, this is one of those things you need to try once. Considering there are other specialty restaurants and the quite elevated price (remember we are "missing" an included dinner and paying extra 30-40€ each), I would try other proposals. I had fun beyond the food, and the overall experience was great.
I would like to give a special shoutout to all those cookers behind the grills that put all their passion into the cooking show night after night. Remember to compliment the chef!