Orlando’s new Waldorf Astoria is a sister hotel to the legendary Waldorf in New York City. We were lucky enough to dine at the hotel’s steakhouse, The Bull and Bear, which is patterned after The Bull and Bear Steakhouse in New York’s Waldorf.
The Bull and Bear feels like an exclusive club, and it’s not a place to go if all you want is a quick meal — this is where you go when you want a meal to treasure. The entryway is stacked with the best wines, the cozy dark woods and brass decor will immediately make you feel as though you’ve walked into a Rockefeller’s library, and attentive and smoothly-running service will ensure that you feel like the most important person in the room. Dining here means being pampered, and everyone deserves that once in a while.
But, surprise, you’re not in an upscale vintage Steakhouse in Manhattan; you’re in the middle of Walt Disney World property! That’s right — when you get a “theme park view” at the Waldorf, you really can see the theme parks…and Downtown Disney, and Pop Century Resort, even. But dining here is a departure from your normal theme park experience.
Luxurious seating is adorned with pillows and rich fabrics, windows are large and look out onto the beautiful pool area, and the steakhouse’s bar is the perfect place for a relaxing nightcap.
General Manager Manny Belete — a decorated veteran of the restaurant business — ensures that his team runs like a well-oiled machine. There’s nothing better than dining in a restaurant where servers and staff look out for one another; it comes through in the atmosphere and in the experience of both the food and the restaurant itself. It’s the service and attention to detail on the menu that will win you over on The Bull and Bear.
Age-old tradition handed down from the original New York Waldorf meets a whimsical streak at this restaurant. The food isn’t heavy and old-fashioned — it’s thoughtful and original. Chef de Cuisine David Sears has a few tricks up his sleeve from his many years of delighting customers with innovative tastes and textures.
While we usually order a LOT of food on our restaurant visits, this meal was complimentary…so we got to try even more! Get ready for an onslaught of incredible cuisine!
We started out the meal with The Bull and Bear’s Black and Blue Beef Carpaccio with roasted mushroom salad. While a relatively light appetizer, the flavors mixed beautifully and we enjoyed it, but…
…then the Deviled Eggs with shaved black truffle came out! What?!? Talk about comfort food to the max. I loved to see my mom’s favorite picnic treat in this traditional steakhouse. Dressed up with a shaved truffle on each egg, how can you not be intrigued?
Next up was the Classic Caesar Salad, prepared table side. Bull and Bear does not skimp on service, and one of the ways they take care of their guests and offer a customized meal is to create several of their dishes table side. Here, our head server (we had several throughout the night) whipped up a dressing based on our likes and dislikes; if we wanted more of a certain ingredient, there it was — less of another, no problem! Brilliant. This definitely set the stage for the rest of the evening.
Now, at this point, Chef de Cuisine David Sears popped out of the kitchen to say hello. Somehow he caught the information that I loved hot sauce and I have a feeling the wine I’d been drinking gave me a bit more pluck than usual…I soon found myself at the receiving end of a bit of a dare.
You see, Chef Sears is a spicy food fiend himself, and has cloistered away in the kitchen a signed, limited edition bottle of Blair’s 3AM Reserve. Registering at 2,000,000 on the scale of Scoville Heat Units (in comparison, Tobasco comes in at 50,000), even a few drops of this stuff can pretty much ruin your night. Of course, we had to see how much heat I could take. But that’s a story for another day; let’s just say, if you see a few blurry pictures after this point in the meal, blame it on the 3AM Reserve! Stay tuned to the Disney Food Blog for the full story in another post!
On to the entree! The Bull and Bear has a wide variety of aged, certified prime grade steaks on the menu — from filet to sirloin to Delmonico ribeye and so on. There’s definitely something for every carnivore here! But our hosts had something special in store for us — the Tomahawk.
This massive, 36 oz steak is dry aged for 28 days and served table side — I can see why. Just take a look at this glorious cut of meat:
Cooked to an ideal medium rare / rare, this steak is definitely large enough to feed at least four people, so don’t let the $95 price tag scare you. At less than $25 per person, it’s worth it. The flavor was exquisite.
Four sauces are served with the steaks: peppercorn cognac, roasted shallot bordelaise, bearnaise, and Bull and Bear steak sauce. The peppercorn cognac is incredible; I could have eaten it as a soup. And we even asked Chef Sears to add a toothpick tip drop of that 3AM Reserve to the Bull and Bear steak sauce giving it an extra kick. Delish.
But you may not have room for your Tomahawk once you see the incredible side dishes here. This is why I love steakhouses. The side dishes are often reminiscent of the comfort food I always loved, but have a gourmet quality that I rarely get the chance to experience. On this evening, we were treated to a giant salt-baked potato (prepared tableside), mac and cheese with pancetta, au gratin potatoes, and creamed corn.
Usually I’m a huge au gratin potatoes fan, and these were like nothing I’ve ever seen! They looked like little tumbleweeds sitting there in their skillet! Still — cheese and potatoes — how can you go wrong; and the extra crunch of the outer coating gave a welcome alternative texture to the dish.
The baked potato was, indeed, giant! Our server brought out a cart laden with toppings of every kind, asking us what we’d like — and how much of each — on the potato. It’s great to have the chance to customize your meal while it’s being created right in front of you.
But, I’ll admit, the potato didn’t get much attention from me. I dove right into that mac and cheese! Gourmet mac and cheese is the best invention ever, and I hope the trend bringing it to more and more menus never ceases to exist. These dishes always play with strong, flavorful cheeses that mingle well with the softer cream and butter textures and flavors; and this version was extremely creamy instead of sticky or overly thick. Of course, that crumbly breadcrumb topping is a staple — even for gourmet mac and cheese.
And, the dark horse winner of the side dish battle? The creamed corn. I know. You’re surprised. So was I. But I couldn’t stop eating this stuff!! A vegetable! Can you believe it?! Clearly I was on a health kick that evening… It was heavenly — incredibly sweet with a salty, creamy flavor at the same time. A simple dish that packed a big punch.
Oh, no, we’re not done yet. I know — you guys think I would pop by now, but I’d been very conservative with my portion sizes all evening knowing we’d get to try a few desserts, too! (You know I’ve been in training for Man v. Food, right? Just kidding.) Now, the Director of Food and Beverage at the Waldorf is Chef Francis Metais — a pastry chef. So you can just imagine what the desserts are like throughout this hotel.
We started out with an exciting creme brulee, which was brought flaming to the table. What a beautiful presentation! And because they have to increase the amount of sugar on top of the custard to keep the flame going for a bit, you get more of that crunchy shell on top (my favorite).
Then it was on to the modestly titled “Apple Bar” with calvados sauce and Tahitian vanilla gelato. We’re big apple dessert fans in my house, so this was the perfect mix if gourmet and comfort food yet again. Warm apples, cool gelato, and a rich “brownie-textured” bar make for a trio of tastes and mouth-feels that work well together. While not our favorite dessert of the evening, it offers something other than chocolate that still has the strength of a steakhouse dessert.
Next up came the Waldorf Beignets. Dear heaven — these were amazing. I hate to say it, but they tasted and felt a bit like krispy kreme donuts to me (and I love krispy kerme donuts). The addition of the chocolate sauce and Madagascar custard made for a great pairing.
While these might smack a bit of the “donut” trend happening in many upscale restaurants these days, these were my husband’s favorites and he’s clamoring for a trip back to Bull and Bear for the beignets alone. I don’t think he stopped talking about them for the rest of the week.
Then came a brand new dessert, which the chef was calling the Citrus Reveal. Here’s why:
Inside the shell of white chocolate is a panna cotta-like citrus dessert. The presentation was incredible, but the lighter, herbal taste along with the gelatin-like feel of the dish wasn’t what I expected or wanted after a rich steakhouse dinner, so this one wasn’t my favorite.
No worries, though — we moved on to the Valrhona Manjari Chocolate Soufflé with Grand Marnier Custard Sauce. Again, a simple dish, but prepared thoughtfully and with the visually appealing and tasteful addition of the unexpected Grand Marnier flavor in the custard drizzle. Again, this was plated table side.
Whew! At this point, the GM came out with a contraption associated with Macallan Scotch, who owns the rights to the product for a few years. Known in whiskey circles as the ice-ball “machine,” this gadget transforms a square of ice into a perfectly round sphere in minutes. The combination of copper + friction + gravity makes it work, and scotch drinkers who like their whiskey on the rocks claim that the ice sphere allows for the slowest melt, therefore producing less diluting water over the life of the beverage.
No matter what you think, you have to admit it looks cool!
We were clearly spoiled at The Bull and Bear, but it was obvious that this was the case with all of the other guests there as well. The team here is incredibly well-trained; they’ve converged on this restaurant from all over the country intent on putting their experience not only into creating a steakhouse that lives up to The Bull and Bear reputation, but also offers even more by way of innovative cuisine and exceptional service.
This is definitely the place to go for a celebration, an engagement, an anniversary, or simply a night away from it all. If you’re ready and willing to be pampered, The Bull and Bear is going to deliver.
Thank you to The Bull and Bear Steakhouse and the Waldorf Astoria team for treating us to this meal. While the accommodations and dinner at the Waldorf Astoria were complimentary, I was not obligated or compensated to write this review and my opinions in it are 100% my own. Stay tuned for more on the hot sauce.