Formal night had two 'special' main courses - Beef Wellington and lobster tails. So of course I asked for Beef Wellington with a side of lobster. The beef was just ok - the pastry wasn't particularly great. Of course, the low point was when the waiters came around asking if anyone wanted more lobster - I was too full! :(
The ship had an impressive theatre with nightly productions. The performances were always enthusiastic but of varying interest (to me at least). The one I liked best was the circus production, with contortionists, acrobats and balancing acts (on a ship!). This picture of an acrobat on the silks turned out well.
This was a very busy cruise - with so many ports, there were very few days at sea to relax and explore the ship. This day started with an elaborate buffet in the dining hall, with lots of ice sculptures and fruit carvings and server stations carving meats and seafood.
San Marco Square from the ship - we went on a tour in the Doge's Palace (bottom right of the picture) where I snuck a bunch of pictures (they were being dickish about it and it wasn't a church so... it was fun to be rebellious.)
Venice was one of my favorite ports, there was amazing stuff to see everywhere.
View all Cruise 2012 Posts
The Bridge of Sighs connects the Doge's Palace to the prisons. On the tour of the palace, we went through the interior of the bridge.
Taking pictures inside the palace wasn't allowed, but they were being a bit jerky and I couldn't resist taking a bunch of pictures on the sly. Of course, not many turned out well, but I got a few good ones.
Everything was super-ornate and sometimes pretty cool - like the zodiac clock above and the massive sculptured fireplaces.
How do you get into a popular restaurant at the last minute on a Saturday evening? Well, The Black Hoof doesn't take reservations and we were lucky enough to arrive in time to grab the last table in the early evening. The restaurant specializes in using unusual cuts and it was a memorable meal!
Marrow bones were slightly pedestrian and probably the only thing I wouldn't order again. It was fine. (The marrow at é...)
Oxtail with scallops ($18) was great tasting and interesting - shredded oxtail was breaded and fried and served with seared scallops. Delicate garnishes and sauces balanced the richness with sweet and acid. The texture of the shredded oxtail was slightly disappointing - it lacked the unctuous gelatin of a simple braised bone (but it was much more approachable for people not accustomed to dealing with the flanged bone).
I've no complaints about the pork belly, though ($15). It had the richness and the stickiness of pork fat with seared crispiness. All of that was well balanced with a smooth polenta and fresh tasting shredded greens (brighter tasting than cappuccio probably usually is, I think there was a wisely added acidic dressing).
Foie gras and waffle ($25) was the event of the evening - it was spectacular. This is my favorite foie gras dish ever, including Michelin-starred restaurants like Picasso and Robuchon. It was sweet and savory and rich. Possibly the waffle could be just a bit crisper, but we're talking degrees of perfection here. Squash and pear are perfectly cooked and a perfect pairing. This is a dish I'll get every time and not share again.
Dessert tonight ($9) was an unapologetically sweet, dense almond 'polenta' contrasting with brightly acidic orange curd and sour rhubarb. It was an intense dessert and I really loved it. I'm not sure I'd always order dessert (especially if I didn't share the foie waffle) but we had shared everything else.
Service was attentive, informative and friendly, even though the atmosphere was relaxed. One minor nitpick - when a paper napkin was left unattended, waitstaff folded it into a pretty fan. But they really shouldn't be excessively handling a soiled napkin. Simply replacing it (or even leaving it) is a better option. (High-end restaurants use dedicated staff... with tongs.)
I look forward to returning here repeatedly to try some different dishes... and the foie waffle - which is rich not to share but to hell with it. Eventually I'll return to the pork belly too. Dave and I shared the dishes (staff replaced small appetizer plates) with the exception of dessert and the above selections with a basket of perfectly crusty bread were a perfect amount of food.
The Black Hoof
928 Dundas Street West
Toronto ON M6J 1W3
416 551 8854 (no reservations)