California Grill

We had a late dinner reservation at 9:20 with the idea of being there to view Hallowishes at 10:15.  With California Grill’s location on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort, watching Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show (whether it’s Hallowishes, Holiday Wishes, or the regular Happily Ever After fireworks) from its observation deck is one of the best viewing spots outside of the park.  This makes California Grill a popular place to dine and usually a difficult reservation to get.

We met our friend, Rachel, at California Grill’s check in desk on the 2nd floor and then after checking in the four of us boarded the elevator up to the restaurant on the 15th floor.  Our table wasn’t yet ready so Hunter got a drink from the bar…

Then at about 9:30 we were seated in a small room off of the main dining room, a room that I had never been in.  Unfortunately the air conditioning vent in the small room did not seem to be working and the room was quite full of people.  This resulted in the room feeling like a sauna.  This combined with the painfully slow service we were receiving made for a very poor start to our dinner.  We had been at our table for more than 1/2 hour and so far all we had to show for it were our drink orders placed and the complimentary basket of rolls delivered to our table…

A side note regarding the bread…lavender focaccia and multi-grain rolls had been the bread offerings at California Grill ever since the big remodel back in 2013.  However, Rachel told us that that has changed.  She dined at California Grill last month (May 2018) and they were served this sourdough bread…

This looks very much like the bread that is usually served at Narcoossee’s, or at least it still was as of November 2017.  One difference though is that at Narcoossee’s it is served with butter topped with sea salt but at California Grill this came with olive oil and tomato combo that Rachel said was really good…

But back to our dinner on Halloween night, where Hunter had had enough and went off in search of a manager.  This resulted in our move to a table by the window in the main dining room, where we quickly dropped off our belongings and headed out to the observation deck to see Hallowishes.  Here are some of the many photos that I took of the show…

 

 

Then when we returned to our new table, our drink orders had been delivered.  Mine was Iced Tea, which is served here with the option of adding simple syrup to make-your-own sweet tea…

 

Then it was finally time to place our order.  At this point it was 10:30 so we all decided to order from the top three sections of the menu…no entrees.

Rachel started with this…

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Feta, Frisee, Red Onion, Olive Oil Cracker, Watermelon Vinaigrette, 8 year Balsamic, and Tiny Basil

Rachel enjoyed her salad and also her next course…

And Rachel’s photo…

Spicy Kazan Roll with Crab, Shrimp, Scallops, Tuna, and Fireball Sauce

And until dessert, that completed the good part of our dinner.

I ordered this flatbread and shared it with the rest of the table…

Cheesesteak Flatbread with Shaved Wagyu Brisket, Mushrooms, Red Bell and Poblano Peppers, Caramelized Onions, Tillamook Cheddar Cheese, and Chipotle Mayonnaise

And another look…

And an even closer look…

 

Paula also ordered a flatbread and shared…

BLT Flatbread with Heirloom Tomatoes, fresh Mozzarella, Cherrywood Bacon Jam, Tomato Mayonnaise, and Arugula

And another look…

 

Sadly neither of these flatbreads were good.  Heavy, very wet toppings on thin, soggy crust.  We weren’t surprised when our waiter told us that they were soon switching from flatbreads to pizzas.  Based on our flatbreads, this was probably a wise decision.

Here is proof that that change was in fact successful…

Poached Pear Pizza with Red Wine-poached Asian Pear, Olli Prosciutto, Red Onion Jam, Fontina, Asiago, Parmesan, Meyer Lemon, Arugula, and Fresh-cracked Pepper 

This was Rachel’s pizza from her dinner here last month,  She said it was very good!

In addition to the flatbread, Paula also ordered this soup…

Forest Mushroom Soup topped with Goat Cheese Crema, Black Garlic Chicharrone, and Basil Oil 

And a closer look…

This didn’t come close to being as good as the Portobello Mushroom Soup at Artist Point (or also available at the Territory Lounge next door).

And that just leaves Hunter’s choice…

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with Tomato-Fennel Broth, Crispy Mushrooms, Tiny Basil, and Arbequina Organic Olive Oil

 

And a little closer…

This is one of their signature dishes, one that has been on their menu forever.  But sadly it was another fail.  Hunter said the broth tasted like dishwater and the ravioli was super salty.  In addition, rather than goat cheese the cheese filling in the ravioli tasted more like ricotta cheese.

During our meal the manager stopped by to check on us and could see we weren’t pleased with our meal…with the exception of Rachel.  So he insisted that we have a complimentary dessert.  Well actually he sent over three of the desserts listed on their Dessert menu…

Let’s begin with the best of the three…

Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Milk Chocolate Whipped Panna Cotta, and Cashew Clusters

After a long hiatus, I was happy to see the Valrhona chocolate cake (aka lava cake) return to the menu.  And as of today, it is still on their dessert menu.

The second dessert was this Creamsicle Crème Brulee …

Not my favorite crème brulee but not bad.

Our least favorite of the three desserts were the…

California Beignets filled with Vanilla Custard and dusted with Cinnamon & Sugar, served with Blackberry-Lemongrass Sauce

And a close up…

 

These beignets (aka small donuts) were dripping with oil and according to Hunter this probably meant they were cooked in cold oil.

So overall this was not a very good meal and, with the exception of Rachel’s meal, we would probably only rate it a 3.  While I’ve had some of my best Disney meals at California Grill, I’ve also had some of the worst.  So I guess in one word, I would describe the service and food at California Grill as INCONSISTENT.  However, the view there is always spectacular…which is why I dine there on every trip.  As for the opinion of others, Yelp reviewers rated California Grill 4 stars and it was given 4 1/2 stars on Trip Advisor.  Trip Advisor reviewers also ranked it high, #57 of the nearly 3,000 restaurants in the Orlando and #13 when narrowed down to the Disney World area restaurants.   This was the second highest ranking of the many Disney restaurants I visited on this trip, which gives credence to the phrase, YMMV (your mileage may vary).  So which restaurant from this trip received the highest ranking on Trip Advisor? Continue reading to find out.

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