Princess Cruise Line ships Reviews

Ruby Princess

Having cruised for the past 40 years, I have found my favorite cruise line Princess. But dining there, I have never chosen the alternative restaurants. I find the food in the dining room and buffet good and thought why should I pay extra when I have already paid for my meals? On a recent trip, my shipmate suggested we go to Sabatini's Fine Dining Italian Restaurant for dinner. The price was very reasonable, so I agreed. We met the Chef de Cuisine, Russell Clarke, upon entering the well-appointed dining room. He is tall, good looking and quite impressive in his white chef's coat and tall white hat. Interviewing him the next day, I learned he is in charge of the alternative restaurants on the Star Princess. His background is one accolade after another. Clarke honed his skills in Australia, serving four years training to be a butcher. On his own time, he mastered sausages and house cured meats.

He represented Australia in Lyon, France in the prestigious Bocuse d'Or, the French Culinary Olympics, winning the event at the tender age of 24. After that, he worked and trained under Chef Emmanuel Renaut at a 3 star Michelin restaurant in France. Following that experience he won an impressive amount of competitions, year after year. Returning to Australia, he had very little opportunity to move up quickly in the culinary chain. He decided to join the Princess Cruise Lines, where he thought his talent would shine through. It has. He works under the Executive Chef that has been with Princess for years. When the Chef gives him a new recipe, Clarke gives it to his kitchen staff and asks them to make it. After they have finished, he turns to them and says, "Now, make it with love!"

Clarke can be very serious when talking about food but when asked about working in a private dining room on a cruise ship, he said, "I love the fun things that happen here and particularly the passenger interaction." As a professional Food Critic, I studied the menu thoroughly and it was hard to choose. I am a sucker for a great appetizer and like the chance to have tastings of small plates. The menu included a number of these. Unlike many restaurants, where the appetizers can be hit or miss, every single one of them on the menu was spectacular. I felt like I was in a 4 star restaurant in San Francisco, where I would have had to pay many hundreds of dollars to have this food. Why had I waited so long for this incredible opportunity?

My favorites of the menu last fall: Vitello Tonnato, which is thinly sliced chilled veal roast with tuna and caper aioli. This top inside cut of young beef is slowly roasted in white wine and veal stock, with finely chopped celery, onions and carrots added. It is cooked to a perfect texture. It is the sauce that makes this dish, though. It is made of mayonnaise, capers, anchovy, lemon, brined tuna puree and pan juice from the veal. The veal is so tender it melts in your mouth and the combination of the sauce is exquisite. The addition of the tuna is the key to the lingering taste. I could have ordered this as an entree, under different circumstances.

Sformato di Carciofi Gratinati al Castelrosso is twice bake artichoke souffle, with Castelrosso cheese sauce. Considering artichokes are very seasonal, I was delighted to find this on the menu. Artichoke bottoms are sauteed, pureed and mixed with whole eggs, sauteed onions and Castelrosso cheese for texture. They are then blended for the sauce. This is served over tender, crisply fried artichoke bottoms. It is the best artichoke dish I have had with a rich, subtle taste, where nothing overpowers. I am off on another cruise next week and look forward to another wonderful meal at Sabatini's. If I had a large, white chef's hat, Russell Clarke, I would take it off and raise it high in honor of your skills.

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