Summer of 2015 Kickoff: Miracle on the Mexican Riviera, Day 2: Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse

Sunday, May 17, Day 2, Part 2

It was the first Cruise Elegant night, so dressed in our elegant attire, we arrived at 7:00 pm at Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse on Deck 10 for our reservation. There were a few diners seated at tables on the first level of the beautiful dining room.

nnNick and Nora’s Steakhouse

Our hostess Simona led us upstairs where we were the first to be seated there. We chose a perfectly-placed 4-top table by the window in the shade, and were immediately greeted by our fabulous server Antar from Hungary. He introduced his assistant, Tatsiana from Belarus.

We were given menus, and Antar explained that, since we were dining on one of the first two nights of the cruise, we could enjoy a free bottle of house wine or 50% off the price of any other bottle. We opted for a bottle from the extensive wine list.

WINE

With some advice from Antar, we chose a bottle of Francois Jeantet Cotes du Rhone, a French red blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Malbec. We love red blends, and this one was no exception. Here are some tasting notes that describe the wine pretty accurately.

Dark garnet in color with inviting aromas of rose petal, cherry, and traces of anise. Silky smooth, with blackberry and raspberry flavors balanced by pink peppercorn and dark chocolate on the finish.

IMG_1014Francois Jeantet Cotes du Rhone

Antar soon served us rosemary olive oil focaccia with three accompaniments: whipped butter, tomato spread with black onion seeds, and eggplant green pepper spread.

Rich_tieRosemary Olive Oil Focaccia

IMG_1019Spreads

Next, Antar brought us the meat selection display, explaining all the cuts of meat and the other entree options. After we ordered, Antar took a wonderful picture of us at our table with the beautiful Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. It turned out to be a fantastic picture of the two of us.

IMG_0154A Delightful Meal for Two
(PS – the shirt and tablecloth were *not* pink)

AMUSE-BOUCHE
Kathy: Lobster Carpaccio
Rich: Red Pepper Soup

Antar arrived shortly with a pleasant amuse-bouche, Lobster Carpaccio for Kathy and Red Pepper Soup for me. He offered the lobster to me first, but I’m allergic to lobster, so he switched them. The small plates were a lovely start to the meal.

IMG_1017Lobster Carpaccio

IMG_1016Red Pepper Soup

STARTER
Kathy: Escargots Bourguignonne, Baked in Garlic Herb Butter
Rich: Ahi Tuna Tartare, Dices of Sashimi Grade Yellow Fin Tuna Belly

The starters were interesting. My tuna tartare portion was very large. It was fresh and delicious, but I didn’t finish it all. Kathy’s escargots were oddly plated, with the escargots inside pastry. They were served with a separate veloute, and when she took the escargots out of the pastry and placed them in the veloute, it turned into a pretty good starter.

IMG_1021Escargots Bourguignonne

IMG_1020Ahi Tuna Tartare

SALAD
Kathy & Rich: Classic Caesar Salad, Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, Traditionally Prepared

Next was the Caesar salad, prepared table-side by Tatsiana. We were delighted when she offered to add anchovies to our salads — one of the best parts of a Caesar salad for us. The salad was quite splendid with just the right amount of dressing and anchovies with fresh, crisp lettuce. The only issue was that the salads were served in small, high-sided bowls, which made the large lettuce leaves hard to cut into bit-size pieces.

IMG_1022Classic Caesar Salad

Around this time, a crew member started using a power buffer on the deck outside our window. We were concerned at first, but we could not hear any noise, and he quickly moved on.

ENTREE
Kathy: Surf & Turf, Maine Lobster Tail and Grilled Filet Mignon
Rich: Spice-Rubbed Prime Ribeye Steak, 18 oz. of Flavorful Meat from the Center of the Prime Rib

The ribeye is my favorite cut of beef, and my steak definitely lived up to my expectations, nicely cooked at the requested medium rare. The five-spice rub on the ribeye was delightful, and the three-peppercorn sauce added just the right amount of moistness and spice.

Kathy’s serving was 4 oz. of lobster tail and 4 oz. of filet mignon with BĂ©arnaise sauce on the side. The lobster tail was somewhat underwhelming. Nothing special. But the filet mignon, Kathy’s favorite cut, was perfectly cooked and sumptuous. There was no need for the sauce. It would have just detracted from the beautiful steak.

IMG_1024Surf & Turf

IMG_1023Spice-Rubbed Prime Ribeye

SIDES
Kathy & Rich: Baked Potato with Trimmings, Creamed Spinach with Garlic

The sides served with the entrees were the weakest part of the meal. The potatoes were served whole with the “trimmings” on the side. We had to open the potatoes and try to add our own toppings. Unfortunately, the potatoes were not cooked well and were not hot enough to absorb the toppings. This was in contrast to the wonderful baked potatoes we would enjoy later in the week.

We love garlic, but you couldn’t taste it in the mushy, over-creamed spinach. Needless to say, we barely touched the sides.

IMG_1025Baked Potato and Creamed Spinach

DESSERT
Kathy & Rich: Cheesecake with Hazelnut Biscuit, Decaf Coffee

To end our special meal, we were served huge pieces of cheesecake. I enjoyed it more than Kathy, but the servings were so large, and we were so satisfied from the rest of the meal, neither of us finished our desserts. The decaf coffee was a good final touch.

The one odd thing was that our servers did not bother to clean off the tablecloth between the entrees and the desserts.

IMG_1026Cheesecake with Hazelnut Biscuit

SUMMARY

The low-lights were few: odd presentation of the escargots, awkward salad bowls, pedestrian side dishes, and no cleaning of the tablecloth. These were all pretty minor.

There were many highlights, including the beautiful decor of the dining room, a perfect table overlooking the sea (with a great photo of the two of us), attentive, friendly service, wonderful steaks and other tasty morsels, a fine bottle of wine, and the company of my beautiful wife in such a enjoyable setting.

Overall, it was a spectacular experience. Definitely worth the $35 per person charge. We thanked Antar personally after the meal and also when we saw him several times later during the cruise. His service was so good, we named him specifically for high praise in our after-cruise survey.

We decided not to finish the bottle of wine with our meal, which was a great idea, since we were able to take the remaining wine with us and have another glass together on our private balcony after the meal. Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse was undeniably one of the highlights of our cruise.

About Rich Eckardt

Byzantine Catholic Convert. Knight of Columbus. Celebrant of the Divine Office.