California Grill

BACKGROUND: My family has had a love/hate relationship with California Grill since we were first introduced in 2007. For Allison and me, it was pretty much love at first sight…the sight of Cinderella’s castle, which could be seen from our table. We also really enjoyed our food, which was sushi for Allison and a delicious filet for me. As for the rest of our family…well, hate is a strong word, so let’s just say that this first experience left them with a strong dislike of California Grill. :rolleyes:  Emily was totally unimpressed with all her food and my son declared his steak (ordered from the Kids’ menu) to be the worst he’d ever had…full of gristle and fat. :crazy2: But the very worst opinion of California Grill was that of my husband, who could not tolerate the noise-level of the very busy dining room that night. In fact, for the next few years, my husband used California Grill as a prime example of an overpriced, deafeningly-loud Disney restaurant to which he would never return. :sad2:

Here are a couple of pictures from our first dinner at California Grill…

 

Allison with her California Sushi Roll – Nov. 2007

 

And with our Desserts, including the Lava Cake – Nov. 2007

But somehow I did get him to return to California Grill for dinner during our 25th anniversary trip. I think of this dining experience as our “Perfect Storm”…and I mean that in an entirely good way. Excellent service (which went way above and beyond), three courses of delicious food, and an enjoyable atmosphere all came together perfectly at this dinner to form an exceptional dining experience…a “Perfect Storm”. :thumbsup2 In fact, it was so wonderful that it won over my previously skeptical DH, who was forced to admit that he actually enjoyed our dinner there…even if it did taste a little like crow. :lmao: So one down, but there were still two of our family who were unconvinced.

Fast forward one year to our Nov. 2011 trip when my son was on a quest to find the best Disney steak. Though he was quite reluctant (still remembering the last steak he had at California Grill ;)), for the sake of his research he ordered the filet at our dinner here. And I’m quite happy to report that he declared this steak to not only be the best Disney steak (much better than Shula’s and Yachtsman steakhouses), but the best he had ever had. So now California Grill has the unusual distinction of having served him both his worst and best steak. :confused3

But that still left Emily. Would she also be won over by our…

Dinner at California Grill

We arrived at the 2nd floor check-in desk on time for our 7:45 reservation. I again politely asked to be seated by a window overlooking Magic Kingdom. We then took the elevator up to the restaurant on the 15th floor and found chairs along the wall to sit and wait. After about 10 -15 minutes we were seated at a table by the window, with the table covered by Mickey confetti for our graduation celebration. After attempting to take a few pictures of the castle through the glass window, Emily decided to go out onto the terrace, where she took these…

 

 

And a Sneek Peek Behind the Construction Walls of the New Fantasyland…

 

 

 

While she was gone, Allison and I carefully looked over the wine list, which is pretty lengthy here. She chose a wine from the “Interesting Red” section of the menu, Navarro Correas “Alegoria”, which is an Argentinian Malbec. This was a very dark, dense red wine rich with the flavors of dark fruits, which is exactly the type of wine that she prefers, so she gave it an “Excellent” rating. I, on the other hand, prefer light and fruity white wines so I ordered a Riesling, more specifically a glass of Selbach-Oster Spatlese. I enjoyed it and rated it as “Very Good”. Sorry we didn’t take pictures, but Emily was gone with the camera when our wines were poured. But I guess you know what a glass of red and white wine look like. :laughing:

When Emily returned to the table, we looked over the menu and chose our first and second shared courses.

 

California Grill Menu as of May 18, 2012

For our first course we shared this…

 

 

California Grill’s Cheese Board (Cheese Plate #3 of the Trip) – $20.00

The five cheeses were (pictured from left to right): Pleasant Ridge Reserve, MT. TAM, Bijou, Fiore Sardo, and Affinee Blue (descriptions listed on the menu pictured below). I didn’t realize until later that the accompaniments were not listed on this menu so I didn’t take notes, but I believe they were candied nuts, slices of fig, fruit gelatin (perhaps blackberry?), and our favorite, honeycomb. Once again, my favorite cheese was the blue, as I just can’t seem to get enough of it. Which is a good thing, because as you may recall the girls won’t touch it. :rolleyes: Actually no one else in my family will eat blue cheese, go figure??? :confused3 Our individual ratings for this cheese plate ranged from “Okay” (given by Emily) to “Very Good” (given by me). So it received an overall rating of “Good”, which was the rating given by Allison.

 

California Grill’s Cheese Board Menu as of May 18, 2012

Here’s a second picture of the Cheese Plate, which I’ve included because you can see the bread basket in the background (which is a good sourdough) and Allison’s glass of Malbec.

 

A Second Look at the Cheesy Goodness plus Bread Basket and Malbec

For our second course we shared the …

 

Heirloom Tomato BLT Flatbread with Marinated Local Tomatoes, Applewood Bacon, Chiffonade Romaine Lettuce, and Lemon Mayonnaise.

I thought this was outstanding (especially the applewood bacon) and gave it an “Excellent” rating. Of the three flatbreads I’ve tried at California Grill, all have been very good but this one was the best. Allison also really enjoyed this and gave it a “Very Good” rating. But Emily wasn’t crazy about the lemon mayo so only gave it a “Good”. So the BLT flatbread gets an overall rating from us of “Very Good”.

And so I’m starting to get a little worried about now, as Emily seems to again be unimpressed by the California Grill food to this point. Would her opinion be changed by the entrée course??? :confused3

 

I will leave you in suspense just a little longer, and begin by telling you that Allison chose this sushi roll as her entree…

 

Medusa Roll – Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Asparagus, Spicy Mayonnaise, and Yuzu Pepper Sauce

This was the third kind of sushi roll she has tried at California Grill (California Roll and Spicy Kazan Roll being the other two) and this was her favorite. She said the spicy mayo and the yuzu pepper sauce added just the right amount of heat for her. And just in case you are like me and are unfamiliar with yuzu pepper, it is a spicy Japanese sauce made from green or yellow yuzu (a tart citrus fruit) zest, green or red chili peppers, and salt. Anyway she gave the Medusa Roll a solid “Very Good” rating.

As for me, I ordered the same thing as my last visit to California Grill…

Crispy Rock Shrimp Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Red Onions, and a Soy Reduction/Wasabi Cream Dressing

 

While I enjoyed this, it didn’t seem quite as good as last time. The breading on the shrimp was just a tad bit soggy and the greens seemed slightly more bitter than last time. So whereas previously I would have rated this salad as “Excellent”, this time I would lower the rating one notch to “Very Good”.

And now for the moment you have been waiting for. For her entree, Emily chose the…

 

Oak-fired Filet of Beef served with Zuckerman’s Farms Delta Asparagus, Truffled Potatoes, and Teriyaki Barbecue Sauce.

And like her brother, she promptly declared it to be the “best steak she has ever had”. (Which was followed by my huge sigh of relief ;)) More words like tender, juicy, flavorful, and delicious were uttered between bites. She gave her filet a resounding “Excellent” rating and her opinion of California Grill was officially changed.

It was at about this time that our server noticed that we were taking food pictures and offered to take one of the three of us. And so, here we are…

 

Allison (the Graduate), Barb (aka jabead), and Emily (our Toughest Food Critic)

Now you may notice the woman in the background who is trying desperately not to photobomb our picture…but by doing so actually really did. :laughing: We all got a bit of a chuckle when our server showed us this picture. Although he insisted on taking another, we actually liked this one better. ;) So if you should happen to be this very thoughtful and well-meaning woman… :thanks:

Okay, that brings us to dessert…

 

California Grill’s Dessert Menu as of May 18, 2012

We chose two desserts from this menu. Allison and I shared this…

 

Valrhona Chocolate Cake – Warm Chocolate Cake with Molten Center, Coffee Bark, and White Coffee Ice Cream (Decorated in honor of DD’s graduation)

This was the third version of the Lava Cake that I’ve had here and probably my least favorite. I would however still give it a “Good” rating. And in case you were wondering, my absolute favorite version was the S’Mores Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Tahitian vanilla marshmallow, graham cracker sable, and peanut butter gelato, which I was lucky to have twice (in Nov. 2010 and 2011, so both times during the fall season). This for me was pure heaven! :cloud9: But anyway, since Allison has not had the opportunity to try the S’Mores version she was quite content with this one…plus she is a big fan of all things coffee flavored. Therefore, she rated this dessert as “Very Good”.

Now Emily would normally order either a chocolate or raspberry/strawberry dessert or preferably a combination of the two. However the lava cake was not a valid option for her because she hates the taste (and surprisingly even the smell :eek:) of coffee. There weren’t any raspberry or strawberry desserts on the menu, so I thought she would choose the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding. But she surprised me by ordering this…


Peaches and Cream – Florida Peaches, Olive Oil Cake, Vanilla Panna Cotta and Peach Ice Cream (No Sugar Added Dessert)

Now I’m not sure if it was because she was so full after devouring a big hunk of beef or if this dessert actually only deserved this rating, but she gave it a “Good, I guess” rating while shrugging her shoulders. :confused3

 

Just as we were finishing our desserts at 10:00, the fireworks show began at Magic Kingdom. Allison and I were quite happy with the view from our table, but Emily wanted to take pictures so she again went out to the observation deck. She said it was pretty crowded out there, but she was able to get a few good shots like these…

 

 

While most everyone was out on the crowded deck, I took this photo of the nearly empty restaurant with my phone. If the rumors are correct, California Grill will undergo a massive renovation in early 2013 so the next time we are here it could very well look quite different.

EDIT: The renovation is no longer just a rumor, according to the official press release…

Disney’s California Grill will be closing for an extensive renovation beginning January 6, 2013. The restaurant is slated to reopen late summer.

Sporting a new look when it reopens, Chef Brian Piasecki is very excited about the “enhancements to the interactive kitchen – we’ll be able to give a fresh spin to California Grill classics, and add some cutting-edge new selections to the menu.”

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I have just one more thing to add and that is in regard to the service we received. Our server, Walter, provided us with very good service throughout our meal, second only to one other server on this trip. And I’m happy to say that we have always had good luck in regard to service at California Grill, with it usually being very good or even excellent and never bad. I’d better go find some wood to knock on now. :lmao:

So our overall rating for this meal was: Very Good

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