Sherman's Food Adventures: Le Bistro (NCL Bliss)

Le Bistro (NCL Bliss)

Ever since our first NCL cruise, we’ve enjoyed good meals at Le Bistro.  This has been one of their longest standing specialty restaurants and in my opinion, one of their best.  As the name suggests, Le Bistro is NCL’s fine dining French option amongst their many Freestyle dining choices.  So on our first night aboard the Norwegian Bliss, we chose to skip the main dining rooms and start off with Le Bistro.  It certainly didn’t hurt that it was included with our 3-restaurant dining package that was part of our mini-suite.  We did, however, had to purchase the dining package for our kids though.

As per usual, we had a limit of 2 appetizers each and like we always do, we maxed it out.  I decided on the Salade Frisee with warm goat cheese and sautéed pancetta and the Escargots Bourguignonne.  Fresh and crisp, the salad was dressed in a vinaigrette that had enough acidity for brightness and to provide balance with the crispy salty pancetta.  The goat cheese was creamy and gamy where the flavor was impactful.  I found the escargots to be pretty textbook bathed in a garlicky herbed butter.  The mushrooms added some earthiness.  I found the escargots to be soft and tender.  I ended up soaking up the butter with the bread at the table.

Viv decided on the Salade de Crabe made with lump crab, horseradish and citrus sauce.  Wrapped in cabbage, the salad was essentially all crab with no filler.  As such, it ate hearty and fluffy.  The natural crab essence really came through while the horseradish was kept to a minimum where it didn’t overwhelm.  With the addition of citrus, there was brightness and freshness to the salad.  For her second appie, she was presented with a large portion of Moules Marinieres with mussels, shallots, white wine and parsley.  This was also pretty classic, albeit a bit short on broth (it was flavorful and aromatic though).  The mussels were not particularly meaty, but they were buttery and briny.

My son had the Coquilles Saint Jacques Provencal featuring seared scallops, eggplant, tomato, pine nuts and olive oil.  Although the scallops were rather small in size, they were prepared properly being buttery with an appealing rebound.  They were sweet on their own with some caramelization on the exterior.  The accompaniments added some more sweetness, tang and nuttiness.   He also had the Soup aux Quatre Champignons (as well as my daughter) which was plenty mushroomy.  It was earthy and full of umaminess.  I thought it was a bit too thick, but then again, it is a whole lot better than runny.  We enjoyed how it wasn’t overly salty.

The same couldn’t be said about my dad’s Soupe a L’oignon Gratinee (French Onion Soup) as it was really salty.  We realize that this soup can pack quite the punch in terms of saltiness and sweetness, but this was a little much.  On the other hand, it was full of deep onion flavor as well as the nuttiness from the Gruyere Cheese.  I tried a few spoonfuls and ended up eating a lot more as it was tasty to me.  In addition to her mushroom soup, my daughter had the Salade D’asperges Tiedes with oranges and smoked duck.  Originally, she was supposed to share some with me, but she ended up eating most of it.  The duck was tender and smoky while the asparagus was still crunchy.

For our entrees, my dad had the Sole Grenobloise featuring sautéed dover sole with lemon caper butter, croutons and potatoes.  Beautifully prepared, the generous portion of sole was buttery soft while still flaky.  The delicate fish was graced with a creamy butter sauce that had equal amounts of acidity from the lemon and saltiness from the capers.  My mom went for the Carre d’agneau roti or roasted rack of lamb with artichokes, blistered tomatoes, zucchini and green olive sauce.  Although it looked plenty rare from the outside, it was actually perfectly medium-rare being tender.  Although not plentiful, the olive sauce was impactful with a tangy saltiness.

For myself, I had the Medaillons de Veau with morel sauce, twice-baked potato cake and seasonal vegetables.  This ended up to be more a veal steak than medallions, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t good.  In fact, it was perfectly medium-rare and yes, tender.  Loved the morel sauce as you can imagine, it was super woodsy and full of umaminess.  It was also seasoned enough too where it flavored all of the veal.  Viv decided on the Parmentier de Canard with orange-braised carrots and microcress salad.  The “pulled duck” was soft with classic duck meatiness.  The sweet carrots provided the duck with another layer of flavor.  Portion size was a little lacking thought, but will of the appies, she was good.

My daughter ended up Filet de Loup de Mer with ratatouille sauce, fried chickpea semolina and tomato confit.  Featuring a beautifully prepared crispy well-seasoned skin, the branzino was delicate and flaky.  I thought the ratatouille sauce could’ve been more impactful and seasoned more aggressively though.  For my son, he stayed with his standby being beef.  The Filet de Boeuf featured a 5-peppercorn 8 oz beef tenderloin with light brandy sauce and Anna potatoes.  Prepared a proper medium-rare, the tenderloin was buttery soft.  Since tenderloin steaks can be rather mild-tasting, the combination of peppercorns and brandy sauce made up for it.

Onto dessert, I had the Fondue au Chocolat with fresh fruit and choux pastry.  I found the fondue to be fairly sweet and thick yet lacking in silkiness.  That wasn’t a big deal as the big chunks of fresh fruit were really good on their own.  This was especially true with the sweet pineapple and kiwi.  Not sure about the choux pastry as the pieces were too small and too firm.  Viv went for the Napoleon a la Noisette with praline crunch and gianduja cream.  This featured a layers of wafer like chocolate with dollops of hazelnut cream.  Texturally, this was fine, but it was far too sweet overwhelming the chocolate flavor.  It looked pretty though.

My daughter had the Profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce.  The sauce was actually served on the side, but was poured on top by our server.  We really should’ve asked for it to be left on the side as it became rather messy and too sweet.  On its own, the profiteroles were soft and airy with a somewhat icy ice cream in the middle.  They would’ve been better just like that without the sauce.  My dad decided on the Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream.  Sporting layers of tender caramelized apples, this was also sweet, but purposefully so.  The pastry was crispy and flaky while also plenty buttery.

Lastly, my mom opted for her favorite – Vanilla Creme Brulee with sable cookie and berry basket.  This featured a fairly sweet custard that was the right consistency neither too thick nor too runny.  The torched sugar topping was medium-thick and hard (which was a good thing).  Once again, Le Bistro didn't disappoint.  I know that NCL sometimes takes abuse over their average food.  That is a fair comment when referring to the main dining rooms.  However, I've always found their specialty dining to be good.  That sparks the debate that only the paid restaurants serve better food.  Well, that is across the board in the mainstream cruise industry (maybe except for Holland America).  If you do cruise NCL, make sure you try Le Bistro.

The Good:
- On point proteins
- Smaller venue, more carefully prepared food
- Excellent service

The Bad:
- Some desserts were too sweet
- Well, you have to pay for it

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