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Restaurant Review: The Wave

I posted a brief mention of the Contemporary Resort’s newest restaurant a few weeks ago, but I wanted to get a full review up of the The Wave as soon as possible. It’s one of Disney World’s most recent additions, and it’s getting pretty good marks from what I’ve seen.

Contemporary Resort's The Wave Restaurant

Contemporary Resort's The Wave Restaurant

Atmosphere
The Wave is located on the Contemporary Resort‘s lobby level. (It’s tucked back into the space that used to house the Food and Fun center.) You’ll enter the restaurant through an archway and a tubular hallway — reminds me of the old Journey Into Imagination rainbow walkway after the ride — through blue and bubbles and other watery imagery.

Once inside, you’ll find the bar straight ahead, waiting areas to your right, and the main dining room to your left. Everything is in shades of blue and orange-y wood tones; with no windows, well-executed lighting, and a dining room full of “wave”-like curves, this could easily be an under-the-sea location. In fact, it gives off a decidedly “Sea Base Alpha” kind of feel.

The Bar at Disney's The Wave Restaurant

The Bar at Disney's The Wave Restaurant

The Wave Waiting Area

The Wave Waiting Area

The Wave Dining Room

The Wave Dining Room

The Wave Dining Room

The Wave Dining Room

Even though we visited on a very busy night with a walk-in waiting time of over an hour, our advanced dining reservation worked like a charm. We were called to be seated very quickly after we arrived, but not so quickly that I couldn’t get a little education at the bar…

“I Like Cold Beverages”
I’ve mentioned The Wave’s wine list before — they’re famous for it. The Wave is one of the few restaurants in the world offering almost exclusively screw-top wines (e.g. wines bottled with screw-tops instead of corks or other types of closures). I explain in the previous post why this is both interesting and controversial.

The Wave Wine Cellar

The Wave Wine Cellar

Wines at the Wave

Wines at the Wave

Because this wine list is so special, I wanted to get you a few opinions from a wine expert (which I, most certainly, am not). I asked Jonathan Troutman, Senior Editor at cork’d.com, for some recommendations, and he sent over the following choices. (If there are any wine lovers who read the Disney Food Blog, I’d love to hear what you think):
Craggy Range Calvert, Central Otago
Two Hands Angel’s Share Shiraz, McLaren Vale
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Yalumba The Y Series Viognier, South Australia

Personally, I can also recommend the Wild Berry Margarita…

Wild Berry Margarita

Wild Berry Margarita

Eats
After chatting for a bit with the great bar staff, we were led to our table in the dining room. The Wave isn’t an overwhelmingly gorgeous restaurant like its older sister upstairs, the California Grill; it has understated design fitting for a casual dining experience, but still offers an air of sophistication — you know you’re still in one of Disney’s flagship resort hotels.

Once seated, we were a bit annoyed that our server was spending so much time at other tables before finally reaching ours; but we soon realized that The Wave might be trying out a “2.0″ approach to service. Once our server came to our table, she spent quite a bit of time explaining the philosophy of The Wave’s menu (a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and market-inspired approach to casual dining), the available dishes, and her suggestions based on our likes and dislikes.

I have no idea if this will be your experience regarding service at The Wave, but it felt to us like the restaurant is going for a “holistic” vibe, and our server was focused on ensuring that our entire dining experience was a good one.

Whether the menus (Breakfast Menu, Lunch Menu, Dinner Menu, Dessert Menu) inspire a sustainable philosophy or not (that’s for you to decide), I was ready to sample some of the dishes I’d been hearing so much about. By the way, vegetarians will be at home here — there are plenty of wonderful veggie dishes on the menu that get high marks from reviewers. Disney’s clearly making this a higher priority.

The meal began with some delicious crusty bread served with salted butter and olive oil (yum.). We ordered black bean chili and the seasonal soup — chicken and rice — for appetizers (both served with The Wave’s specialty jalapeno cornbread).

Bread and Butter

Bread and Butter

Chili with Pork Tenderloin

Chili with Pork Tenderloin

Seasonal Soup

Seasonal Soup

Cross-Section of Jalapeno Corn Muffin

Cross-Section of Jalapeno Corn Muffin

We both very much enjoyed our soup/Chili, and were pleasantly surprised by the entrees: Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Cabernet Jus, White Bean Mash, and Locally Grown Teardrop Tomatoes and Chili-marinated Flat Iron Steak with warm Fingerling Potato Salad and Avocado Mousse.

I’d heard that the Beef Tenderloin and the Flat Iron Steak were two of the best dishes on the menu (along with the Pork Tenderloin and Vegetable Stew), and we weren’t disappointed. The flank steak was tender and cooked perfectly. I really enjoyed the sensation of the avocado mousse with the dish. I’ll admit that the white bean mash wasn’t my favorite side dish, but it does offer “something different,” and that’s always welcome at a Disney restaurant.

Beef Tenderloin with White Bean Mash

Beef Tenderloin with White Bean Mash

Flat Iron Flank Steak with Fingerling Potato Salad and Avocado Mousse

Flat Iron Flank Steak with Fingerling Potato Salad and Avocado Mousse

Desserts at The Wave come in tasting trios and are named for their taste and feel, such as “Decadent Flavors” and “Crisp and Crunchy.” I ordered the “Decadent Flavors” trio (delicious!), which included Blueberry Compote with Yogurt Gelato, Lemon Cornbread with Vanilla Panna Cotta, and Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel Sauce. Hubby ordered a vanilla milkshake. Which is another reason why I like The Wave: How many restaurants have self-important desserts named after obscure sensations listed right next to milkshakes?

Decadent Flavors Trio

Decadent Flavors Trio

Vanilla Milkshake

Vanilla Milkshake

Final Thoughts
Overall, we were pleased with The Wave. It’s a relaxing restaurant with a great staff and a small, but quality, menu. Although we won’t visit on every trip, it’s the perfect spot to steal away from the Magic Kingdom for an hour of calm, cool conversation and perhaps a glass of wine. It’s also a nice, quick fix for a meal when you’re staying at the Contemporary.

Personally, I’d head there just to hang out at the bar. The bar staff is wonderful, and I keep meeting really interesting people there for some reason.

My suggestion: try The Wave at least once. You just might find your new favorite restaurant that you’ll visit again and again.

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20 Comments

  1. Caitie F says:

    My husband and I went to The Wave on the first night of our honeymoon trip because we were staying at The Contemporary. We will be going back on our next trip for sure. The seasonal soups change, but I got the one for August and it was delicious. I also got the Beef Tenderloin and thought it was one of the best steaks I have had. We went to Le Cellier toward the end of the trip and I enjoy the steak at The Wave more! I also thought the sides were really good too.

    It seems like not many people know it is so good, which may be a good thing since it is not as difficult to get an ADR there!

  2. James (Disneynorth) says:

    Hey AJ! Great review.

    In terms of the wine, I have had wine from Two Hands before and was not disappointed. They make great Shiraz’s. I’ve heard that Cloudy Bay wines are really good. You really can’t go wrong with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s.

  3. AJ says:

    Caitie — Thanks for your comment and for reading! The entrees were definitely the highlight of our meal. We thought the presentation was fun, the portions weren’t overwhelming, and the tastes rolled together really well. Agreed that ADRs are rather easy to get — and I would suggest getting one. I think a lot of walk-ins head over to The Wave from the Magic Kingdom, which can make for busy meal hours!

    James — Of course you’re a wine buff! Why didn’t I guess? ;-) Thank you for the confirmation on the suggestions, and I appreciate the knowledge about New Zealand Suavignon Blancs.

  4. We went to The Wave in May. I had wanted to go to Spoodles, but it was closed. This was before they announced it would eventually be closing forever. We opted to try something new and went with this. We liked out meals, but I have to say the menu options were small. My parents and I all had the steak, per waitress suggestion. We liked it (Le Cellier and Coral Reef were a bit better in my opinion). Hubby had the vegetable stew and enjoyed his a lot. Even our boys were happy. The manager came over to chat with them and gave them some fun items to keep busy. Although we liked it last time, we are not going back this trip since we are trying new places for us and one old favorite.

  5. AJ says:

    Thanks for the review TAF! Where’s the one old favorite that you’re hitting next week?

  6. Going back to Boma. Hubby eats vegetarian when out, so he did amazing there. That is where we will be during the Super Bowl. New is Kona Cafe for dinner. Also trying Tony’s with the boys. We went there on our honeymoon (almost 9 years ago) and thought the boys would enjoy it.

  7. Gray says:

    Great review, AJ! This place sounds like my kind of restaurant. I especially love that they offer an “antioxidant cocktail!” Awesome. That’s what I like–drinking without guilt.

    Do they have full dining at the bar?

  8. AJ says:

    TAF: Boma is great for that — anyone can find something they’ll enjoy at that place. It’s a must-do for us on most trips. And Tony’s is really fun when the kids are old enough to enjoy the Lady and the Tramp aspect!

    Gray: I really think you’d like it a lot. I’m not sure if they have full dining at the bar, actually. That’s something I’ll have to find out. But I’m really not sure why they wouldn’t… And, yeah, the “Antioxidant cocktail” is something that’s popped up on the standard WDW drink menu throughout the lounges. I haven’t tried one yet, but might have to give it a go for research purposes ;-)

  9. Marylynn says:

    We love The Wave! It is a ‘nice’ restaurant where you can take the kids, and that means a lot to parents who look forward to an evening out with the children at Disney…without a character meal or doing counter service. The agave margarita was the best I’d ever had.

    Thanks for the great review! I agree with you about about the bar staff…and the white bean mash—something different is a good phrase for that! I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it….interesting to say the least.

  10. AJ says:

    Marylynn — thanks for your comment. Great point that you can definitely take the kids to The Wave — there’s a great casual vibe there. Also, thanks for the review on the margarita!

  11. Sarah (Duchess_99) says:

    AJ, thanks for the review. I’ve been wanting to try the Wave and I think I’m definitely going to make a point to go next time we’re down! The entrees look delish!
    As for the wines, I’ve had the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc before and I really enjoy it. It’s a nice light, fruity wine. Great with fish and poultry. Australian wines are really great and a light alternative to Chardonnays.
    Hope that helps with the wines!

  12. AJ says:

    Sarah — Much obliged for the wine expertise! Let me know — either email or tweet — how you like the wave next time you go!

  13. Erin Foster says:

    I spent quite a lot of time at the Wave during my solo WDW trip last month. The cast members in the lounge are wonderful. I was able to order anything from the full menu. The chili appetizer was perfect as a meal. I paired this with the habenero margarita, making it extra yummy.

    I also had wonderful luck there for breakfast. I was able to walk in with no problem. The atmosphere was relaxing – I was able to linger over the Sunday newspaper with ease. This was a nice counterpoint to the frenetic pace of Chef Mickey’s upstairs. I recommend the sweet potato hash – delish!

  14. AJ says:

    Thanks for the review, Erin, and for the info on being able to order from the full menu at the bar. The Wave is certainly a foil for Chef Mickey’s, and relaxing there over breakfast with the paper sounds like the perfect Disney morning.

  15. Kathryn says:

    My husband and I ate at The Wave this past Saturday and I was very impressed. After several less-than-stellar food experiences at the World lately, this was a pleasant surprise! We had a reservation but we still waited close to 30 minutes. The trendy bar and the wine list kept us happy during the wait though. We’re two adults and we were sandwiched-in between two families of four with restless kids but it’s Disney, I know. Our server was super slow and I was wishing we had just eaten in the bar but then the food totally changed my mindset. We started with pitas and assorted dips (olives, eggplant hummus, and a sundried tomato spread) that was awesome. It wasn’t on the regular dinner menu but I spotted it on the bar menu and we were able to order it in the dining room. After a long, long wait our dinners arrived. I got the “sustainable fish” which that night was a striped bass. It’s an oily fish – much like chilean sea bass but not drastically overfished – so it keeps moist when cooked. It was served on a stew of crisp corn and edamame that I could have licked off the plate. My husband got the flank steak, which was equally delish. We were in heaven! It’s fabulous to have a reasonably priced, quality restaurant in the World. I’m just sorry that it took us so long to visit! I could say the same thing about this web site. I’m so excited to have stumbled across a community of people who love both Disney and food as much as I do :-)

  16. AJ says:

    We’re so glad to have you here, Kathryn! What a wonderful review! The corn stew you mentioned sounds wonderful… :-) When do you think you might get back to the Wave? Are you local to orlando?

  17. Kathryn says:

    Thank you! We live in Tampa so we visit the parks at least once or twice a month. We’re headed back up this Saturday to try out Sanna – another place that’s been on our list to try for awhile. We tend to get stuck in a rut with our dining choices but now I’m inspired to try some new places after our great experience at The Wave. I’m sure we’ll be back there regularly though!

  18. AJ says:

    Excellent news! Sanaa is wonderful. You can see our reviews and other posts that include Sanaa here: Sanaa Info Page

  19. Jayne says:

    I wish I had the same great experience a everyone else! The dining area feels like you’re eating in a big hotel room. Not the “unique and beautiful” experience we were told about over the phone for our valentine’s day dinner. My steak came out bloody after I ordered medium and the waitress argued with me about the understanding of medium. I decided to get a different meal and when the chef brought it out, he slammed it down and walked away. The new type of meat I ordered was deliberately waaaay over cooked and dry. Very funny, Chef. I would NOT recommend this restaurant at all.

  20. Tatiana says:

    Dangerous place for people with FOOD ALLERGIES!!!
    My son who is allergic to dairy was served
    ice-cream (cow milk) instead of some soy ice-cream!!!
    Both the chef and the waitress
    were very well aware of his food allergies.
    This careless attitude can cost someone
    a life.
    The first ever day at Disney was spoiled.
    Huge fear for eating out was created for
    my son.

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