The signature restaurant onboard the MS Oosterdam is the Pinnacle Grill. Unlike the ship’s two main dining options, the Lido Buffet and the Vista Dining Room, there is an additional charge of US$29.00 (AUS$34.00) per person to dine in this restaurant.
The executive chef of the Pinnacle Grill is Rudi Sodiman who is the Holland America Line’s culinary consultant. The restaurant is heralded as the place to go where you will have a luxurious, romantic and intimate dining experience with Bvlgari china and Riedle stemware and Frette linens and while all that sounds incredible, a whole lot less is said about the food. I understood there was going to be a lot of steak and seafood on the menu and was hoping the cuisine was going to be innovative and exciting, and introduce me to something I hadn’t seen or experienced before.
During the cruise, Carl and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. A few weeks before the cruise our travel agent advised us to notify them if we were celebrating a special occasion during the cruise as the ship goes out of its way to celebrate and recognise special occasions. I’m not after a fuss but went ahead anyway and let the agent know about our wedding anniversary. She sent a reply letting me know she had notified the ship and they were aware of our anniversary.
Well it’s a good thing I’m not keen on a fuss because the day came and went as per usual. However, I have a very thoughtful daughter and when we arrived back in our cabin after a day on the Isle of Pines, there was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot chilling in an ice bucket from all three of our children but I knew who’d been the one and only organiser.
I had pre-booked the Pinnacle Grill for our wedding anniversary prior to embarking the ship and so after a glass or two of champagne while watching the sunset we set off down a few flights of stairs to our dinner.
Situated on Deck Two and in a quiet and less-trafficked part of the ship, the Pinnacle Grill is meant to recreate an American fine-dining experience. The tables are very well spaced with many being in banquettes or booths. We requested a table next to the window so we could experience the final glow of the sunset but all the window tables are set-up as tables for four. However, when Carl explained we were there for our wedding anniversary, they allowed us to sit at a ‘table for four for two’ beside the window.
The generously proportioned tables (especially if there are only two of you) are covered in crispy starched linen with napkins to match and stunning Bvlgari china with the Riedle wine glasses. I wasn’t too sure about the decor or the chairs but I’ll give you a bigger overview of that subject in another post.
It seemed all staff in the restaurant were suddenly aware of our anniversary and all came over at one stage or another to congratulate us. The waitress approached to introduce herself and while she was very polite and professional and full of smiles, there was a formality in her approach as if that was what the diners would expect.
We were offered Evian water or San Pellegrino to start with. We chose the sparkling because why not sparkle on a special night. I noticed then that I was finding the restaurant to be very quiet. There was no music playing apart from muffled tones coming from a neighbouring bar and I think music can add so much to a dining experience. There is a couple onboard the ship who plays classical music on the piano and the violin and I would have loved something like that to lift the mood and the experience.
A bread basket arrived and it was beautifully presented with an incredible selection to choose from including lavosh and different rolls and slices of sourdough, all baked fresh onboard the ship. My favourite was the rosemary bread that I piled high with whipped butter. It had been a long time since I’d seen piped butter.
We regrettably ate all the bread as that day we had skipped lunch and so by the time we arrived at the restaurant, we were starving. It’s never a wise decision though to fill up on bread when you know you have a big meal on its way.
The amuse-bouche arrived and it was a mushroom cappuccino. It was chilled and rich and absolutely delicious. (And there wasn’t any coffee in it!)
We were presented with menus and I found the entrée selection to be fairly limited. There was a lot of seafood, a couple of dishes of beef like steak tartare and a beef soup. I’m not keen on seafood, I didn’t want beef because I was ordering it for a main course and the clear soup option didn’t interest me.
In the main course section there was a wild mushroom ravioli with a pesto sauce so I asked if I could have an entrée sized portion. The waitress checked with the kitchen and I was very pleased they were able to accommodate my request.
The pasta arrived and I could barely find the ravioli as it was so smothered in a thick and heavy sauce. It was piping hot and I didn’t leave any ravioli on my plate, (Carl had a few), however I found the sauce to be overwhelmingly heavy and rich and the amount of thick sauce absolutely drowned and detracted from the flavor of the mushrooms that, in the dish, I would have considered the key ingredient. The ravioli was also a little tough.
Carl ordered crab cakes and he found them to be the same as the crab cakes he had eaten in the ship’s main restaurant. He said they were ‘okay’ which as you would know from Carl’s enthusiasm for food and how he never has a bad meal, is not high praise at all. I thought the presentation was very dated.
From viewing the menu it seemed the restaurant was pretty much a steakhouse with some seafood options. In the main course section there was a list of steaks with their weights in ounces listed beside them. You choose your steak and then choose a sauce like bearnaise, hollandaise or horseradish cream. We were both scrambling to convert the ounces into grams and I ordered a fillet mignon which in Australia would be eye fillet and there were two options in size (weight) and not knowing how rich the entrée would be, I ordered the larger size. Then I had to choose a sauce and there were about six to choose from and I chose bearnaise.
The steak arrived with the sauce in a small jug situated beside it on the plate. The steak was perfectly cooked and incredibly tender and the knife just glided through it as I cut it. No complaints about the quality of the meat! But sadly, having eaten all that bread and then the mushroom cappuccino followed by the richest ravioli on record, I could only eat half of it.
Carl chose the rib eye on the bone and I think it weighed about 800gms. It was enormous and the waitress suggested a baked potato as a side that at the table, she topped with sour cream, finely diced bacon and chives.
Even for Carl, this meal was a struggle and he couldn’t finish it. He chose the horseradish sauce and that too was served in a separate little jug and again, it was one of the best steaks he has ever eaten; full of flavour and very tender and juicy.
Sides are ordered separately and from the selection we chose Brussels sprouts with bacon and parmesan, truffle fries with aioli and grilled asparagus. Carl didn’t like the sprouts while I thought they were just okay, the asparagus was all right and the truffle fries excellent but the aioli very rich and heavy.
Although we hadn’t managed to finish our mains we didn’t want to leave without experiencing the dessert menu. I wanted to order the Bombe Alaska as something flambéed is great theatre and perfect for a celebration. Carl thought he’d like to have the Warm Grande Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake (didn’t sound slimming), and I was quite looking forward to seeing its presentation.
However, the staff had a surprise for us and instead of ordering dessert they brought out a dessert in celebration of our anniversary for us to share. It even had candles! The waitress lit the candles and Carl had to run around to my side of the table so she could take a few photos of us as we blew them out.
We thanked them very much for being so kind but we were actually in hysterics because there was chocolate writing around the plate that said, ‘Happy Anniversary Mr and Mrs Reynolds’. What’s the joke? We’re not the Reynolds. Never have been. I hoped Mr and Mrs Reynolds weren’t at another table waiting for their special dessert!
I didn’t have the heart to say anything to the waitress who was just beaming at having done something so special. The dessert was a very large cube of chocolate mousse decorated with piped heavily-sugared cream. We picked up our spoons and pushed them through the mousse that was solid and dense and very rubbery – it wouldn’t wobble.
We both just couldn’t eat it. Not only were we full, not only were we eating Mr and Mrs Reynolds’ dessert, but unfortunately, it wasn’t nice at all. It was just too sickly sweet, too large and it didn’t have great texture.
We didn’t want to offend the lovely waitress who had been so attentive and kind all night and so we asked if we could take it back to our cabin. She was only too pleased to oblige and so we waited for its return and low, it had become a swan!
We enjoyed our dinner at Pinnacle Grill because we were on a holiday and because it was our anniversary and because we were out for dinner just the two of us. However, this is meant to be the ship’s signature restaurant and you have to pay extra to dine there. I was expecting an incredible dining experience and although the staff do a first class job in creating that environment, the menu and food fall way short. The menu reminded me of being in a steakhouse in 1970. There was nothing innovative or exciting or interesting or unusual or unpredictable about what was offered. I’d seen it all before; many decades ago.
As this is meant to be a showcase for American cuisine, I believe on the world’s stage it’s nothing but a dated disappointment. And there definitely needs to be music. However, Mr and Mrs Reynolds did have one of our most memorable and special wedding anniversaries ever and the staff at the Pinnacle Grill beyond doubt were enthusiastic in their congratulations to us and did all they could to make our night as perfect as it could be. And for that we were both extremely grateful.
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