The Wave…of American Flavors
We hadn’t been back to The Wave for a couple of years, so we knew it was time to head back for dinner!
The Wave is a unique table-service spot at Disney, because their menu focuses on local and sustainable ingredients. Because of the ever-changing and seasonal local offerings, they are one of the few moderate table service restaurants I’ve encountered that changes up the menu four times per year. (Usually that’s only allowed for signature restaurants!)
Available for breakfast (which also features a buffet), lunch, and dinner, you won’t necessarily find the same dish here that you had six months ago. That can be good and bad, but it’s always an adventure to stop in and see what’s new!
Located in the back left corner of the Contemporary Resort’s lobby (just past the concierge desks), you might miss The Wave altogether — except that they’ve dreamed up this groovy light tunnel for the entrance.
This gives you the feeling of heading below the waves for a culinary adventure. (Or it could also remind you of the dearly departed rainbow tunnel from the original Journey Into Your Imagination. Either way, it’s still cool.)
The atmosphere is modern and contemporary, and the check-in and bar areas look a little “night-clubby,” actually! But never fear — this restaurant is very family-friendly.
You make your way around the beautiful and expansive bar as you walk to the dining area. Here, you’ll see more waves in the decor, like the backs of the comfortable bar chairs.
The bar features screw-top wines (more about that later) and fun organic local beers.
As you enter the sleek dining room, the color palette changes from blue to harvest gold. Waves (amber waves of grain, perhaps?) continue to surround you, even from above.
Although the look is decidedly modern, it maintains a comfortable feel, with padded seats and booths throughout. The finish also cleverly disguises the fact that you are actually dining in a windowless environment, with touches like the multicolored curtains. Suddenly, the “undersea” feeling makes more sense.
My favorite places to sit when dining at The Wave, hands down, are these high-backed booths. Perfect for quiet conversation and very comfortable, they are my preference over the tables in the middle of the area, which can sometimes get rather loud during more crowded times.
As I mentioned above, The Wave menu focuses on American flavors, and strives to incorporate seasonal, sustainable, and local ingredients whenever possible.
It’s pretty fun, since you get to hear more about what the local farms are producing! (I always like feeling as though I “live” in Disney World, so knowing the local food production schedule is kind of fun. I know. I’m weird.)
While I didn’t sample any of the wines on this visit, a fun piece of trivia is that The Wave features a fantastic (and almost exclusive) selection of wines with screw caps. (You can read all about it in my review here!!)
As this type of closure continues to gain popularity around the world everyday, it’s fun to see such an array of quality wineries that use it gathered in one place.
We were visiting for dinner, so my friend opted to start with the Organic Beer Flight. This featured three samplings of Orlando Brewing Certified Organic Ales — a blonde, pale, and brown ale. He pronounced all of them very good.
I also love the presentation here, with the etched, stemless glasses. Nice detail.
The complimentary bread service is anything but ordinary. It features the Wave’s signature — and delicious — multi-grain bread accompanied by butter, sprinkled with pink sea salt.
When it came time to order, we decided to take a somewhat light approach for our appetizers. My dinner companion opted for The Wave Spring Salad.
The dressed-up dinner salad included locally-grown greens, mango, fennel, and shelled soybeans, and featured wonton strips and a sesame-ginger vinaigrette. It was very good, but the color was the real wow factor.
As soon as I saw a soup featuring corn on the menu, I knew what I’d be having for a starter. (I think I need to do a “Corn Soup” round-up here one of these days…I love that stuff!) The Zellwood, Florida Corn Soup with Applewood-smoked Bacon was outstanding! Savory-sweet with that punch from the bacon — awesome!
This is not your standard corn chowder, with its less-yellow-more-orange hue. But the flavors were a perfect balance of creamy, smoky, and rich, without being heavy. I also LOVED the zippy jalapeño cornbread that accompanied the soup. And as you know, anytime I can have corn soup and cornbread, I will be in heaven!
Soon, it was time to turn our attention to our entrees. I was in the mood for steak, so I chose the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Butter, Potatoes, and Spring Ratatouille. Something to note here: the portion wasn’t as HUGE as I am accustom to getting in Disney, but I found it to be just perfect.
Everything on the plate was well-prepared, thoughtful, and delicious. My steak was cooked to perfection, and that shallot butter was fantastic!
The ratatouille was surprisingly flavorful, and the mashed potatoes were a nice textural addition. One of my favorite weird food habits: mixing the ratatouille with the mashed potatoes. I do this at the Cheesecake Factory, too, with the corn succotash and mashed taters. Again…weird.
By the way, it looks like the steak may be served with a potato gateau now based on the menu. You can probably swap out mash if you’d prefer.
My friend chose the Locally-sourced Thompson Farms Pork Tenderloin, a selection he made based upon our wonderful server’s suggestion. She just loves the bread salad, and she was sure we would love it as well. The dish also featured Bourbon-grilled Florida peaches. (Sounds yum, right?)
While cooking pork well isn’t always an easy thing to do, the kitchen staff at The Wave did a great job. It might be a testament to the superiority of the meat, but it was perfectly prepared and not in the least bit dry.
The bread salad was an unusual and delicious side dish…and I totally could have eaten a million more of those grilled peaches. More grilled peaches, please, WAVE! (Yes…I stole them from my friend’s plate.)
After our delicious entrees, we had a peek at the dessert menu. They do something really fun here at The Wave: although there are only four dessert offerings, they all feature trios, so you get to try multiple flavors with every selection.
I also love the fact that they offer pots of loose leaf tea, generous enough for two to share. There are also organic coffee selections. Both are really lovely touches that, once again, set this spot apart.
I chose the American Flavors trio, which featured, from right to left, a Coconut Raspberry Bar with Roasted Pineapples; S’mores with a Housemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallow; and the Key Lime Cube with Citrus Cream. They were all incredibly good. The key lime was my favorite (you’re not surprised). With a pucker worthy of its name, it was delightfully sour.
The s’more was fantastic as well. It may look a little burnt, but it was exactly right, and the vanilla bean flavor definitely came through…these were not grocery-store marshmallows to be sure!
Of the three, I liked the coconut-raspberry bar the least, but even so, the sticky coconut was very good. It just paled in comparison with the other two.
Our other choice was the Creamy Indulgence, a trio which featured Vanilla Cheesecake with Florida Strawberries (although they were substituting raspberries during our visit); White Chocolate Crème Brûlée; and Olive Oil-Infused Chocolate Truffle Mousse with Salted Caramel Sauce. Wow!
There are so many things to mention here that are just delightful. For starters, this is one of the few places at Disney World that you will find the hotter-than-hot trend of macarons, which garnish the tasty crème brûlée (chefs tell us the humidity makes a mess of them in Florida, but these were great).
Also, the chocolate mousse is a favorite that has been around for a while, and is certainly unique with the addition of olive oil. It’s a great example of where The Wave has been ahead of the trend: salted caramel is popping up all over the place these days, but this was one of the first places that we sampled the delightful sweet-salty combo a year or two ago.
The Wave is a solid contender for a mid-priced Disney World restaurant. While it’s not themed to the hilt and doesn’t offer characters, it does provide a consistently good meal and decent service for any time of day. And when my mantra is “The only consistent thing about Disney Restaurants is that they’re inconsistent,” an always-quality spot like this is golden.
Another great part of the Wave: the staff here knows their stuff. Chefs and servers are incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and the local produce, so you can usually rely on their recommendations.
While it remains a terrific choice for a fall back meal — it’s normally pretty easy to get a last-minute ADR here — I think The Wave should be moved up to a first-choice option for many folks. I always enjoy myself when dining at The Wave. This time was no exception.
Have you had the chance to dine at The Wave? Is this a spot that you would like to try on your next visit? Share with us your thoughts below!