Travel expert and gourmand Skye Mayring sinks her teeth into the experiential dining scene aboard Crystal Esprit
The breakfast of poached eggs and toast placed in front of me began to darken with black shavings. The aroma of earth, something musky and damp, flirted with my senses, as the server gave one final tap on the back of his metal grater. Breakfast was served, and I soon learned that eggs on Crystal Esprit are not just eggs—they are vessels for freshly shaved French black truffles.
The word “simple” does not exist in the galley of Crystal Esprit. Each and every sauce is painstakingly made from scratch, with both local ingredients and those sourced from around the globe. Some dishes take days of preparation and planning, and the line refers to its dining program as “Michelin-level” cuisine. So, when I asked Executive Chef Adam Jenkins to share an easy recipe that I could replicate at home, it should come as no surprise that he suggested the Wagyu Beef Crudo. It’s served with mashed potatoes and a homemade horseradish sauce, then infused with Applewood smoke from a handheld food smoker. Piece of cake, right?
“We don’t really do simple recipes on Crystal Esprit,” said Chef Adam, formerly of The Ritz London and Crystal Symphony. “We recreate the classics with a modern twist, and everything that we serve has complexity.”
The amount of time and the level of craftsmanship that goes into the menu on Crystal Esprit is unprecedented—and because menus can only be so long and informative, much of the intricacies are not communicated to the average guest. For example, one of my favorite dishes of the cruise was served on the final night: a shrimp, crab and cucumber roll accented with pickled radish, poached lobster and creole dressing. Upon further investigation, I learned that the cucumber was cured in Hendrick’s Gin and Royal Club Tonic, then wrapped-packed to compress the cucumber and help it reach a Goldilocks texture and crunch.
Another example of the menu’s unsung intricacies is the potato terrine that’s served alongside Charred Black Angus Sirloin. Yukon Gold potatoes are thinly sliced, placed in clarified butter, then crisscrossed in a pan to make 8-10 layers. They are steamed for an hour and a half—just so they have a tiny bit of bite left. Then, they are pressed with a weight and chilled for 24 hours. The next evening, they are pan-fried to order in small, bite-size squares. It’s rather astonishing when you think about the care that goes into Chef Adam’s cuisine—a garnish that took a day and a half to prepare might be gobbled down in just a couple of chews.
Dinner in Crystal Esprit’s Yacht Club dining room is nothing if not experiential. As we all know, we “eat with our eyes first,” and this philosophy is not lost on the kitchen staff. Soups—such as the chilled gazpacho with octopus and herb jelly—are often poured in front of you to build anticipation. Some tables face the open kitchen, where guests can watch the chef call each order and, if you get close enough, you might be able to hear “Yes, chef!” shouted back in unison from the sous-chefs working away on the sidelines.
At the Yacht Club, we dine with our noses second. Some dishes are infused with smoke and covered by a small glass dome. Tableside, your server removes the dome with flair as a forest floor scent strikes your nostrils with ferocity.
Among Chef Adam’s favorite dishes to prepare is the Pan-Fried Halibut, which is available to guests about midway through the cruise. He loves the combination of ingredients on one plate, including poached oyster in a seaweed emulsion, a celeriac puree, artichoke crisps, pickled mussels, clams and a champagne sauce.
And of course, there’s the Wagyu Beef Crudo. You could try to replicate this dish at home, using the recipe video provided, but I’m going to leave this one in the capable hands of the chef. To enjoy his complex cuisine again, I suppose I’ll just have to sail on Crystal Esprit once more—in my book, there’s nothing wrong with getting seconds.