Review by Kevin Klose
Just about everything “decor-wise” has changed. Upon exiting the elevators, you are met with wine storage that reminds me of the beverage coolers at 7-11…only filled with wine.
The rest of the space has a modern / vintage vibe with a vague mid-century feel.
One of the things we noticed and discussed was how wonderfully wide spaced the tables were and how this felt much better than in the past. We also figured this wouldn’t last very long. Once they figured out that they could fit more tables…they would.
Low and behold…a manager was overheard saying, “We can fit 20 more tables in here.” So much for widely spaced tables.
Several large pieces of stationary furniture have been removed and I’m not sure if this is the reason, but the California Grill seems louder than before. While we weren’t shouting, we had to speak up in order to be heard.
As this was opening night, there were several little glitches that will certainly work themselves out over time. Ordering a drink at the bar took far longer than it should due to difficulties running the new register. Dessert was served with a spoon that wouldn’t fit in the vessel containing the food. Again…these things can be forgiven, as it’s the first night.
As with any Disney restaurant opening…it seemed that there was an executive / manager present for every patron. On a trip to the restroom, I was asked 6 times how everything was going.
Upon arrival, we weren’t sure we liked the new decor. It had a less “special” feel about it. After spending some time there, it grew on us. It’s a lovely space that needs a bit of sound reduction. The noise level is loud with full widely spaced tables. Once they fit “20 more” full tables, the noise can only go up.
While there were new things on the menu, the California Grill frequently changed their menu. They have kept some of the classics, but updated them in a good way.
Some of the hits…
All three entrees were great. We had the short ribs, scallops and the classic pork tenderloin with polenta. Everyone “oohed and aahed”.
Image: Short ribs
Image: Pork tenderloin with polenta
The sushi was, as always, top notch. It’s ridiculously over priced (in the $25 per plate range) but it’s darn good.
We had the mixed California Roll, the Tuna 4 ways, the Spicy Kazan Roll and the pork belly sushi. (think bacon and rice). All were devoured quickly. Good, but expensive sushi.
Image: Mixed California Roll
Image: Tuna Four Ways
Image: Spicy Kazan Roll
Image: Pork Belly Nigiri
We ordered a carrot and cilantro soup and something called “Duck In all Its Glory.” We decided that you had to make friends with the soup. Once you got past it’s shocking color and that fact that it seemed to have clover floating…it was delicious.
The duck was served as a charcuterie board. Both were deemed good, but didn’t get the raves the entrees and sushi had received.
Some of the misses…
We had a tomato flatbread that didn’t work (in my opinion). It arrived cool and quickly turned cold. Not all of the sliced tomatoes were ripe and the flavor was okay…not great.
The server announced that the new bread was lavender scented bread. It was noted at the table that it reminded us of Grandma’s dresser drawers. It was okay…but once you had that image….it was hard to shake it.
Desserts were a bit hit or miss. We had the cinnamon banana fritters, which were lacking banana flavor. They seemed to be made of wheat bread rather than a fritter dough.
We also had the mini sundae dessert, which included a caramel corn flavored sundae, a coke float and a strawberry basil sundae. I will say that this dessert looked great. That’s about as far as I can go.
You might be happy to hear that the “house water” (their term…not mine) has been filtered five times. I don’t know about you, but my first thought was, “Where did you get this water and what was in it?”
My final thoughts…the California Grill is the same restaurant as always with new clothes and opening night jitters. The location and view can’t be beat. The food is mostly terrific and you’ll probably have a great time.
Category: Disney World