Thursday, January 26, 2017

Seabourn Encore: The Inaugural Cruise - Part X (The Grill by Thomas Keller: Order the Chicken!)

Seabourn Encore's The Grill by Thomas Keller is the most elegant, thoughtfully laid out, enjoyable and...well you get the on any cruise ship I have ever been on (or, for that matter, have seen).  Oh, and the cuisine, cocktails, music and service is pretty spectacular too.

Eric Goldring with Thomas Keller
in The Grill by Thomas Keller on the Seabourn Encore
(If you look carefully you will see I ordered the chicken!)
My conversation about The Grill combines my experiences on the Seabourn Quest this past August 2016 and the Seabourn Encore earlier this month (January 2017).  Because it is a Thomas Keller  operation (the three star Michelin chef) consistency is key, so the photographs and comments regarding both experiences are relevant.  (And note that I have dined in The Grill a total of ten times, so my comments are based upon far more than a one time experience.)

Order the Chicken!
You can have all the ambiance and service you want, but you are
at The Grill by Thomas Keller to have a culinary experience
A Story First

Before I explain The Grill in detail, I must tell you the story of Thomas Keller and my chicken while on the Seabourn Encore.

For me the chicken is the best item on the menu.  The extraordinary flavor was burned into my culinary memory when I dined at Bouchon in Napa Valley and ordered the Poulet Rôti.  So it became a "thing" between me and The Grill's Executive Chef Tom (ironically) who has been trained by Mr. Keller to always "slip" me an order of chicken no matter what I ordered, even though it is supposed to be served to two people.

My first evening in The Grill on the Seabourn Encore was with two clients/friends of mine.  We all decided to order the chicken; an odd number.  We also had a "discussion" about which wine paired best with the famous chicken.  Over my client's objection we ordered a Chassagne Montrachet.

As we were dining, Thomas Keller came over to our table to have a chat and noticed three (rather than two) dishes with chicken and queried how that was possible (being the consistency maven that he is).  My client said, "We know someone."  As Mr. Keller went to congratulate my client, he was rebuffed, "No, Eric knows someone!"

A bit surprised Mr. Keller then asked, "And what wine have you paired with the chicken?"  When I told him, he gave a very approving nod and offered me a fist bump!  I turned to my client and, with my best Jersey accent said, "Just sayin'!"

In other words, have fun with and in The Grill.  It is worth it.

OK, now for what you have been waiting for...

Seabourn Encore's The Grill by Thomas Keller Experience

Your experience in The Grill on the Seabourn Encore does not start in the dining room, but rather in a wonderful upscale and comfortable space that combines a bar - focused on specialty cocktails and mixology marvels created by Brian Van Flandern (who was the head mixologist for Thomas Keller's Per Se) and taught to the Seabourn bartenders - and a piano/cocktail lounge.

The Bar in The Grill by Thomas Keller
on the Seabourn Encore

Comfortable sofas and chairs near both The Bar and the pianist
makes for your initial time in The Grill by Thomas Keller
both upscale and relaxing
From liquors to glassware The Bar and Lounge set the stage for a wonderful evening.  And, of course, the fantastic wine collection is attractively displayed!

Adam Tihany, the interior designer who has a special relationship
with Thomas Keller and his restaurants, loves to display
wines in creative glass wine cellars.
Your dining experience is definitely an American cuisine experience, fashioned as a play off of a steakhouse.  I will tell you that the portions are American sized, but please do not let that put you off. The choice and cuts of meats are such that smaller portions simply would not come out with the same flavors.  (Yes, I know generally "American cuisine" is not the first thing many of Seabourn's European guests would select, but keep an open mind.  The cuisine is "that" good.)

The Grill by Thomas Keller's tables are simply, but elegantly, set.
The cuisine is the focus.
One thing I noticed on the Seabourn Encore is that the tables are set sufficiently apart so that you are able to enjoy your own, personal, dining experience; a nice touch.  (On the Seabourn Quest, due to the smaller space the tables are closer together.)

When seated you are served super-crisp crudités with a Green Goddess dip along with wonderful bread and butter.

Your starter (appetizer) ranges from a Caesar Salad made tableside, to artichoke to crab cakes and more.  Again, the focus is on presenting clean, simple, but exceptionally well prepared, dishes made with only the finest ingredients.  And Thomas Keller assures only the truly "finest ingredients" are used and prepared specifically as he desires.  (Seabourn has made a significant investment not only in the ingredients, but in specially designed galleys dedicated to Mr. Keller's menu items.)

The Grill's Executive Chef Tom prepares a Caesar Salad tableside
Simple, but delicious, cold Artichoke

Super-Chilled Iceberg Lettuce Salad with Bacon

Crab Cake - I highly recommend it!
Your main course can be as light as Dover Sole (not actually a Thomas Keller dish) or as rich as Veal T-Bone, Pork or Rib-Eye Steak

Dessert is about as American, and delicious, as one can get.  Ice Cream Sundae, Lemon Meringue Pie or Coconut Cake are some examples.

Executive Chef Tom making an Ice Cream Sundae tableside
(chocolate & caramel sauce!)

A petite Lemon Meringue Pie 

Coconut Cake

After dinner, with the piano player singing and the bar humming, you are drawn back to this wonderful area...if you are not heading off to see one of the Seabourn shows.  (By the way, the entertainment on the Seabourn Encore is significantly improved.  I actually went to every show...but more on that in my next article!).

Bon Appetite!

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