It would be hard to imagine traveling without considering the pleasures of dining on the road. For us, travel means time away from our own kitchen and dining room, and invites us to sample more than just the sights and the sounds – we can taste our travels as well. And when you seek information about dining while away, you usually think about finding restaurant reviews in the cities and countryside where you‘ll be traveling. We’ve had many memorable experiences in wonderful city restaurants as well as some in more off-the-beaten track locales, but one of the most memorable dining experiences we had recently was on board a cruise ship.
As difficult as it may be for some of the more jaded among us to comprehend, cruise ships today are truly entering the competition for dining experiences. Of course we’re not talking about the main dining room where hordes of wait staff flutter about taking hundreds of orders and serving mountains of meals all within an hour and a half time frame – although that experience does have its merits. We’re talking about the continuing move in the cruise industry toward offering more and more inventive ways to entice you away from that main dining room for an experience that you might not be able to have anywhere else. As we’ve discussed previously, the notion of specialty dining spaces on board cruise ships is not without its challenges, but it is also not without its rewards.
Earlier this year we traveled from Puerto Rico through Bermuda and landed in New York aboard the Celebrity Summit. While on board, we had dinner in several of their specialty restaurants, but the one that rewarded us with the most original experience was Qsine.
From the moment we walked into the space we felt a bit like Alice Through the Looking Glass. Surrounded by orange, white and black, we sat beneath a light fixture composed of multiple table lamps – all hung upside down. Then the server brought the menu.
What fun! An iPad menu. This wasn’t the first time we’d ever been handed an iPad at a restaurant (it seems to be a bit of a fad for those that can afford it), but it was the first time that the menu had such interactive capabilities. We were charmed from the start.
A bit like a tasting menu, the selections sounded interesting and different – just what you want when dining is more than simply eating, as it is for us. Then we had a bit of fun with the mixed drinks menu. The iPad allowed us to ‘mix’ the drinks by moving the offered ingredients into the glass on the screen, finishing with ice and then shaking! A great way to get to know your drinks!
After a very entertaining run-down of the menu by the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable wait staff you could encounter anywhere (they seemed to be having as much fun as the rest of us), we chose a variety of their items all designed for sharing. Then the parade began.
Chefs will always tell you that the presentation is as important as the dish itself, and it is true that we experience our food not only through taste and smell, but also through our visual sense. The staff at Qsine seems to have this down to a true art. We’ll leave some of the presentation as a mystery so that you too might experience this some time, but for those of you who might not, we‘ll highlight one particular presentation.
Have you ever had a dish served to you vertically rather than horizontally? Didn’t think so – neither had we until we dined at Qsine.
When the waiter brought the course to the table, he placed something that resembled Patty’s Victorian dollhouse in between us on the table – but with the front wall missing. In each little cubby-hole resided a different tasting dish from the part of the world we’d chosen for that particular course. What fun it was to look, consider and sample the food.
Oh, and about the food? It was one of the most satisfying dining experiences we’ve ever had. It occurred to us that if Celebrity wanted to franchise this concept on land, hip Torontonians and maybe even New Yorkers would flock to just such a spot. Maybe we’ll invest!