Let’s talk about the food. I didn’t bother taking very many photos of it. My camera isn’t so great with lower lighting levels so my food photos are never that good anyway. For meals, Equinox has the main dining room (MDR), Oceanview Cafe, Aquaspa Cafe, Bistro on Five, Tuscan Grill, Silk Harvest, Murano, and Blu.
I’ll give a quick overview for anyone who isn’t familiar. All guests are assigned to a dining room – in this case either the MDR or Blu for those guests in aqua class staterooms. Blu is supposed to be healthier options/portions. Suite guests may also eat in Blu on a space available basis though a $5 fee may be incurred. Oceanview Cafe is the main buffet on the ship. It is open almost all the time, but varies in how much variety is available by the time of day. Aquaspa Cafe is a small cafe offering healthy options for breakfast and lunch. Bistro on Five offers crepes and salads for a $5 fee. The specialty restaurants on this ship are Tuscan Grille (Italian steakhouse), Silk Harvest (Asian), and Murano (French). Because we are in a Sky Suite we get 2 nights free in any of the specialty restaurants.
There is also Cafe al Bacio and the Gelateria, as well as room service. The cafe is a place I frequent for delicious hot and iced Tea Forte tea. They also serve espresso and small pastries. Most of the time on this cruise I ate breakfast in Blu, lunch in the buffet, and dinner in the MDR. Just like the last cruise, I generally had the muesli/overnight oats for breakfast made with almond milk. For lunch I could not resist the Indian and Thai entrees, even though they were a little bit repetitive. The only thing I wished for was sushi; it is only served at dinner time. We did also eat in Tuscan Grille one night and the Chef’s Table another night.
Heart of the Operation Tour
For the first time, we went on the kitchen tour. It is held mid-morning so the kitchen is fairly quiet. There is some prep going on, but no food is being served. After champagne, introduction of the kitchen management staff, and a question/answer session, they start leading groups of about 20 through either the 3rd or 4th floor kitchen for the MDR.
After the kitchen tour each of the specialty restaurants and the Molecular Bar (shown below) are setup in the atrium, trying to attract your business for the rest of the cruise. A few of them give out samples, but mostly it is a display of the food they offer.
I hadn’t realized what a busy clash of colors were in this restaurant until I looked at this picture. I think it is safe to say that the lighting level when we had dinner here was much lower, muting all of these colors. Tuscan Grille has gorgeous windows looking after on deck 5. Honestly, we were not that impressed with Tuscan even though it gets the best reviews of the specialty restaurants on this ship. And to be fair, I thought I was ordering fairly easy dishes that they should have been able to knock out of the park. I had the calamari appetizer which was nothing special at all. It was large rounds that resembled small onion rings, some were quite tough. The way it was served seemed like something more appropriate to Qsine – it was on red checked paper like you would expect fries at a diner. The salad I ordered was the Bufala Mozzarella and Tomato, like a caprese salad, but the lowest quality caprese I’ve ever had. It is the simplest ingredients, how hard can it be?
For the main course two of us ordered the ribeye steak and we were both less than impressed. This is something we fix at home on a regular basis, I know what a good ribeye is and we buy our beef at a normal grocery store. This cut of meat on the ship was horrible – fully of grisly fat, nothing like the marbling a ribeye is supposed to have. There was something I ordered on the side, eggplant parmigiana I think. It was pretty good.
Someone commented to me later that they would never order the ribeye at Tuscan. Really? Celebrity’s opening description about the cuisine is, “Naturally, beef is a highlight. Our corn-fed, USDA Choice steaks have excellent marbling for added tenderness and juicy flavor.” A steak is something they should have been able to get right. Do you want to know what’s worse? Two days later I had very good ribeye in the MDR. I think I was the only person to order dessert – the tiramisu. It was okay, nothing special.
Overall the only reason I’d eat there again is if I have a suite and have ‘free’ meals in the specialty restaurants to use. Also, I will acknowledge that a different chef on a different ship may mean a better experience too.
Richard wanted to do the Chef’s Table again, I could have taken it or left it. Why you ask? Surely a bit more attention is taken toward the food being served than a normal night in Murano, but overall it isn’t a real Chef’s Table. It is the chef serving Celebrity dishes that can be found in the specialty restaurants on the ship. They do pour very nice wine with each course at least.
On Equinox, the Chef’s Table meets at Cellar Masters for champagne and amuse-bouches. We gathered there and had a glass of champagne with Chef Tato Garcia, Food & Beverage Manager Irina Ryazanova, and Murano Manager Maja. Once the other couples had joined us Chef Tato shared with us his 3 creations – Beef Tataki with wasabi mayo, aspargus, and crispy leeks, Brie cheese with tomato marmalade, and Chicken liver and mango pannacotta. Each one was amazing! then takes a tour of the kitchens, and ultimately is seated in the Murano wine room.
The chef then led us through the upper level of the MDR and into the kitchen during dinner service. Then you get to use the crew elevator to go up one floor to Murano.
Once seated in the Murano wine room we were presented with the dinner menu. There is one mistake here – everyone was served the lobster bisque. After that I chose the atlantic salmon, ahi tuna, and floating island. Richard had the beef tartar and rack of lamb. Everything was delicious and the wine is free flowing (and much better quality than what they pour for any other events on the ship). *Ok, floating island is no big deal, I’ll give you that. Because of my dairy allergy I was afraid to have the panna cotta.
The night we had dinner at Tuscan we were able to talk to Chef Tato again and he happily explained how to make his amuse-bouches. He would like to open a cooking school in the future so that is something to look for if you’ve met him and enjoyed his food. It would likely be in Malaga, Spain where he is from.
Here we are before the Chef’s Table dinner.
We enjoy meeting and getting to know our table mates in MDR fixed seating. We have always considered ourselves lucky with our dinner companions on our cruises and this cruise was no exception. At our table of 8 we represented 4 areas of the US – Chicago, New York, Arkansas, and Washington. Every night we had great conversation, good wine, and tasty food. Between that and not being overly impressed with the specialty restaurants, we prefer eating in the MDR most nights.
Compared to our cruise on the Millie a year and a half ago, I didn’t find the food to be any better or worse. Nothing wrong with that!