The Grand Floridian Resort is home to several fine dining experiences. Today, guest author Rebecca Dolan reviews the resort’s Citricos restaurant.
I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on Citricos all these years.
My family and I tend to shy away from Disney’s fine dining experiences. Truth be told, we’re often just too tired (read: lazy) to put on “real” clothes after a day at the parks. But, this meal is even worth putting on your nice khakis for.
Citricos is set on the second floor of Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort at the back of the main building, where it shares a check-in foyer with Victoria & Albert’s.
A set of iron gates is an artistic touch to delineate the waiting area from the bar and dining room.
Past them is the first dining area and bar. This is bordered by large windows overlooking the rest of the hotel and the Seven Seas Lagoon to the right, with a large wine room, bar, and display kitchen to the left. A bit further back is a glass-and-wood enclosed “chef’s domain” — a private dining rom.
The rear part of the dining room is perhaps what Citricos is known for architecturally. The round room is enclosed by what are essentially floor-to-ceiling windows, offering an amazing view of the property, the lagoon, and even part of the Magic Kingdom.
Though it’s a bit obstructed, you can even catch a glimpse of thefireworks show. We were lucky enough to be there on the evening of a holiday fireworks display, so the sky was extra lit up.
The décor can be best described as “contemporary Mediterranean cool” – a point my mother and I spent much time deliberating. One might expect a contemporary restaurant to be stark, but Citricos is quite inviting with its use of design elements like warm colors, lighting, tiled floors, and wooden accents.
A swirl motif was carried throughout the space – in the chairs, curtain rods, floor tiles, carpet – and added a whimsical note that reminded me of the sea. The big cushy chairs at the table did not hurt either!
The menu continued with the contemporary Mediterranean vibe of the dining room.
Our meal kicked off with an amuse bouche — a two-bite morsel of grilled swordfish with fennel pollen and white asparagus.
We were also offered a bread basket filled with multi-grain and black olive breads. Of course, there was Disney’s favorite sea-salted butter on the side.
I’m a sucker for a flavored iced tea, so I was excited to see a lemongrass infused variety here. To make it even better, our waiter gave me one of the Mickey swirly straws. Just goes to show you that everyone’s a kid at heart in Disney World, even in the most “adult” restaurants.
To begin, we ordered the tamarind-grilled Berkshire pork belly, charcuterie plate, arancini, and grilled summer vegetable soup.
The arancini (though it was really only “arancino” as there was only one) was good — about what you would expect a fried risotto ball to be. Creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
The soup was more like broth with a few flecks of vegetables, and unmemorable.
The charcuterie was good, again no notable breakthroughs in the field of cured meat. Though, I will say that I’m determined to replicate that pickled fennel at home.
The clear winner of the appetizer round was the delightfully fatty and tender pork belly, with its sweet corn pudding to cut the richness. It was just enough for two without being too heavy.
Since the amuse was basically the swordfish on the menu that I’d planned on ordering, I switched gears and went for the pan-seared Florida black grouper so I could taste something different. The filet sat nicely atop egg fettuccine in a light tomato water with blistered tomatoes and basil.
Unfortunately this dish fell flat for me. The elements were there – perfectly-cooked fish and al dente homemade pasta with a nice bit of chew – but it would have benefited from a more liberal use of salt. The waiter explained that the chef was aiming for a light summer dish, which it was, but light and flavorful don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
The Madeira-braised short ribs, however, were a completely different story. The ribs were so soft, and the braise so rich and dark, photos just did not do this justice. And, whoever thought to mix cheese grits with mashed potatoes is a complete genius as they may have created the ultimate starchy side.
The unctuousness of the meat combined with the generous amount of carbs made this dish almost impossible for one person to finish. Which is good, because when my mom went to the restroom I may or may not have basically polished it off for her. We would go back just for this.
For dessert it was the lemon-scented cheesecake and warm chocolate banana torte.
We were pretty excited about this course after watching a pastry chef form chocolate and sugar into garnishes all night. I think she did a pretty good job.
The cheesecake was light, creamy and just slightly lemon kissed. This dessert is a staple at the Grand Floridian, and it was a solid note to end a meal on.
The chocolate torte is Citricos’ signature dessert and it’s for the true chocoholic — warm, melty, gooey, and way heavy on the dark chocolate.
I will say that I wish I had ordered the gelato tasting, if only to have the tiny ice cream cones each mini scoop was presented on.
Sure there were a couple of missteps on my visit, but the good outshone the bad. I would come back to Citricos in a heartbeat, especially if it means getting to dive into those short ribs again. If you’re planning to add a fine dining option to your Disney itinerary, give Citricos a shot.
Have you dined at Citricos? Share your experience with us in the comments below!