Crystal Serenity’s Tastes

Crystal Serenity’s Newest Dining Venue: Tastes

On Crystal Serenity, sailing from Southampton to Civitavecchia. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle
Table for two? During a sailing from Southampton to Civitavecchia, I spent more than one evening enjoying the innovative cuisine at Crystal Serenity’s newest dining venue, Tastes. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Crystal Cruises recently introduced three significant changes to its dining program on Crystal Serenity. On a voyage from Southampton to Rome in late April, I explored all three. One of the changes, I liked; another, I didn’t care for; and one change confused but intrigued me. Come along with me as I explore innovation and inspiration in the dining venues on Crystal Serenity.

Tastes, Where Global Inspired Cuisine Meets Tapas At Sea

On Crystal Serenity, sailing from Southampton to Civitavecchia. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle
Tastes’ menu is described as “global inspired cuisine.” Think top-notch tapas served family-style. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

The restaurant that I returned to most often during my 12 nights on Crystal Serenity was “Tastes.” Situated on the starboard side of Lido Deck 12, “Tastes” seemed to be the favorite of all guests who I spoke with during our voyage from Southampton to Rome in late April. Edie Rodriguez, Crystal’s new president and COO, even went so far as to proclaim Tastes to be “her newest favorite dining venue on land or at sea.” Listen to my interview with Edie by clicking On Crystal Serenity, Cruising with Edie Rodriguez, Crystal’s New President.

On Crystal Serenity, sailing from Southampton to Civitavecchia. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle
Pictured with her husband Tom, Crystal Cruises’ new president and COO says that Tastes is her new favorite restaurant land or sea. Will it be yours? © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

In Reflections, Celebrity Serenity’s daily printed program, Tastes is described as offering “Global Inspired Cuisine.” What does that mean? For insights beyond my palate, I turned to Tony Neumeister, who heads up Crystal’s food and beverage program.

“What we wanted to achieve was to offer tapas-style cuisine from the areas of the world that we are visiting,” Tony told me as we walked through the galley on Crystal Serenity. He says the concept for Tastes was developed in conjunction with a personal friend, Azmin Ghahreman, who runs Sapphire Laguna in Laguna Beach, California. Born in Iran and educated in Switzerland, Ghahreman was called a “rock star chef” by Orange Country Metro Business in 2007. The recipient of many awards, Ghahreman also has held executive chef positions at Four Seasons and Fairmont Hotels worldwide.

On Crystal Serenity, sailing from Southampton to Civitavecchia. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Cruises’ Vice President Food & Beverage Tony Neumeister (right), pictured with Harald Neufang, executive pastry chef. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Dining at Tastes more than one evening during my voyage on Crystal Serenity, I enjoyed the family-style service, which contributed to the conviviality at the tables where I sat. The idea is that guests can share the meal with family or friends they’ve met on board, Tony tells me.

Tastes is exclusive to Crystal Serenity. Management hopes to bring something like Tastes to Crystal Symphony but the older vessel doesn’t have the dedicated galley space on the top deck needed to prepare the variety of dishes offered in Tastes.

What’s on the menu in Tastes? That depends. The menus change depending on where Crystal Serenity is sailing.

Crystal Serenity Chimichurri Steak
My favorite during my time on Crystal Serenity: Chimichurri Steak with black beans, sweet potato fries and herb sea salt. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

As we cruised the Mediterranean along the coasts of Spain and France, our menu featured Chimichurri Steak. The connection to the region where we were sailing? Spain, of course, conquered and colonized Argentina, where today Chimichurri Sauce, made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and vinegar, complements grilled meat. On Crystal Serenity, Chimichurri Steak ranked as one of my favorite dishes, served with black beans and those oh-so-delicious sweet potato fries. What else was on the menu? Click here to view a sample menu.

On Crystal Serenity, sailing from Southampton to Civitavecchia. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle
California Street Tacos, with beer-braised short ribs, pico de gallo, roast chicken & molé negro. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Complimentary wines ranges from Austrian whites to Provencal rosés to Spanish reds, with dessert wine also offered — all at no additional charge on all-inclusive Crystal Cruises. My favorite way to end the meal? By plunging a spoon into the Dark Chocolate Crème Brûlée, with marshmallow fluff and toasted almonds. Others at my table preferred the “Bananas Foster” Bread Pudding, with candied pecans, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

The setting for Tastes is equally as appealing as its menus. The area is covered by a glass magradome. You won’t find yourself star-gazing, however. Umbrellas cover tables that are in configurations for two, four or more. Large windows look out on the sea, and I did appreciate the often-gorgeous sunsets, depending on where the sun was setting, or the expansive and undulating sea.

Crystal Serenity Tastes
Situated on the starboard side of Lido Deck 12, Tastes is an attractive venue for casual dining — and meals to remember. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Aside from the cuisine, the stand-out features in Tastes are the four “living walls,” comprised of plants, displayed vertically and forming walls or partitions, and a vertical herb garden, irrigated by a system that is monitored from the United Kingdom (the internet makes all things possible, even gardening from afar).

Crystal Serenity Living Walls
Aside from the cuisine, the stand-out features in Tastes are the four “living walls,” comprised of plants, displayed vertically and forming walls or partitions, and a vertical herb garden (far right), irrigated by a system that is monitored from afar, the United Kingdom. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Tastes seems to be a real palate pleaser on my cruise. “Guests can travel the world through flavors,” chef Tony says. “It a fun concept, and our guests love it.”

Is Tastes my favorite restaurant land and/or sea, as is the case for Crystal’s president? That’s too difficult of a call for me to make. There are simply too many great restaurants on ships that sail the seven seas.

What I can say is that the new dining venue knocked Nobu’s Sushi Bar & Silk Road down a notch for me. Until this cruise, my favorites on Crystal Serenity were the only restaurants at sea operated by acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Yes, I still enjoyed dining at the Sushi Bar and Silk Road, but more often than not, I found myself heading up to the Lido deck for the casual atmosphere and fun food at Tastes. Nobu’s restaurants on deck 7 are now my second favorites, and I’ll be writing about those and other dining venues on Crystal Serenity later this week.

Tastes suits my “taste” better than any other restaurant on Crystal Serenity today, and my guess is that you may feel the same once you experience  the family-style, more-than-tapas cuisine served in this attractive venue.

What about the changes on Crystal Serenity that I didn’t care for? And the change that confused but intrigued me? Stay tuned this week as I continue to explore Crystal Serenity’s dining venues.

Meantime, head with me to the galley on Crystal Serenity to hear Tony Neumeister explain his view on Tastes.

If you have trouble listening to the podcast, click here to listen on SoundCloud.

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