Scenic Eclipse’s culinary approach, to a degree similar to its hotel vibe, offers an impressive variety of dining venues and cuisines within those venues; especially when you remember that there are only 200 guests and this is a true expedition ship.
Corporate Chef Tom Goetter has brought his passion and culinary prowess, including training at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, to create a fun vibe with a lot of creativity, visual appeal, and non-traditional menus. Trust me on this: It is far better in person than my describing it. So I will not even attempt to discuss his multilayered spice and molecular techniques approaches in so many of the dishes.
Making things even more challenging, Chef Tom and his Executive Chef Aleks and Sous Chef Ashish (and the whole team behind them) are constantly tweaking, changing, and experimenting with not only new dishes, but new menus.
As I said, This Ain’t Cruise Cuisine! So let’s get started dishing on the dining.
Before I get to the venues, I have to point out that the breads and pastries on Scenic Eclipse are world-class. As you walk into The Yacht Club (the casual dining venue) there is a wide variety of breads to choose from. But just behind them are amazing, crusty, freshly baked Sourdough and Rye breads, as well as French Baguettes that are so good I literally had them as my breakfast at least twice. And most venues have their own special breads including naan.
The desserts go far beyond pastries and many have a molecular cuisine aspect.
The Hamburger & Hot Dog Test took on a new element…and it shocked me: Pizza! Yes, Scenic Eclipse has its very own Italian chef making pizzas and other Italian delicacies. Coming from a Jersey Guy, “Trust me. Order the pizza!”
As with much of the cuisine on the Scenic Eclipse, the hot dog surprised me. Oh, it was delicious, but rather than being the expected American one, it was clearly German (Chef Tom is German), so it had very international flair. Definitely an A+.
And please remember to get a freshly baked German Pretzel on the side.
Somehow the hamburger got lost in all of this testing. But it came through solidly. It was cooked perfectly and the garnish was crisp and fresh. The fries were just OK bringing the score down to an A-.
With the preliminaries out of the way, let’s discuss the venues.
The Yacht Club is the primary venue for informal/buffet breakfast and lunch. Along with the standard fare, there is a hot buffet that offers beautifully presented fish, meat, vegetable options (vegan and vegetarian options are available throughout the ship) as well as a daily carving station and soup. Note that Scenic Eclipse has done away with the constant presentation of potatoes to fill your dish and has opted for a variety of rice and couscous offerings. There is also a side area with some special ala minute offering such as a spicy Korean soup, beef fajitas, etc.
In addition, there is a salad and charcuterie buffet as well as pastries, gelato, and more. Smoothies are also available and are varied. I especially appreciated the charcuterie as it gave me a great excuse to have more of the amazing breads!
Another very popular venue is the intimate Azure Café which is open from 6:00 AM right through dinner. Perfect for coffee, lattes, etc., small sandwiches, salads, soup, more of those desserts, and, of course, the pizza menu. There is also a limited menu, but if there is something else you desire, they will make it happen! (Those cookies might look familiar. Wink. Wink.)
Elements is the closest dining venue to that which you will find resembling a cruise ship in feel and flavor. Open for dinner every night and lunch on sea days, it is pretty traditional. With so many other options, it is not a favorite for most but for those seeking more standard fare, this is your spot.
That said, I did have a wonderful T-Bone steak along with Duck Breast one evening.
Interestingly, Elements offers a Bento Box at lunch rather than Koko’s. But the really interesting thing is that is more of an International cuisine rather than Japanese. I like them!
After all of those venues on this – and I remind you of this again – a 200 guest expedition ship, let’s get to my favorite dining venues!
Koko’s Asian Fusion is wonderfully creative, with menus that combine the culinary worlds of three or four Asian countries and, to a degree, Middle Eastern as well. It has a definite Japanese vibe, but it most definitely takes you are a journey far beyond there. Also note that the menu changes regularly so despite having many choices to begin with you can return regularly in the open seating restaurant and never repeat a dish.
Koko’s Sushi (located inside Koko’s but it is separate) requires a reservation. It is definitely more Western than Japanese and, at least in Antarctica, the selection is limited, but very well prepared. Saki selections are also limited (hot or cold). I also think the area behind the chef’s station needs to be buffed up. All that said, I did dine there multiple times so that says something.
The more French, without being too French, sort of French Bistro restaurant, which also requires reservations is Lumiere (I mean Chef Tom does not work well without creativity and the interplay of cuisines) It has a fixed menu with five courses plus your main (usually meat or fish) and dessert. The concept is to not have a very heavy menu where you leave overly full. Again, the menu changes frequently so be sure you like the menu as they vary pretty significantly.
If that isn’t enough there is the Night Market. This is a fun and somewhat interactive dining experience, again by reservation, for eight guests each evening. I was lucky enough to enjoy two different menus. The first was Indian and the second was Middle Eastern. Again, Chef Tom and the Night Market Chef Strawberry put their own spin on each dish so nothing is exactly like you might expect it…but then again you really don’t know what to expect!
The levels of spices are definitely toned down as not everyone enjoys very strong or unusual flavors. So don’t be shy about joining in the fun and the show! And if you are vegan, vegetarian or have other allergies, as with all of the dining venues, Scenic Eclipse can modify dishes to meet your requirements.
I don’t want to ruin the surprises of the evening so I am only providing a few photos from both evenings.
One of the highlights, which due to its complexity and small venue, is the invitation-only Chef’s Table. Ten lucky guests are invited to a fun and creative evening of fantastic tastes, fun and interactive courses, and great wine pairings. It is only held a couple of times per journey. I don’t want to spoil the surprises for those who get the chance, but here are a few photos.
And if that isn’t enough there is always 24 Hour Room Service.
A few other things to note.
There is a very good, but limited, premium wine list and, importantly, it is without the premium price. It is definitely an international list And the wine list is electronic and gives you all the information you need. However, there is also an excellent sommelier onboard!
Finally, there are complimentary culinary demonstrations and wine tastings available in the Culinary Arts Center. Note that although it was thought of as a place for cooking lessons, it really didn’t function well as such.
I also am pleased that there is no branding of some celebrity chef. The Scenic Eclipse’s chef are, well and truly, world class and offer a dizzying number of creative cusines that have to more than meet even the most particular diner. Bravo!
So there you have it. I have only touched on each dining option, so you can imagine how diverse it is when you get onboard.
As I said, “It ain’t no cruise ship cuisine!”