Walt Disney World guests have no shortage of dinning options. From fast, counter-serve locations throughout the parks to five-star restaurants at the resorts, there is literally something for everyone. After a seven-month hiatus Disney’s California Grill, one of the oldest and most prestigious fine dining options on Disney property, is back and better than ever.
Originally established in 1995 atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, California Grill set the bar for other fancy Disney restaurants to follow. With an expansive view of the Magic Kingdom and surrounding Disney property from the 15th floor of the resort, California Grill had much to offer in the way of scenery and food.
Following a complete makeover, updating both the decor and the menu, the California Grill is now reopened and ready to wow guests from the moment they step off the elevators.
The new sleek contemporary decor inspired by mid-century modern California design is lovely, but it pales to the most impressive feature of the restaurant — the new floor to ceiling windows that open up the breath-taking view and fill the room with natural light. How could it not? A picturesque view of sunset over Cinderella’s Castle is enchanting.
Guests are invited to enjoy the view from the dining room as well as two new observation decks flanking the restaurant. This is one restaurant you want to make sure you bring your good camera to (I did not, so I guess I have to go back).
After the sunsets, the view becomes even more magical as the restaurant seems to twinkle from beautiful modern lights that fill the dining room and the many bright lights of Disney below that shine through the windows. Be sure to keep your eye out for Disney’s Electrical Water Pageant as it floats through the Seven Seas Lagoon just below.
To top off the view, the most magical moment of the evening is when Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks light up the night sky. Dinner guests enjoy a unique view of the display while the music from the show is piped into the restaurant. Between the view of sunset and the fireworks display guests should plan to take advantage of every dinner course so as to not miss a moment.
Enough about the spectacular view, what about the food?
Sushi lovers, this is your restaurant. California Grill has long been known for its sushi offerings, and the new menu plays up that reputation with a selection of delectable hand-rolled options —tuna four ways, yuzu-marinated sashimi, California combination roll, etc. Each beautifully presented and perfectly prepared.
For the really gung-ho the chef offers a 12-course omakase menu. Omakase means “to entrust,” and there’s no menu, the chefs prepare fresh sushi dishes, often unusual creations.
The dinner entrées are just as mouth-watering. Pork two ways, wild Columbia River salmon, oak-fired filet of beef, Bell & Evans chicken and more scrumptious offerings. Much to my surprise, my favorite dish is the Heirloom Squash Ravioli, the buttery goodness melts in your mouth.
Do not fill up on dinner. This is one restaurant where desert is not to be missed (says the gal who went back for seconds). The cutest desert on the menu is the sundae sampler platter. This trio of mini deserts includes a tiny Coke float, flanked by two twists on the sundae theme: a berry-basil icy treat with a glittery strawberry “disco ball” on the side and a caramel corn sundae.
And although the banana fritters served with chocolate, peanut butter and salted caramel sauce were wonderful, it was the decadent dense chocolate pudding cake made with a 70 percent dark chocolate from Belgium that made my mouth water for more. Best. Chocolate. Desert.
A conversation about the California Grill is not complete without discussing the wine selection. Incorporated into the decor, 1,600 bottles of wine are on display in an expansive state-of-the-art wine cooler. Diners will find 250 wines on the menu with 80 available by the glass served by more than 20 sommeliers on staff.
Whether you are visiting the parks or celebrating a special occasion, California Grill offers a suburb and unique dining experience. Even before its makeover, California Grill was known for its delicious meals and fantastic view — that hasn’t changed. But the sprucing up was well-worth the seven-month wait.
Open for dinner daily at 5 pm, guests must adhere to a dinning dress code. Reservations can be made at www.disneyworld.com/dine or by calling 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463).