Holland America Fine Dining

| 08.21.12

Certain special dining events offered on every Holland America cruise are "not to be missed" attractions.

The sea bass with caviar from the Chef's Tasting Menu is delectable The dining room on Holland America ships is a lovely room with attentive service. It is spacious and accommodating with many tables for two. But I recommend it most for breakfast where you can get a variety of eggs Benedict, with traditional ham, or salmon, or just spinach for example. It comes with crispy hash browns and hot toast. But for dinner I recommend staying with the simple options such as steak or pasta.

But the one place where Holland America has really honed its act is in the premium dining category. Each ship in the fleet now has a "Pinnacle Grill Restaurant" and a visit there for any meal is more than worthwhile, it is not to be missed. Indeed, I met more than one person who said they dined in the Pinnacle grill at every opportunity.

Holland America is based in Seattle and the Grill's cuisine was originally inspired by the Pacific Northwest; featuring fresh beef and salmon on a regular basis. The restaurant is open for lunch ($10) and dinner ($25 per person) daily, but I also had three distinct and very memorable special event dining experiences there, each with a unique theme. Over time this restaurant has taken on a more diverse role by offering a number of special theme dinners throughout the cruise.

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I sampled the lunch and the dinner menu, and both are exceptional. The Pinnacle Burger on the lunch menu is large enough to keep you satisfied the rest of the day, with what appeared to be almost half a pound of ground round topped with cheddar and four slices of bacon - swimming in a plate of thin and crispy French fries.

The regular dinner menu also offers delicious lamp chops, Dungeness crab cakes, Carpaccio or a land and sea combination with filet mignon and jumbo prawns. The crème brulee dessert was enough for an entire table with three different flavors of custard each below a crust of caramelized sugar thick enough to require a knife.

But the most extraordinary Pinnacle Grill experience is the Le Cirque night when the chefs recreate a menu also served by the famous Le Cirque Restaurant in New York City. The starters include a poached lobster salad with haricot and citrus; a trio of caviar, smoked salmon and fois gras; and a Caesar Salad. The soup course includes a hot butternut squash with huckleberry; or a chilled yogurt with melon.

The main courses tantalize the most: The rack of lamb comes with a pair of two cross-boned medium rare chops atop a goat cheese panisse, artichoke and arugula. The Chateaubriand is delivered still sizzling from the kitchen on a rolling carving cart for the Maitre D' to slice into three succulent strips per guest, plated with a small dome of horseradish flan and sweet and sour baby beets. The three-cheese ravioli is covered in a meatless fresh tomato-basil red sauce. Finally, chicken under a brick is a tall stack of carved baked chicken in a ginger-honey au jus.

Lamb chops

The desserts include "Crème Brulee Le Cirque," or a chocolate hot soufflé, a crisp and creamy Napoleon with fresh raspberries or an assortment of sorbets. Surcharges for the "Evening at Le Cirque" are $39 per person for dinner alone, or $59 for the dinner with wine pairing. The wines accoutrements included two whites (one from Washington, the other from France) for the appetizers, a French red for the main course and a Spanish port to accompany dessert.

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The Topper - Master Chef Rudi Sodamin's Tasting Menu

I was also fortunate enough to try, for the first time on the Vista-class ships, a special dinner Holland America has previously only offered on the Signature-class vessels; master Chef Rudi Sodamin's Tasting Menu. This delightful seven course meal comes with wine pairings and is offered to only ten guests per night. It is offered on a first-come basis and fills up very quickly. The cost is a relative bargain compared to other cruise lines that offer the same concept; $89 per person.

This dinner started with a champagne reception in the Pinnacle Grill Bar where we were treated to champagne and hors d'ouevres. Eventually we were led into the back table of the Grill where we were all seated together. The first course was a delicious fois gras atop sliced avocado - too creamy textures that melded together and melted in my mouth in a heavenly combination.

Fois Gras with avacado and reduced basalmic vinegar

Next came and lobster and porcini mushroom frappe - mildly blended to maintain the individual consistencies. The potato and mustard seed crusted cod fish was adorned with a large dollop of paddlefish caviar on top and a spoonful of salmon caviar on the side. The freshness of the ingredients was abundantly evident as each morsel burst with flavor.

Sea Bass with Caviar

To cleanse our palate the lime and candied ginger granite led to a secondary main course; a small but not penurious veal chop topped with full slices of black truffle and onion and pureed artichoke on the side.

Lemon Ginger sorbet

Veal Chop with truffle slices

Dessert is entitled "A Dialogue of Chocolate Seduction" and includes chocolate petit fours, a bite-sized cr�me Brule, a milk chocolate trifle with nuts topped with a meringue dove next to a tower of dark chocolate souffl�. A Spanish port was served alongside the chocolate dessert.

Chocolate Seduction

The night ends with a plate of "artisan cheeses" served with a lovely dollop of fresh honeycomb. The final event is a selection of petit fours and European coffees.

Cheeses with honeycomb

Dining Options

The two special dinners I just described, the Le Cirque and the Master Chef's Tasting Menu are both culinary events that everyone will enjoy a great deal. However, any lunch or dinner in the Pinnacle grill is worthwhile and sure to please. I would recommend it for anyone celebrating a special occasion. On the other nights you can dine for no added cost in the main dining room, or in the buffet area which is open to anyone who wants a casual dinner any night of the cruise, and like most cruise lines these days, some form of hot food is available in the area nearly 24-hours per day so no one will ever go hungry.

Another nice aspect to Holland America is the special ice cream and dessert station which stays open most of the day and night. You can get many flavors of hand-scooped ice creams there along with a variety of wet and dry toppings. Fresh cookies, brownies, cupcakes and puddings are also available on a regular basis.

Italian Dining at Canaletto

If you are craving a special Italian meal at a very reasonable price you can't go wrong at the Canaletto Restaurant. Beginning at 6:00 p.m. nightly a special section of the Lido area is screened off and transformed into an Italian Trattoria. For just $10 per person you get a table service menu featuring Italian Herb Sausage with Cannellini beans, Insalata Canaletto, Veal Osso Bucco or Chicken Cacciatore "Al Forno." The price even includes one glass of wine, beer or a soft drink - which alone is close to the price of this dinner.

How do you feel about the food on Holland America? Tell us here: Holland America Forum

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