For most of us, this was the first time dining at California Grill since it reopened a few months earlier after a major refurbishment. The post-refurb reviews that I’d read (especially regarding many issues with the service) had me a bit worried, as previously California Grill had been my favorite Disney World restaurant. However, from the moment that we stepped off the elevator, I had the feeling that this was going to be a very special evening.
After a short wait our group of 7 was seated at a large, round table that had been Mickey-fetti’d!! It set the tone for a very fun dinner.
Our group minus Rachel but plus Chef Eddie
Twisted Mai Tai – Mt. Gay Rum, Crème de Noyaux, and Orange and Pineapple Juice with a splash of Lime – $9.25
I love sweet, fruity cocktails so this was right up my alley.
Several others in our group followed suit and ordered cocktails. Rachel also tried a new signature cocktail, the Cucumber Fizz – Hendrick’s Gin, Limoncello, and Cucumber Water with a splash of Sprite – $9.75 (sorry no photo)
Rachel said, “It is really beautiful, but I hated it!!! Haha! At first it was so refreshing but the more sips I took it just started to taste bad. I actually had to have the waitress take it off of my bill because I couldn’t drink it anymore.”
Vicki too had one of the signature cocktails…
Passion Fruit Margarita – Patron Silver Tequila and Cointreau Noir with Passion Fruit Puree – $10.50 (Photo by Vicki)
…and Paula had Pumpkin Cider.
Then as we perused the new menu…
…the new bread service was delivered to our table.
This consists of sourdough rolls and lavender-infused focaccia. I only tried the focaccia. I didn’t really care for the flowery smell and taste of this new bread. I much prefer the sourdough bread that California Grill used to serve and several of my dining companions agreed.
Now on to our appetizers. There were several that I was interested in trying, but I finally settled on the….
Heirloom Apple and Kale Salad with Cripps Pink Apples, Marcona Almonds, Cranberry Feta, and Cider Vinaigrette – $14
This was a seriously good salad. I almost didn’t order this because I was a little leery about the kale, but I’m so glad that I gave it try. It was wonderful!
Rachel had the Carrot and Cilantro Soup Spiced Paprika Oil, Lime Blackened Whitefish, Citrus-Coriander Bloom $12.00 (sorry no photo)
Rachel said, “I am obsessed with cilantro so I knew I would love it. And i was right! It was a little spicy which was good and it was just really flavorful. Loved it! I wanted to save room for my dinner so I only ate about half. This was a big portion unlike the soup at Artist Point. I really liked the fish in the soup, surprisingly.”
Paula and Hunter shared two appetizers. The first was a flatbread…
Pork Pate Flatbread with Roasted Garlic, Mascarpone Cheese, and Royal Trumpet Mushroom Chips (Photo by Paula)
Paula said, “This was quite good. I thought there might be a bit more pate on it but it was enough to tell it was there without being overpowering.”
I also got to try some of Paula and Hunter’s Pork Pâte Flatbread and loved it. Part of me wished I had ordered this for my appetizer, but the salad was great too so I was content with my choice.
For their second appetizer they went with the Pork Belly Nigiri…
Pork Belly Nigiri with House-cured Pork, Bacon, Yuzu Rice and Teriyaki Sauce (Photo by Paula)
Paula said, “We truly love this! Unfortunately we had forgotten to convey that it needed to be made in the Sushi Paper instead of Nori (because of Hunter’s seafood allergy)… I can’t remember if they remade it or if Hunter just pulled it off.”
And that just leaves Vicki, who started with the California Grill version of “surf & turf” …
Roasted “Surf & Turf” with New Smyrna Clams, Saffron-infused Corn Chowder, Chorizo Butter and Bone Marrow
Vicki said, “The clams were wonderful. Small, tender and very flavorful. I had tried a bit of Paula’s bone marrow at the Yachtsman and enjoyed the bite I had. I admit that I couldn’t get myself to even try this version though.”
As for our entrees, I spotted a new entrée on the menu that intrigued me…
24-hour Short Rib “Filet” with Winter Squash Purée, Brussels, Grilled Forelle Pears, and Pomegranate Pinot Syrup – $45
This was good and I enjoyed it but I have to say that it didn’t “wow” me. For just a few dollars more I could have had filet mignon, my favorite cut of beef. So this goes in the category of “Glad I tried it but probably wouldn’t order it again.”
Paula and Hunter shared the Bison Center Cut Striploin with celery root puree, Chanterelles, Fig Bread Pudding, and Madeira-Fig Demi Glaze (sorry no photo).
Paula said, “This was delicious! It was a good thing we had each had an appetizer or I would have wanted more!”
Both Brenda and Rachel ordered the Pork Two Ways with Grilled Tenderloin, Goat Cheese Polenta, and Mushrooms & Lacquered Belly with Applesauce (sorry no photo).
Rachel’s comments were, “I have always wanted to try the old version so I was happy that this was back on the menu with a twist. I was very scared of the pork belly though. Paula and Hunter had to coax me into getting it. My thoughts on this was that it was good, but not amazing. I really liked the pork tenderloin but the polenta was a little too sweet for me. The pork belly was good on the part that was cooked but I was scared about the fatty part. I tried it but I didn’t like it. The fat on meat really grosses me out.”
For her entree, Vicki chose the Dragon Roll which she shared with Emily …
Dragon Roll – Spicy and Tataki Tuna, Shrimp Tempura, Bell Pepper, Avocado, and Chili-Soy Glaze (Photo by Vicki)
Vicki said, “Sushi is fairly new to my world. My son, Andrew, and I had this roll previously and loved it. This did not disappoint. Very fresh and all the flavors worked wonderfully together.”
Soon after our entrees were delivered to our table, it was time for the Electrical Water Pageant followed by Holiday Wishes so we went outside to watch from the new viewing area.
But first a photo of the castle with its beautiful holiday “bling”…
And then the fireworks began…
Little did we know though that we would soon be experiencing “fireworks” right at our table…fireworks of the edible kind.
Anyway, once back inside, we dove back into our lukewarm food. Oh well, it was good enough to keep eating even if not hot any longer.
When dessert was offered, once again, it was an advantage to dine with Hunter and Paula. Their connections to the chef produced this amazing collection of desserts which was nearly one of everything on the menu!
First there was the Heather’s Holiday Tasting which consisted of a Pumpkin Cupcake with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing, Spiked Eggnog Brulee, Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies, and a Peppermint Cake Pop…
Also added to this first platter were some delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies and California Grill’s new signature dessert, the Chocolate Pudding Cake (pictured on the top right side).
Then on the second platter were Warm Homemade Fritters (Banana stuffed cinnamon dusted fritters with toasted caramel marshmallows) with three dipping sauces and the Sundae Sampler with caramel corn, Coke float, and strawberry basil ice-cream…
Talk about going out with a bang…these “dessert” fireworks were a fantastic ending to a wonderful meal.
That just leaves a few photo of Hunter with his friend, Chef Eddie…
So I’m happy to say that once again, California Grill did not disappoint me and it is still my favorite Disney World restaurant. After having poor service at our last three meals, I was very afraid that this unfortunate pattern would continue for yet another meal. But thankfully my fears proved to be unfounded. The staff at California Grill went above and beyond to make our dining experience there nothing less than perfect. In fact, IMHO, the service we received here was the best of the trip!