California Grill Birthday Dinner

For his birthday dinner, my son chose the Contemporary Resort’s signature restaurant, California Grill.  We arrived at the check-in desk for the restaurant (located on the 2nd floor) on time for our 7:25 reservation and were given a buzzer.  Then we took the special elevator to the 15th floor where the restaurant is located.  Here we waited for about 10 – 15 minutes before being seated at a booth with the table decorated with Mickey confetti for our birthday celebration…

Also there was a note welcoming us back, as this restaurant is a family favorite which we have been to many times.

Here’s a photo of the birthday boy and his sister (aka my son and daughter)…

We had a nice view of Cinderella’s castle from our table…

 

 

The first thing we ordered was a cocktail.  I was asked first and ordered my usual favorite here…

Twisted Mai Tai with Mount Gay Rum, Crème de Noyaux, Orange Juice, and Pineapple Juice with a splash of Lime

The kids thought that sounded good so they copied my order.   We all enjoyed it!

Then we focused our attention on the menu…

 

From the Wood Burning Oven section, we started our dinner by sharing this…

Chicken Sausage Flatbread with Midnight Moon Goat Cheese, Sage Pistou, Maple Gastrique, and Pumpkin Seed Florentine

Though not included in the description, those were thin slices of green apple on top.  This flatbread was very good.  Though they are always changing the two flatbreads that are offered on the menu here (currently it’s Cheesesteak and BLT, which I’ve had before), I wouldn’t mind seeing this one offered again when I return to California Grill in October.  But if not, I’m sure whatever flatbreads they have then will be good.

Along with the flatbread we were also served a complimentary bread basket…

This consists of whole-grain sourdough rolls and lavender-infused focaccia, along with butter topped with black sea salt.  When they first started serving these when the restaurant reopened in 2013 after an extensive remodel, I was very disappointed since I liked the sourdough bread which it had replaced.  However, over the years, the focaccia has grown on me and I think it’s pretty good now, especially when topped with the sea salt butter.

 

Now on to our entree choices…

 

 

Here is what my daughter chose…

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese Polenta, Wild Mushrooms, Lacquered Pork Belly, and Apple-Raisin Mostarda

With the goat cheese in the polenta and the goat cheese on our flatbread, she had a goat cheese-filled dinner that night…which was fine by her because she loves goat cheese!  In addition to the polenta, she really liked both the pork tenderloin and the pork belly.  And though she doesn’t like either mushrooms or raisins, neither of these kept her from enjoying this dish.

 

The primary reason that my son chose California Grill for his birthday dinner is because he always loves their filet…

Oak-fired Filet of Beef served with Duck Fat Marble Potatoes, Gruyere-Harp Lager Mornay, Roasted Tomato Peperonata, Whole Roasted Garlic, and Cabernet Wine Sauce

And a slightly closer view…

 

This did not disappoint!  He declared it the best steak of the trip, a trip which had included steaks at Chefs de France, Coral Reef, San Angel Inn, and Be our Guest.  He also added that he really liked the potatoes.  Give this boy a good steak and some potatoes and he’s a happy guy!

 

As for me, there weren’t any entrees that were calling my name so I instead ordered soup and salad…

 

My soup choice was…

 

Creamy Potato-Gruyere Bisque topped with Harissa Oil and served with a Multi-Grain Maine “Lobster Roll” Crostini

And another look…

I totally missed the word “bisque” in the description of this, so was disappointed when it wasn’t the cheesy potato soup filled with chunks of potato that I was expecting but instead a creamy mix of pureed potatoes and cheese.  Not only was the texture rather boring, but so was the flavor.  The one thing I really enjoyed about this was the crostini topped with pieces of lobster.  Very tasty!

 

I also ordered this salad…

Crispy Rock Shrimp Salad with Asian Style Baby Greens, Asian Pears, Soy Reduction, and Wasabi Cream

And another look…

 

The first time I had this salad here about 5 or 6 years ago I loved it.  The second time around I didn’t like it as much, as the greens were pretty bitter.  This time, though the greens were not bitter, the salad was “blah” (per my notes).  The only exception to the “blah” description was the shrimp, which were delicious.  In looking at California Grill’s current online menu, I don’t see the Crispy Rock Shrimp Salad listed.  If this is correct, that would be the first time that I’ve seen it missing from the menu since I first had this years ago.  So now I’m wondering if I was not alone in thinking that this salad had become “blah”.

 

Since this was a birthday celebration, we all decided to splurge and each order dessert…

 

My daughter found that the dessert she had enjoyed during her last dinner here (in December 2013) was still on the menu…

 

Chocolate Pudding Cake – Luscious Chocolate Cake with Nutella Filling, Meringue Kisses, and Chantilly Cream

Just like last time, she again thought this was very good!  She would be very disappointed to see that they have removed this dessert from their menu.  They have replaced it with another chocolate dessert, Valrhona Chocolate Cake, without the Nutella.

 

My dessert choice was the…

Banana Buzz – Butterscotch Custard, Banana Cream, Coffee-dusted Phyllo, Fresh Bananas, and a Fried Plantain Chip

And another look…

 

This was just okay, our least favorite of the three desserts.  It wasn’t as good as the similar dessert, Caramelized Banana Napoleon, that used to be served at Flying Fish.

 

As for my son, he loves creme brulee so he chose this…

S’mores Creme Brulee – Marshmallow Custard, Milk Chocolate Ganache, and Caramelized Turbinado Sugar

And a closer look…

And even closer…

This was good and so was the bonus dessert that they brought the birthday boy…

 

We were finished eating by 9:30 and went outside to the observation deck.  However, the Magic Kingdom fireworks were not scheduled until 10:00.  Since it was windy and a bit chilly, plus we had seen the fireworks the night before from inside the park, the kids talked me into calling it a night and heading back to our room at the Beach Club.  In hindsight though, I wish we had stuck around to see WISHES one last time from the 15th floor balcony of California Grill.  As you can see, the view from this location is stunning…

 

With just a few missteps (all of them my choices), overall we were happy with our dinner at California Grill.  Based on just the food, I would rate our dinner here 4 1/2 stars.  However, when you factor in the beautiful view and great service we had, I would bump this up to a perfect 5 stars.  Therefore I would disagree with the 4 stars given to California Grill by Yelp reviewers.  It fared a bit better though on Trip Advisor, receiving 4 1/2 stars and has the pretty high ranking of #42 best of the nearly 3,000 Orlando area restaurants reviewed there.

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