Dish It Up: The Sky’s the Limit on Viking Ocean
Viking Ocean Cruises hit a culinary home run in the 930-passenger Viking Sky, which, like her sisters, matches the gastronomic finesse of higher-priced luxury cruise competitors. The dining experience includes numerous gratis perks such as lunch and dinnertime wine and beer, 24-hour room service, and afternoon tea. Dining at The Chef’s Table and Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant specialty venues are also complimentary. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on board, revel in these gustatory standouts.
Man, Manfredi’s Is Good
I wish I could eat at Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant every evening. Alas, each guest is promised but one reservation per cruise. To ensure a slot, book as far in advance as allowed before setting sail. And, always add your name to the waitlist once on board to snag a repeat repast.
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Unlike the large, brightly lit main restaurant on Viking Ocean’s Viking Sky, Manfredi’s celebrates cozy, more stylized dining, with softer lighting, stunning black-and-white marble floors, and walls displaying photos of famed Italian actors. You can even check out the cooking in action, watching chefs bake bread and cut chunks of Parmesan from a giant wheel.
Man Can Live on Bread Alone
Just don’t do what I do: devour the breadbasket the minute I sit down. My allotment dwindles to crumbs as I gobble the focaccia, rolls, and lavash, dipping them into a pool of olive oil and balsamic vinegar that I swirl on my bread plate. I also consume all of the Parmesan chunks offered, savoring their sharp pungency.
The impressively composed Manfredi’s menu encompasses a wide array of Italian specialties, many with innovative spins. Most dishes are well proportioned, so you can try several. Begin with steamed black mussels, its broth enriched with vermouth, saffron cream, crabmeat, and fennel. Or try the fried calamari — tender and grease-free — deliciously walloped with the umami of salty cured fish roe and an aioli (garlicky mayonnaise) sharpened with balsamic. The creamy risotto rages with the richness of porcini mushrooms. Or, go light with tiger shrimp, wrapped in paper-thin zucchini, nestled in handmade angel hair pasta and a citrusy butter sauce.
Even if you eat beef but once a year, hang on until Manfredi’s night. The bistecca Fiorentina (steak Florentine) ranks as one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten — not a comment I make lightly. The chef coats a thick ribeye with garlic oil and then rubs in porcini mushroom powder, kosher salt, brown sugar, and red chili flakes before it’s grilled. (This is a great technique to try at home.) Each juicy bite reveals a hint of heat and sweet, with such mushroom-y earthiness that it compels further bites. Sides, ordered separately, should include blistered cherry tomatoes and truffle-roasted fingerling potatoes that are fragrant with fresh rosemary.
Good news, bad news: The breads are house-made and taste great. So get ready to succumb to carbs like moths to flames. The cornbread muffins in The Restaurant breadbasket possess the moistest….
By Janice Wald Henderson
Photo: Viking Ocean Cruises