Le Cellier Steakhouse
You remember when we analyzed the brand new Le Cellier Steakhouse Signature dinner menu a few weeks ago, right? Well, I finally had the chance to try it myself.
For those who are just tuning in, one of Disney World’s most popular restaurants, Le Cellier in Epcot’s Canada pavilion, began offering a signature dinner menu (e.g. super expensive) at the beginning of March 2011. While the restaurant remained priced at one Disney Dining Plan credit for lunch, the dinner menu cost two Disney Dining Plan credits. For those of us who don’t purchase the dining plan, that means that the dinner menu was renovated and all prices bumped up a few bucks…or more.
The decor and atmosphere at Le Cellier hasn’t changed at all. You’re still dining in a very small “cellar,” featuring candlelight sconces on the walls (not real candles, of course), rich woods and deep maroon fabrics, and stone archways creating the structure of the restaurant.
The only thing upon arrival that makes you think something might be slightly different is the presence of some snazzy new napkin rings (I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen napkin rings at a Disney World restaurant…) and candles on the tables…
But there are a few slight, though significant, changes on the menu. The menus, speaking of, are laser-printed now, which means menu items will probably change up quite frequently (something that only signature restaurants and few others get the option to do). The manager we spoke to mentioned that the menu would be tweaked as the signature launch goes on, and was eager to hear guest comments and suggestions to pass on to the chef.
You can see other changes in our previous analysis post, but basically many of your favorites remain on the menu. Cheddar cheese soup, mushroom filet, New York Strip, Chicken and Chipotle Sausage with Corn Polenta, maple creme brulee, and others remain virtually untouched. Yet the prices have been raised.
Before ordering our apps and entrees, we decided to sample some drinks. I ordered the Whiskey sampler. Why? I have no idea. I’m not a whiskey drinker, but after having some Scotch at the Bull and Bear the evening before, I thought it would be fun to branch out again this evening. Now, because I’m not a whiskey drinker, all I can tell you is that I really enjoyed the 40 Creek!
My husband tried the suggested Chateau de Charmes Cab-Merlot and very much enjoyed it.
When our server came by, we asked specifically about the Chicken and Chipotle Sausage appetizer. It’s one of our favorites, but we didn’t see a reason to order it if it was exactly the same as it is on the lunch menu. She told us that the onion jam is a little bit sweeter, but that’s about all that changes from the lunch menu to the dinner menu. So we opted instead to order a couple of new items as appetizers — the Grilled Jumbo Asparagus Gratinee and the Assortment of Artisanal Cheese. We also ordered the “Poutine” Fries (quotes are theirs) and a Steakhouse Caesar Salad as appetizers.
The Grilled Jumbo Asparagus Gratinee was impressive-looking. Anything with a big blob of cheese on top will always get my attention. Digging a fork into the mass of veggies, cheese, and bacon, I was surprised to find the cheese light and airy — almost between a foam and a quiche. I asked our server how the cheese was prepared, and she mentioned that it was actually whipped (I’m guessing with a cream) before being plated and browned. I have to admit, this whipped, foamy cheese was my favorite part of the dish. The cheddar was sharp and spicy — delicious. The asparagus, unfortunately, were somewhat bitter. Granted, it’s the beginning of asparagus season, so maybe I just had a bad batch. Usually I favor smaller stalks, but these were large had had more of a woody texture than I prefer. I ended up just eating a bunch of cheese off the top
The Artisanal Cheese assortment was fabulous. I’ve been slightly disappointed with Disney’s signature cheese plates lately, finding only a couple of cheeses I actually like on many of them. This one was different, however. Both of us loved every single cheese and accompaniment. From left to right, these were the Petit Agour (a mild cheese, somewhat oily); the Bandage Wrapped Cheddar (stronger, great flavor); the Woolrich Goat Brie (delicious! perfect with the honeycomb); and the Smokey Oregon Blue (another one that’s great with the honeycomb; a less pungent blue — good for new cheese lovers). You can see the descriptions in the menu photo below.
Next up: the “Poutine” Fries. The quotes are there on the menu, so you know from the beginning that this is the “essence” of Poutine and not an actual recreation of Poutine you’d get in Canada. When we were discussing this dish with our server, she explained it very well: Poutine is a junk food in Canada. It’s served on the bar menu next to the nachos. It’s not meant to be a side item on a signature cuisine menu. So Le Cellier’s doing its best to dress up the dish and make it something a bit more special, but as long as you’re in a fine dining restaurant, it will never be “real” poutine.
By the way, this is one menu item where you’ll get a completely different dish when you order it on the lunch menu versus the dinner menu. At lunch, you get this:
At dinner, you get this:
While many Canadians will complain that the lunch version has multiple flaws (yellow cheese versus white cheese, melted cheese versus cheese curds, wrong fries, wrong gravy, etc), I think there will be the same number of complaints about the dinner version.
That said, It. Is. Delicious. Probably the best thing I ate all evening. I had to stop myself from ordering another. The Black Diamond Cheddar crumbled on top has so much flavor you’ll think you’ve gone to cheese heaven. And the truffle salt on the fries gives the dish another subtle flavor. The red wine reduction as a gravy is brilliant. Tangy, but still very strong, meaty, and savory.
By the way, the dish comes to the table with a little pot of gravy that the server pours over the “poutine.” It’s not really hot enough to melt the “curds,” but it does pay homage to how the whole poutine thing is supposed to work.
Finally, the Steakhouse Caesar Salad. This is slightly different than the lunch version, and it’s served with pretzel bread croutons. Amazingly, those pretzel bread croutons are what made this dish!
On to the entrees! We ordered the mushroom filet, which we were told was being made during the signature dinner with a slightly more flavorful mushroom than is used at lunch. I have to say — the portion size looked much smaller than what we usually get at dinner at Le Cellier (looked more like the lunch portion), and the mushroom risotto was actually less flavorful on this visit than it has been in the past. The entree was still delicious, but I can’t say it was worth the extra $5 to get it at dinner rather than lunch.
By the way, I also ordered a side of mushroom risotto even though it’s not actually listed on the dinner menu as a side item. I wish I’d ordered it with the truffle butter, though — it really needed that flavor.
We also ordered the new Rib-eye steak with Herb-Parmesan potato wedges and Maple Pink Peppercorn butter. Now, this steak looked amazing when it came to the table. I learned at the end of the meal that the current Le Cellier chef came over from Yachtsman Steakhouse about 2 months ago, so it made sense that the Rib-eye very much reminded me of the version I often get at Yachtsman over in the Yacht Club Resort.
A huge portion of butter was rapidly melting on the steak, so I was snapping photos quickly, eagerly awaiting the chance to take a bite!
Now, I’m not sure if I was not expecting the flavor of the Maple Pink Peppercorn butter, or if it would have been just too darn sweet for anyone else trying it for the first time, but that butter really threw me for a loop. Upon taking my first bite of the steak, I felt like I was eating a breakfast waffle. Granted — it would have been a delicious breakfast waffle, because the combination of butter and Maple flavors on the steak was exactly what I try to create when I mix butter and syrup in those little waffle indentations. But I just wasn’t expecting such a sweet and powerful taste. It really overpowered the steak itself for me.
If I’d been expecting the overwhelming sweetness, it would have been delicious. But as it was, I just couldn’t enjoy the steak with such a strong maple syrup flavor as an accompaniment. It was a real bummer, as the steak looked gorgeous.
The herb-parmesan potato wedges were a decent side item. While the taste was nothing special (and the herb ended up being a bit too strong for me), the texture and cheesy flavors were right on.
Speaking of side items, I also asked our server if we could have an extra side of the Cheddar-Bread Pudding, which is new on the dinner menu as an accompaniment to the Duck entree. (Once again, this isn’t an actual side dish — I just begged my server to bring me a serving.) It just looked too good to pass up! As it turned out, the Cheddar-Bread Pudding was delicious, but I didn’t love the mushy texture. If this had been my only side dish, I could easily rave about it, though. It’s creative and interesting, and the bread packed with cheese and butter looked phenomenal.
From here, we moved on to dessert! As is the case with so many signature restaurants, the desserts were somewhat boring and pedestrian. I know they try hard, but I can’t help myself — I’m much happier with a big huge bowl of Bananas Foster Bread Pudding, Ice Cream, and Caramel Sauce than I’ll ever be with a trio of tiny chocolate cakes. But, alas. This is what we ordered. The Trio of Chocolate included the Canadian Club Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Sorbet, and Warm Chocolate Almond Cake. We also ordered the Lemon Cheesecake with Citrus Salad and Mandarin Orange Gelee. Incidently, these were the two new dessert menu items. The rest are available for lunch as well as dinner.
The Trio of Chocolate was…fine. Our favorite of the three was the chocolate mousse (all the way to the right in the photo), followed by the sorbet in the middle. The Chocolate Almond Cake was our least favorite, but for no real reason whatsoever. All three were rather indistinct.
The Lemon Cheesecake was very hearty, though small. The cheesecake was not overly sweet, but I was sorry to see that the only semblance of lemon was the bit of gel in the “well” at the top of the cake — it was not infused throughout the cake at all. Also, we really could have used a stronger crust on the cheesecake. As it was, there was barely any crust at all. We were longing for some graham cracker crumbs and melted butter.
While I’d book dinner at Le Cellier these days just to have the “Poutine” Fries and the “Poutine” Fries alone, there isn’t much else on the menu that would draw me to pay the prices here. The mushroom filet is just as good at lunchtime, and it’s still one of the best things on the menu as far as I can tell. I can’t justify coming for dinner and spending significantly more on it, though.
I’ll be visiting Le Cellier for lunch from now on until the dinner menu changes significantly. But you can bet I’ll be watching that menu! I know the restaurant might be going through a few tweaks at the moment, but I have faith they’ll pull it together.