Guest blogger Shayne Newell shares a critical review and fabulous photos from the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Take it away, Shayne!
In January 2010, my husband and I ate our first meal at Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We had a fabulous meal that literally made me want to lick my plate, and the service was outstanding. We recently found ourselves with a last-minute opportunity for a 2-night stay at Disney World over Valentine’s Day. We would be eating only 3 meals at the parks on this trip, and we quickly agreed that Hollywood Brown Derby should be at the top of our list.
We secured a 5:45 p.m. ADR for the first night of our trip. We arrived shortly after 5:30 and were seated promptly at 5:45 p.m. Our hostess told us that our server would be right with us. We waited about 10 minutes before our server arrived to take our drink order. When he finally came to our table, he seemed rushed and overly busy.
We are not really martini drinkers, but we ordered the martini flight because we thought it sounded like something fun and different. The flight included tasting portions of 3 different kinds of martinis in cute little martini glasses on a metal carousel, for lack of a better term. At the bottom, there was a description of each drink.
Our favorite was the Dorma Nesmond, which was made from Ketel One Citron, pomegranate liqueur and cranberry juice. This was the sweetest of the 3 drinks and was similar to a Cosmopolitan. Our second favorite was the Shelby Mayer, a vodka martini made with Grey Goose. Finally, there was the Honey Darling made with Bombay Sapphire gin and the traditional olive. Martini lovers would probably enjoy the Honey Darling, but gin is just not my drink of choice!
While we sipped the martinis, we placed our order. Our appetizers arrived shortly after we finished our drinks. My husband had the blue lump crab cake. It is served with a green cabbage slaw, cognac mustard sauce and remoulade. Of course, I had to try some.
The crunchy potato crust gave way to a meaty crab cake. The cool, firm crunch of the cabbage slaw was the perfect texture compliment to the crab cake, and the mustard and remoulade sauces added a nice little kick.
I ordered the cremini mushroom chevre tortelloni with tomato-fennel sauce and shaved parmigiano-reggiano. I’m generally ambivalent about mushrooms, but love goat cheese, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this appetizer.
The mushroom and cheese blend made for a deliciously mild and creamy filling to the tortelloni. I would have preferred for the pasta to have been a bit more al dente, but it was still delicious. The tomato-fennel sauce added a pleasing richness to the dish.
At this point, the meal started to take a decidedly negative turn. While we ate our appetizers, we had asked to see the wine list again so that we could order wine to go with our entrees. We each ordered a glass of the same Cabernet.
It took longer than it should have for our server to clear our appetizer plates and the empty martini glasses. We then waited an unusually long time for our meals to arrive. I was not paying close attention to my watch because I was enjoying the atmosphere of the restaurant and spending time with my husband. But you know how, as time wears on, you slowly become aware that you’ve been waiting for a really long time? That’s what happened to us.
Finally, our entrees arrived along with two empty wine glasses. My husband ordered the char-grilled filet of beef with truffle whipped potatoes, mushroom ragout, Cippolini onions and a red wine reduction. I chose the pork chop with smoked gouda and apricot preserves served over a Napa cabbage, bacon and potato hash with an apple cider jus.
We hoped that our wine would be served with our meal, but it was not, and there was no acknowledgment from our server that our drinks were still missing. We tried to wait for the wine to arrive, but did not want our food to get cold, so we started to eat. Several minutes later, our server appeared and opened a new bottle of wine to pour our two glasses. At least we knew the wine — one of our favorites, Sequoia Grove — would be good!
My husband said his filet was good. It was perhaps a bit undercooked, but nothing egregious enough for him to complain. He was hungry, so I didn’t get a bite, but I did try the truffle whipped potatoes, which were creamy and delicious. I’m a sucker for mashed potatoes, so my husband knows my fork will be digging into any mashed, whipped or similar potato that lands on his plate.
The pork chop, however, was a different story. I had high hopes for the flavor combination of the pork, smoked gouda and apricot preserves. Plus, the accompanying side dish had bacon in it and, honestly, how can you go wrong with bacon?
My pork chop was well seasoned, but it was overcooked and too dry. The smoked gouda and apricot preserves paired nicely together. But when I cut into my meat, the gouda, which was melted on top of the pork chop, slid off in one solid piece, making it difficult to experience all the flavors in one bite. The cabbage, bacon and potato hash didn’t really make an impression on me; it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t memorable either.
We should have known better, but we ordered dessert and dessert wine/port. Another 15 or 20 minutes passed before we were served our creme brulee and slice of grapefruit cake. Both of these desserts should have been pre-made, so I’m unsure why it would take so long to bring them to the table. Once again, in the meantime, our empty wine glasses and the bread basket and bread plates sat on the table for too long.
The creme brulee was good and the huge chocolate-dipped biscotti was a nice addition to it.
The Hollywood Brown Derby is famous for their grapefruit cake. I’m generally a chocolate girl, but I was in the mood for something lighter to end the meal, and the cake fit the bill. I thought the presentation, with a big slice of dried grapefruit, was interesting. The cake was moist and the frosting was not too tart or too sweet.
After our first experience at Hollywood Brown Derby in 2010, I sang the praises of this restaurant and was convinced that it was absolutely worth 2 table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan. Now, I’m less sure about that recommendation. We’ll definitely try it again, as I know every place can have an off night, but I’m disappointed, to say the least, in the difference between our first meal at Hollywood Brown Derby and this one.