With its beautiful fireworks views of the Magic Kingdom and its top-notch cuisine, California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the perfect place for a special occasion, so perhaps it is fitting that the restaurant has introduced a limited-time prix fixe menu in celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. The three-course meal takes inspiration from the restaurant’s culinary history and pays homage to past favorites from menus over the years. Since we were celebrating our own anniversary, my husband and I decided to splurge on the new dinner offering and enjoy Disney Enchantment from the restaurant’s observation deck. However, was the special menu worth the $89 per adult price tag?
Market Inspirations (Appetizers)
After having plenty of the focaccia in the bread basket (it’s so fluffy and delicious!), I started my meal with the lobster and parsnip bisque. It was very creamy. Despite the addition of parsnips, the predominant flavor of the bisque was lobster. There was a little lobster meat, which was nice and sweet, along with parsnip crisps in the bisque. Timothy ordered the house-made artisanal-style duck à l’orange pizza. The pizza was topped with duck prosciutto and confit, pickled shallots, orange-black mission fig jam, aged blue cheese, and arugula. While he enjoyed the appetizer, Timothy wished that there was a little more duck and a little less blue cheese, which tended to overpower the other flavors.
Chef’s Journey (Entrées)
For my entrée, I had the oak-fired filet of beef, which was served with black truffle-brown butter château potatoes, golden raisins vinaigrette, cauliflower, and roasted tomato butter. I had the filet cooked medium, and it was done perfectly with a nice sear on the outside with a little pink still in the center. It had a hint of smokey flavor that contrasted well with the sweetness of the golden raisins vinaigrette, and it was up there as one of the best filets I’ve had on property. There were just a few pieces of potato and cauliflower on the plate; they were good, but I kind of wished there was a little more of them.
Timothy had the cast iron-grilled pork tenderloin with goat cheese polenta, trumpet mushrooms, heirloom apple-lacquered pork belly, black mission figs, and zinfandel glaze. The pork was very tender and seasoned well, and he especially liked the pork belly. The portion was on the small side though, so he had more than enough room to mooch a bit of my filet.
Sweet Creations (Desserts)
I had a hard time deciding between the Valrhona chocolate torte and the five magical bites 50 years in the making, which had five mini desserts that were inspired by the current chef and past chefs. Upon asking our server, Ron, about his recommendation, he suggested the torte. It was served with candied peanuts, salted caramel, nougat, and whipped panna cotta. This was so rich! It was a ton of chocolate and felt like eating a very fancy but deconstructed candy bar. I enjoyed it a lot but had a hard time finishing; it was just that decadent. I loved the little decorative chocolate that featured Mickey Mouse, Cinderella Castle, and a 50th anniversary emblem. Such a cute touch!
Timothy opted for the more savory choice, the chef’s selection of California cheeses. The three cheeses were the red hawk (a “triple-cream, washed-rind, fully-flavored cheese”), the Humboldt fog (a “young goat’s milk cheese sprinkled with vegetable ash”), and bay blue (a “rustic-style blue cheese”). It appealed to Timothy’s more adventurous palette, and he enjoyed the three cheeses equally.
While the food was clearly the star, part of the appeal of California Grill is its fireworks views, and we were lucky enough to have a perfect view of Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain from our table. Since it rained heavily during our meal, we decided to walk to the observation deck for a better view of Disney Enchantment. There was plenty of room on the deck, and the music was piped in, just as it had always been for previous fireworks shows. While you cannot make out the projections on the castle or Main Street, the fireworks view was lovely. It felt like a perfect way to cap off our evening.
Overall, this was a heavy meal that was a perfect way to kick off our anniversary trip. As someone who doesn’t drink a lot, I thought this special menu was much more worthwhile than the $129 Celebration at the Top cocktail party that is also being offered at California Grill. For $89 before our 10% DVC discount, the special menu provided a full 3-course meal as opposed to the Celebration at the Top event that has hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine, and desserts. Guests of the cocktail party were in the Sonoma and Napa private rooms, so they viewed the fireworks from a separate observation deck from the dinner guests.
I think if you are a fan of California Grill, this anniversary dinner menu will not disappoint, and it was a decent value if you look at the individual prices of comparable items from the usual dinner menu. The filet alone was normally about $60. Also, we had wonderful service and did not feel rushed. All in all, this was a great experience for a special occasion.