NEW YORK — I spent the night drinking stars.
Disney Cruise Lines hosted a small, intimate dinner Thursday in the private salon of famed Le Bernadin. The dinner was a celebration of chef Arnaud Lallement, whose restaurant in Reims, France, L'Assiette Champenoise, recently received the coveted third Michelin star for the second time. Lallement, along with Victoria & Albert's Scott Hunnel, consults on the menu for the Remy restaurants on the Disney Fantasy and Dream ships. Disney Cruise Lines brought Lallement to New York to cook the dinner, which was attended by a dozen food, wine and travel writers.
Remy is the luxurious fine dining restaurant on the two big ships. Only a handful of guests are able to experience the intimate dining room, but no one under 18 years of age is allowed. It's a serious dining occasion.
The dinner highlighted some of the new dishes that will be offered at Remy as well as some of Lallement's favorites from his restaurant in France. Reims, of course, is in Champagne country — the restaurant's name means the Champagne base —and all of the courses at the dinner were paired with Champagne. But not just any Champagne — it was an exclusively Dom Perignon dinner, all vintaged and extraordinary. And everything about it was exquisite.
During the reception we sipped the 2004 blanc and nibbled on hors d'oeuvres prepared and passed by Le Bernadin's staff.
The 2003 rose was poured for the first course of Langoustine Royale accompanied by gelee tremblante, a quivering bit of meaty jelly.
Saint-Jacques de Plongee (diver scallops) followed. I wondered about the strength of the divers who could lift these mollusks to the surface. Tiny vegetables accompanied, serving more as a decoration than as a flavor component. None was needed. The Dom 1998 P2 blanc. P2 is Perignon's reference to the second stage of the champenoise process, or plenitude
Caviar Kaviari followed. This was one of my two favorite dishes of the evening. The caviar was served in a little dollop that resembled a tourneed vegetable and was surrounded by a cream sauce. When the two were eaten together it was like a little bit of heaven, the tiny eggs popping in the mouth with an explosion of briny flavors.
More lobster followed, if you consider langoustine as lobster, this time as a dish featured at L'Assiette Champenoise. In fact, the dish, Homard Bleu, is a tribute to Lallement's father, who was also a starred chef. For this course, the representative from Dom Perignon treated us all to a taste of the 1995 P2 rose, a wine that has not yet been released. It's rare that a sparkling wine can fill the mouth with such lushness — and here I use the word rare advisedly. Smooth and sippable but a perfect accompaniment for the richness of the lobster.
Turbot Breton was the fish course. It was difficult to find the fish under then many thin slices of black truffles, which covered the plate like black potato chips.
Canard Fermier was a long block of duck, pressed firmly. The duck meat was good, but everyone at my table raved about the tiny little Brussels sprouts that accompanied.
Boeuf de Wagyu was the meat course. What else would do when your dinner is an all Dom Perignon affair? And this was the real deal, a Wagyu so tender and meltable that teeth were superfluous. So was the "barbecue" sauce that Lallement served with it, a wink to American tastes, I supposed. And in case there was any doubt, this was my favorite course of the evening, and for the wine, the servers repoured the 2004 blanc, bringing us all full circle.
Dessert was a chocolate disk that looked as though some of the foil wrapper had been left on it. But it wasn't foil. Rather, it was an edible silver film that added whimsy to the dish. If it had any flavor it was obliterated by the richness of the chocolate.
And in case anyone still had a desire for more Dom, each guest was sent home with a bottle of the 2004 blanc.
As someone who has had the pleasure of experiencing Remy, on the Disney Dream, I can attest that the same style of dining that was on display at this dinner is available at sea. And maybe even more enjoyable with the windows that afford an ocean view.