Ah, Artist Point. This restaurant and I have had a love-hate relationship, to be sure. On my first visit, I loved it. But after the second visit, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to go back.
On my third visit last December, I was in heaven.
Artist Point is one of Disney’s lesser-known signature restaurants (read about the dress code here). Located in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, it specializes in cuisine inspired by the American Northwest (think salmon, big game meat, apples, berries, and mushrooms, for starters).
The high-ceilinged restaurant is understated, decorated with muted earth tones and a mix of light and dark wood. Chunky craftsman-style chandeliers punctuate the dining room, and soaring murals of Pacific Northwest scenes provide a gorgeous setting for your meal.
The views from the dining room, if you get there before the sun sets, are of the beautiful Wilderness Lodge Courtyard and pool, and beyond that, a glistening Bay Lake.
We were a bit nervous as we were seated. Having had a less-than-stellar experience on our prior visit, we were hoping that Artist Point had stepped up its game.
Our server greeted us with a long spiel (that we subsequently heard again and again as each new party was seated around us), but he was clearly interested in his job and in the food being served. We felt that we could absolutely ask him questions about the menu and receive an informed and experienced answer — something I value in a signature restaurant, since I’m usually caught off guard by one ingredient or another (e.g. What’s gremolata?).
And we were excited upon seeing the menu — there was plenty that we wanted to sample…
While we were deciding, we were treated to some yummy freshly made bread and butter (with black sea salt!).
Diving into appetizers, we — once again…you know us, after all — ordered three.
First, I had to try the cheese plate. Those who have been reading the blog for a while know that it’s practically sacrilege for me to NOT order a cheese plate when offered.
This one was lovely. Midnight Moon, Beemster X-O, and Smokey Blue Cheese with accompanying fruits, honey (yay!), and walnut toast. Our favorites were the Midnight Moon and the Beemster.
Sigh. Honey and cheese. So good.
Second in the appetizer chain was the restaurant’s famous Portobello Soup with Roasted Shiitakes and Chive Oil. This stuff is addictive, and everyone knows it! We don’t even like mushrooms! The server kindly separated one serving into two bowls so that we could each have our own…
But the next dish is where that “heavenly” meal really began — the Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Berkshire Pork Belly and Chili-infused Cranberry Vinegar.
This dish was outstanding. I did not want it to end. I was hoping against hope for a Mary Poppins bowl that had no bottom. The slightly sweet and creamy taste of the risotto coupled with the strong savory flavor of the pork belly held up handsomely against that tart, tangy zing of the cranberry vinegar. Truly an amazing dish, and, sadly, most likely seasonal.
As we watched our empty risotto bowl disappear on a server’s tray, we were glad to see entrees arrive. We’d ordered the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Blue Lake Green Beans, and Espresso Reduction; and the Char-grilled Buffalo Striploin Steak with Black Diamond Mac & Cheese, Cider-glazed Brussels Sprouts, and Syrah Gastrique.
The tenderloin was lovely. The addition of the espresso reduction was a fun, I thought, nod to the coffee-focused Seattle area, and it made the steak decidedly different from the tenderloins you’ll get in other Disney restaurants. The crisp green beans were fresh and delicious.
But I have to admit I was more excited about my Buffalo Striploin with Black Diamond Mac & Cheese! Back in the day, Artist Point had a Tillamook Mac & Cheese that was out of this world, so I was excited to try the replacement — especially since I think Black Diamond is outstanding.
The dish was fantastic. The Buffalo didn’t have a hint of gaminess about it, and I loved that it was cooked nearly rare to preserve the tenderness of the meat. And the mac & cheese did not disappoint! Very rich and flavorful, though I would have loved to see a bit more creaminess. Brussels Spouts? No comment, though our server did say that these were the only sprouts he’d ever seen kids actually eat and like.
And I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some truffle fries on the side. These had a stronger truffle taste than Flying Fish Cafe‘s (sadly departed) truffle fries. We enjoyed them.
The dessert menu soon came to our table and we knew we had to make a difficult choice. Whether to get dessert? Nope — no choice there! Rather, what to choose since we could only really get two.
We went for the Valrhona Chocolate Terrine with Amarena Cherries and Salted Hazelnut Brittle; and the Baked Apple Tart with House-Made Vanilla Ice Cream and Apple Cider Caramel Sauce.
The terrine was really fun. I love dense, rich chocolate desserts, and this was like eating dark chocolate brownie batter. I understand that the chef might not appreciate that description, but I bet it would sell the dessert!
The apple tart was a bit dry for our taste (bring on the extra caramel sauce!), but it was perfect as a light dessert.
Now, you might wonder about the famous Artist Point berry cobbler. You can read all about it here, and you can see me trying to re-create the recipe over on Cookie Madness’ blog here!
And we wanted to share the drink menu and kids’ menu with you as well…
The restaurant is back to bowling me over, thank goodness. I always want to like Artist Point. It’s easy to get a reservation, the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing, the lounge next door is one of my favorite lounges in Disney World, and you can end your evening by strolling out by the lake — Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts.
On this trip, we were wowed by the menu and the service, and the quality and creativity of the food was fantastic. While it might be difficult to design a menu inspired by the Pacific Northwest, the chefs here seemed instead to be having a blast with their ideas.