Caution: Food Porn

We always have a few friends – you know who you are! – who want to know what we’re eating as we travel around.

Clockwise from top left: (from The Restaurant) Chocolate silk pie with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato and dark chocolate sauce; (from Manfredi’s) Pasta vongole with button clams, spinach, pancetta and white wine sauce.; (from the Chef’s Table) tuna tartare with Thai chili and strawberries, garnished with radish, deep-fried mushroom, and crispy squid ink tapioca; lobster croquette with Siracha aioli and lobster bisque.

You know this is our first ocean cruise, but we have travelled with Viking River Cruises, where we loved the food, so our expectations were pretty high. We have not been disappointed.

First, let me tell you about the options. The Viking Sun is small by ocean cruise standards, just 900 people, so it “only” has 6 restaurants.

Mamsen’s is a small Norwegian deli-style restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon and late night snacks of typical Norwegian fare: think waffles and muesli in the mornings, and open-faced sandwiches and European desserts later in the day.

Last Friday’s smorebrod selections L to R: Atlantic shrimp on white; Egg, tomato and cucumber on dark rye; Brie and berries on rye; Blue cheese, lemon and berries on pumpernickel. The selection changes daily (my fave is the thinly sliced rare roast beef with emmenthaler cheese and horseradish). They’re a meal on a slice of bread!

The World Café and adjacent outdoor Aquavit Terrace is buffet style, and serves three meals a day. Imagine it, and you can find it here. Breakfast ranges from fresh breads and pastries, through all the egg options, to fruits and cereals, smoothies made to order, full English breakfast, and even congee! At lunch, the chefs will compose their daily special salad for you and carve the day’s lunch roast, or you can help yourself to the salad area, a wide variety of hot and cold dishes from all over the world, soups, sandwiches, breads, cheeses, charcuterie, desserts, fruits….it goes on and on… literally. My favourite section is the gelato bar, where Pinky (yes, really) scoops eight different flavours, all made on board each day, into waffle cones or bowls. At night, there is a huge sushi bar, pasta bar, meats with accompaniments – always one station with “live grilling” (steak, salmon, chicken breast) – salads, desserts…..it’s honestly hard to describe.

The picture above, taken in 2 parts (I couldn’t figure out how to line them up), shows a typical evening’s sushi bar. This represents 1/8 of the total length – and just 1/8 the selection! – of the World Café buffet line.

The Restaurant is a slightly more formal space (no jeans at dinner) with table service. All 3 meals are served from a menu that changes every single day. Remember that Ted and I joined only one leg of this ship’s 160 day world cruise, so they don’t want their long term guests to get bored. Dinner includes a daily choice of 10 apps, 10 mains, and 10 desserts, plus (on port days) a 3-course “destination menu”.

The Pool Grill opens at 11:30 and stays open right through to dinner hour. They grill made-to-order burgers or hotdogs with a huge selection of toppings, serve chicken wings, pulled pork sandwiches, etc and have a full salad bar. Their fresh cut fries are the best!

On sea days that are not too windy, a huge “pop-up” restaurant sets up on the upper pool deck featuring special events: Italian paninis, Indian street food (dosas made fresh on the grill!), Mexican Street Tacos, etc. My favourite was King Crab Salad day. I’ve never seen crab legs that big, and definitely not in that quantity! Servers tossed individual salads for each person, and then topped them with 3 or 4 massive legs – mmmmmmmmm!!

Salad fixings on King Crab day: greens, plus fresh peas, tomatoes, mango, cheddar, and avocado.

Our favourite restaurant on the ship was Manfredi’s, the Italian restaurant, with a scrumptious menu of Italian specialties and the best bread basket on board: olive focaccia, crusty rye flour Calabrese, garlic rosettes, crispy-crusted pannetone-shaped gorgonzola loaves, a delicate almost paper-thin lavash shard with sliced roasted garlic, and cumin breadsticks, all served with balsamic-infused oil for dipping and big chunks of fresh parmigiana cheese cut from the huge wheel near the restaurant’s entrance.

The beautiful Wintergarden space is converted to a tea room each day at 4:00, serving full English-style cream high tea: tea made from fresh leaf blends of course, then scones with preserves and clotted cream, followed by a 3-tiered tray holding 4 varieties of finger sandwiches and 4 delicate desserts.

The ship’s pièce de resistance is The Chef’s Table, where every 3 or 4 nights a new 5-course curated menu with wine pairings is offered. We tried 3 different Mexican nights, one with guest chef Pia Quintana (Google her!) brought on board at Cabo who also did a cooking demo for us. We also enjoyed a Thai night and a British night. As we cruised, we overheard people unhappy with the rigidity of a fixed menu, unhappy about portions that were too small, or food that was too “nouveau”. Just goes to show you can’t please everyone. Ted and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to try foods we would not otherwise have experienced, and definitely enjoyed tasting 4 different wines with each meal!

Some of the shore excursions have also included meals, sometimes at a small local restaurant, but once at a really lovely Chilean winery.

Top left: (from Mamsens) Norwegian waffle topped with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries on a dollop of sour cream, with 2 rolled cones of caramel cheese. Top right: (from our wine tour) Chilean beef over polenta with sweet potato, garnished with a balsamic reduction and fresh salsa. Bottom left: (from the same winery) panna cotta with fresh berries and a dark chocolate tuille. Bottom right: (from the World cafe) my favoutite of all the gelato flavours – almond breton with dark-chocolate-covered almond pieces and a huge piece of dark chocolate lace

It’s just not possible to go hungry, because there is also 24 hour room service and a mini-fridge in our room that gets restocked daily with water, soda, nuts and (I know I have mentioned them before, but ….. REALLY) mini Toblerone bars!

None of these things cost extra above the cruise price, and all meals come with unlimited wine or beer. Sparkling water, juices, teas, and coffees, including espresso based ones, are always available. You could pay for an unlimited liquor package, but neither of us would be able to make use of it.

Anyway, back to food. We can’t possibly share pics of everything we ate over the 4 weeks we cruised, but here are a few more of our favourite plates (when we remembered to take a photo!)

Top left: (from Mexican night #1 at The Chef’s Table) octopus ceviche with lime juice, shaved scallions, garlic and cilantro, served on a cripy corn tostada and garnished with avocado crema. Top right: (same menu) beef short ribs in chocolate mole sauce, with caramelized onions, served with a sweet potato and cinnamon puree. The black specks on the plate are “onion dust”. Bottom left: (same menu) dessert of chocolate 6 ways – dark chocolate mousse with milk chocolate crumble, Mexican chili chocolate shards, white chocolate gelato on a sliver of chocolate sponge, and garnished with a cactus flower, over a brush stroke of cinnamon infused chocolate syrup. That course was served with Sandeman port. Bottom right: (from The Restaurant) the individual size dessert cheese plate.
All from The Restaurant. Top left: quinoa salad with corn, mango, cilantro and lime. Top right: Peruvian beignets with agave syrup, candied mango and cherries, and a dollop of whipped cream. Bottom left: cold potato and green pea soup with a garnish of crisp jamón iberico. Bottom right: appetizer of raspberries in a lemongrass and mint infusion.
All from Manfredi’s. Top left: carpaccio di pulpo, with cucumber salad and Gaeta olives. Note that the octopus (pulpo) is a huge translucent slice (originally covering the plate under the salad), not tentacles. Top right: Osso Bucco over saffron risotto, with lemon gremolata. Not the prettiest picture, but the tenderest osso bucco I’ve ever eaten, so it deserved to be remembered. Bottom left: Dark chocolate Amarone cremosa. Bottom right: Moscato Zabaglione.
All from The Restaurant. Top left: marinated fruits with Cointreau. Top right: Ecuadorian Seco de Chivo, lamb stew with baked tomato rice and pico de gallo. Bottom left: Vanilla risotto with spun silken tofu (how do they even do that?), chocolate and strawberries. Bottom right: Peruvian Dulce de Zapallo spiced simmered pumpkin and brown cane sugar, with coconut ice cream and currant coulis.
All from The Chef’s Table Mexican menu #2. Top: Tortilla soup, before and after the tomato, epazote and pasilla chili broth was poured over feta, tortilla strips, avocado and chicken. Bottom left: beef cheek confited for 87 hours, served on a tomatillo salsa verde and topped with avocado mousse, scallions and watercress. Bottom right: Bunuelo de viento crispy cake with ponche ice cream made from guava, hibiscus and tamarind, drizzled with a piloncilla sauce containing cloves and star anise.

On Christmas Eve there was a fantastic chocolate buffet, complete with complex art deco style chocolate sculptures. Unfortunately, the feeding frenzy prevented Ted from getting pictures of it intact.

Clockwise from top left: Chilled hickory-smoked tomato soup garnished with a fresh basil and goat cheese crostini; crispy calamari with balsamic aioli: ricotta cheesecake with candied citrus; broiled lobster tail over lemon pepper risotto, with a side of sautéed asparagus, tomato, watercress, and a beurre blanc sauce.
Clockwise from top left: Grilled romaine caesar salad; Pink Pavlova with guava meringue, strawberries and kiwi; Ginger cake with strawberries and hibiscus flower, date ice cream and Damiana foam; Grand Marnier soufflé with orange sauce; smoked tuna tostada amuse bouche.

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