Let’s Do Disney Deluxe Dining: Part One

Yesterday, Chris and I returned from ten days at Disney World, celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary.  We went to WDW on our honeymoon, and a few times after that, and it was only natural we’d want to go back for an anniversary trip at some point. Because we both agreed that eating was probably our favourite thing to do there, except maybe for drinking, we splurged on the deluxe dining plan for this trip. Back when we had our honeymoon, the regular meal plan used to include appetizer, entree and dessert for your table service credit – now you only get entree and dessert. Still, it’s always a ton of food. So much so that, even though I won’t be going in depth into the breakfasts, the food post will probably be split into two pieces.

Since we’re I’m not really the type to remember to take photographs before digging in (can’t count the number of times I’ve said grace with a full mouth), all photos here are courtesy of other people, via GIS.

Anyway, here we go!

On past trips, we’ve usually forgone a table service the night we arrive since we’re never certain about whether we’ll make a reservation time or not depending on flights.  Since this time we arrived in Orlando at 11AM, we felt reasonably sure we would make a 7PM reservation at Jiko.  A note here: reservations are typically made 3-6 months in advance of your trip. There are very few ‘walk ups’ taken at most of the popular Disney restaurants, especially during times when they offer free dining discounts, as they were during our most recent trip.

Jiko has been sort of “our signature”, since it was the placed we splurged on during our honeymoon.  During the last trip we took together with some friends, we went to California Grill and enjoyed it, but we were really eager to get back to Jiko.

Chris ordered the cheese plate, the filet mignon with mac and cheese instead of the usual accompaniments and the creme brulee.  I got the wild boar tenderloin app, the duck on the recommendation of our server, and the mango cheesecake:

Wild Boar Tenderloinjiko duckjiko cheesecake

The boar tenderloin was a great appetizer. Small, varied flavours and textures and presented very nicely.  The duck was incredible.  This was the best picture I could find to do justice to the presentation and the crispy skin.  The variety of mushrooms accompanying it were wonderful also.  The cheesecake was pretty basic stuff, as far as cheesecakes go, but I was particularly charmed by the fact that the mango and raspberry sauces had tiny sparkles in it.

Our first morning was breakfast at Tusker House, a new place for both of us.  Like I said, I’m not gonna be covering breakfasts so much to save on space and because aside from some few thematic items, they’re more or less the same.  This was, however, my very first encounter with Jungle Juice (not the booze version) – passion fruit, guava and orange juice mixed together. It was already in the high 30s/low 40s even that early in the morning, so I had a lot of Jungle Juice. I jokingly tweeted at Kate Elliott I completely understood how Vai was able to seduce Cat with fruit and fruit juice in Expedition – it’s a fucking elixir in hot temps.

Dinner that night was Flying Fish, another new place! Being on the Deluxe plan let us try out a lot of signatures which is great for a bunch of reasons, not least of which is we’re kinda snobs but also because it uses two dining credits per meal, which saves us from eating three sit down meals a day (more on this in a bit.) I was really excited about this place and I’m glad we did it early, because it ended up being good but not excellent and a fairly long meal to boot.   There was some kinda shenanigans going on at the next table, because both our server and the chef spent upwards of twenty minutes talking to the family there, which we think contributed to the long wait.  Chris got another cheese plate, on account of playing it safe with his shellfish allergy, the berkshire pork and the sorbet maybe for dessert.  I had the tuna and tempura appetizer, the signature duo of potato wrapped snapper and strip steak and the trio of concession sweets:


flying fish tuna app
flying fish duo dinnerflying fish dessert trio of concession sweets

The tuna app was very good – it was like a pseudo-sushi roll with wasabi foam and roe sprinkles, and tempura seaweed wrapping.  I think I made a mistake of ordering the signature duo, instead of the potato wrapped snapper on its own.  The snapper was good, and the crispy potato wrapper made for a cool contrast.  The leeks and cassis reduction were a nice complement. The steak was just okay, and the sauce on top was too overwhelming – compared to the snapper’s sauce, it felt… clumsy? too rich? I don’t know! It was too busy for me, I think – I should’ve just decided on steak or fish and gone for it. From here on out, no more fence-sitting!

Now here’s where “an embarrassment of riches” becomes an actual foreseeable problem for us.  When you book stuff with Disney, they often ask if you’re celebrating anything. We were, of course, so when we checked in, our check-in cast member gave us Happy Anniversary buttons to wear while in the parks.  At Flying Fish, our server brought us a peach creme brulee, partly in apology for the long wait, and partly because of our anniversary.  A) it was delicious but B) wow, this is a lot of food.

Also, compared to the creme brulee, my dessert was not all that great.  I didn’t realize the cheesecake itself was popcorn flavoured – it was like a big creamy popcorn jelly belly. Fine if you like that kind of thing, and maybe even I would’ve been alright, but I was pretty full. I picked off the caramel corn and that was it. The pound cake fries were very dry, and though this pic shows a tiny burger, I actually had a tiny “hot dog” eclair filled with raspberry cream, which was tasty enough. The best part was the itty bitty raspberry lime popsicle. Sour and cold and perfect after a huge meal.

I’d be willing to go back and try again under more auspicious circumstances but Chris wasn’t a big fan. That’s alright, we have plenty more.

Second day was Crystal Palace for breakfast. Meet Winnie the Pooh & characters, buffet specialties include puffed french toast and breakfast pizza.

We ate at Kona Cafe for lunch, and we’ve only ever been there for breakfast before.  Chris met with the chef to ascertain what he was gonna eat, and had the cheese plate (not as spectacular as some places have been), the bbq pork tacos and the Kona Kone.  I don’t know what he was expecting to get but here’s what the kona kone actually looks like:

Kona-Kone-of-Today

I didn’t order dessert so I helped him pick at this.  What I did order was potstickers and the volcano roll from the sushi bar:

SONY DSC kona volcano rollkona volcano roll

Both were very tasty! The sauce that came with the potstickers was like a creamy soy sauce, and the volcano roll had just the right amount of spice.  The only sour note in the whole thing was that while the chef spoke with Chris, I didn’t really get a chance to confirm with her whether the “seafood lau’ai” accompaniment had shellfish or not.  All the waitress told me was that Chris shouldn’t order any of the sushi because of cross-contamination.  Well, no shit! I was more concerned about ME contaminating HIM.  Typically Disney is pretty good about explicitly listing common allergens in the menu explanations, but this was awfully vague. Seafood can be any combination of shellfish and regular fish.  I’m not a shellfish eater for obvious reasons, but this tasted like crab meat to me.  I just made sure to brush my teeth really well immediately after the meal.

Dinner that night: Le Cellier.  Some history: We’d eaten here before on our last trip together with another couple.  We had split up to do some Food and Wine stuff around Epcot, and Chris and I had just bought a couple of massive margaritas in the Mexico pavilion when we realized our reservation at Le Cellier was in five minutes, and our friends would be looking for us.  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Epcot’s layout, Canada and Mexico are quite nearly polar opposites around the World Showcase.  We booked it and drank our margaritas at the same time, in 35 degree heat, on top of the Food and Wine snacks we’d already had.  Needless to say, I did not eat much of my meal that day.

So, we’re here to give Le Cellier a fairer shake.  Plus, we always find the Canadian pavilion kind of fun – for example, the way it proudly exclaims that its the only place outside Canada where you can get…. Moosehead!  I don’t know anyone here who drinks Moosehead!  Is it a West Coast thing?  I skipped the Moosehead and got a Unibroue beer flight with Fin du Monde, Ephemere and Trois Pistoles.   Chris had the same, and while I liked them, he wasn’t a fan. He had the cheddar beer soup, venison rack and maple creme brulee. I had the cheese plate (for a twist!), the filet with mushroom risotto, and the maple creme brulee:

le cellier filetle cellier creme brulee

LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL STEAK FOOTAGE.  This is incredibly rich and saucy, which is what made stomaching it on a bunch of tequila so tough last time. Not so here, I devoured this rare little beauty . The cheese plate (couldn’t find a good picture, and besides they change seasonally) was probably one of the nicest presented ones we saw all trip, with a good mix of soft, crumbly and hard.  Naturally, there was some nice canadian cheddar.  The cheeses also came with some nice accompaniments, including a big piece of honeycomb. The maple creme brulee was great, light and silky with a very light touch on the brulee’ing hand.

Chris said he wouldn’t go back. The soup and dessert were nice, but his entree was bland, and overall, Le Cellier hasn’t really changed much menu-wise, or decor-wise, to earn its signature status.  I’ll cover this discussion a bit more in the Monsieur Paul review, because I cared more then, but while I really liked my meal at Le Cellier, I could probably take or leave returning.  There’s just too many other good places to eat to fuss about here.  On the other hand, if we don’t eat here on future trips, I’ll miss grumpy people getting turned away when they want to do a walk-up meal.  “They won’t seat you unless you have a-” elaborate finger quotes “-reservation thingie,” said one really douchey looking bro.

Day three is pretty fucking magical: We have breakfast at Cinderella’s castle.  This is a two-credit meal, which is pricey for a breakfast, but you get your picture taken with Cinderella on the way in, and they give you a framed 5×7, as well as four extra 4×6 copies for parents and grandparents.  We also got wands and swords and wishing stars! As you do.  The princesses circulating were Jasmine, Aurora, Snow White and Ariel. Unlike most of the breakfasts we did, CRT is a la carte, so Chris had the steak and eggs, and I had the goat cheese quiche. Both were pretty good, nothing spectacular.  All of the charm of the place is the fact that you’re eating in Cinderella’s castle!

Dinner that night was at Citrico’s, in the Grand Floridian. I LOVE this resort. Someday I will save up the 15K to stay here. Today is not that day.  Instead we settled for drinks in the lounge while waiting for the reservation time to arrive. Citrico’s gets mixed reviews, and like Flying Fish, Chris was a little worried he wouldn’t have much choice in food due to his allergy, but everything was fantastic.  He broke with cheese plate tradition and got the arancini, the veal shank and the tropical creme brulee (I think!).  I had the heirloom tomato salad, the short ribs and after seeing a bunch of them waiting to be delivered to the tables on our way in, the chocolate banana torte:

Short-Rib citricosthe-chocolate-banana

A few notes: no photos of the heirloom tomato salad, but it was fresh, made-in-house mozzarella, tomatoes and a balsamic dressing.  Standard caprese fixings, but it was great and light. Which was good, considering what I was gonna be doing for dessert.  The short ribs pictured here are with a kind of pasta, but the ones I got were served with cheddar hominy grits, and both the ribs and the grits were magnificent. I probably wouldn’t have got the short ribs if it came with the pasta, it reminds me too much of the ST:TNG episode where all the alien-infested crew serves Picard mealworms for dinner, which I saw as a kid and it stuck with me for/ever/.   The torte was also outside, like a classed up hot fudge brownie sundae.  They also gave us copies of the menu that say Happy Anniversary on them!

All in all, Citrico’s was excellent and has probably become a must-do for us.

Day four, in brief: Breakfast at the Wave, which was a place we’d done before, but not for breakfast. Nice place, the Contemporary is a fun resort to visit, and we were pleasantly surprised to find we could order a la carte OR from a buffet.  The manager stopped by to wish us a happy anniversary with two complimentary glasses of mimosas! Well, alright, I could get used to this kind of congratulations at 8AM.  The buffet was standard fare, but had eggs benedict with key lime hollandaise (good but very tart/spicy!), and sweet potato pancakes (incredible, especially with the praline syrup).

Dinner was at Ohana, which is a family-style place that brings you plates of: salad with honey lime dressing, delicious kona-style potstickers, and sesame seed wings, teriyaki noodles, and garlic stir-fried veggies. Then these bad boys come out and play:

ohana meat grill

Similar to a churrascaria, the servers go around with skewers of meat: the night we were there, we had chicken, pork, steak and shrimp (which we declined, naturally.) The pork was a little dry, but the other meats were good.  For me, I could’ve made a meal from the salad, stirfry and potstickers all on their own, I think.  I did ask for more potstickers, but they never arrived 😦 Luckily, our server chose to bring by some dessert, which cures what ails ya:

bread puddingBread pudding a la mode with bananas foster sauce.  Aww yeah.  Not pictured, me continuing to eat smaller and smaller bites, whimpering, because I was incredibly full and it was so tasty.  (Hey, remember before I left, how I said that it was okay to not eat everything just because it was in front of me? Yeah, that was a cool idea. In theory.  I learned over the course of this trip that in reality, I have been too well schooled to never turn down food, and I think the Disney atmosphere made it harder because the servers try really hard to connect with you on a personal level? Add to that the fact we were meeting many of the chefs at these places due to Chris’ allergy and… turns out food coma can occasionally mean literally – we had a lot of midday naps this trip.)(The heat probably didn’t help.)

Whew, okay.  Four days down, six more to go! This might become a three-post series at this rate.

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