Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Disney Reviews Restaurant Edition #19 - The California Grill

Let me preface this review by saying we've not only just eaten at The California Grill high atop Disney's Contemporary Resort once, but it was also in 2007, way before the last rehab, so please bear that in mind. I do prefer to do reviews on restaurants that we've eaten at several times, but this was one of those "once in a lifetime" (more than likely) experiences and, since we're going to Disneyland this year, I've got California on the brain.

Due to the extremely kindness of my Brother-In-Law extraordinaire, we stayed in a Tower Room at The Contemporary Resort that year facing the Magic Kingdom. Granted, I was a bit leery staying there partly because there was a lot of construction in-house going on, they were also building Bay Lake Tower (The Contemporary's DVC Resort - aka Disney's version of a Time Share), and I've never really been that keen on the decor...it just didn't feel "Disney" enough, or so I thought. It was more about my Sister (and since her husband was paying, that made sense). The room itself wasn't the Wilderness Lodge level theming I was used to, but the view from our balcony made it all worthwhile. I've shown a zoom photo before, how about an actual view photo:
I also have to say, it's probably my #2 favorite resort to stay in because of the transportation conveniences. All of the monorail resorts are great in that regard, but the others have the issues of separate buildings whereas, staying in a Tower Room, you are literally an elevator and an escalator ride away from the monorail station...here is the walkway across from our room and you can see where they were just building the now fabulous Fantasia Store:
Plus, for those really pretty days, The Contemporary is within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom and it's a very pleasant walk (although a bit hard to keep your camera lens from fogging up that early in the morning:
But enough about the resort, I reviewed it already last year HERE, so no need again.

I should also tell you that The California Grill was a Signature Restaurant (and still is) which means you are going to lose two dining credits eating here. Dress is "business casual", so prepare for a bit of "primp" time. It's also quite pricey, so prepare yourself...it was one of the most expensive meals we've ever had on Disney property (and totally worth it, IMO).

Since I haven't been there since 2007 and they have completely rehabbed the restaurant, their method of guest arrival protocols may have changed as well, so I'm just going to describe it from our experience. Back then, there was a check-in podium at a private elevator to the restaurant on the main level of the resort (which is technically the third or fourth floor I believe...it's a very hard resort to navigate around believe it or not). It all felt a bit covert and you were NOT allowed to go up the elevator without a ressie, even just to look around and you were even escorted up the elevator by a Cast Member to make sure you "got there alright" (aka, didn't veer off the beaten path). I don't know if that's still the case or not, but it made it nice only having diners in the restaurant and not look-sees clogging the walkways. I was really nervous about the whole situation, so I have no photos of the elevator (much to my regret). But once we got up to the top of The Contemporary, the restaurant was beautiful (just keep in mind it doesn't look like this now):
It was light and open and we were seated right next to a window (which was a bit freaky...they are leaning outward from the top and it feels a bit gregarious sitting there, especially since I had my back right up against the window). Here is the view I had from our table:
Considering we were several floors up from our room, the view was still quite similar:
Here is Bay Lake Tower in its infancy:
And looking back the other way toward The Polynesian (now Polynesian Village) and The Indian Burial Ground Resort (aka The Grand Floridian):2007-0550
You can also walk out on the balcony and most guests do to watch the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom...we were there too early:
And I got a zoomed photo of Cindy's Castle (my camera wasn't that great back then, the wind was atrocious, and I was freaking a bit walking out there on my own, so forgive the quality):
Granted, I was 37 that trip but, up until that point, I could count on one hand how many alcoholic drinks I had ever had and even less for wine. But I have to thank The California Grill because they introduced me to Moscato and I have never looked back wine-wise! I absolutely LOVE the stuff! It was also the first time I had ever had a glass of wine in a restaurant, so lots of first that trip:
They sent the obligatory bread basket out and, although I tend not to eat the bread, I remember this was amazing! It was a sourdough, one of the few breads I adore:
I'm not much on California cuisine...I tend to like either savory OR sweet and never mixed in the same dish (which Cali cuisine is famous for), so finding food to appease my very picky palate was difficult. I went with a flatbread that was really amazing...perfectly cooked and just the right amount of cheese. It had sun-dried tomatoes and a pesto sauce on it as well:
Amber went with a sushi appetizer and I know NOTHING about sushi, so I can't say anything about it:
Entree-wise, I went with a pork shank on a cheddar polenta base (I did have to swim around the fungus, but it gave a nice flavor to the wine reduction on top...I can't bite into fungus (because of the texture), but I do like the flavor it gives). When my cow choices are unacceptable (aka covered in weird stuff), pork is my go-to meat:
Am eats a lot of fish at Disney:
The thing about Disney desserts is that they make them so pretty, you almost don't want to eat them! I had a cheesecake with pineapple and some kind of butter brittle on top. I am a huge fanatic when it comes to cheesecake, I prefer it without a crust (and NEVER a graham cracker crust...blasphemy!), so this one was absolutely perfect for me and was really good.
Am had some kind of banana thing (I don't remember her liking it too much):
I think it says a lot about a restaurant when, almost 10 years later, you still remember the meal and the event of the experience! Even though Walt never saw Disney World, sitting high atop one of the original Disney World resorts in a semi 50's type atmosphere, I remember feeling a bit of his "presence" there, probably more so that at any other Disney restaurant we've eaten in to date. Considering the cost of staying at The Contemporary, I won't ever be able to afford to stay there myself, but I always keep a faint hope that one day my wonderful BIL will see fit to send us back again and we will definitely be eating at The California Grill!

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