The Norwegian Escape boasts 28 possible places to fill your belly as part of their whole Freestyle cruising setup. Being that there was no standard MDR with assigned dining times, we decided to give a few specialty restaurants a try, and pre-purchased the 3 meal dining package. Prior to this, I think we’ve only eaten in two or three specialties on all of our past cruises, so this was a big change for us. When it was all over, we hit 12 different restaurants over the course of this trip, including the free options and Supper Club.
We spent a bit of time trying to decide where to eat on the dining package, and after some back and forth finally settled on Teppanyaki, Moderno Churrascaria, and La Cucina. We set up reservations for all three ahead of time out of concern for seating availability once we got on board, as we only had certain nights available due to our conference schedule.
So how was the food? Honestly, it was all really good, which I wasn’t expecting. This is all going probably to come off sounding like I’m trying to suck up to NCL, but I mean every word of it. If we didn’t like something, I’d be more than happy to call it out, like I keep doing with the Supper Club. I truly left the ship amazed at how good these five restaurants were. Let’s take a quick look at the pay restaurants we ate at, in the order we dined there:
Teppanyaki: We love Japanese steakhouses. The ones we usually eat at are mostly chains (Kabutos, Nakato, Benihana), with our favorite being Kabutos. This blew those away. Absolutely delicious from start to finish. Service was great, the food was great, and our chef did an outstanding job. It really set the bar for the rest of the cruise in all apsects, as it was the first real meal we had on board. I had the filet and green tea cake. The fruit pic is my wife’s dessert, which the menu claimed to be exotic fruits. She liked it, but didn’t really feel it was all that exotic. Regardless, we left quite happy. One thing to note here, you never run out of rice. They cook enough for everyone to have at least two servings, so you can ask the chef at any time for more, as it’s sitting there on the grill staying warm throughout your meal. Another thing on the rice, they grill it up with garlic and butter, something we’ve never seen in this food genre. As my wife put it: I didn’t think fried rice could be improved, but I was wrong. The rice is amazing!
Food Republic: We decided to eat here on a whim on night three. We hadn’t planned to pay for any food above the three we’d already booked, but it was well worth it. You order everything on an iPad at your table instead of the traditional server-based ordering, and the food itself was outstanding. Jen had chicken skewers and sushi (don’t recall specifics on that, unfortunately) and she really liked it. I had the 18oz Wagyu bone-in rib eye and it was some of the best meat I had all week, and was perfect with the chimichurri sauce that came on the side, although it stood on its own just fine too. As shown in the picture (which I wish was better quality), it arrived pre-cut, and every piece was perfectly cooked. If you only eat at one specialty on the Escape, this one should be at the top of your list. As shown, we had a window seat and ate as the sun set, which made the experience that much better.
Cagney’s Steakhouse: Again, not on our original list, but we totally backed in to this one. Some friends or ours, also fellow agents, had been invited here by one of the NCL execs, Alex Pinelo, and they were able to invite two other couples along, with us being one of them, which we appreciated very much. We can’t thank him enough for the hospitality, and I have to say that the food, wine, and service was excellent! One of the best ship-board steakhouses we’ve eaten at, with our filet being perfectly cooked all the way through. Didn’t hurt that this happened on my birthday, so added bonus for me! We both had the baked potato soup and the 8oz filet. I had mac and cheese as my side (that was just okay) and the yummy chocolate cake for dessert, while Jen had the apple crisp. I think my only issue is how long it all took. Start to finish, I think we were there for more than two and a half hours, possibly three. I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth though, it was an excellent evening.
Moderno Churrascaria: I love a good Brazilian steakhouse, so this was mostly my choice. Any place where people keep coming by my table with meat is good by me. I don’t remember a lot about the salad bar, other than there being plenty of choices, so I’ll go straight to the meat. My favorite was probably the signature steak, which if I recall was some sort of flank cut. Really, really good. The sausage was also a favorite of mine. Mmmmm. In addition to the signature, my wife’s other favorite was the grilled pineapple, which was also popular with both tables around us. The only filet I had was the well done one as it turned out, but by the time I realized it I was too full to try the medium version unfortunately. That was the only issue I had all night, and only an issue because I wasn’t paying attention when he said it was well done. All in all a really good night, and as usual I left the green button up way too long :). The plate of meat you see was shot right after I realized that and flipped the card to red. The dessert is a delicious cake they brought me for my birthday, which could easily have been shared with three to four people.
La Cucina: We ate here on our last night, and scored a table outside. If the weather is right, this is definitely the way to go, the ambiance outside is outstanding. Eating a good meal out on a nice quiet deck at night? Yes please! We both had the meat lasagna, and agreed it was excellent. There’s a place near us (Arooji’s Wine Room) that has some of the best lasagna I’ve ever eaten, and La Cucina beat that. Hard to do, in my opinion. I’d definitely eat here again, especially if we could sit outside. We both had the beef carpaccio in addition to the aforementioned lasagna. I had the chocolate torte for dessert, while Jen had the lemon curd ricotta cheesecake. That chocolate torte was super rich, but I powered through and finished it 🙂
That about covers the pay restaurants we ate at. As mentioned in the last post, all of the other restaurants we ate at (Taste, Savor, Margaritaville, Manhattan Room, O’Sheehan’s, Garden Cafe buffet) were good too, with the notable exception of the disappointing food in the Supper Club for the Brat Pack show. We were very happy to see that Norwegian’s put some effort into improving the quality of the food on board, it’s definitely paying off. If anyone has specific questions on any of the dining venues we ate at, feel free to ask in the comments!
Full disclosure: I’m very much a meat and potatoes guy, and in no way claim to be a foodie, so YMMV 🙂