Regent Seven Seas Voyager: Prime 7 Restaurant vs. Chartreuse Restaurant
PHOTO: Dinner onboard Regent Seven Seas Voyager at Prime 7 (c) Sery Kim
When I reflect back upon my beautiful cruise with Regent Seven Seas Voyager through the Iberian Peninsula, I feel the spark which initially urged me to become itinerant and travel the world three years ago. After all, what is there not to like about your every need being met by super friendly staff, spectacular food available whenever you want, falling asleep on a truly heavenly bed arrayed with expensive Italian sheets and touring numerous destinations without ever having to pack your bags? Certainly not me!
Now one of the best features of the Regent Seven Seas Voyager experience was the food, as anyone who has been reading the blog knows. I never really got into the specialized onboard dining experience but one unique feature of the the Regent Seven Seas experience, unlike the other cruise I took this year -- Windstar Cruises I still love you --, is they limit guests to dining only once at each of the two specialized restaurants onboard: Prime 7, the steak house, and Chartreuse, the French restaurant. While I never asked the question "Why?," I think this restriction has to do with the sheer volume. After all a sold-out Regent Seven Seas Voyager has almost 700 passengers onboard, while a sold-out Windstar Cruises has less than half of that. So if you just go on numbers along, having eaten at both restaurants, if I had a choice I would gluttonously dine at Prime 7 every single night of my Regent Seven Seas cruise! Seriously, no one else would be able to get in because I would eat everything in the ship's refrigerator.
PHOTO: Amuse bouche and the bread basket at Prime 7 (c) Sery Kim
What made the Prime 7 experience to me superior than Chartreuse was not just in the presentation and pacing of the food but in the flavoring of each dish. For starters, at Chartreuse, every dish was lacking in seasoning. The foie gras was rather bland, neither sweet nor savoury, and I needed more crostini than the tiny bar on the actual dish. Of course, there are those who are able to eat foie gras straight without any bread but my palate is one where I prefer the combination of foie, something sweet or savory (usually fruit or jam) and then the bread or cracker.
PHOTO: Foie gras at Chartreuse (c) Sery Kim
For my main course at Chartreuse the Dover Sole was overcooked and missing the salty butter feel which makes Dover Sole really shine. So it is really fascinating that the next night when I ate at Prime 7 every dish was beautifully cooked, wonderfully presented and impeccable in each taste. I mean, I seriously loved Prime 7.
PHOTO: Dover Sole at Chartreuse (c) Sery Kim
Unlike Chartreuse at Prime 7 the waitstaff were able to pace the service better. At Chartreuse everything came out fast and faster, literally to the point where I would have my appetizer of foie gras picked up and then within a few minutes the main course would arrive. Now, I know when a person eats alone, the ability to serve the food expediently is "better" (for lack of another word) but I still think a solo diner likes to linger and let the food settle -- I also always bring a book with me when I eat by myself.
Now, I don't know why there was a difference in the pacing between the two onboard specialty restaurants since the staff at Regent Seven Seas Voyager were impeccable, but I can only guess it was due to eagerness to serve the food hot since I really can't think of a better reason. But Prime 7 had no problems with pacing ... I think this was because they were more engaged in talking to me and asking me questions about how I wanted the food to come out -- the Chartreuse staff seemed more shy, not indifferent just quiet. Naturally, as someone who has been professionally reviewing restaurants for more than a decade, I am pretty vocal about what I want and enjoy engaging with the waitstaff regarding a wide variety of items such as how I want my food served, what their opinions are on good dishes, etc., but it is always nice when the service staff leads the conversations and I don't have to.
PHOTO: Tuna Tartare at Prime 7 (c) Sery Kim
Another aspect of my dining experience at Prime 7 which made the restaurant really shine is the freshness and the perfect seasoning in the food presentation. The Tuna Tartare dish above is a prime (pun intended) example of this. I don't even like tartares and I liked this dish. The bed of sliced avocados were even in density to the amount of tuna placed on top and were cut in such a way as to provide a contrasting texture to the tuna. Laid on top of this were slivers of fresh peppers and arugula in a finely tuned array so as to, again, provide unique texture without overwhelming any of the food below it. I almost ordered another one (like so embarrassingly close I had to bite my tongue when the waitstaff asked me how the dish was) but now that I am not onboard the ship I wish I would have gone ahead and done this.
As for the main event, my Prime Rib was a succulent delight. The meat was perfectly cooked, in the kind of way the juices flow out with every slice of the knife into the meat but not so much as to turn the dish into a sloppy mess. I knew I was going outside of the boundaries of my stomach when I got something that was 21 ounce yet I am not ashamed to admit I ate 80% of the steak. If the Paleo Diet meant I could have the Chef of Prime 7 cook meat for me everyday, I could be as thin as Kate Middleton!
Add to this the fun side dishes, also well cooked, meant I was exceedingly happy. Still my joy was not complete until I had the best dish of the entire cruise: the dessert Caramel Popcorn with Fudge drizzle and Vanilla Ice Cream. I adored the way the varying textures of the still warm caramel popcorn provided to the cold vanilla ice cream. Then the fudge melded it all together. Each element of this dessert was made onboard and you could clearly tell how fresh the dish was. I seriously wish this was available at all the other restaurants onboard but alas it was not, but I would cruise the Regent Seven Seas Voyager just to have this dessert.
PHOTO: The absolutely flawless Caramel Popcorn with Fudge drizzle and Vanilla Ice Cream (c) Sery Kim
I am so lucky to have been able to try Prime 7 and if you are as lucky in life as me make sure you make your reservations for Prime 7 ASAP!