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Full Review: The NEW California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Update: Scroll to the end of the Eats section (yep, waaayyy down there!) for a mini-review of opening night, courtesy of one of our favorite DFB guest writers, Julie B!

We are headed back to the fifteenth floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort today, as we take a closer look at the brand new California Grill!

The outpouring of Disney food fan love has just been astounding throughout the last eight months as we’ve continued to watch the newly re-imagined California Grill take shape. Folks who love the restaurant and its amazing menu have been anxious for news. Would it retain its panache? Would beloved dishes from the old menu make the cut? How would we survive with no Yoshie??

We are happy to report that, if possible, California Grill is even more spectacular than before. We were happy to show you a first look at all that was new after last Thursday’s media event. Today, we’re unveiling more details. If you haven’t already, get ready to make those advance dining reservations. I think you’re going to like what you see.

Menus

Settle in. This is going to be a long one!

Atmosphere

Immediately, as you step out of the elevator onto the fifteenth floor, you are enveloped by the cool vibe of California Grill. You know at once that you’re in for a special experience.

If you weren’t aware of it already, now you know: wine matters in this restaurant. A lot. Wine coolers aren’t dressed up to be anything else; they’re unapologetically part of the decor here. This makes sense, as the restaurant now boasts 1,600 bottles of wine in the state-of-the-art wine display.

You’ll find around 250 wines on the list, with 80 available by the glass. And with more than 20 sommeliers on staff, you are literally enveloped in a wealth of wine knowledge.

Wine, Anyone?

Straight ahead, you’ll find the trademark view of Seven Seas Lagoon. With any luck there will be a spectacular sunset over the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa during your visit like there was for ours.

This area continues to serve as the lounge for the restaurant. You can still score a table here with no advance dining reservation, and the full restaurant menu is available for ordering.

Entrance and Bank of Wine Fridges

The bar area continues to be highlighted by the ceiling’s circular cutout. While the shape is the same, the whole bar has been overhauled with new finishes. Comfortable seating beckons you to relax and have a cocktail or two.

Bar

To quote one of my Disney friends, nothing here is the same as it was! The lights are wonderfully whimsical. While modern, there’s still a retro feel here. In fact, the lights remind me a lot of old pictures I’ve seen of the Contemporary from the 1970s.

Seating Area is Ready for Guests

Tables are set for service. I was glad to see that the white tablecloths and cloth napkins returned after the overhaul.

Here, you also see mixed seating. Comfortable tables and chairs share space with booths that are situated at the edge of the dining area. I love the accessibility of the booths; like those at Jiko, you can enter and exit from either side.

They’re also located close to the kitchen, so guests seated there will have great views of the action.

Tables Set for Service

Curves in the ceiling that were present in the old space have been updated with tonal lighting for continuity with other decorative elements. Warm tones of sunset actually served as inspiration for the color scheme.

Curve Detail in Ceiling and Warm Indirect Lighting

As you wrap around toward the back of the dining room, you see simple white walls with backlit art niches. Clean decor includes identical vases in varying shades. It’s a sleek effect.

Intimate Window Seating and Beautiful Art Niches

Back around at the front, I wanted to show you the new windows, which are truly remarkable. We all know that one of the biggest draws to California Grill are the sweeping, 360-degree views. You can see everything up there!

Designers and Imagineers decided to capitalize on that by replacing the windows for a greater guest experience. The new windows block ultraviolet light, and electronically-controlled shades ensure that just the right amount of Florida sunshine enters in.

Sunset

I love the new centerpiece candles in different colors! They add just the right touch of sparkle to the tables.

White Table Cloths and Beautiful Place Settings

Place settings definitely remind you that you’re in a fine dining atmosphere. And even though the experience is still supposed to be relaxed and fun, table settings are just a shade more formal, with a complete set of flatware, as well as water and wine glasses at each setting.

Place Settings

We showed you the new napkins during a first look preview last week. They replace the old green and white ones, and feature the restaurant’s new logo on a warm red background.

Napkins

But a view back at the kitchen from the dining area lets you know that the kitchen is center stage here. Even with the beautiful decor and sweeping views, the artistry that’s taking place there grabs your attention.

The Dining Areas and Open Kitchen

And it is a well-orchestrated flurry of activity as the culinary staff goes about, preparing the evening’s dishes.

The Bustling Open Kitchen Up Close

As the sunset gave way to a deep blue sky, we took advantage of the last light to check out the view of Bay Lake behind the Contemporary Resort.

The View as Night Falls Over Bay Lake

While we’ve spent most of our time up to this point in the main dining area, seating is still available throughout the entire floor, including two separate dining rooms available for private functions. In addition, there is a private, glass-walled space that’s part of the main dining room that offers a quieter dining experience. It lies just beyond this wine fridge.

Sleek Wine Fridges Show Off the Stellar Wine Collection

What was once the wine room has now been lightened up considerably, and shares the same decor as the rest of the restaurant. Lower ceilings mean a quieter overall experience, which may be preferable for some diners.

A Quieter Space with Views of Bay Lake

With low lighting and beautiful views, this is another great spot to take in a meal.

Another View

On the opposite side of the restaurant, The Napa and Sonoma dining rooms are perfect for private events.

Private Dining Room and Its Bank of Windows

Lighting here is the same as in the main dining room.

Private Dining Room is Ready for an Event

Back in the main dining room, this is a good time to mention the space’s new communal tables. They’ll be located at the north end of the restaurant, away from the kitchen. During the event, the tables were not set up, however, to make room for an opening cocktail reception.

After we finished touring the new space, I was interested in watching some of the action in the kitchen.

While it is true that the Grill reopens with veteran sushi chef Yoshie Cabral having retired, the returning staff is doing a fantastic job of carrying on the tradition of incredible sushi offerings.

Culinary Team Prepares Fresh Sushi for a Crowd

Everywhere we looked, the culinary team was busy preparing dishes for the evening’s tasting.

The Staff Prepares Tasting Plates of Oak Fired Beef

It would seem that they’re as happy about the reopening as we were. And it’s a great time to mention how sharp the staff looks!

With the renovation and new menu, staff — both in the dining room and the kitchen — also received new togs. Gone are the black shirts and slacks that servers wore before. They’ve been replaced by grey shirts, dark slacks, and burgundy aprons.

The culinary staff have brand new jackets sporting black buttons and the new logo, and have traded in ball caps for berets.

Preparing Desserts

Toward the end of the evening, we had the opportunity to take in the famous fireworks view! You can see them from the private room here. Lights are dimmed to make the most of the event.

Dimmed Lighting and Fireworks in the Private Dining Room

But while fireworks are great and all, I couldn’t wait to get a look at some of those dishes! Time to take a look.

Eats

Since we have a ton of awesome information to share, I’ve broken the food section into smaller headings. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

Let’s get started with a tour of the bar!

The Bar and Cocktails

Not only did the food menu undergo some changes — the Bar Menu did as well.

Cocktail Menu -- Click to Enlarge

In keeping with the general feel of the updates, the new bar menu features classic cocktails with some updated twists.

Ray, the bartender extraordinaire who has been with California Grill since it opened, was a delight to chat with as he handcrafted cocktails for guests.

The Famous Ray, Manning the Bar Like a Boss!

We chatted a bit, and he talked about how the best cocktails are made with the finest liquors. When you try and substitute less expensive brands, your drink just won’t turn out right. I quite agree!

Ray Makes Another Incredible Cocktail

We showed you this one already, but it’s so pretty, I had to include it again! The Sake Martini combines Karen “Coy” Sake, Licor 43, and Cruzan Mango Rum with a splash of Orange and Pineapple Juices for a fun, exotic drink.

Sake Martini

I also had a chance to try this beautiful Cucumber Fizz. Drinks with cucumber are all the rage right now. Ray told me that when they were formulating the new menu, they liked the idea of cucumber and were interested in seeing what they could come up with.

This drink plays on the classic combo of Cucumber and Gin, with a hint of lemon from Limoncello. It was very refreshing!

A Gorgeous Cucumber Fizz

One of my tablemates also had an opportunity to try one of the new drinks. He went for the San Fran Pisco Sour. Cute name, eh?

The twist on this classic featured Porton Pisco, Lime Juice, and Agave Nectar. It also included a beautiful frothy topping from the Egg Whites, and just a dash of Angostura Bitters.

San Fran Pisco Sour

There were, of course, copious amounts of wine poured throughout the evening. We will not bore you with glass after glass of red and white, since they tend to all look the same when you photograph them. However, we did snap a pic of this lovely little glass of Sake, and we thought you’d enjoy seeing the good stuff served as it should be. :-)

Sake

The taste was clean, crisp, and fruity, with the tiniest hint of yeasty sweetness.

The sake — Karen “Coy” Sake — was actually the same brand used to make the sake martini. It’s one of nine varieties that will be available to guests.

I couldn’t resist showing you the bottle. It was just so pretty.

Karen Coy Sake

I chatted with the server who poured my sake, and we also talked of the importance of quality spirits. I loved this little tag, which shows that this particular one should be served cold.

Serve It Cold!

Before the end of the evening, Ray asked me to stop back by because he wanted to make me a special coffee drink. Well, who was I to argue?

The drink turned out to be this beautiful — and incredibly yummy — California Grill Coffee. With Godiva Dark Chocolate, Bailey’s, Licor 43, and Coffee, this was a perfect nightcap.

California Grill Coffee

But we aren’t ready to talk about endings just yet. Let’s look at some more dishes!

Starters and Sushi

The menu at California Grill is extensive — at least compared to many Disney signature restaurants. And you see a large variety of offerings, especially in the Starters and Sushi section. It would be very easy to make a meal out of a few of these tantalizing options.

Under Soups, Salads, and Appetizers, you’ll find some classics, like the fan favored Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli. But you’ll find fresh, seasonal flavors as well, made with local ingredients whenever possible.

Appetizers and Starters Menu -- Click to Enlarge

The menu will debut with a beautiful assortment of Heirloom Tomatoes as one option.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Grilled Bread, Baby Basil, Ricotta, and Blistered Shisito Vinaigrette

One of my favorite new menu items, however, is the perfectly named Duck In All Its Glory.

Duck in All Its Glory

On the menu, this beautiful platter will include House-Made Sausage, Rillettes, Prosciutto, and Duck Liver Pate, and will be served with housemade garnishes, like Pickles.

Duck in All Its Glory

Here’s a close up of some of the platter’s accompaniments, including those killer pickles, a play on the classic cornichons you normally see served with pate. There were also beautiful onions and the cranberry mustard mentioned on the menu.

Duck in All Its Glory

Here’s my little plate of the assortment. As I sit here writing this, I super wish I had another round of all of these amazing duck preparations.

Duck in All Its Glory

Hands down, my favorite was the duck liver pate. Incredible!

But lots of guests feel like a meal at California Grill isn’t complete without something from the Sushi Bar. The menu includes many favorites from before.

Sushi Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Beautiful sushi rolls take on a fusion of sorts, as they’re topped with Poke made with the freshest fish, and colorfully garnished with roe and baby herbs.

Sushi Rolls Piled High with Poke

Platters of Sashimi are lightly flavored with the brightness of Yuzu.

Sashimi Platters

I snapped this photo with my phone, and the quality isn’t quite up to snuff, but I couldn’t resist sharing with you this show-stopping platter. The colors blew me away, and everything was fantastically fresh.

Beautiful Sushi Platter

Of course, I had to try a little of everything! The Seaweed Salad was delicious as well — and was perfectly seasoned.

My Sushi Combo

Here’s a little Sashimi, along with a fun “take” on sushi — the Pork Belly Nigiri! House-Cured Pork sits atop a tower of Rice flavored with a little Yuzu and Bacon Fat.

This was completely amazing. I ate the components separately to catch the flavors of the rice, and sure enough, the subtle bacon flavor came through nicely.

Yuzu-Marinated Sashimi and Pork Belly Nigiri

There’s also new emphasis on utilizing the kitchen’s wood-fired oven. Now, you’ll find more than just flatbreads prepared there — although they’ll continue to offer that beloved menu staple.

Menu Options From the Wood Burning Oven -- Click to Enlarge

We’ve had a couple of opportunities to taste the new Three-Meat Signature Meatballs, and they continue to blow us away with incredible flavors! This one packs the perfect punch of heat, and I love that.

Oak-Fired Three Meat Meatball

While I didn’t have the opportunity to taste the Baked Jumbo Prawns, I expect this locally-sourced dish of Florida seafood will be a hit with guests.

Baked Jumbo Prawns

The restaurant reopens with two flatbreads featured, including an Oven-Dried Tomato Flatbread.

Oven-Dried Tomato Flatbread

Look for the flatbread varieties to change frequently to reflect seasonal flavors.

Entrees

The commitment to a lighter approach to the menu is evident in the Entree selection as well. While some favorites remain, most dishes have received a makeover.

Entree Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Breads have been updated as well. I was a HUGE fan of the amazing focaccia served here. But the new options are pretty special. They include Whole-Grain Sourdough Rolls and a new version of Focaccia, featuring California Lavender.

Whole-Grain Sourdough Rolls

Lavender Focaccia

In addition to the goat cheese ravioli offered as an appetizer, guests will also find Roasted Squash Ravioli on the menu.

Roasted Squash Ravioli

A light and delicious dish, the flavor is enhanced by one of the world’s most perfect foods — Sage Brown Butter.

Roasted Squash Ravioli

The Pacific Halibut with Parsnip Silk and Roasted Heirloom Beets offers a firm, meaty flavor. I absolutely loved every component of this dish.

I’m a big fan of beets, and the flavor and color they bring to the dish with the roasted beets and the syrup were lovely. The Macadamia Vinaigrette provided an unexpected rich depth.

Halibut

But my favorite component was the Parsnip Puree. I didn’t expect the silky consistency to contain this much flavor! I have a feeling I’ll be hitting up the chef for this recipe in the near future!

Halibut -- Side View

I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when word came that the Oak-Fired Filet would return!

Oak-Fired Filet of Beef

I know that there’s a little hesitation about the new accompaniments, but I can confidently declare them to be fantastic! The Tomato Butter was exquisite.

Oak-Fired Filet of Beef -- Up Close

And the Heirloom Tomato Risotto is bright and rich all at the same time. It’s a brilliant dish.

Desserts and After Dinner Drinks

Soon it was time to check out the Dessert Offerings. The Contemporary’s Pastry Chef, Jeff Barnes, created an entirely new dessert menu to celebrate the Grill’s relaunch.

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

A fine selection of Teas are available to enjoy as well.

Tea Menu -- Click to Enlarge

I enjoyed watching the culinary staff as they put the finishing touches on components of the highly anticipated Sundae Sampler.

Preparing the Caramel Corn Dessert

Garnishing the Strawberry and Basil Sundae

Heather proved to be handy with a blowtorch as she toasted meringue for another dessert.

Toasting Meringue

The Caramel Corn Sundaes received a crunchy garnish of Caramel Corn before being offered.

Caramel Corn

No Sugar Added Lemon Meringue Cheesecakes were garnished with beautiful flowers.

No Sugar Added Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

And I think there’s something completely wonderful about row upon row of Chocolate Pudding Cake!

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Assembled on a tiny plate, our sample-sized Sundae Sampler was just as cute as pictures had shown it to be.

Sundae Sampler

While the presentation was darling and each component was beautiful, I wasn’t blown away by the float or the strawberry sundae. I did greatly enjoy the caramel corn concoction.

Sundae Sampler - From the Float Side!

I am a complete sucker for honest-to-goodness caramel sauce — and this was the real deal.

Sundae Sampler Sundaes

But the surprise hit for me of the evening was the No Sugar Added Lemon Meringue Cheesecake.

I’m always on my guard when I read that a dessert is no sugar added. You never know what you’re going to get. But this cheesecake is fantastic! And as an added bonus, while I was chatting with one of the culinary assistants, she told me that the dessert was also gluten free!

No Sugar Added Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

Warm Homemade Fritters were another fun option. The play on flavors and textures was interesting, and I’ll look forward to hearing more about the Trio of Dipping Sauces!

Warm Homemade Fritters

Fritters -- Up Close

The Chocolate Pudding Cake is a new take on a familiar favorite. The staff wanted to introduce something at once classic and original. Since lava cakes are widely available at Disney (and just about everywhere else), this was Chef Barnes’ answer — a dark, rich pudding cake.

The consistency was definitely more pudding than cake, and the subtle flavor of real infused mint came through. I liked it and it was beautiful, but my jury is still out on this one.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

I would totally be up for another round of desserts, though. You know. For research purposes.

Chocolate Pudding Cake and California Grill Coffee

Mini Review From Opening Night!

Today, we are sharing with you a mini-review from California Grill’s opening night. The update comes courtesy of one of our favorite guest authors, Julie B! She tried both the Salmon and the Seasonal Tasting, and shared these photos and impressions:

The food was incredible! The salmon was cooked to a perfect medium and had a salty, crispy skin top. The saffron broth wasn’t overpowering, but served well to moisten the dish. I especially loved the little salmon cakes, which added a much-needed crunch with the soft fish. The real stand-out was the corn pudding- I could have eaten an entire bowl of it! Full of whole kernels and lots of herbs, it was perfect.

Salmon

I also tried the Seasonal Sampler dessert and loved it. It was a fun twist on a childhood classic to serve the warm cider with a rock candy stirrer (I found the cider so strong that it needed a little sugar, and actually a bit of water to dilute it). The peanut butter caramel apples were fun, and the turnover had nice apple flavor, though I found that the cheddar got a bit lost and the pastry was a touch dry.

Dessert Seasonal Tasting: Heirloom Apple Sampler

However, I loved the cardamom glaze and it made it look so pretty. The star of the dessert was the apple cupcake with an ample amount of cream cheese frosting. I have a real soft spot for cream cheese frosting (who doesn’t? yummmm), and this was a perfect, not-too-sweet, super smooth version. Good cream cheese frosting= happy Julie for sure.

Dessert Seasonal Tasting: Heirloom Apple Sampler -- Up Close

I’m so happy California Grill is back, as I’m sure many other guests are as well.

And Those Amazing Fireworks!

But the real icing on the cake are those California Grill views. Nothing comes close to the experience of those lights dimming, and listening as the narration and music are piped right in.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Even outside, large speakers keep you right in the middle of the magic.

Overall

I think that California Grill has knocked it out of the park with this renovation. This has long been a favorite spot of mine, but it was clear that the bold palette that the Grill opened with in 1995 needed an update. Inspired by Mid-Century Modern Design, the dining room is elegant and perfectly recaptures the sense of history and love we Disney fans feel for the Contemporary Resort. You feel as though you are in the grandchild of Top of the World, the restaurant and lounge that occupied this space all those years ago.

From speaking to Chef Brian Piasecki, you can tell that he feels a true passion for this restaurant. It’s hard to tell for sure what the menu will look like exactly from a parade of tasting plates, but if they are any indication, the Chef and his staff have done a stellar job breathing fresh air into the offerings. An expanded beer, wine, and spirits list offers guests more options than ever before, ensuring that your meal at California Grill will be an event to remember.

And that’s the takeaway here. What they’ve done, both in terms of decor and menu, isn’t necessarily just classic. It’s more than that. They’ve taken the best of the past and married it with the most up-to-the-minute in food trends. It’s timeless.

Have you made your advance dining reservation for California Grill? Leave a comment and tell us if you’ll be visiting in the near future!

DFB author Brooke Fehr and photographer @MealTrip attended this event on behalf of Disney Food Blog. However, they were not obligated to report on the event, let alone give California Grill glowing review. But seriously — Pork Belly Nigiri and Duck In All Its Glory? Out of the Park. Read more about our Disclosure Policy here.

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71 Comments

  1. Courtney says:

    Any idea if they will still be offering the ‘Vegetarian:Unplugged’? I got it last visit and it was great! I am hoping to try some of these new sides1

  2. Frank Stefanec says:

    Have the hours changed??? Still opens at 530??
    Frank

  3. Kev says:

    What an absolutely amazing post!
    We can’t wait to book for our next visit. The place really has improved both in terms of decor and menu items, it could well cause a few upsets in the race for best resort restaurant.
    The duck dish is definitely the teaser on the menu!
    Despite all of your amazing efforts to write and photograph the lovely food, my overwhelming response is Agghhhh, what’s going on with the carpet???

    It just looks so wrong in such a beautiful setting.
    Can I be the only one that would expect something more from Disney in a signature restaurant?

  4. Jasmine Becket-Griffith says:

    I hope they still do “Vegetarian Unplugged” – it wasn’t ever an official menu item but used to be available on request, as was a vegetarian sushi option. I sure hope so, because other than the ravioli there isn’t much on the menu now =/

  5. Sandy says:

    What an absolutely beautiful review! I loved reading it and drooling along the way. I hope to try California Grill one day soon!

  6. Wendy Snelgrove says:

    Thanks for the review.

    Were these all samples? I am wondering about serving sizes. The beef, in particular, looked small. I also thought that about several of the desserts, although I acknowledge there that sometimes desserts are so rich and powerfully flavoured that small is best.

  7. Sean says:

    I was thinking the same thing as Wendy. This all looks spectacular, but the entree portion sizes look TINY in comparison to what they have been in past trips.

  8. So excited for my December reservation!!!

    The only thing I’m questioning is the layout. Seems rather odd to have the tables aligned perfectly like that outward from the window; wouldn’t staggering give those in the center a better view? And having benches up against the windows is just silly! I’d spend my entire meal twisted backwards in my seat. Oh well, I’ll just have to hope for a window table. :)

  9. Chuck says:

    I am so excited to try this in a couple of weeks! California Grill has been my favorite restaurant for several years now and I cannot wait to try the new updated menu!!!

  10. Madeline says:

    I made a reservation for January 2nd and I’ll be celebrating my 21st birthday there! Your review just made me so much more excited than I already am! I really hope I get a seat near the windows so that I can fully appreciate the spectacular views you mentioned. Thank you so much for all the details! :D

  11. Cheryl D says:

    Thank you for the comprehensive review and the beautiful photos. Between the new menu (lots of things I don’t eat) and the high prices, I probably won’t be back unless someone else is paying.

  12. Tricia says:

    Every time I look at this menu I pick a different main dish. In Two days I will have dinner here and I think I will still need a bit to decide.

    Does anyone know if the No Sugar Added Lemon Meringue Cheesecake has fake sugars in it?

  13. Suzanne Buckner says:

    Awesome post! Definitely will have to revisit California Grill–has been quite a while for me.

  14. Alan says:

    I’ve eaten at most of the signature restaurants at WDW and have come to the conclusion that there are signature restaurants and SIGNATURE restaurants in the World. Now, the proof will be in the tasting, but it appears from what we have seen and read on the DFB, that with the possible exception of V&A, this is the SIGNATURE place in all of Walt’s World.

  15. notchris says:

    Was this a review of the restaurant or a meta-review of the media preview event? After reading this, I still have no idea how much of this will apply to a real meal outside of this extremely controlled environment, and there’s no obviously no mention of the service side.
    Most of our issues in the past seemed to have been related to the staff (front and back) not being able to keep up with the rush of a full dining room.

  16. Miranda says:

    We are going here in October and I can’t wait! We have eaten at the Cali Grill every year on our annual vacation, and we had our wedding reception in the Napa Room 6 years ago. I am super excited about the new menu, it looks delicious to me!

    I did want to ask about the new communal tables you mentioned – do you have any info on how they will work? I would be a bit sad to go for a romantic meal with my husband and end up sat on a table with strangers, but I can imagine it might be nice if you were in a group just having a relaxed evening.

    Thanks for such an exciting preview!

  17. Trish says:

    I too would like to know about the portion size and service. I’m thrilled to have an ADR for October, but don’t really want to pay over $40 for a main meal that can be eaten in a few bites. Thanks!

  18. AK says:

    My family members are not drinkers. With this restaurant’s heavy emphasis on wine, how will this affect the experience for those patrons who choose not to imbibe? Will the the service staff be just as committed to them knowing they are not interested in hearing about the extensive wine list / pairings?

  19. Ana says:

    I made my ADR for january, 11 2014!!!!!!!!!! I can´t wait!!!!

  20. Glendon says:

    Full disclosure please?

    This meal was provided for you correct? You should please state that in this article as well as other compensation/payment you received.

  21. Frank Stefanec says:

    Do they still accept Tables in Wonderland???
    Frank

  22. Chris S says:

    Thanks for the review! I’m looking forward to grabbing some appetizers there in January. I loved the food before, and i’m sure i’ll still love it; just happy that stale decor has been changed!

    One thing i want to note is that i think you should add to your disclaimer that Disney did give you a $50 gift card for attending the event. I’m not saying it impacted your review, but it’s a little misleading to not mention that.

  23. Brooke says:

    Courtney and Jasmine — No word from the preview about the “Vegetarian Unplugged” option. But with Disney’s commitment to offering guests with all diets stellar options, and California Grill’s mission to provide fresh, seasonal ingredients, I’m confident that vegetarian options will be well represented. We’ll follow up to get more details.

    Frank — Disney’s website now shows the hours at daily, 5-10 pm.

    Kev — Thanks so much for your kind words! The duck is truly amazing. The carpet is interesting, eh? :-) Disney says that it’s meant to evoke a sense of Mary Blair’s work. You’ll also find reproductions of her original artwork displayed throughout the restaurant as well.

    Sandy — Thanks! Ooh – I hope so, too!

    Wendy, Sean, and Trish — Since this was a media event, all of the Disney Food Blog photos are of tasting portions. You can expect full size dishes when you visit for dinner.

    Jenn — We chose a table in the center for that reason, and I did wonder about the banquettes that were backed up to the window as well.

    Chuck — Let us know your thoughts!

    Madeline — Thanks so much! How exciting! Be sure to stop back by and tell us all about it!

    Tricia — I’m not sure of ingredients, but the restaurant should be able to produce an ingredient list for you. Let us know if you find out; in the meantime, I’ll see if I can.

    Suzanne — Thanks! Yes — get yourself back to the Grill right away! :-)

    Alan — I’d have to agree. While there are some stellar restaurants in Walt Disney World, California Grill sits very close to the top for me.

    NotChris — This is a review of our experience at the media event held in advance of California Grill opening. The main objective was to taste some of the new dishes and to share impressions and photos with our readers, as well as to see the new decor. Having said that, the staff, both front and back, were gracious and professional throughout the event, but that has been my experience in the past during regular service. I look forward to dining at California Grill during in the near future, and am anxious to see how it will compare to this event. Chef Piasecki and the rest of the management are giving their full attention to helping staff focus in these early days of re-opening. I hope your next experience is much better!

    Miranda — What a great story! Other than to mention that the tables represent a hot trend, we didn’t really get a sense of how they would be handled. We hope to be back for another meal here soon, so expect more details in the near future!

    AK — My personal experience with the service at California Grill has always been good. The staff is relaxed, friendly, and gracious, and are understanding of the fact that not everyone drinks.

  24. Brooke says:

    Frank — Yes! They still participate in Tables in Wonderland.

  25. Miranda says:

    Thanks Brooke!

    @AK – I haven’t drunk alcohol for the last 3 years, and the servers have always been just as wonderful to our table. There have been times my husband ordered a glass of wine and other times we both stuck to sodas. Once or twice I have asked them to make me a non-alcoholic cocktail of some kind, which have always been delicious. But certainly I have never encountered any problems here from not ordering alcohol. The emphasis in my experience has always been firmly on the food!

  26. Nicole says:

    So, if I’m traveling alone I could potentially just go sit at the bar and eat dinner without a reservation? That would be amazing because I really want to try this place!

  27. Gen says:

    I’m still puzzled by the communal table concept. Any idea how this will work? Do you request it ahead of time, or do they simply force a bunch of strangers with ADRs together at one big table? It would be a bit awkward for anyone planning a romantic evening!

  28. John says:

    Passing along a suggestion – I enjoyed the review but was concerned about the portion sizes shown in the pictures. Reading the article’s comments revealed that the portion sizes were of sample size because this was a media preview event.

    I would suggest that this disclaimer be placed at the top of the review such that any who read the review are not left with the impression that the portion sizes shown in the review are what one can expect during a normal meal service.

    Thank you for the review and all the great posts.

  29. Rachel says:

    Yes i’m wondering the same thing as Nicole if you are able to just stop by to visit and have drinks at the bar or is this for reservations only?

  30. Brooke says:

    Nicole and Rachel — Yes, you can enjoy a full meal (or just drinks) at the bar without an advance dining reservation. Doing so would be subject to availability, of course. You’d want to stop by the second floor check in at the Contemporary to see if there’s capacity at the time you’re interested in checking it out. Good luck to you both!

  31. Carol says:

    Thank you, thank you! what a wonderful review. I have already picked out my meal for October. Everything looks amazing and we are so glad that the decor is just what it should be for the “Contemporary”. Counting the days till our dinner in October.

  32. Brooke says:

    John — Thanks so much for reading, and the suggestion. While I did mention in a couple of places that these were tasting portions, in a post this long, I see how the information can be easily overlooked. It’s also difficult to ascertain the scale of the plates and food when we’re trying to provide close ups so you can see as much detail as possible. I appreciate you letting me know your impressions, and I’ll certainly consider that going forward!

  33. Liana says:

    Seriously – when I book my next DW vacation you can pretty much attribute it to 60% this post and 40% Dwarves Mine Train. My excitement for both is pretty much overwhelming!

  34. Mark (MrHub) says:

    Brooke, I think you knocked it out of the park with this review! Simply awesome. I was really sceptical about some of the changes, and I’ll still hold off on my opinion of the seating until I see it for myself, looks like they moved all the smaller tables away from the windows and put all larger group tables there. Regardless, I think the changes will be nothing less than fabulous & the food looks incredible, like always. Got 3 reservations already made, the first in under 40 days and I can’t wait. Thanks again for a great review.

  35. Kathy says:

    Will there be a wine list that will be released?

  36. Lucy says:

    I wonder, can I can order the cheese plate as an app?

  37. Donna Cottenden says:

    Great review thank you. This has only added to our excitement we are visiting for the first time on Christmas Eve and really cannot wait!!

  38. Roxanne and Christina says:

    Oct 19 @ 9:30. So excited. Celebrating my daughters graduation and acceptance into nursing school.

  39. Brooke says:

    Glendon — Yes, as previously stated, we were invited to this media event, which was a tasting of the new California Grill menu rather than a meal. We have disclosed that information at the bottom of this post, as well as at the bottom of the “First Look” post published on September 6, and provided a link to our disclosure policy in both posts. Read more about our disclosure policy here.

  40. Brooke says:

    Chris S — Yes, the decor is breathtaking! I think they’ve done an excellent job with the update. I hope you have a really great time in January. Regarding your request for disclaimer: actually, I did not personally get a gift bag from the event, which I now understand contained a gift card. It is Disney Food Blog’s policy not to accept compensation from Disney. You can read more about Disney Food Blog here, and more about our Disclosure Policy here.

  41. Brooke says:

    Lucy — I don’t see why not. :-) It’s actually featured at the top of the cocktails menu, in addition to being part of the dessert menu.

  42. Brooke says:

    Kathy — I haven’t seen a wine list released, but I’d bet this is due to the nature of the ever-changing wine list. I have a couple of questions to follow up about and I will add this one to the list.

  43. Brooke says:

    Liana — Haha! Two excellent reasons to visit Walt Disney World, I’m thinking!

    MrHub — Thanks so much! I know they were walking a fine line, changing up such a beloved spot. But I think they did a great job, and I’ll look forward to hearing about your experience there.

  44. Allison says:

    Loved the review! I have never been able to snag a ressie to Cali Grill until my upcoming trip in a few weeks. I was on the phone the day ADRs opened and snagged a ressie for the last night of my trip. Although I am super excited for the food and wine I am not excited at all for the “communal tables”. My fiancee and I are going there to celebrate our engagement. Not to mention that it is a really expensive meal, one of which I do not want to spend sitting next to random people. It ruins the romanticism of it. I don’t mind sharing tables at places like Biergaarten (which we love and will be dining at a few nights before), but a German biergaarten is supposed to be like that, an upscale restaurant ..not so much. We are big foodies so I sincerely hope that the food makes up for the fact that I will be eating in a “communal” setting.

  45. Amy says:

    Oh my gosh!! I may have to try to make a SECOND reservation because I can’t decide what to order!! Um…one of everything, please! I am so excited – can’t wait until November!!!

  46. Amy says:

    I did it! I had one reservation for California Grill for my trip in November, but I just made a second for my arrival night!! Too much pressure to pick just ONE cocktail, app, entrée and dessert. I may need to make another for my trip in January – too much to try!! SO excited!

  47. Scott says:

    The picture of the Oak-Fired Filet makes it seem VERY small. How many ounces is it?

  48. Brooke says:

    Amy — That’s so awesome! Be sure to let us know what you try!

  49. Brooke says:

    Scott — Many of the pictures here are of tasting plates and portions, and are only 1-2 bites. While they give you a first look at the dishes, they aren’t representative of their actual size.

  50. Scott says:

    Brooke,

    Thanks for clarifying this.

    Scott

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