Sherman's Food Adventures: Taste Main Dining Room (NCL Bliss)

Taste Main Dining Room (NCL Bliss)

Due to the wide range of dining options aboard the NCL Bliss, we didn’t get a chance to visit any of the main dining rooms until well into the cruise. Ultimately, we were ready to see what dinner was like without the dining package and/or paying a la carte. We decided to try Taste on this night (although all 3 main dining rooms serve the same food).  Looking at the menu, it was pretty obvious that it didn’t compare to Le Bistro and Cagney’s. Yet, at the same time, the options were not completely unappealing. Oh, and I forgot to take a picture of both Taste and Savor.  That forgettable?  I guess we were about to see...

For our appies, my daughter went for the Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli with lobster cream.  Appetizing in appearance, this ate surprisingly well.  Although the lobster essence wasn't particularly strong, it did add the usual aromatics.  The pasta was al dente and fairly thin while the cheese in the middle was ooey and gooey.  We thought this would've been good as a main.  I guess we could've asked for that in hindsight...  My mom decided on the Stuffed Mushroom Caps with shallots, garlic, chopped walnuts, seasoned breadcrumbs and grated manchego cheese.  It is safe to say this was not the prettiest attempt at plating.  However, the caps were tender and full of ingredients which were varied and fairly subtle.  Normally, manchego would be noticeable as well as the garlic, but the mix was not that impactful.

We also ordered 2 soups that included the Cream of Broccoli with cheddar cheese and Sweet Yellow Corn & Chili Bisque with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeno.  Thick and creamy, the cream of broccoli had an unmistakable essence.  Some melted cheddar added more body to the soup.  We liked how it was flavorful without being overly salty.  I really enjoyed the bisque as it was sweet with depth.  There was a background spice that helped balance off the flavors.  Viv went for something simple in the Bruschetta featuring grilled ciabatta, ricotta cheese, roma tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil.  Nothing complex here, but the bread was crispy and didn't get soggy.  On top, the tomatoes were fresh and the drizzle of balsamic added the necessary acidity as well as sweetness.

Our final starter was the Smoked Sausage with russet potatoes and dijon mustard dressing.  Yes, this was not really all that elegant and fairly simple.  However, it was still enjoyable to eat regardless.  The "potato salad" underneath was on point texturally where it was soft without being mushy.  There was a pleasant tanginess from the dijon that helped lighten the heaviness of the dish.  The sausage itself was moist and bouncy with a nice snap from the casing.  My daughter went for the Potato Gnocchi with pesto cream sauce, sundried tomato and pine nuts.  She liked how the gnocchi was seared and caramelized, but the texture was a bit too dense.  The sauce was definitely creamy with the classic taste of pesto.  Cutting through the heaviness was the necessary tang from the sundried tomatoes.

For myself I had the Southern Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, corn and biscuit.  I found the meat to be fairly moist where it certainly needed more seasoning (or brining).  The batter itself was somewhat crunchy, yet it merely slid off the chicken once I cut into it.  This created a disconnect between that and the meat. Nothing really interesting about the corn and mashed potatoes.  The biscuit was not-so-great as it was hard and cold.  It was no surprise that my son chose the Beef Short Rib Ragu braised in red wine atop pappardelle pasta with ricotta cheese and aged balsamic vinaigrette.  Although a bit clumpy, the pasta was surprisingly al dente.  There was plenty of shredded short rib which was fairly tender with some dry parts.  It was well-seasoned and benefited from the acidity of the balsamic which created another layer of flavor.

Off to 2 fish dishes, Viv ordered from the classic entrees (available every night in all of the main dining rooms) choosing the Breaded Flounder Fillet with arugula salad, cherry tomatoes and mustard remoulade.  As simple this was, the execution was pretty spot on.  Flaky and moist, the fish was the beneficiary of a crispy and light breading.  With a squeeze from the lemon wedge and splash of remoulade, there was enough tangy creaminess to compliment the fish.  For my dad, he had the featured fish in the Baked Walleye Cod Fillet with spinach mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and lemon-butter sauce.  Similar to the flounder, the cod was also moist and flaky.  Breading was a touch thicker, yet still crispy and nicely browned.  We would've liked to see a more tangy sauce, but it was not offensive.  The glazed carrots were actually pretty good being sweet and not overdone.

Also selecting from the classic entrees, my mom opted for the Grilled New York Strip Steak with French fries and peppercorn sauce.  Despite the uneven grill marks, the steak was prepared medium-rare as requested.  With that being said, more char would've elevated the caramelized flavors and smokiness.  The meat was sufficiently tender and the peppercorn sauce was impactful enough.  Nothing special about the side of fries though.  For dessert, my mom went for her standby with the Classic Vanilla Cheesecake topped by raspberry sauce.  Considering this was a no-sugar added version, it was pretty solid.  It was not that heavy for a baked cheesecake, yet it was still creamy and rich.  Not surprisingly, it was sweet due to the addition of sugar substitutes. 

Our last 2 desserts consisted of Black Forest Cake and Flourless Chocolate Cake.  With a plethora of fresh whipped cream, the black forest cake was light and ate almost like an Asian cake.  On that note, it was also not very sweet either and the tangy black cherry sauce only helped keep things bright.  On the other hand, the flourless chocolate cake was predictably and expectedly more dense.  We found it a bit dry, but not lacking in sweetness.  Similar to the black forest cake, the fruity tang was provided by the berry compote on the side.  Overall, the food at Taste was acceptable and was a touch better than the last NCL cruise I was on several years ago.  I would still say that Holland America still has some of the best main dining room food compared to other mainstream cruise companies.

The Good:
- Mostly decent food
- Enough variety to please everyone
- Dining room not as nice as Manhattan Room

The Bad:
- Clear distinction between specialty restaurants and main dining rooms (as expected)
- Compared to specialty restaurants, the food at main dining rooms are more akin to catering


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