Five Delicious Eateries on the Norwegian Escape

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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 🙂

Crons in the Capital – Day 2

The second day began with Bayley and I heading to a local Arlington “landmark”, the Apple store in Clarendon. The night before, there was a bit of a water related incident with her iPhone, with the device being terminal by the time we woke up. Fortunately she got AppleCare for it, and after she handed over a few bucks, they swapped it out for a new device and we were on our way.

Leaving Clarendon, we had one main goal for the day, to hit the National Zoo. By the time we made it over there, we were both pretty hungry, and decided to stop outside the park at a little Italian bistro just down the road, Lillies Restaurant and Bar. Ended up being a pretty solid choice. We were both pretty hungry, and started off with some garlic bread, which was pretty good. For the main course, I went with lasagna, which I really enjoyed. Good sauce, and the perfect amount of ricotta for my tastes. We’d definitely eat there again.

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Our bellies full, we headed in to the zoo. Again, it’s nice to have the option to visit something like this without an entrance fee, but we did donate $5 for the zoo map as we walked in.

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We didn’t plan to see everything, but Bayley did have a list of animals she definitely didn’t want to miss. One of those targets was the panda habitat. Most of the panda stuff was shut down, as one of the panda bears was getting close to delivering a newborn, which actually happened the day after we were at the zoo. All we managed to catch was a brief glimpse of one of them while over there, which I managed to capture in a shot I had to crop pretty tightly:

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Some of the other animal highlights included the tiger, who was out playing with a ball in his pond, which was pretty fun to watch, and the otters who were all out playing too, and were fun to watch as they showed off for the crowd.

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The only negative to the zoo trip was the terrain. Going in is fine, it’s all downhill all the way to the back of the zoo. The downside to that is you’re walking all the way back up to get out. It was a little humid, too, so we headed back to the hotel after that to rest a bit, clean up, and wait for Jen.

For dinner that night, we decided to head to Old Town Alexandria. On arrival, we walked from the metro station all the way down to the waterfront and see if anything along the way sounded good. When we got to the end, we ran across Virtue Feed and Grain, and after a quick scan of the menu, decided to give it a shot. Ended up being a good choice for the most part. They seated us at the high-tops near the bar area, which was a little too loud for our tastes, but we had a great server, and the food was excellent. We happened to be there during restaurant week, so I ate off that 3 course menu. After starting with the mac and cheese, which was outstanding (quite cheesy, and almost perfectly creamy). Being a meat and potatoes guy, I went with the NY strip steak for my entree, which was excellent, having been cooked to a perfect level of medium. For dessert, I had the icebox pie, which was just okay. For something with the word ‘icebox’ in the name, I expected it to be a lot colder than it actual was (it was almost room temperature).

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After dinner, we walked around a little more, even stopping for a couple of small cones at Pop’s Ice Cream before grabbing the King St trolley back to the metro station to catch a train back to our beds 🙂

Another fun day in the DC area in the books, with one more day on tap!

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