The Chef's Table is one of two 'specialty' dining venues aboard Viking Ocean ships. And, while there is no charge to dine in The Chef's Table, advance reservations are required. Viking also limits the number of times guests can dine in The Chef's Table to ensure everyone has the opportunity to dine here. Reservations can be made online, weeks before your cruise -- how far in advance depends upon your stateroom/suite category. Guests occupying larger suites can make two dinner reservations in The Chef's Table per cruise.
The Chef's Table is located on Deck 1 aft, port side and is larger than we expected. I guess the name had us thinking it was an intimate dining venue. There are lots of two-top tables for couple's dining; however, the tables are fairly close together, so having a private conversation may be difficult. There are also larger tables to host groups of 4, 6, 8 or more. A separate private dining room can accommodate up to 10 guests.
The Chef Table's decor is light and soothing, much like the decor throughout the rest of Viking Sea. As is the case in other parts of the ship, there are some clever monitors positioned throughout the dining area that display artwork featuring subtle motion.
The Chef's Table offers a five-course dégustation menu each evening with a theme that changes every three days. On our cruise, there was an Asian menu, followed by a West Indies menu, followed by Italian. A different wine is paired with each course. Your waiter will offer you the Premium Wine pairing for $25 per person, which is included if you have purchased the Viking Silver Spirits package. Otherwise, house wines will be poured with each course.
We dined at The Chef's Table twice during our cruise and had the opportunity to sample two different menus. On our first visit, we were seated at a table for two next to another couple. Our waiter sort of treated both tables as a single table for four. Each of the courses for the two tables arrived at the same time and the waiter introduced each course and each wine to both tables simultaneously.
Each course began with its description by the waiter along with a description of the wine paired with the course. Courses were delivered quickly without an excessive wait time between courses.
We enjoyed each and every course. My personal favorite was the Lobster & Chicken Shu Mai. These tender dumplings were flavorful and served with a delicious sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. The Peking Duck main course was good, but once you have had Peking Duck in Beijing, nothing else can come close.
The Asian Trilogy dessert was a decadent trio consisting of a chocolate-banana spring roll, an expertly prepared crème brûlée, and a light and delicious green tea cheesecake. It was the perfect ending to a very good meal.
On our second visit, we were invited to join a group of eight other guests in The Chef's Table's private dining room. We had the opportunity to try a different menu and the premium wines ($25 per person). The West Indies menu offered much more 'fragrant' offerings than the Asian menu. The use of cardamom, cumin, paprika, ginger and tarragon was liberal.
The Spicy Tuna Tataki was my personal favorite. The perfectly seared tuna was rubbed with Szechuan peppercorns and coriander. This was one of the best seared tuna dishes I have had in quite some time. The main course of Beef Tenderloin with Four Warm Spices was cooked perfectly and so tender you could cut it with a fork. The Purple Potato and Mushroom Mash was an interesting color and was delicious.
And finally, dessert! A beautiful butterscotch Apple Tarte Tatin was a decadent ending to a wonderful meal.
We definitely give a hearty "two thumbs up" to The Chef's Table restaurant. The 5-course dégustation menu concept here is well conceived and well executed.