Celebrity Eclipse: Qsine - a culinary adventure
There are a number of specialty restaurants, cafes and a bistro on the Eclipse. The one I knew we just could not miss was Qsine. As it turned out, the time went by so fast we did not make it to dinner in either Murano or the Tuscan Grille though I heard glowing comments about the food from other diners. We did get to the Champagne Tea in Murano on the last afternoon of the cruise.
But I am glad we made a point of trying Qsine. The dinner at Qsine was definitely the most interesting and innovative dining that I have enjoyed in any specialty restaurants aboard during my recent cruising experiences. The variety of tastes and textures was simply fantastic and the novel way each dish was presented was exciting to see.
As with any of the specialty restaurants, which on the Eclipse are clustered together on deck 5, there is a surcharge. Because I was already intrigued by the description of Qsine when I read the cruise brochure on-line before departing on my travels, I made a reservation for dinner at that time, paying the $40 cover charge in advance. But you can also reserve once you are on board.
On arrival at the restaurant we were shown to our table and handed an IPad each. You can click on icons for menu, wine or go to your favorite selections. As you browse through the food icons you can add ones that sound appealing to your favorites list. The picture shows what the menu looked like the night we ate at Qsine. Each icon takes you to a description of one of their twenty "palate pleasers."
The first go around I had about 12 of the 20 dishes in my list! Clearly the items on the final list need to be settled on by negotiations with your table mate or mates, as the whole concept involves sharing of dishes. Twelve choices is enough for 2 to 3 separate dinners. Since Pat tends to be more of a herbivore and I am more of a carnivore, there was some intense negotiation to be done to refine our list.
Finally we narrowed it down to 6 dishes, one more than recommended. But we wanted to taste the widest variety possible so we kept the two bigger items; Taj Mahal to get the Indian flavours and the Chitini to get Chinese dishes.
While we waited for our first dish, we enjoyed a glass of wine. My wine selection was the 2009 Conundrum, a white wine blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat from California. The floral fruitiness with a touch of honey was perfect for my palate.
The international nature of the “palate pleasers “ appealed to us. Coming from Vancouver where we have large long-established ethnic Japanese, Chinese and East Indian communities we are accustomed to a plethora of superb quality restaurants that provide outstanding cuisine. So those are the standards by which I tend to judge food when I travel.
As each dish was served in turn, we were impressed by the unique designs and presentations. Of our selection of Qsine dishes we both liked the sushi lollipops best. The individual maki slices were perfect, not too heavy on the rice and with tasty interiors. They also looked appealing. The sushi lollipops were accompanied by little dishes containing tuna tartare and ginger, and a small bottle of soy sauce.
Neither of us liked the lobster escargots, which we had chosen because we both love lobster and enjoy escargot in garlic sauce. The combination into a fritter sounded intriguing but just did not work for me. I did not like the texture and I thought that the essence of both the components was lost. Not even the parsley-garlic butter sauce helped.
The lava crab on the other hand was delightful. It was my second favorite dish. The combination of the Alaska king crab texture with a crunchiness of the sweet yellow corn and scallions. The noodly looking pieces are katalfi, which is a middle-eastern phyllo dough. It was served with Old Bay Lobster sauce.
The treseviche was, of course, three kinds of ceviche. The Tiger Shrimp and Bay Scallops were marinated in lemon juice, tequila and jalapeno oil with tomato and cilantro. It was my least favorite of the three, not just because of the cilantro.
The other two ceviches were delicious and I could have made a meal of either of them alone. Salmon was marinated in yuzu citrus and vodka with cucumber and basil. The sea bass was marinated in lime with XV00 ( a high quality olive oil) and accompanied by avocado and "red onion chocio". I tried to find a translation of the word "chocio" and the closest I could come was corn, in a Chilean dish.
The last two palate pleasers we ordered were also compound dishes, the Taj Mahal, comprised a bounty of Indian dishes and the Chinese-Martini= Chitini, Chinese dishes served in martini glass containers.
The Taj Mahal included Chicken Tikka Marsala, Rogan Josh, Palak Paneer, Chole, Veggie Samosa and shrimp vindaloo. Each came in a conical metal container and the dishes were accompanied by pappadums plus a small container of mango chutney.
The Chitini consisted of 5 dishes in total: Orange Chicken, Kung Pao Shrimp, Beef and Pepper in Black Bean Sauce, Stir fry vegetables, Sweet and Sour Pork; and came with sticky rice in the long silver container.
By the time we had reached the end of our selection we appreciated the suggestion from our server to include several smaller dishes among the larger multi dish selections. In fact we could not even think about dessertbut while we waitied to sign our check they brought us white chocolate-dipped strawberries. They were delicious and who could resist chocolate and strawberry?
Wewanted to get to the 9 pm show in the EclipseTheatre which was described as a "European-style theatrical circus". By the time we tiptoed into the Eclipse Theatre upper level the show was well underway and the seats were all taken so we stood at the back watching for a while. We were in time to catch one incredible balancing act performed on a ladder and another act where the man whirled his partner around around as if she weighed nothing.
When the show finished there was a wealth of choices as far as musical entertainment was concerned. We wavered between the After Hours Quartet, a jazz group playing in the ensemble Lounge, and Uncommon Ground, the "a cappela" group of four guys with amazing voices, singing in the main foyer. But in the end I decided that I was ready for an early night, and got into bed to read the latest Lee Child's novel on my IPad.