Now you see it, now you don't. One of the more innovative dishes at this year's FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen came from an unexpected source – a cruise line.
Royal Caribbean's "vanishing noodles," by all appearances, is a luscious twist of udon noodles, ready to wrap around your fork. The surprise comes when a savory hot chicken broth is poured over them. The noodles dissolve among an array of delicacies including Neuske bacon, sous vide capon, black truffles and root vegetables. The melting noodles themselves are made with an emulsion of duck liver, cream and chicken broth and they melt before your eyes as well as in your mouth.
The noodle that isn't a noodle joined an array of other strange yet delicious dishes at Aspen's Wonderland party, inspired by Royal Caribbean International's new restaurant of the same name. One example: taffy balloons on a string, infused with flavored helium. Party goers popped the balloon with their mouths, inhaling the helium for a refreshing jolt of green apple infusion.
This kind of interactivity is what cruising guests can expect at Royal Caribbean's Wonderland, which upon its debut in November 2014 onboard the new Quantum of the Seas, is sure to make a splash as the most experimental, forward-thinking restaurant the sea has ever seen. It’s the brainchild of Executive Chef Cornelius Gallagher, a 2003 FOOD & WINE best new chef who is bringing methods he learned at some of the world’s greatest restaurants – like Bouley in New York, and El Bulli in Spain – to a cruise line regarded as a top pioneer in innovative thinking.
"Wonderland is a complete departure, not just from what has been done at sea, but even land-based restaurants," Gallagher said. "It's revolutionary, interactive, and highly sensory. But it’s also just delicious food."
A journey down the rabbit hole of molecular gastronomy, nothing at Wonderland is ever really what it seems, from dishes that transform in seconds to an intimate interior décor that plays tricks on the eye. A progressive menu takes you on a journey through the elements – wind and sea, ice and earth – deconstructing traditional ingredients and flavors into wholly original creations that you’ve never seen. Sriracha eggs are presented in a puff – brought to the table under a dome of trapped smoke that enhances the flavor. For the dish "Baby Vegetables in the Garden," miniature vegetables are hand arranged into a tiny dreamlike garden where everything is edible, down to the "soil" and "pebbles." Another delicious departure – pork belly that isn’t topped with a traditional sauce, but rather flash frozen ice cream, for a palate-pleasing combo of savory and sweet, warm and icy. And your meal might end with a flourish of liquid nitrogen or scented air along with the desserts themselves.
"Whether you've cruised or not, dined at experimental restaurants or otherwise, Wonderland will show you something entirely different," Gallagher said. "It's a place creativity and attention to detail combine to make truly extraordinary cuisine."
Learn more about Wonderland and Quantum of the Seas' 17 other dining options at RoyalCaribbean.com/DynamicDining.