Delicious dining at Crystal Esprit’s Yacht Club Restaurant.
By Janice Wald Henderson
Have you ever dreamed of a chef cooking exclusively for you on a private yacht? That dream’s a reality for 62 lucky guests sailing Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises’ Crystal Esprit. The chef’s dishes dazzle like Times Square at midnight, and I’ve eaten my way from stern to bow to find the skinny on the great eats aboard this intimate luxury yacht. Grab a napkin while reading —it’ll be handy for catching drool.
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Peek into the signature Yacht Club Restaurant and discover a casually elegant modern room. Linens and fussy table appointments are nonexistent. The restaurant, primarily designed in neutral tones, offers contemporary art and plush blue banquettes to lend charm. The seating, from two-tops to larger tables, allows both romantic and convivial dining. Floor-to-ceiling windows welcome the stunning sea view; gold sconces bathe diners in a soft glow.
The menu, which changes nightly, surpasses my expectations. Tuck into four courses, or five, if you want dessert and cheese. You can also choose supplemental options. No ho-hum greens or yawn-worthy grilled chicken breast here (unless you request it). Instead, starters such as forest mushroom tart with watercress salad and pesto aioli, and entrées including poached chicken breast with braised chicken wing, truffle risotto, and port jus, prevail. Go ahead, mix and match from both menus. Both equally tempt.
The chef’s style beautifully captures modern European cuisine of the moment. Ingredients can’t get better, from Wagyu beef and pristine seafood to vegetables that taste garden-plucked. Butter and cream come into play, but they’re used more to bind ingredients and add body, not to create overt richness. Sauces, used sparingly, are reduced to glossy flavor bombs. Such intelligently composed plates take a ton of work to make; each component so intricate, yet never tasting contrived or frivolous. Instead, they’re integral to the dish concept and elevate each plate to Michelin-star quality.
So many selections knock me out. Take slow-roasted Wagyu rib eye with a red wine sauce reduced to a concentrated glaze, with fried shallot rings crunching against the fork-tender beef. The accompanying mushroom purée explodes with flavor. I find myself taking small spoonfuls, rolling each slowly around in my mouth. It’s so mushroom-y, I can almost taste the earth it came from.
Homemade gnocchi takes little effort to melt in your mouth, its richness enhanced by plump morels nestled among the pillowy dumplings. Soups could fill a column alone. Passengers find some so delicious, they leap out of chairs to neighboring tables and insist they try them.
Taste the chilled avocado cream and see why. This soup captures the fruit’s fragile essence, as if three giant super-ripe avocados were….
Photo: Janice Wald Henderson