I am still salivating when I think about the wonderful meals I enjoyed during my cruise aboard the Rotterdam, Holland America’s newest ship. You can’t go wrong with the main dining room and the other included options, but if you want to step it up to a truly special upscale experience, try one of the premium restaurants. Holland America is known for its food, and I found it could easily compete with restaurants on shore as to its quality and presentation.
The Holland America Line Culinary Council brings together seven world-class celebrity chefs from around the world, which brings global influence and expertise to your dining experience. The line’s Master Chef is Rudi Sodamin, and he is also the Culinary Council Chairman. He is the most decorated chef on the world’s oceans and the author of 12 cookbooks. He also has a restaurant named after him on the line’s newest ships: Rudi’s Sel De Mer. In addition, all of the executive chefs onboard the ships are members of the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, which is the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world, with its roots going back to Paris in 1248.
Holland America invited me on a press trip to learn about their newest ship. They provided a generous shipboard credit that covered the cost of these meals. Usually on a cruise, I will spring for at least one premium restaurant. Currently, the prices of a premium restaurant are $19 to $59 extra per person.
On the Rotterdam, Canaletto is located right by the Lido Market, which is the buffet restaurant. I was concerned there would be noise, but once you were seated the restaurant felt a world away. It offers Italian classics such as veal scaloppine, lasagna bolognese, and antipasto plates. There were also some intriguing options I had not had in an Italian restaurant. I opted to try the beef carpaccio served with caper berries and shaved Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil and a mustard aioli for a starter. Such a beautiful presentation and it tasted as good as it looked. The braised beef short rib gnocchi was like a beef stew served over gnocchi, and it was so flavorful with the gnocchi soaking up the beef au jus.
Each night of the week Canaletto’s has a different special. Rather than the traditional tiramisu, I had the restaurant’s Orange Blossom Ricotta Tart.
Pro Tip: Don’t be intimidated. Ask for what you want. I chose my dessert but wanted to try the gelato, so I asked. With my dessert, our server brought me a small shot glass with the gelato to taste.
The Pinnacle Grill is the place to go for 28-day wet-aged USDA Prime Steaks. You will find innovative recipes from Chef David Burke, a James Beard Award winner and Culinary Council member. He has been featured on Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters. The atmosphere from the time you are escorted to your table is upscale elegance. I was blown away by how stunning the plates were, etched in gold. Perusing the menu, there are entries that state “Exclusively by David Burke.” I chose those as they were highlighted on the menu as signature dishes, and it was a way to narrow down all the delicious-looking choices.
Don’t miss the Clothesline Candied Bacon, if only for the presentation to post on Instagram (more photos of all the meals). The maple and black pepper glazed bacon is hung on this cute little clothesline and garnished with rosemary and half-sour pickles. It is just darling. For an entrée, I had the beef tenderloin with plump lobster dumplings garnished with celery root puree, a horseradish bordelaise sauce, and a lobster bearnaise. The whole dish was so well put together and the lobster dumplings were tender morsels of yumminess. I would have ordered just that as a meal, they were so good.
Pro Tip: I was too full for dessert but thought I might want something sweet for later. I ordered a key lime pie to go. One night we thought we would just grab dessert from the Lido Restaurant, but it was already closed. When making your plans for the evening, make sure to check the daily schedule which lists the times for all the restaurants and bars.
Wow, what an incredible experience this was, and so visually appealing. Every dish that came out of this kitchen was a work of art. According to Conde Nast Traveler, “The cuisine rivals the top restaurants on land.” I agree. This was a wonderful meal with so many creative options. The menu uses the elements water, wood, fire, and earth as a source of inspiration as well as the culinary traditions of Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.
I ordered the shrimp tempura for a starter. It was served in a cone which kept the tempura crisp and not soggy with grease. It was served with watermelon, radish, pomegranate, sweet miso, and white soy ponzu. The presentation on black plates really allowed the colorful fruit and veggies to pop. I didn’t think it could get any better than this until my entrée arrived — a lovely wasabi- and soy-crusted beef tenderloin topped with two tempura onion rings with tom katsu sauce on the side for dipping and a few spears of roasted asparagus. Just perfectly cooked, and again the black plates let the colorful ingredients take center stage.
Also, inside Tamarind you will find Nami Sushi with sushi rolls created by Culinary Council member and world-renowned sushi master Andy Matsuda. He has more than 35 years experience mastering the art of sushi and is the founder of the Sushi Chef Institute in Southern California. The menu has classic sushi offerings as well as Andy Matsuda’s Signature Dishes and Sushi Rolls. His crispy lobster tempura roll and his fried soft shell crab roll really elevate the art of sushi. All Nami Sushi options are ala carte.
Rudi’s Sel De Mer
Rudi’s is an intimate French-style brasserie that focuses on seafood dishes but also has French classics such as coq au vin. This restaurant was the most elegant of the premium restaurants with a five-star feel to it. I began to be impressed with the amuse-bouche, which was a puff pastry shaped like a fish filled with a smoked tuna dip. The bread service was the best I’ve seen at any restaurant, and that is saying a lot considering how often I eat out as a travel writer. I could write a whole article about it. A freshly baked baguette was pre-sliced with a sprig of rosemary tucked in and then wrapped with a white cloth. Alongside was a segmented dish with a variety of spreads, olive oil, and tapenades to enjoy with the crispy fresh bread. All this was before we even ordered.
For a starter, I had a beautifully marinated lobster over micro lettuce with lemon olive oil, grapefruit segments, and potato confit. Another starter with an eye-opening presentation is the Trio of Seafood salad, which comes in stacked dishes with king crab meat, bay shrimp, and tuna that are artfully arranged by the server. The whole dover sole meuniere with shaved pink Himalayan sea salt is a show stopper, with your waiter deboning and plating it tableside. Although known for its seafood, I opted for Rudi’s beef tenderloin served with foie gras, mushrooms, and a very tasty pan sauce.
Dessert was an experience of its own. After our plates were cleared, our server set down a metal tree that held an intriguing variety of house-made candies to enjoy while awaiting our desserts. We ordered the Salzburger Nockerl, which serves two and is an Austrian-style berry souffle. It was beautifully puffy but was too eggy for us, more like baked whipped egg whites. We also ordered the profiteroles, which were stuffed with chantilly cream. Tableside, our waiter drizzled a hot, rich chocolate sauce over the top. Overall a very memorable dinner.
Pro Tip: After dinner, stop at the Half Moon Bar for a post-dinner craft cocktail. Enjoy a taste of Holland America history told through the lens of a cocktail. Each one has its own unique story. Each drink is beautifully presented and even though it sits in a corner on Deck 2, it has an intimate speakeasy feel to it. The Rotterdam is the first ship in the Holland America line to have this bar.
I had the opportunity to eat breakfast at Club Orange and it was a great experience. This restaurant is reserved for suite guests and those who wish to pay for Club Orange amenities. The restaurant is bright and cheerful with lots of orange touches. My favorites were the peachy orange flowers on each table. My breakfast was cooked to order and was so delicious. I had a breakfast bowl, which I am used to having all scrambled together. The Club Orange version serves it with poached eggs, which really stepped up this humble dish.
So, which was my favorite? Can I say all of them? Each Holland America restaurant was so unique, and I enjoyed the different styles of food that were served at each restaurant. I thought they all compared favorably with high-end restaurants on shore. I will say Holland America’s whole dining experience from service to the presentation and quality of the food was outstanding. I highly recommend trying a premium restaurant on your next cruise.
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