Cruising on Holland America Line (HAL) just got more enticing from a culinary point of view. Jonnie Boer, who was awarded three Michelin stars (the ultimate coup for any chef) is debuting "Taste of De Librije" onboard the ms Rotterdam. De Librije is the name of his world-class restaurant in Zwolle, Netherlands.
Boer grew up near his dining establishment, which is housed in the library of a 15th-century Dominican abbey. (The restaurant's name in Dutch means library.)
Boer is impassioned over local product; reportedly, ingredients are sourced within a seven-mile radius. His cuisine blends French and Dutch sensibilities, with experimental twists.
De Librije is widely considered one of the world's greatest restaurants. As a winner of three Michelin stars, De Librije has to be perfect in every way, all the time. That makes Boer a stickler for perfection.
How well will Boer's celestial cooking style translate to a big cruise ship? I have to believe any Michelin three-star winning chef is not going to let anyone cook his food unless it's properly replicated. Other than his one restaurant (and a luxury hotel nearby), Boer doesn't have any other establishments.
Think of his onboard venture as a pop-up restaurant. The ms Rotterdam is going to highlight Boer's recipes once per cruise in the Pinnacle Grill. Service staff will wear the uniform livery from De Librije, and the table appointments will replicate the three-star award-winning restaurant's look. In addition, the wine list will showcase a selection of labels from the De Librije collection.
Guests will experience a five-course menu, beginning with an amuse-bouche (palate-teaser) of North Sea scallops. Passengers then choose between three appetizers, two soups, four entrees and three desserts. Featured specialties include: Oysters on the Beach, oysters with micro-greens; Chilled Tomato Gazpacho with black olive and celeriac mousse; Venison Loin and Beef Tenderloin with bulgur wheat and smoked olive oil foam; Duo of Lamb Loin and Crusted Lamb Neck with lentil sprouts, watercress, carrot coulis and lamb jus reduction; Rice Chocolate Stones with tuile (crispy French cookie) and strawberries.
And the experience continues. When guests return to their staterooms, they'll find a Jonnie Boer surprise gift.
I'm most curious to see if Holland America Line can make this work. Crystal Cruises pulls it off with The Silk Road and Sushi Bar featuring the cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa, but that's an anomaly.
Jonnie Boer is a member of HAL's Culinary Council, which is chockfull of esteemed chefs. Foodie readers, you know names like Charlie Trotter, Jacques Torres and David Burke, who have respectively conquered Chicago and New York, and command respect worldwide. Holland America now features recipes from these chefs onboard all cruises. Along with Jonny Boer's "Taste of De Librije," these are all good signs that HAL may be serious about upgrading its cuisine.