The Chef's Table - A Memorable Dining Experience on the Carnival Pride
After checking the kids into Camp Carnival for the evening, we met our friends we were sailing with in the Atrium Bar at 6:15. When we arrived, we were greeted by one of our servers for the evening. She greeted us by name (she had a print out with not only our names, but pictures so she could do so - smart customer service, Carnival!) and offered us champagne or sparkling water to begin the evening. Before I forget to mention, one big perk of this dining experience is that champagne and wine is included throughout the meal. We chatted with some of the others that would be joining us for the evening. The meal is meant to be an intimate experience and we were among just 16 guests. The chef greeted us around 6:30 and then escorted us to the elevators where he explained what we were about to experience. He then escorted us down to the galley (that's the kitchen for you land lovers!) and we had a brief explanation of how operations worked. We were there during the early dinner seating and things were busy, but ran like a well-oiled machine with cooks and servers bustling quickly about. We were then taken to a table in the galley for our first food of the night, but not before Katerina offered more champagne!
At the table in the kitchen we were served a selection of 4 appetizers, one at a time - each including an explanation from the chef on it's preparation. Our appetizers included a Mango Sphere on Rosemary Biscuit, Salmon Tartar Cornets, Beef Carpaccio on an air pillow served with chocolate bacon (yeah, you just read that right!), and Double Cooked Lamb. Everything was delicious, but I think my favorite would have to be the Double Cooked Lamb - although the Beef Carpaccio practically had a little party in your mouth when you added the chocolate bacon. After our four tastings, the pastry chef came out to show us how to make Carnival's signature dessert - Melting Chocolate Cake. Actually, he didn't show us - he opted to teach someone. And being the ever eager student, I volunteered and got to be a pastry chef for a night! It's amazing how simple the recipe is for such a fabulous little dessert! After the brief lesson, we were whisked away back to the second floor where we entered Beauties Nightclub, which had been transformed into an elegant dining space for the evening.
Before I go any further, I should say that the chef prepped us at the beginning of the evening that the evening would feature a "tasting menu" and portions would be small. For those unfamiliar with the process of how Chef Table's typically work, he didn't want them to be worried with small plates - assuring everyone they would be full when the evening ended. We were served 7 courses once we were seated and by no means were they small! Everything was so delicious, we had to keep pushing on to try it all. Timing was beautiful throughout the evening to allow for guests to let their stomachs process a bit before pushing forward! Partway through the dinner service, a magician came and performed for about 15-20 minutes which was a really fun addition. The menu included Beet Blanket with Spiced Grape Tea, Crab Stack, Duck Textures, Bisque Our Way, Sea Bass, and my absolute favorite Wagyu Beef. This was the first time I had Wagyu beef and I couldn't believe the taste and texture - so tender you could cut it with you fork! The Wagyu was also served with bone marrow souffle which was a first for me, too. The final course featured a selection of desserts from the pastry chef. I was so full that I could only muster a tiny bite of each, the Raspberry Mojito and the Apricot Vanilla Gel were my favorites. It was a sweet end to an even sweeter evening!
So, now for the big question - was it worth it??? I would answer with a resounding "yes!" The charge of $75 per person was more than reasonable when you factor in the quality of the food, the nearly 4 hour evening, wine and champagne, and the tour of the galley. We also received an 8x10 group picture from the evening and walked away with souvenir menus and the recipe for Carnival's Melting Chocolate Cake. I would definitely recommend this and look forward to doing this again on another Carnival Cruise Line vacation!