Alright, this is the night most cruisers generally look out for - gala night. Yes, it is time to dress up, take pictures and dine on the most decadent menu of the cruise. There are exceptions though, namely NCL and Carnival where formal dining is purely optional and lobster requires an extra charge. For us, Holland America maintains some tradition especially considering their core customers who are of an older demographic. We made our way to the main dining room eager to nom hard on some lobster tails.
Before the large crustacean, we had smaller ones in the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail to start and it was pretty much the same at the other nights. That meant the shrimp had a cold-water meaty snap that was a joy to eat. The accompanying brandy cocktail sauce was interesting being creamy, but I would’ve liked the classic cocktail sauce with a zing instead. The Foie Gras with apple tart tartin was nicely prepared with a properly seared piece of foie. It was buttery and soft without any sinewy portions. The tart underneath was full of sweet apples that still had a slight tartness. Rounding out the flavors was a deeply sweet cassis reduction.
Almost all of us, including the 2 older boys had the Surf and Turf featuring a lobster tail and Filet Mignon steak. This dish was expertly prepared with buttery springy lobster that was doused in butter. The steak was fork tender requiring not much effort to cut or chew. It was flavored by the meaty and impactful jus (as the meat itself was predictably mild-tasting). Costanza (who is indifferent towards lobster) had the Basil Encrusted Veal Rack which was also excellent. Tender and barely cooked through, the meat was succulent and moist with a herbaceous crust. Even the mash potatoes were on point being buttery and yummy with bacon.
For kicks, I tried the Sweet & Sour Roast Duck with rice noodles. I found the skin to be nicely seared, but the meat was rather dry and mealy. The noodles were woefully overcooked as it was hard and chewy. I thought they were not flavourful either. Surprisingly, the sweet & sour sauce was rather tasty. My daugher decided on the Pan Seared Arctic Char with parsnip puree, arugula oil and roasted Italian vegetables. This was also well-executed featuring well-seasoned crispy skin where the fish was flaky and moist. Flavors were rather subtle which fit the dish. However, I would've liked to see some more salt used.
For dessert, the Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake was a big hit with the kiddies because it was made with their favorite ingredient. However, I found it rather dense and brownie-like (even with the molten center). With that being said, it did taste chocolatey and was an excellent brownie (if it was a brownie). The award for worst dessert went to the Berry Angel Food Cake because it was downright terrible. It looked impressive, but the texture was akin to a hard marshmallow. It was far too sweet as well. To make things worse, the triple berry compote merely added even more sugar that wasn't needed.
Viv had the Passion Fruit Cheesecake which was okay texturally being creamy and light. But the flavors were a bit off, almost seemingly salty. I did like the passion fruit hit as it was tangy and sweet. The best dessert of all was surprisingly the sugar-free Tiramisu. It was creamy, full of flavour including the espresso while being mildly sweet. No one seemed to notice the absence of real sugar, so I guess they succeeded in making an appealing sugar-free offering. Interestingly, this was the "gala dinner", but only a few items stuck out as really appealing (fortunately, the lobster was one of them). Maybe they knew everyone would be ordering that dish...