Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Grande

Note: In doing some reading about dining on Royal Caribbean before putting up this post, we learned that Royal Caribbean has essentially abandoned the Dynamic Dining concept for the fleet. Our recaps probably would have had more relevance had they been posted before this happened, but we're going to keep forging ahead with our trip recaps and hopefully will finish soon!

The next dinner restaurant in our (unofficial) rotation on the Quantum was The Grande, the formal restaurant. This was the only spot on board where you had to dress up (i.e., jackets for guys) and we saw some pretty creative ways of meeting the dress code (like the guy who showed up in a winter coat since we were there in December; it still counted as a jacket). The service there seemed to be elevated as well to match the formal attire which was nice. During our time on board, The Grande was the place where we had the best all-around service, and we were very pleased.


The meal started off with a bread basket. The bread was like a mini-baguette and it had cheese baked on top and olives baked into it. The olives added a bit of saltiness to the bread, but the cheese didn't pack that much flavor. Overall the bread wasn't bad, but it didn't knock our socks off.

For one of our appetizers, we both got the prawn cocktail, described as "chilled jumbo prawns with chili-horseradish cocktail sauce." The prawns were big and cooked properly. The "chili-horseradish cocktail sauce" was really just cocktail sauce with a fancy name, but cocktail sauce and shrimp go together well so who cares. It was a solid dish.

A also decided to try the escargots à la bourguignonne in garlic-herb butter which he found a little weird. We had seen photos of the escargots on Instagram and Cruise Critic before our trip and were a little disappointed that these were escargots that were just smothered/doused with garlic-herb butter instead of the regular ones baked in the butter that you usually find on cruises. They still tasted okay, but they were just odd. M didn't get the escargots since the new style here wasn't that appealing to her.

Instead, M decided to go with the French bacon and egg salad which had "poached egg, bacon lardon, wild arugula, dijon dressing." This was really, really good. The egg was poached perfectly, the dressing had nice flavor, and it's hard to go wrong with a crisp arugula salad with bacon and egg. That combination just works. The slight bitterness of the arugula was a good match for the other ingredients, and she really enjoyed the salad.


There was a nice range of entrees offered at The Grande: seafood, fish, chicken, beef, lamb, lobster, pasta, and vegetables. They tried to cover all the bases which was appreciated (except vegan, but we honestly have no idea what you would do on a cruise ship if you were vegan).

For M, none of the options really clicked with her until she got to the eggplant napoleon at the bottom, which also included ratatouille, spinach, goat cheese fondue, and tomato coulis. This was basically an eggplant tower with layers of goat cheese and ratatouille and spinach in-between and on top. Not really sure what was meant by goat cheese fondue, as it just seemed like creamy goat cheese and not like fondue that you would get at a cheese spot. The whole dish tasted so healthy and clean, and the flavors of the vegetables themselves really stood out. M really liked this dish. It was probably one of the best things she ate during dinner on the ship.

Just like they messed with the escargots, they also fussed up the lobster tail, which we were prepared for thanks to Instagram and Cruise Critic. One of the things we've always looked forward to on cruise ships is getting lobster tails, either alone or as part of a surf and turf. Instead, at The Grande, there was lobster tail thermidor, which came with truffled leeks, new potatoes, and a shellfish armagnac sauce. From what we heard about later cruises, it seemed like they abandoned this in favor of the traditional lobster tails, but we were guinea pigs.

In the end we shared one order since we weren't sure what to expect from this preparation. Unfortunately we don't remember much about this dish other than the sauce tasted weird, and we didn't like it all that much. We ended up scraping it off the lobster which tasted sweet as lobster normally does. The potatoes were cooked nicely and had a good bite to the outside while still being soft on the inside. The leeks were braised down to near mush, but that's okay since we like them that way.

Apologies for the stripes - something about the lighting on the ship really messed with the iPhone camera

A also ordered the braised lamb shank, which arrived with root vegetables, rosemary potatoes, and garlic-lamb jus. According to the waiter the lamb was braised for 7 hours every day. Based on how soft and tender it was, A didn't doubt that. It fell off the bone, and the jus was rich and lovely. The root vegetables picked up the flavor of the jus and added their own sweetness which paired with the meat very well. He really liked this dish, but there wasn't much of the gaminess that A likes to expect from lamb.


We got two desserts to share. The first one was the German chocolate cake which the menu said came with coconut ice cream. It didn't say anything else, so what arrived wasn't exactly what we were expecting. We thought it would be like a traditional slice of German chocolate cake with the coconut and chocolate inside and a scoop of ice cream on top. Instead it was a piece of chocolate cake with brittle, and a little shredded coconut holding the coconut ice cream in place, with a dusting of pistachio on the side of the plate. When you ate a little bit of everything all together, it did indeed taste like German chocolate cake. The flavor was really good, and we were intrigued by the fact that it was deconstructed like this.

The other dessert we got was the key lime tarte about which the menu just said "graham cracker crust, merengue." (Yes, it said merengue like the dance, and not meringue, but we don't think we pointed that out to them there.) This was pretty good, one of the better desserts on the ship. It had a nice balance of tartness and sweetness, and the meringue offered a good stiff texture. Although it was good, it didn't meet A's high standards for key lime pie. He's something of a key lime pie snob and has definitely had better offerings.

We had initially only scheduled one night at The Grande since we weren't sure we wanted to bother with more than one formal night. But after the really nice experience we had, better than the other "free" restaurants we had tried so far, we made a second reservation for later in the cruise. This was definitely one of the better places for dinner in our opinion.

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