A steakhouse aroma wafts mid-ship, and when we traced the scent to its source we came away most contented.
Occupying the catbird seat at the top of the atrium, the Nouveau Steakhouse is a two-story restaurant with a glass dome roof. A circular staircase accesses the steakhouse from Deck 9, and with see-through steps—allowing guests to peer between their feet down eight floors—vertigo sufferers won’t dare climb to the restaurant. But don’t let this put you off (and elevators access Deck 10 anyway). This is far-and-away the best dining experience on Carnival Spirit, an oversized, two-story room frilled with Art Nouveau décor and furnishings, set off by handsome Versace chargers on the tables, and with quality meats delivered by proficient Eastern European waiters.
The steakhouse is located within the forward section of the ship’s trademark red Carnival funnel. In a novel design concept, much of the T-shaped funnel has been converted to a red glass roof for the restaurant, which casts a raspberry shade over the room until well after sundown (even the walls inside are salmon colored). Fortunately, we like our steaks with a bit of pink. The glow subsided after dark, and we found our first dinner here so good we came back for second evening to make sure we hadn’t been wearing rose-colored glasses.
Following an amuse bouche (mushroom cappuccino one night, roasted tomato soup the next), the menu of starters offered steakhouse traditionals like escargots, beef Carpaccio and baked onion soup. Anticipating our meat entrées, we ordered the ahi tuna tartare—a stack of cubed yellow fin tuna mingled with avocado—and the jumbo shrimp cocktail, a quartet of big black tiger shrimp served in a martini glass with cocktail sauce. Both were delectable, though we prefer our cocktail sauce with a bit more horseradish sizzle. For salads we enjoyed the baby leaf spinach one night, spiked with fresh mushrooms and warm bacon and drizzled with blue cheese dressing, and another night we opted for the Caesar which was crafted table-side—three large Romaine leaves served whole with dressing, freshly grated parmesan and sardines, if desired.
The meat choices were wheeled over on a cart to survey, the cuts wrapped tightly in plastic. All of the chops looked tempting, the 18-ounce prime cowboy and prime rib-eye steaks nicely marbled. We opted for the leaner filet mignon, a 9-ounce cut that was charbroiled perfectly (medium), and seasoned with a steady hand. On our second visit we wanted to try the broiled lobster or that night’s fish special (grilled sea bass), but our waitress asked if we liked lamb and encouraged us to order it. We did so and there were no regrets, a healthy pair of double-cut lamb chops perched on their fatty ends, wrapped by a potato “corral” and spiked with a baked tomato that burst with flavor. This was a very satisfying pick.
While desserts didn’t break any new ground, we were happy with the “caramelized apples baked in a puff pastry dome,” something we’d otherwise call a tarte tatin.
The Nouveau Steakhouse has a full dedicated bar, as well as the ship’s selection of wines. Though not a robust list, there were ample choices from California wineries, with a quantity from France and Italy (vintages unidentified).
Although our food and service at Nouveau Steakhouse was right on the mark, we did have a few minor complaints. One was that the ship’s vibration is more pronounced in this space than other locations. Live music feeds up from the lobby bar through the atrium—it wasn’t always a meal enhancement. Finally, although Carnival’s dress code is pretty casual, we were surprised to see one guy dining at the steakhouse in a white T-shirt.
The Nouveau Steakhouse is open for dinner only, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
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