Down by the sea a dinner-cruise ship prepares to set sail off Seattle’s coast

Down by the sea a dinner-cruise ship prepares to set sail off Seattle’s coast – Brief Article

Alan Liddle

SEATVLE–Of all the new dining concepts being planned here, few, if any, are likely to have had as many operational “dry-runs” before their debut as the ocean-going restaurant now being developed by Consolidated Restaurants Inc. and Argosy Cruises.

Scheduled to launch in May 2000, the three-level, 180-foot-long dinner-cruise ship will break with the nautical tradition of buffet-style meal service by offering cooked-to-order foods served tableside. The $8 million ship is being jointly financed and managed by the two companies and will feature three large galleys with propane cooking implements and 600 dining seats.

Consolidated chief operating officer Molly Hancock says the ship-building process and the inability to make significant changes to the fiscal plan once it is completed have made it critical for her company to rehearse operational roles, create mock-ups of work areas and test new equipment at an unprecedented pace.

“We did virtual galleys in warehouse space” and “brought in a propane stove to the test kitchen [at headquarters] to see if we, could cook with it as we normally do,” she says of steps taken by her company to ensure that its newest culinary stage will be fully functional. The design process benefits so much from such activities that “we might do this again” for conventional restaurant projects, Hancock adds.

Mercer Island, Wash.-based Consolidated operates four Seattle dinner houses: The Metropolitan Grill, Pescatore Fish Cafe, Union Square Grill and Elliott’s Oyster House, which recently underwent a major remodeling that management says has contributed to a more than 15-percent boost in sales.

Hancock says the company’s latest project sprang from a desire by Argosy chairman John Blackman “to do a dinner cruise in a way that was not being done anywhere else. We wanted to be involved,” she says, “because, it is really an extension of what we do in Seattle, which is to offer a high-quality dining presence on the water.”

Plans call for the cruise ship to dock at Pier 56 near Elliott’s Oyster House. The vessel is to incorporate that long-popular restaurant’s name into its own in some form or fashion, Hancock reports.

During a two-and-a-half hour cruise around Elliott Bay, at a cost of approximately $65 to $75 per person, Consolidated’s ship-based crew of 60 to 70 will solicit orders and prepare foods from a seasonally rotating menu created by corporate chef Sally McArthur.

McArthur’s prototype menu includes such items as a salad of baby field greens with spiced walnuts, Granny Smith apples, raisin-bread croutons, sun-dried cranberries and apple vinaigrette; chargrilled Alaskan king salmon with sun-dried tomato concasse, sweet basil oil, seasonal vegetables and roasted garlic-mashed potatoes; and fresh coconut layer cake with passion-fruit glaze.

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