The next review in our Dining in Disneyland column from Heather Sievers!
I’ve dined at Catal in Downtown Disney, Anaheim, a few times, but this last visit was definitely worth writing home — I mean to you guys — about. The funny thing about this dinner is that we were going for a light, inexpensive dinner; we were just going to share something or get a few appetizers. Nothing major. I wasn’t even sure it would be review worthy, but I did bring my camera, just in case… . Well, that all changed when we sat down and cracked open our menus. We decided to go big!
Catal is located smack in the middle of Downtown Disney, Anaheim. It is a bi-level restaurant that features a smaller dining room and kitchen downstairs (the Uva Café) and a very large upstairs with multiple dining rooms, some of which can be sectioned off and rented for special occasions (Catal). The main kitchen is also located upstairs. The layout can be seen below.
The Uva Bar is also associated with the restaurant. It is just outside of the main restaurant in the center of Downtown Disney. It features a full bar and serves the same menu items that can be ordered in the Uva Café. Mostly tapas and appetizers.
For my 35th birthday, my husband had a surprise dinner for me and approximately 30 guests in the “Rotunda” room, which showcases an almost 360 degree view of Downtown Disney. It was SO much fun. Tonight we had dinner in the Picola Room, which is a smaller room at the far upstairs end, right near the main kitchen. The most desirable room seems to be the Fireplace room, which is just past the bar upstairs in the center of the restaurant. Here you can relax in ultra comfy couches and warm yourself by, you guessed it, a giant fireplace.
The seating in the restaurant ranges from small tables for two to tables big enough for large parties of 10-12. Some of the seating features cozy couches, other areas are traditional table and chairs. There is also a plethora of outdoor patio seating.
Catal takes reservations, and I did make us one. However, I think this restaurant is a hidden gem. It never seems to be overly crowded. On this particular night, a Wednesday (in the middle of Winter Vacation), it was dead. Not sure why.
Our feast started with a beautiful bread basket that included some amazingly delicious bread sticks. The bread basket is served with oil and vinegar for dipping.
As soon as the bread came it was confirmed that our “simple” dinner idea was long gone.
My husband really wanted to try the homemade chicharrones dusted with garlic salt. I wanted the crispy chickpea croquettes with cucumber tzatziki and micro cilantro. So we ordered both. I am not a big chicharrone fan. Never have been. My husband loved them. I tried a bite. Wasn’t disgusting, but I didn’t have more than a bite.
As far as the chickpea croquettes go, they were quite delicious. The texture on the outside was very much like a falafel. But then as you bite into it you notice that the soft center is a beautiful green color; rich in flavor, spiced to perfection and not at all overwhelming. The cucumber tzatziki was really tasty. My only complaint: not enough tzatzki. Next time I’ll ask for an extra side of it!
We also ordered some items off of the appetizer section of the menu. The house made buttermilk ricotta cheese with roasted grapes, wild flower honey and crostini was by far my favorite item of the night. It was so delicious I was tempted to lick the plate. No joke. Instead, since all of the crostini was gone, I just used some bread from the bread basket to wipe up every last smear.
My second favorite item of the night was also off of the appetizer menu. Ravioli of caramelized onion with Comte cheese (can you tell I love cheese?), roasted veal broth and toasted brioche. The onions were sweet in flavor and combined with the broth, it was simply divine. We had this devoured in about 2 minutes flat.
For dinner I ordered the endive salad with watercress, mine shaft bleu cheese, shaved pears, candied pecans and champagne vinaigrette. I have to say that the pastas and specialties sounded so much better to me, but after all of the pre dinner eating, I knew I couldn’t stomach a huge main entrée. The salad was really good, but honestly, nothing special. I would have been happier with another order of the ravioli! Don’t get me wrong. Not thinking the salad was amazing isn’t a dis on Catal. I just think that after all of the amazing appetizers, this was a bit anti climactic. No need to worry, because dessert is just around the corner!!!
Now, my husband’s dinner on the other hand was fantastic. He ordered the New York steak and had no problem cleaning his plate. The Catal menu has 4 different steaks to choose from: prime rib (either 12 or 16 ounces), filet mignon, rib eye, and New York. All steaks are served with fontina cheese mashed potatoes, which I helped him eat — so great — asparagus, and roasted mushroom red wine jus.
I was very impressed with the children’s menu. Even though my kids didn’t stray from their usual choices of steak (9 year old) and a hot dog (6 year old), the variety on the Catal children’s menu was really fantastic. I wish my kids were more adventurous eaters, but I am also grateful that there was something they would eat without complaining.
Some options that caught my eye were the chicken pot pie and the tomato basil risotto. Yes please! They also had some specialty smoothie drinks that I wouldn’t have minded trying. I might have to order the pineapple explosion for myself the next time around.
By this time, there was so much food at our table that we just couldn’t stop. SO, bring on the dessert menu. At first we were just going to share something, but then we realized that we were going to need to share two items. It was VERY hard to choose.
I immediately wanted the deconstructed s’more — I was sold on the graham cracker ice cream alone. So add some flourless chocolate cake and big ol’ homemade (yes homemade) marshmallows, which they called marshmallow brule, and it becomes a serious party in your mouth. Again, we wanted to lick the plate.
Another dessert menu item is the “sorbet” of the day. The chefs make a unique flavor each day. Today’s was pear. It sounded so refreshing. Of course we had to order a scoop of that too. It was so fresh it was like eating a frozen pear right from a tree, well, a frozen tree.
The boys went for a standard scoop of vanilla with hot fudge. No complaints there.
On a side note, Catal still had their holiday special drink menu available — drinks like pumpkin pie martinis, multiple cranberry drinks and banana bread beer! We had planned on sticking with water for dinner, but when we saw the banana bread beer and I told my husband to order one, I just wanted a taste. We asked our waitress about it and she told us that it was a really interesting beer. Smelled exactly like banana bread.
My husband declined until dessert rolled around. He didn’t want to have diner’s regret, so he went for it and ordered the banana bread beer. As soon as it was poured into the icy glass, we could smell the aroma of freshly baked banana bread. Unfortunately the smell was much better than the taste, but it was definitely worth a try.
Overall, I honestly believe that Catal is an excellent choice for dinner. The menu is very versatile. Something for everyone. There are standard favorites as well as unique items for the more adventurous palate.
The décor is upscale, but not pretentious. Comfy for a family yet romantic enough for a special date (as long as they don’t sit you right next to the family).
The staff were very friendly and attentive. I also want to give a little shout out to our amazing waitress, Priscilla. She was beyond helpful answering menu questions, giving us suggestions, and she even took my camera into the main kitchen to take some special behind the scenes photos for the Disney Food Blog! Check out head chef Nick Webber in the hat. I love that his staff members are photo bombing the picture in both shots.
It looks like they have a fun time whipping up their amazing dishes. The next time you’re visiting Disneyland and are looking for an special meal outside of the park consider Catal. You will thank me for it!