Cruise ship interview - Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Food and Beverage Director Joao Mendonca - page 1
Food and Beverage
speaks about the dining
Allure of the Seas
Richard H. Wagner
Allure of the Seas not only has numerous dining venues (more than 20)
but they vary widely in character. "Our goal was to try and cater to
different tastes.," explains Food and Beverage Director Joao
Mendonca. "Everybody has different tastes; everybody has different
expectations, so we try to get something for everybody."
Inasmuch as Mr. Mendonca is in charge of the dining operations on
Allure and helped to develop the food venues on Allure and her sister
ship Oasis of the Seas, I asked him to guide us through the various
The multi-story high Adagio Dining Room is Allure's main dining
room. It can accommodate 3,056 guests. "Our mission was to ensure
that this was not just a large dining hall. If you take a step back and
look at our dining room it is little dining rooms within one main dining
room. We wanted to break it up a bit."
"We wanted to introduce new features in the ding room as well. We
have the salad bar in a different way. We have the Royal Brasserie,
which is a different Royal Brasserie than in the rest of the fleet. We
also have the breakfast specials - - we have the chocolate breakfast and
we have other specials throughout the week as well. All these little
things we wanted to differentiate from the rest of the fleet."
"Then, of course, we have the My Time Dining, which is very popular
with our guests. We have a dedicated deck just for the My Time
Dining in the evening. We go from 1,000 to 1,600 guests on My Time
"The My Time Dining is really good - - you really have the liberty to
choose when you want to come and dine. You are at liberty to choose
whether you want to keep the same waiter. Obviously, there could be a
time clash because he might have been booked by other guests as well."
"It works out very well. The way we do shows here, we have a
reservation system and a variety of shows going on at the same time.
[My Time Dining allows] you to book your shows and you book all
your dining around your show times."
The Specialty Restaurants
The top specialty restaurant on Allure is the elegant 150 Central Park.
"150 is a very unique and exclusive experience. It is something that we
have never done before."
To begin, Royal Caribbean held a contest at the prestigious Culinary
Institute of America to select the executive chef for this venue. It then
gave the winner unprecedented freedom to develop the menus and
operate the restaurant. "It was a bit of a gamble for us at the beginning,
I have to say, but it worked out very well.
150's executive chef "is Molly Brandt and she has done a fantastic job
since day one- - a very outgoing person, great cooking skills. This is
really a great platform for her to shine with the exposure she gets here -
- we have five to six thousand guests every week from all over the
world. We have all the resources here and we have given her a great
venue and the opportunity to unleash her culinary skills. She has really
embraced the opportunity."
The restaurant features six course meals. "She features two menus:
Menu A and Menu B. They are totally different from each other
because we want to create variety and give the guests options as well.
The idea is that if you come for Menu A, you will want to come back
for Menu B."
The elegance of this venue is not limited to the food. "Everything was
specially chosen for 150, from the Frette tablecloths to the 24-karat
plates of gold. All of our glassware is crystal."
"We have different styles of tables and chairs. We have Parkview
tables where you can see what is going on in the park."
"We have the different salts as well from six different parts of the
world. The wine menu was carefully chosen for pairing with the
different dishes that we have here."
"The sequence of service is totally different. You come in here, you
just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. It is really a different unique
experience to what we have done in the fleet."
Another fine dining experience is the Chef's Table, which is held on the
mezzanine level of the Concierge Lounge. "This is a dinner but it is an
event as well. It is a two and a half to three hour affair. You do not go
there thinking 'I've got to be out in half an hour because I have to go to
"You arrive at the Library, we meet you there. [The guests are given] a
glass of champagne. Then once everyone is there [one of Allure's
managers] gives them a couple of words, sets the expectations. We go
up, everybody sits down and we start with the menu and the whole
Before each course, one of Allure's chefs talks about that dish. Then a
sommelier "explains where the wine comes from, the ingredients and the
grape varieties and why it is paired with that dish and the sauces."
"All the guests get a cookbook signed by the chef and also by the
sommelier. They also get an apron as well saying: 'Chef's Table'. Plus
we customize the menu, which is a special menu with the logo of the
Chef's Table. It has your name and the position that you were on at the
table. It is something that you want to keep as well."
When the Chef's Table was first introduced on Oasis, it was limited to
the guests staying in the ship's suites. Now it is open to all guests
although suite guests do receive preference in booking reservations.
The table only sits 14 people so reservations can be difficult to obtain.
"We wanted to make it exclusive. If you start having too many people
it starts losing the concept and the idea behind it."
People who have sailed on other Royal Caribbean ships will be familiar
with RCI's signature specialty restaurant, the Chops Grille. On Allure,
the Chops Grille is part of the Central Park neighborhood and seats 130.
"Chops Grille is your traditional steakhouse, like a New York/Chicago-
style steakhouse with different cuts of steak. We have introduced some
seafood and fish dishes as well to try to cater to every one who goes in
- - not every one is a meat eater, of course. We have some vegetarian
dishes there as well."
On Allure, this venue has been expanded so that there is al fresco
dining as well as indoor dining. Where else "do you sit outside on a
cruise ship eating in the middle of a park? That is really exclusive."
One of the new dining concepts that debuted on Allure, "the Samba
Grill is our Brazilian steakhouse. We wanted to create something
different. We have the traditional steakhouse. But if you like
churrascaria style, you can go up to the Samba Grill."
This restaurant shares the space occupied by the Solarium Bistro during
the day. In the evening, "it completely transforms into the Brazilian
atmosphere with the Brazilian dishes and the gouchos coming around
[carving different cuts of meat at the guests' tables]."
Located near the top of the ship is the 73-seat Izumi. "That is an Asian
cuisine, primarily Japanese-influenced. It was first introduced to us by
our sushi chef Travis Kamiyama, a very talented sushi chef and very
well-known especially in California. He had his own restaurant in
"It is a different combination of rolls. We have soups. We have hot
pot Nabi - - that is one of the main features there - - in which we have
seafood, chicken and beef dishes. We have traditional Miso soup and
all of the other condiments that come with it. It is very good. It is one
of my favorites actually."
Izumi will be open for lunch as well as dinner. "A different menu, not a
full menu [because for lunch people like to have] a couple of rolls and
go or just sit there and have a little bite and go. It is not like you sit
down for dinner for an hour or an hour and a half."
Giovanni's Table is located in Central Park. This 96-seat restaurant
serves Italian cuisine but is a different concept than the Portifino's
Italian specialty restaurants familiar to people who have traveled on
Royal Caribbean ships. "Portofino's is more of a bistro type of Italian
dining. Giovanni's is more the casual trattoria-style - - the family
restaurant back home somewhere in Italy. The dishes are totally
different. None of the dishes that you will find in Giovanni's you will
find in Portofino's. Giovanni's has different characteristics and its own
"It is our first specialty dining with a dedicated kids menu as well [as
an adult menu]. It was our first specialty restaurant that was open for
lunch. The idea there is to make it a very casual ambiance where the
guests can go in there as a family and eat as a family."
Another dining venue in the Central Park neighborhood is Vintages,
Allure's specialty wine bar. "We wanted to introduce something
different in Vintages. The idea behind Vintages is to feature the
different wines from the partnerships that we have with the
winemakers. [However, we also] wanted to introduce some food
elements. We thought, 'what can we do' and we decided to create some
tapas because it goes with wine.”
The wine list and the menu for the Vintages on Allure are on iPads.
"You click on the wine that you want to have and it gives you the tapas
that should go with it. If you press on the tapas, it gives you the wine
options that should go with it. Obviously, it is the guest's choice but it
sort of gives you an idea of which wine should go with it. [The iPads
also have] a little bit of history from the winemakers and videos."
"You can also send messages. All the wine waiters have iPads so they
receive messages. For instance, if you are sitting at a table, you can
send a message to your server saying: 'Can I have a glass of water' or
'can I have another glass of wine?' They cannot respond
[electronically] to you but you can get to them."
"This Vintages is different than the one on Oasis. They have the largest
wine bottle in the world and we do not have it here. I understand that
we want to make it exclusive for Oasis. But one thing we have here
that Oasis does not have is the iPads."
"Rita's Cantina is also something we have on Allure that is different
than Oasis. Oasis had the Seafood Shack [in the corresponding
location]. We wanted to have something different on the Boardwalk. It
is a Mexican bar/restaurant. The food is very good there. Everything is
cooked fresh, cooked to order. That has been really popular."
Above: The interior of Vintages.
Below: The interior of Rita's
An excellent lasagna at Giobanni's.
Above: Chops Grille.
Below: In the Samba Grill, each
table has a light to signal the waiter
when to come and carve the next
Izumi also offers impressive views.
The Adajio Dining Room.
150 Central Park.
The Chef's Table is on the upper
level of the Concierge Lounge.