Updated to include Remy dinner and dessert menu.The Disney Dream, the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, is loaded with restaurants. With a passenger capacity of 4000, the ship has a lot of people to feed. I’ll tell you about some of the other restaurants in another review, but the restaurant that is generating the most buzz among potential passengers is Remy, and not just because it’s named after a rat.
That would be the rat of Ratatouille, the animated Disney movie about a rodent that aspires to be a good cook. It seems odd to theme any restaurant on a rat, especially an ultra chic dining venue like Remy. And especially an ultra chic dining venue on a ship. Rats have always held an inauspicious place in ship lore. Yes, I realize we’re talking about Disney, which, as Walt was fond of saying, “all started with a mouse,” but still.
Luckily the rodent motif does not dominate, although it isn’t entirely absent, either. (More about that in a moment.) And thank God they don’t wheel around a foot-tall animatronic Remy as they do at Epcot’s Chefs de France.
No, this is upscale dining at its finest, the sort of restaurant that rarely opens even on land anymore. The dress code not only specifies jackets for gentlemen but also dress slacks and shoes (in other words no jeans or sneakers). The restaurant occupies a space aft on the ship’s 12th deck. There are large windows that look out over the water, but after sunset there’s little to see. You might think you were dining in an elegant restaurant on land.
Perhaps Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridia, or maybe l’Assiette Champenoise near Reims, France. That would be fitting because Remy’s menu is a collaboration of V&A’s Scott Hunnel and Arnaud Lallement of l’Assiette Champenoise, a Michelin two-star restaurant. The two chefs are both classically trained, but Lallement’s style is more classic French while Hunnel’s is more modern.
Both men were on the recent christening cruise, however their presence onboard will be only an occasional thing. The executive chef in residence is Patrick Albert. It was a treat to have all three present when I dined there.
Dinner started with a cocktail, prepared tableside, featuring Taittinger Champagne. The winemaker from Lallement’s region has a partnership with the Dream and bottles of the sparkling wine feature a rendering of the ship.
I couldn’t decide among the many items on the menu, so I asked our server to request that the chefs each select two of their favorite dishes so that I could have samplings from both. I started with Lallement’s declinasion tomate, a mini festival of all things tomato, including a tomato tart, goat cheese and tomato, and eau de tomate -- tomato water served in a champagne flute. Sounds odd, but it was delicious.
Next was wild loup de mer from Hunnel, a small bit of sea bass in an intensely flavored cannellini bean sauce with jamon Iberico. I could have made a meal out of the bean sauce alone.
The next course was pigeoneau, which sounds more romantic than pigeon pie, which is essentially what it was. The Lallement specialty featured a young bird -- a tiny, tiny bird -- with foie gras, spinach and tomato. The foie gras had a texture as though it had been boiled instead of sauteed; sort of harder than buttery soft. It was interesting, and it was good, but it is not something I would order again. Instead I would get the veal tenderloin that my friend was having. It was everything a veal tenderloin should be, soft and flavorful, served with sweetbreads and potatoes. Heavenly (and, for the record, one of Hunnel’s creations).
Desserts are an intercontinental collaboration, as well, with offerings from Matthieu Siegrist of l’Assiette Champenoise and Erich Herbitschek of the Grand Floridian. It was easy to spot Herbitschek’s creations with his trademark whimsy, but all of the desserts were wonderful and creative. The winner at the table was the vanilla poached pear (Herbitschek) although I very much liked the croquant acidule.
There was also a cheese course, with wonderful soft and hard cheeses presented from a cart. And I was very much impressed with the coffee service, which included several varieties of sweeteners (though not a blue or pink packet among them) presented in polished silver. And the cream was served warm, also in a silver pitcher. I haven’t seen that much thought go into the coffee service in years.
The room, which seats only 80, has a lovely understated art nouveau decor. Tulip glass light fixtures give the room a golden glow that makes the polished woods in the room luminescent. Insinuated throughout the room, on the chair backs and in the fabric on the booths, indeed in a larger design of ironwork over the glass to the wine room, is a pattern that looks at first like a free-form squiggle. But look closely and you’ll eventually make out the profile of the restaurant’s namesake. You’ve heard of hidden Mickeys? Meet hidden Remys.
Other fine details include crisp white Frette linens, Christofle silverware, Riedel stems and china made specifically for Remy.
All of this finery comes at a price, or, as it’s referred to here, a supplement. Cruise ships, of course, include the meals as part of the package. But it’s not unusual for specialty dining on a ship to come with an added fee. The $75 per person supplement for Remy, however, may be a new high in high-seas dining. (When I dined at Todd English on the Queen Mary 2 seven years ago the supplement was $30; as far as I can tell it hasn’t risen much since.) And if you’d like to add the wine pairings, that’s another $99.
Worth it? Yes, I think it is. To have the opportunity to dine in such opulence while cruising along on a magnificent ship, to be transported back to an era when such dining was in style, to have the chance to savor the food of not one but two talented chefs -- four with the pastry chefs and five with Patrick Albert at the helm -- well, 75 bucks is a bargain.
This is going to be the most coveted “get” on the ship. And with such limited seating, getting in is going to be tough. But try. It is truly a unique experience.