Behind the Qsine
In 2010 with the launch of Celebrity Eclipse, a new concept in onboard dining emerged with the opening of Qsine. This specialty restaurant epitomizes fun by embracing its “uniquely unordinary” identity and eliminating all pretenses associated with fine dining without sacrificing culinary refinement.
The result has been so popular that the restaurant opened onboard the successive Silhouette and will be included on the upcoming Reflection. It has also since been added to the Millennium, Infinity, and Summit, and will most likely make its way onto the Constellation when she goes in for drydock next year.
In fact, while I was onboard the Celebrity Millennium, I had the opportunity to interview Predrag Pajovic – the maitre d’ of Qsine, as well as Celebrity’s restaurant launch extraordinaire – and Wayan Darmawan – the executive chef of Qsine, as well as part of the opening team for Qsine originally on the Eclipse – to get a sense for just how much went into the development of this restaurant and what it continues to take to run it successfully.
The thing that is impressive about Qsine is how it’s a restaurant that makes other at sea specialty restaurants look typical while even outshining high-concept shoreside venues, and to do that is no small task. The development of this restaurant began with sketching out radical new ideas that in other projects would likely never see the light of day, but with Qsine, the most elaborate designs became a reality that manifest the element of surprise in every instance.
This surprising nature of Qsine is firstly evident in the restaurant’s striking décor. A contrasty palette of earthen dark brown and vibrant neon orange is applied to a fantastical setting of glossy white surfaces and inverted lighting – that is lamps and fixtures that have been installed upside down to enhance the metaphor of everything that has been turned on its head.
No such Alice in Wonderland meets Apple Store-like restaurant is complete without iPad menus which come to your table with a custom designed app that showcases Qsine’s cocktails, wines, and dinner offerings. The cocktails can be selected and even virtually mixed on the digital tablet. The wines are displayed photographically letting their label designs shine. And the courses which you can order in any quantity and in any order you wish are listed iconographically in a colorful grid that branches out to detail the individual dishes with their playful names, descriptions, and occasional video accompaniment.
It is such hardware in general that truly impresses diners. The international courses are served up on the most elaborate and inventive dishware I have ever seen. To describe only a few, spring rolls are served on a platform sprouting actual springs, tacos are presented on a stainless steel rack with shelves, Mediterranean tapas are displayed in an upright grid à la Hollywood Squares, and the ingredients to decorate your own cupcakes come to your table in a multi-tiered collapsible plastic box. And every bit of this hardware has been impressively custom-designed specifically for Qsine.
After all of that, the food itself does indeed live up to all the anticipation. Once the complex plating has been, in some cases, disassembled, the participatory nature of garnishing your own meal and then tasting the flavorful results is absolutely a fun experience – one that was entirely mocked up months in advance to the restaurant’s initial launch on Eclipse.
Having mocked up the experience is one thing, but actually implementing it onboard day in and day out can be a challenge. The first step is staffing the venue with appropriate crew. As Qsine prides itself on it’s casual and playful personality, it’s key that the “culinary tour guides” – Qsine’s waiters who take diners around the world via the international dishes – reflect that personality.
One of the biggest challenges is keeping track of all of the ingredients that go into the 20 different dishes, most of which are comprised of several separate recipes, and maintaining the quality standard across all of them. The single most challenging dish is M’s Favorites, according to Qsine’s executive chef, Wayan Darmawan, which is comprised of a sampler of 12 separate Mediterranean tapas, hence the course’s name.
Referring to the wealth of ingredients, the maitre d’ of Qsine, Predrag Pajovic, told me, “in some cases, it’s more than the 14-day menu in the main dining room.” Add to that the fact that all the dishes are prepared à la minute, with the only exception being some preprepared marinades, and you can surely picture a busy galley – although I’m assured it’s one with plenty of space for cooking as well as the storage of all that distinctive dishware.
What’s more, the staff is dedicated to the specific dietary needs of every guest. In order to accommodate everyone and to avoid any food allergies, especially with such an extensive menu, they have a very detailed reference grid that lists every course per various types of food allergies so they can avoid averse reactions and recommend alternatives.
Having enjoyed this amazing restaurant firsthand under the meticulous and friendly leadership of the maitre d’ and the implementation by his expert team, I can say that the tasty culinary experience found at Qsine is a memorable one worthy of repeat visits. In short, Qsine is just downright foodie fun.