As 2024 begins, The Meandering Traveler is just back from a seven-night AmaWaterways holiday-season cruise from Lyon to Arles, France. Our Rhone River journey on AmaKristina proved a perfect mix of festive activities, shore tours and fabulous cuisine. Certainly, one stand-out experience was the ship’s Chef’s Table specialty restaurant.
Up to 28 diners will sip and savor their way through a creative, seven-course tasting menu. Located fully aft on Deck 3, this intimate restaurant also has both a glass-enclosed galley where the chef works (viewable by guests) and a wall of curved windows.
As we arrived, we and fellow travelers were warmly greeted by the chef and restaurant servers. We were also offered a refreshing sparkling rose, just the right light drink for kicking off our holiday (December 27) dinner experience.
(Shown above, during a pre-dinner period with restaurant preparations still under way, is The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant. We liked the wall of curved windows and holiday decor. Photo by Susan J. Young).
The Chef’s Table: Seven Courses to Savor
The Chef’s Table serves up a seven-course tasting menu consists of multiple appetizers, a champagne sorbet intermezzo, a main course and dessert. The gastronomic focus is on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, specialties of the region of sailing, and flavorful traditional dishes too. Each course is paired with a hand-selected regional wine.
It’s worth noting that what we present here is what we experienced on our recent cruise. That said, dishes served may vary by river region and ship.
So, here’s our line-up of the seven-course tasting menu!
Course 1 – “Beetroot Carpaccio”
Our “Chef’s Welcome” first course was “Beetroot Carpaccio.” While not personally much of a beetroot fan, The Meandering Traveler told fellow table mates, “Well, I’ll try it.” Once that happened, let’s just say it was “gone, gone, gone.”
It was simply perfect — flavorful but not overpowering in the beet taste and with accompaniments that simply delighted texture-wise and taste-wise.
Course 2 at The Chef’s Table – “Cured Atlantic Salmon”
Our second course was “Cured Atlantic Salmon” with avocado mousse, pickled vegetables, crispy rice noodles, and Rouille Sauce with Wild Cress. It was creatively presented, tasty and clearly freshly prepared. If you’re thinking “culinary art,” you’d be correct — it was gorgeous in appearance.
Added plus? For several diners who said they didn’t eat raw fish or seafood, the server proactively brought a fresh salad — a nice service touch for diners.
Course 3 – “Coconut Lemon Grass Soup”
In a course labeled “Taste the Senses,” our server placed a generous portion of “Coconut Lemon Grass Soup” in front of us. Highlighted by a shitake marmalade and shrimp tartare, it was incredibly flavorful.
In fact, we easily could have had another bowl! Seriously! The flavoring was superb — a great combination of tastes.
Course 4 at Chef’s Table – “Skin Grilled Perch”
In a “From the Rivers” offering, the tasting menu served up “Skin Grilled Perch.” It was dressed with saffron sauce, bulgur, citrus hummus, sesame spinach, a pumpkin tourne and olive powder.
Here’s a photo of this fish course:
Course 5 at Chef’s Table – “Cassis Sorbet”
After the four courses above, it was time for the main event. So, first, we had a fifth course of “Cassis Sorbet” with sparkling wine. It was a refreshing way to cleanse one’s palate before the entree arrived.
Course 6 – “Slow Roasted Argentinian Beef Ribs”
If you like “melt in your mouth” beef, then this specialty restaurant’s main course will surely please. Our “Slow Roasted Argentinian Beef Ribs” arrived, decked out with truffle jus potato, parsnip purree, an oyster mushroom, beetroot and green peas.
We very much enjoyed this beef ribs entree. Succulent and tasty, it also was just the right portion size for the sixth course in a tasting menu. Worth noting for diners is that the veggies — the carrot and broccoli — shown above are served “al dente,” so slightly cooked and quite firm.
Course 7 at Chef’s Table — “Bitter Chocolate Tart”
The Chef’s Table also offered the yummy “Bittersweet Chocolate Tart” as a seventh and final course. Beyond the chocolate treat, this dessert featured a citrus tart, fresh berries, cherry and kiwi coulis and cherry sorbet. Let’s just say we waddled back to the suite — highly satisfied after an amazing gastronomic evening.
Wines for The Chef’s Table
During our meal, the complimentary wine recommendations were two-fold. For the white wine, the Chef’s Table served “Macon Village Les Preludes Legendes Teresque,” a French wine from Chardonnay grapes grown along the Cote Maconnaise. This wine had a full and crisp mouth feel with notes of honey, banana, acacia blossom, orange and mineral.
As for the recommended red wine, it was the “Cote du Rhone Legende de Toques, Vigneron de Caractere.” Hailing from France’s Cotes du Rhone, it is created from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. The red, fruity, yet elegant taste paired perfectly with our main course.
In addition, AmaWaterways also offers other complimentary wines including Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for Chef’s Table diners.
Reservations: A “Must” for Chef’s Table
Guests must have a reservation to dine at The Chef’s Table. In fact, make the reservation at the reception desk immediately after you arrive on the ship. Don’t wait.
We waited for two days into our trip before we asked about a reservation. By then, it was fully booked for the rest of the cruise. Chef’s Table doesn’t unfold every night. Happily, space did open up the last night of our cruise — just in the nick of time!
Space is limited to 28 guests per evening and the number of evenings that the restaurant is open would depend on occupancy. Also, AmaWaterways does try to accommodate special group requests. If the group is 20-28 guests, for example, the line may allow the group to reserve a private Chef’s Table evening.
So again, sign up immediately upon boarding. A plus? Reservations are required for the Chef’s Table, but the cost of this special culinary experience is included in the cruise fare.
Mention Any Allergies
Be sure to alert the maitre d’ or server of any food allergies. Depending on the dish, cuisine may include cereals, gluten, eggs, milk, soy, celery, lupin, sesame, sulfur dioxide, mustard, crustaceans, mollusks or fish.
More AmaWaterways Dining
If you’re interested in AmaWaterways, it’s good to know that beyond the Chef’s Table experience, AmaWaterways ships offer a large main dining room with both table and booth seating. Our meals here were quite good.
Worth noting too is that AmaWaterways is a member of La Chaîne des Rotisseurs, one of the world’s most prestigious culinary organizations. Membership is by invitation only for those with world-class culinary acumen.
Founded in Paris in 1950 to honor the Royal Guild of Goose Roasters (whose origins date back to the 13th century), it is the world’s oldest and largest food and wine society. So, for every European river cruise, AmaWaterways’ guests are treated to a special La Chaîne dinner in the main dining room; delectable dishes and fine wines are served.
Coffee and Bistro Fare
A deck above the Dining Room on the Reception level is the spacious lounge, bar and coffee area. The ship’s coffee/latte/cappuccino machine offers myriad choices and proved highly popular during our cool-weather holiday cruise.
Three tables with four chairs each also offer a coffee seating spot close to Reception — advantageous for grabbing a quick hot drink before heading out on tour.
Beyond the coffee area is the spacious Lounge, which has a bar, many comfortable seating areas, a buffet area and windows on three sides. It’s a lovely spot for reading, socializing, hearing about the next day’s planned activities, and live entertainment.
Throughout the day, you’ll find cookies and fresh fruit at that buffet counter. A bistro breakfast is also served here. Good for “grab and go,” it features scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, pancakes, croissants and delectable pastries. Guests can also enjoy a light bistro lunch in the Lounge.
If you’re wondering about AmaWaterways’ overall drink policy while you’re on one of their ships, here’s the scoop.
- Guests will enjoy complimentary, unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner.
- They also will receive complimentary sparkling wine with breakfast.
- In addition, during the line’s “Sip and Sail” pre-dinner social hour in the Lounge, guests can order — on a complimentary basis — unlimited beer, wine, soft drinks and a variety of cocktails. Among those included cocktails are a Cosmopolitan, Martini, Margarita, Manhattan and some others.
- Plus, during that “Sip and Sail” period, AmaWaterways also serves up its own tasty “Cocktail of the Day,” also complimentary for guests. For instance, during certain nights on our cruise, that was a “Blue River,” “Strawberry Margarita,” or “Whiskey Sour.”
Overall, we truly enjoyed the culinary and beverage fare on AmaWaterways’ AmaKristina. Service was also fantastic in the dining room, Lounge and at The Chef’s Table.
If interested in a cruise on this upscale river line, talk with your travel advisor. “Our skilled personal travel planners are ready to assist you and discuss potential AmaWaterways, other river or ocean sailings, tours and all-inclusive stays,” explains Shelby Steudle, president, Pavlus Travel.
AmaWaterways sails many itineraries on multiple European rivers, as well as Egypt’s Nile River, Southeast Asia’s Mekong River, Africa’s Zambezi River, and South America’s Magdalena River (starting in 2024). Much is new at AmaWaterways, as The Meandering Traveler wrote in a blog this past fall.
For instance, the line has unveiled new 2025 multi-river journeys, which we discussed in a previous blog.
So, contact Pavlus Travel today to start planning that next river journey!
- If anything does tweak your interest in this blog and you DO have questions about specific pricing, brochures, savings, accommodations, accessible options and so on, please contact us at 800-528-9300.
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