It’s not often you take a seat in a restaurant and are presented with a blank canvas, some water and a paint brush. But then it’s not every day you eat in Wonderland, one of the many eateries on Anthem of the Seas.
I’ll move on quickly so as not to ruin the surprise, but suffice to say that what came next set the tone for a fun evening in a fantastic restaurant where the theater of dining is as important as the food itself. The magic of it all will have you heading down the rabbit hole.
There are no decisions to be made, no orders to be taken; instead, all the dishes on the menu are served to the table family-style in five waves: Sun, Ice, Fire, Sea and Earth.
I have never seen so many happy diners as when Natasha, our animated waitress, described each dish with excited over-exaggeration. “Pop it in your mouth, and the tastes will explode!” she warned of the olive in oil. “One bite and you’ll be in heaven!” This referring to the buffalo chicken eggs (that’s “smoke” blue cheese and hot sauce to the uninitiated).
And it was all said with such an infectious smile that I’m sure, like Alice, we’d have drunk from bottles marked “Drink Me” had she presented them.
As befits the experience, the food, created by American chef Cornelius Gallagher, is as fanciful as the restaurant décor (think high-backed chairs with keyhole motifs and Dali-esque clock faces) and packed with unexpected taste combinations.
I loved the ball of duck liver in a crispy crumb coating and tempura leaves with melon, and the melt-in-the-mouth terroir beef, braised for 12 hours, was outstanding. Friends drooled over crispy crab cones with avocado mousse.
But it didn’t all make the grade.
I wouldn’t rush to have that olive in oil again, and I didn’t take to the “soil and pebbles” that accompanied several dishes. The former was ground pumpernickel and dry; the latter small purple potatoes that looked like stones. They did not get my gastronomic juices going.
Two observations about Wonderland: First, this is a restaurant to enjoy with friends. I was in a party of eight and we had a ball, loving the theater as much as the food. Second, because the menu doesn’t change, you’ll probably only go to Wonderland and splash out the $45 per person cover charge once.
Unless of course you can find some new friends and then, hey, what fun to do it all again!
Here are a few additional photos of the décor and menu items at Wonderland.
Tempura leaves served with melon.
Terroir beef served on an ice plate.
Here’s a table that would surely be approved by the March Hare and the Mad Hatter.
These keyhole-motif chairs added to the whimsical décor.
Even with all the imaginative décor, Wonderland still has a cozy feel to it with the family-style tables.
This ball of duck liver in a crispy crumb coating was my favorite dish, even though I finished it in one bite.
So, what do you think? Would you venture down the rabbit hole and try out Wonderland or are you sticking to what you know?