Asian Fusion Dishes at Food Republic on Norwegian Escape
Norwegian Cruise Line is very proud of its food onboard its ships.
The cruise line's boss, Andy Stuart, made that abundantly clear during a press conference on Norwegian Escape. Even the food available in the complimentary restaurants is of the highest quality, he boasted.
Usually, you would expect to find standard quality food available in the complimentary restaurants with premium food available in the speciality restaurants. Not on Norwegian.
While you can opt to dine in charged-for speciality restaurants, you are paying for the unique experience, service, and ambience available there - not food quality. Take Teppanyaki for instance. Here the skilled chefs prepare steak, seafood, and chicken on a large steel grill table-side. It is part dinner and part show, worthy of its extra fee.
Food Republic, a new concept by the Pubbelly Boys, is best described as an Asian fusion food eatery. With a mix of bar-style and traditional seating, it has been designed to welcome families and groups of friends. Sharing plates of food is at the heart of this concept.
Solo travellers need not feel left out as the bar-style seating makes it easy to dine without standing out as a lonely person (from experience there is nothing worse than sitting at a large table looking lonely on your own).
The à la carte restaurant makes use of iPad menus. Browse and tap on the dishes that take your fancy. My waitress recommended ordering two to three dishes per person which was a perfect amount.
Dishes varied in price. Some cost as much as $19.99 (≈ £16) and others were as low as $4.50 (≈ £4). The average price was around $6 (≈ £5) per dish.
You get each plate as soon as it is ready. Freshness is key here. The downside is you might not know what will arrive next. When you share a table with others, it can get confusing remembering who ordered what.
Each dish arrived just as I polished off the previous one so I could not fault the timing. The exception was a steak plate that took over 20 minutes to come thanks to a mix-up.
With good company and good food, it was a very enjoyable meal. Here is what I worked my way through fellow cruise blogger, Cruise Miss:
- Salt and pepper calamari
- Shrimp Brochettes
- Maine lobster rolls
- Japanese squid
- Chicken teriyaki
- 21oz Wagyu rib-eye steak
The food quality was impeccable as was the presentation. In fact, so much detail went into the preparation that each dish perfectly resembled the photo on the iPad menu.
The menu was varied enough to offer something for everyone although vegetarian and vegan options were few and far between. As the menu revolves around Asian and Fusion cookery, fussy eaters might struggle to find something they like on the menu. I would have liked to seen a few more "safe" options (albeit with a Food Republic twist) for less adventurous eaters.
My recommendation would be to try the lobster rolls. Lobster smothered in a red onion and mayonnaise dressing wedged between crisp lettuce leaves and stuffed inside a pillowy soft brioche roll - what is not to love?!
The Wagyu beef steak, while pricey, was cooked to perfection with a lot of flavour oozing from every bite. The presentation was beautiful too, with grilled spring onions topping the steak. This dish was worth the wait.
I would not have prioritised visiting Food Republic had I been on a longer sailing but I am so glad I got the chance to try this venue. The food was of the highest quality, and presentation was flawless.
Pricing is affordable, portion sizes are good, and the food is all freshly cooked to order. The iPad ordering is gimmicky, and with two iPads shared among six people, it can be a cumbersome ordering experience. The concept revolves around being neighbourly and sharing dishes, and somehow, the food tastes even better with good company.
What do you think of the Food Republic concept? Love it or hate it? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.
Disclosure: Norwegian Cruise Line supplied a one-night full board sailing on Norwegian Escape. I paid for my transport to and from Southampton. My opinions are my own.
(Photo credits to David Fiske)