Sherman's Food Adventures: Q Smokehouse (NCL Bliss)

Q Smokehouse (NCL Bliss)

In the late 90's we were seeing a new trend appear in the cruise industry - alternative dining options for a fee.  The usual main dining room with an early and later seating at fixed table arrangements were not the only place someone could dine at anymore.  So we saw the rise of specialty French, Italian and Asian restaurants as well as steakhouses.  Hey, we even started to see established restaurants on land set up shop aboard cruise ships.  Now we are seeing another genre being included - American BBQ.  On paper, Q Smokehouse aboard the NCL Bliss sounded like the real deal with menu descriptions that rivalled those in Texas.  Hey, I've been there and even though I wasn't expecting anything close, I still had medium-high hopes.

To start things of, we had the Deviled Eggs with maple sugar glazed bacon.  Honestly, I believe deviled eggs are making a comeback.  Often forgotten and associated with the 80's and earlier, deviled eggs never got the love I thought they should.  These were pretty good with creamy egg yolk spiked with enough seasoning a touch of mustard.  The sweet and smoky bacon did elevate the flavors as well as providing texture.  Next, I thought the Fried Green Tomatoes to be so-so.  Even though the crumb coating was uniformly crispy, it merely slid off the firm tomato.  It was almost as if the coating and the tomato were 2 separate dishes.  Lack of cohesiveness literally and figuratively.  It was topped with red pepper jam, bacon and blue cheese crumble.  The strong flavored ingredients were all there, but it just seemed something was missing.

The Texan Crab Cakes with chilled pimento cream was appreciably better. I'm glad they didn't serve the same version as Cagney's.  That would've been a total rehashing of things from different restaurants on board.  These were quite good with evenly browned sides.  Unlike the one at Cagney's, the ones here were a mix of crab and peppers.  Hence, there was a variation of flavors that did mask the delicate sweetness of the crab.  No matter, it was texturally on point though, so we still enjoyed them.  Our last appie was the Tex-Mex Style Tortilla Soup with red onion and cilantro.  This wasn't bad where the balance of tang and spice made the soup appetizing.  It wasn't heavy despite the viscosity and the crunch from the tortillas added texture.  We actually didn't order this.  Instead, the server added this for no charge.

Onto the BBQ, my son went for the Beef Short Rib with pickles, chunky potato salad, coleslaw, BBQ beans and jalapeno cheese corn bread.  Yes, it wasn't a whole lot of short rib on the platter as he easily dusted this off.  It was good though being tender with rendered fat.  It was mildly smoky and could've used more rub.  My daughter kept it simple with the Pulled Pork with the same sides.  This was not very good as the pork was stringy and dry.  Yes, we sauced it afterwards with the available BBQ sauces at the table, but that only served to make it wet and sweet.  Sides were okay though as the potato salad was indeed chunky with a nice tang to it.  Beans were a bit sweet, but pretty typical.  Corn bread was decent being somewhat moist with a touch of heat and tang from the jalapenos.

My parents weren't really all that hungry and shared the BBQ 1/2 Chicken that looked rather appealing at first glance.  It sported a nice hue as well as well-rendered skin.  Although the dark meat was somewhat moist, the white meat was dry and rather bland.  There was smokiness, but not as strong as we would've liked.  For myself, I went big with the Pitmaster Platter consisting of BBQ chicken, beef brisket, pork spareribs and jalapeno & cheese sausage.  No need to talk about the chicken as it was not very good.  Brisket was awful as it was dry and hard.  Despite sporting a nice bark, the meat itself was almost inedible.  By visuals alone, you can probably tell it was more like jerky... Ribs were okay though being fall off the bone while still being meaty.  Nice bark on it too.  I liked the sausage as it was bouncy and juicy with a snap casing.

Off to the sweets, we shared the Warm Skillet Brownie as well as the Peach Cobbler.  Both were served with vanilla ice cream.  The brownie was okay where it was rich and moist.  However, it was really sweet though that partially obscured the chocolate flavor.  I really didn't like the peach cobble as it was a buttery mess.  Somehow, the batter was undercooked, so the whole thing was wet and mushy.  Furthermore, it was too sweet.  As you can probably guess right now, we were not impressed with Q Smokehouse aboard the NCL Bliss.  Yes, we cannot compare with on-land BBQ, but this was an insult to Texas-style BBQ.  If you are ever on an NCL ship and this restaurant is on that ship, take a hard pass.  You will do better at the buffet and that is free.

The Good:
- Loved that they tried to do a BBQ restaurant
- Service was top notch

The Bad:
- Food was subpar
- Not sure why we had to pay extra for this as the free one on Carnival was better

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