Jet-Set Bohemian: Haute Dining at Sea

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Jet-Set Bohemian: Haute Dining at Sea

A jetset lifestyle doesn’t have to be all private planes and decadent digs. In Paste Travel’s Jet-Set Bohemian series, we blend the best of high and low for just the right balance … enticing everyone from backpackers to luxury boutique hotel lovers to come along for the ride.

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A hostess

in a black pencil skirt guides us through the sleek, wood-paneled restaurant past plush, Bordeaux-colored booths to a cozy table in the corner. Servers in white suit jackets simultaneously pull out our 1960s-style leather swivel chairs while delicately placing the menu in our hands, already referring to us by first name and sing-songingly listing out the specialties of the evening: Honey roasted parsnip with Marcona almonds. Free-range chicken roasted with thyme juice. Thick-cut New York strip steak. The menu reads like a high-end steakhouse you’d find in New York or Chicago. There’s only one difference—we’re at sea.

Long gone are the days when you can stick your nose up at the mere mention of cruise food. Ships are bringing in some of the world’s top starred chefs to open floating restaurants at sea that can be just as tough to snag a reservation for as their land-locked counterparts.

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Thomas Keller The Grill NY Steak.jpg Photo courtesy of Seabourn

Case in point:

the eight-week-old American-inspired steakhouse on board luxury line Seabourn’s Quest. Three-star Michelin chef Thomas Keller (behind fine dining institutions like Napa Valley’s The French Laundry and New York City’s Per Se) partnered up with Seabourn to debut his first restaurant at sea, The Grill by Thomas Keller, bringing the same quality of his iconic eateries to a meal that’s designed to be more casual but just as event-worthy.

Olive oil hails from Mount Amiata in Tuscany, hand-plucked from the small-batch production of film director Armando Manni. The lobster thermidor is sourced in Nova Scotia from Clearwater, Wild, a company that started in 1976 with just a pickup truck that has grown into one of the largest with a shellfish license in the world—while the roasted rack of lamb is the same that’s incorporated in dishes at both The French Laundry and Per Se, grown on the 200-acre Elysian Fields Farm in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

While chefs prep Michelin Star-style plates in the rear of the restaurant, mixologists are crafting classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds and Gimlets at the fully stocked bar up front and the head waiter is highlighting pairings from the wine list that spans more than 90 Old and New World bottles from around the globe.

On board five-star Oceania Cruises, you’ll find a scene equally as impressive led by French legend Jacques Pépin, who recorded television shows in the 90s with Julia Child and served as a personal chef to three heads of state (including de Gaulle), in addition to writing over 20 cookbooks. The Master Chef orchestrating the gastronomy on board serves as the brand’s executive culinary director, drafting up menus of Northern Italian fare at Toscana (think Osso Buco alla Milanese and Minestrone alla Genovese); steakhouse specialties at Polo Grill; and classic Americana dishes like lobster tails and lamb chops at the laid-back buffet Terrace Café.

For the ultimate in French fine dining, hop on board Oceania’s Marina or Riviera ships for dinner at Jacques, designed to feel like you’re sitting in a Parisian bistro at sea with artwork and décor hailing from the chef’s private collection. One of the staples here is the show rotisserie, where you can watch gorgeous cuts of duck and veal slowly rotate before deciding on which type of meat you’d like on your plate that evening. The rest of the menu teeters on the side of old-school French fare, from the garlic-herb butter sautéed frog legs to baked escargots and duck foie gras terrine with quince jelly, so plan on a lengthy multi-course dinner that’s just as decadent as any classic bistro you’d find in the City of Light.

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Crystal Cruises Nobu Sushi Trio Photo.jpg Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Sushi fans

, meanwhile, will be happy to know they can still snag specialties from Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa even though they’re sailing far from the cities sporting his iconic restaurant, Nobu. At Crystal Cruises’ Silk Road restaurant and The Sushi Bar, you’ll dine on signature Peruvian- and European-influenced Japanese cuisine whipped up by a Nobu-trained team of chefs. Think stir-fried lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce; grilled Australian Wagyu Beed with wok-fried vegetables and wasabi-pepper sauce; and miso-marinated broiled black cod with mountain peach and ginger. For those who are really serious fans of Nobu fare, order up the Nobu Box for a sampling of the chef’s most popular dishes, such as the rock shrimp drizzled with spicy creamy sauce.

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150 Central Park.jpg Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Not all chefs

hopping on board bear internationally recognized names, though. Even local darlings like Miami’s James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz are crafting farm-to-ship-style cuisine. The chef behind Miami hotspots like Michael’s Genuine and Cypress Tavern is bringing his signature homestyle flair to the plate here with an artisanal à la carte menu at 150 Central Park on board three Royal Caribbean ships: Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.

The menu spans a selection of dishes ranging from braised beef short ribs with sweet potato purée to the 23-ounce, dry-aged ribeye for two, carved tableside and drizzled with buttery béarnaise sauce or red wine Bordelaise. Ingredients sport labels like organic and free-range, honing in on the theme of locally sourced sustainable cuisine, while wines selected by Eric Larkee, sommelier and wine director at the Schwartz-owned The Genuine Hospitality Group’s, can stem from a casual California Chenin Blanc to the pricier South Australian Penfolds Shiraz and the even more exclusive 2011 Napa Valley Screaming Eagle Cabernet, costing a cool $6,800 per bottle with only 750 cases in existence. While this vino may be out of your budget, you can still dine in haute style with a wine and artisanal cheese pairing selected straight from the rolling cart.

Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.

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