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Review: California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I met a group of friends at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill for what promised to be a memorable dinner.

It was my first trip to the hallowed culinary spot since the dramatic re-imagination of both the restaurant itself and the menu earlier this year. I’m a big fan of Chef de Cuisine Brian Piasecki, and I was anxious to see what he and his team had put together for the opening.

Having heard mostly good things about the new menu, and lots of raves about the decor refresh (see some breathtaking photos here!), I was really looking forward to this special night out. Would the restaurant deliver on expectations? Well, kind of…and kind of not. Let’s delve into the full story.

Atmosphere

If you’ve never been to California Grill, getting there is a bit of an odyssey. Although the restaurant sits high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you’ll begin your journey on the hotel’s second floor, where the check-in desk is located.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

From there, you’ll be directed to an elevator where a cast member will escort you up to the restaurant. This way, the staff can practice a little crowd control, as the restaurant’s lobby and bar can get quite crowded at times.

You emerge from the elevator and are greeted by sleek design, accented by cool colors and rows and rows of wine fridges. Form follows function, as California Grill’s stellar selection of wines is well known.

Entrance and Wine Fridges

Time your visit just right, and another hallmark of the Grill’s atmosphere greets you –

Sunset

– A beautiful sunset through the picture windows directly ahead of you. I was lucky on this visit, as I got to see both the sunset AND the fireworks through those floor-to-ceiling windows!

Sunset

As I mentioned before, California Grill underwent an extensive renovation earlier in 2013. If you haven’t been to the restaurant since then, you will find that almost everything looks completely different from before.

We shared lots and lots of photos with you from the reno in that previous post, including pics of the private dining rooms. Be sure to pop over there if you’d like to see even more decor detail. For now, we’ll just give you a quick tour.

Step away from that glorious sunset, and you realize that you passed the beautiful bar area as you entered. It’s just to the left as you step off the elevators and head into the restaurant.

Directly in front of the bar, there’s also a limited lounge seating area. This means that you can, theoretically, score a table without an advance dining reservation, or meet here for appetizers and drinks on a whim. That said, the lounge is first come, first served, and you can imagine the scramble for seats during the fireworks. So look alive if that’s your plan!

Bar

Where the view is concerned, there are really no bad seats in all of California Grill! But the window seats on the Magic Kingdom side offer the best view if you’re going for fireworks. As part of the renovation, new windows were installed that block ultraviolet light, and electronically-controlled shades ensure that guests are never blinded by that bright Florida sunshine.

Views and Tables

A glance across the seating area gives you a good overview of the new color scheme. Cool neutrals provide the backdrops to lots of color. The design and color scheme were inspired by the works of Disney art legend Mary Blair, whose classic mosaic murals are the centerpiece of the Contemporary Resort’s Grand Canyon Concourse.

Tables Set for Service

The whimsical lighting is one of the most striking touches of the new seating area. The indirect lighting and delicate curves in the ceiling are part of the old decor, but the fun new chandeliers lend to the cool, retro feel of the space.

The open kitchen area is now marked by a simple and sleek facade of stainless steel.

Cool Lighting and a View of the Kitchen

Speaking of the kitchen, it’s a flurry of activity, and you can see stations for nearly all of the dishes, from the oak-fired oven and sushi station to desserts.

Kitchen

During our visit, I was able to capture the chefs working together to put the finishing touches on guests’ plates before they were delivered to tables.

Chefs Placing the Final Touches on Plates

It was also fun to observe one of the servers lighting the candles for this special occasion cake. Pretty cool!

Donald Places the Final Touches on a Celebration Cake

And while the food should be (and normally is) the first reason to book a table at California Grill, that spectacular view is special for another reason, of course.

As I’ve mentioned previously, time your ADR just right, and you can witness the fireworks from Magic Kingdom from this most magical of vantage points. Choose to sit inside the restaurant, where the lights are lowered and the music and narration for the show is piped in. Or take in the view outside from one of the Grill’s observation decks.

Fireworks

We’ll have a few more shots of Wishes below. But for now, let’s turn our attention to the food.

Eats

This was my first trip to California Grill in quite some time, so I was very interested to see what I’d find.

Menu Cover

The Grill is almost as well regarded for its wine list as for its menu. Guests can choose from more than 300 wines that have been selected by the restaurant’s sommeliers, with over 50 wines available by the glass.

Wine List -- Click to Enlarge

The menu follows roughly the same outline as it did previously. Guests will note that, where once the wood burning oven was used most normally for flatbreads, there are now a number of dishes being prepared there.

And Sushi still also plays a big role in the menu with several selections available — some traditional, and some more playful takes.

From the Wood Burning Oven and Sushi -- Click to Enlarge

Appetizer and Entree options, while limited, still offer a nice variety of tastes and flavors, from vegetarian to heavier options. (I totally would have been all over that Carrot soup if it wasn’t for the cilantro! Evil herb!)

Appetizers and Entrees -- Click to Enlarge

We began with a couple of drinks from the bar. I had two over the course of the night, and since I only found one drink on the bar menu that I was interested in trying, I ordered my old standby — the Midori Sour – as a starter for the evening.

Midori Sour

Later, I sampled the Passion Fruit Margarita from the actual bar menu. This went down smooth and was deeeeelicious!

Passion Fruit Margarita

After we made our menu selections, our server brought a basket of bread. I absolutely loved the Grill’s focaccia prior to the menu refresh. Where there was once only one bread variety, there is now a selection of two or three.

Bread Service

I do love the attention to detail with the herb garnish and sea salt on the butter. I wish they gave everyone their own little bowl of butter. Sigh. I know it’s cost prohibitive, but, alas.

Butter

The new breads were a-OK, but we mostly were saving our appetites for the large quantities of food we were ordering!

Bread and Butter Together

We knew that we wanted to sample a couple of offerings from the sushi menu next. Sushi has always played a significant role at the California Grill. The menu there emphasizes the best of seasonal ingredients, but the Asian influences are unmistakable.

Since we ordered sushi, we were all presented with chopsticks. You can see the new logo printed on the front.

Chopsticks -- Front

And just in case your chopsticks make it out of the restaurant, wrapping intact, here’s a nice little reminder for how exactly you go about getting a reservation here. In case you forget. :-)

I was intrigued to read the “tagline” for the newly renovated Cali Grill: Vibrant and Charged Atmosphere. What’s a “charged atmosphere” I wonder?? Any thoughts? Leave your ideas in the comments for what that’s supposed to mean. ;-)

Chopsticks -- Back

One of the playful updates to the menu is the introduction of some not-so-customary sushi options. Capitalizing on the raging popularity of pork belly these days (huzzah!), the team has introduced this east-meets-west option: Pork Belly Nigiri. It’s a fusion of flavors and forms, as the house-cured pork tops the maki roll in nigiri fashion.

Pork Belly Nigiri

Pork is carried through the dish into the Rice, which is flavored with Bacon and Yuzu.

This dish was one I’d really been looking forward to, and I did enjoy it. The pork belly was a little cold — and perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be served; how do I know? — but it was a slight turn-off for me. That said, I did eat all of the pork belly on the plate, so there you go.

Pork Belly Nigiri -- Up Close

For a more customary take on maki, we also tried the Dragon Roll and the California Combination Roll.

Dragon Roll

While I’m not a big fan of sushi, everyone else at the table seemed to think it was good, if a little more expensive than warranted.

Dragon Roll

Another friend decided to sample Heirloom Tomatoes. The presentation of the dish was stunning with the different colors, and the addition of Grilled Bread and Ricotta Cheese to the mix made for a great combination. This was a winner.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Next, I couldn’t help but order a California Grill classic and one of my favorite dishes in Disney World: the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli.

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

This appetizer has been a menu staple at the Grill since its beginning, and it remains largely unchanged, except for the sauce. It’s a little more delicate than the previous iteration, which was made with hearty sun-dried tomatoes.

The Tomato-Fennel Broth that they’re using now is supposed to enhance the tangy, rich flavor of the Goat Cheese without overpowering it. Personally, I couldn’t tell a big difference. It’s still lick-the-plate-clean good, and well worth ordering. I wish they had it on the menu as an entree!!

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli -- Up Close

One of the standouts of the night was the Oven-Dried Tomato Flatbread, featuring Beefsteak Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, and Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette.

It was a simple dish but executed well, and we really enjoyed the concentrated flavors of the Dried Tomato and Aged Balsamic against the creamy cheese.

Oven Dried Tomato Flatbread

The other favorite dish of the night was the Roasted Squash Ravioli, served with Root Spinach and sweet-spicy Parsnips, and topped with Sage Brown Butter (yum!), and 12 Year Balsamic. The rich, vegetarian dish was gorgeous and delicious, which made it a surprise winner for sure.

Roasted Squash Ravioli

Unfortunately, this is where our experience started to take a turn for the worse.

Up to this point, service had been a little slow, which we were willing to overlook. But besides the ravioli, our entrees we not particularly inspired, and that was more than a little disappointing.

One friend opted for the Georges Bank Scallops. Served on a bed of Gnocchi with Smoked Pork, Grilled Onions, and Baby Brussels Sprouts, the scallops themselves appear to be seared perfectly, with a nice, golden crust.

However, my friend found them to be entirely too salty. Could it be the fault of the Parmesan Foam? Possibly. (Parmesan foam? Really?) Or maybe someone was just a little heavy-handed with the salt shaker.

Georges Bank Scallops

I opted for the Bell & Evans Chicken. Let’s just get out of the way that I probably shouldn’t have ordered this. Who goes to California Grill and orders the chicken when they could have the filet or the pork?!? Good question, dear reader, good question. I have no excuse, except that I figured I’d already HAD the filet and the pork and they probably weren’t all that changed from the previous menu, so I figured I’d try something new.

Bad idea. The chicken itself boasted a glaze of Teriyaki Barbecue Sauce, and came accompanied by Glazed Vegetables and Chicken Sausage. But also figuring prominently into my decision to order it was the accompanying side of Truffle Mac & Cheese.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Bell & Evans Chicken -- Cross Section

In reality, it was sadly lacking in flavor (except for the chicken skin, which was awesome), and the chicken itself was dry.

But at least I had the Truffle Mac & Cheese, right? Well, unfortunately, it was a huge let-down, too. Tasteless and dry, my dish could have benefitted from some of the salt that was spilled into my friend’s. The noodles seemed to be bathed in olive oil, but I couldn’t detect much cheese flavor at all.

Oddly, I liked this side on my last visit to Cali Grill, so I’m not sure if I just got a bum batch or what. Maybe I’ve been irrevocably spoiled by the Napa Rose mac and cheese, eh? Hubba, hubba!

Truffle Mac & Cheese

Another friend ordered the 24-Hour Short Rib “Filet.” This is a dish that was much anticipated, as it was a star of the new menu. We all tried it, and while it was fine (better than the chicken for sure!), it was unmemorable.

24-Hour Short Rib "Filet"

After a disappointing turn in the meal, we were hoping that dessert would prove to be a bright spot. As with the main menu, many of California Grill’s desserts have been updated or are brand new.

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Guests can also choose from the After Dinner Drink Menu in addition to or in lieu of a dessert.

After Dinner Drink Menu -- Click to Enlarge

There are also a wide range of tea selections.

Tea Menu -- Click to Enlarge

The Chocolate Pudding Cake is a lovely presentation. With Nutella Filling and Mint Chantilly, it offered an incredibly strong chocolate flavor. This is the right choice for you chocoholics!

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Warm Homemade Fritters were also cute with their trio of Dipping Sauces, and these were a hit at the table! We each enjoyed a different dipping sauce, so that worked well! I liked the more rustic and freeform dessert at such a fancy-schmancy restaurant!

Warm Homemade Fritters

The Seasonal Tasting Dessert, which featured Heirloom Apples, was also an interesting option.

Seasonal Tasting Dessert -- Heirloom Apple

Breaking through the sugar topping on the Apple-Cinnamon Crème Brûlée revealed a custard that was a beautiful color and a perfect texture. I loved this mini-dessert, but others at the table didn’t enjoy the flavors at all! To each his own!

Apple Cinnamon Crème Brûlée

Of course my favorite part was that topping of cream cheese frosting on the apple cake! I asked my server for extra, but he said they were pre-made. :-( The cider, with its little sugar stirrer, was a fun touch as well!

We wrapped up the night by taking in the fireworks from inside the restaurant. It’s always a beautiful way to end a busy day at Disney, and we got to see HalloWishes on this evening (the show that’s put on during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!)

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Overall

Welp, I’ll definitely still recommend California Grill. Enough of the evening was worth it that I’ll continue to return (plus, it’s tough to review a restaurant when it’s newly re-opened, I understand). But I did learn some lessons:

1.) Don’t order the chicken. At a place like Cali Grill, that’s just asking for trouble. Order the dishes that have made it through iteration after iteration of the menu: the filet, the pork, the goat cheese ravioli, to be safe.

2.) Here’s a lesson I keep learning over and over again: desserts at signature restaurants in Disney World are likely not worth the money, so be prepared. To be fair, my dessert palate is pretty comfort-food-esque, so if you’re like me and would always prefer to end your night with a No Way Jose no matter what fancy dessert is on the menu, take heed.

Now, here’s a bit more info on the evening: we visited on a night when the chef de cuisine wasn’t in the house, so it’s possible that the team was still adjusting to operating on nights without him at the helm. Our past experiences with California Grill have been, for the most part, very positive. And the views and atmosphere remain unparalleled in Walt Disney World. So I’m willing to concede that this was an off night for the well-loved restaurant, and my hopes remain high that my next experience will be back at 100%.

I’d love to hear from you now. What has been your experience with California Grill since the reopening of the restaurant? Leave a comment and share your thoughts below!

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40 Comments

  1. Mealtrip says:

    Well, slightly off topic… (and I certainly don’t mean to derail a GREAT review of the California Grill)… but I have noticed, property-wide, all the mac and cheese seem a bit off. Be Our Guest, Liberty Tree, California Grill, Cape May Cafe… “I don’t taste any cheese”, “it’s too dry and fluffy”, and “this is like rubbery noodle stuffing” seem to be a common refrains.

    If you can scrunch down low enough, the kiddie tables at locations such as Tusker House and Chef Mickey’s, they still seem to have the “cheese and mac” that I like, but those (somewhat more “normal”, non-gourmet mac and cheese’s) are now all loaded with salt. I hope this isn’t the beginning of an amalgamation of mac and cheese like we saw with the (now ubiquitous) dinner roll a few years ago.

  2. Billy says:

    I’m seriously debating canceling my upcoming Dec. ressie. It’s not worth the price, and seriously, my beloved pork tenderloin dish looks to have changed! Pork two ways? Bah. I understand they’re just starting up again, but there are other places to go in the interim. That is, if I can still snag a seating elsewhere…

    Thanks for the review, A.J. Longtime reader here. :)

  3. orljustin says:

    $25 for 8 pieces of what looks like supermarket grade sushi rolls? No thanks!

  4. Elisabeth says:

    We ate here in october and loved the menu. We were on the diningplan so we had entree and desert. We decided to share the pate flatbread and it was good.
    Entree for me were the scallops and they were not salted. Cooked just right and the rest was rich and well fleavored. I didn’t taste much of the parmesan foam. I loved the dish.
    My son had the pork two ways and loved it. I didn’t taste it.
    Desert was nice, not the wow. I had cheese five ways. They made good combinations. My son had the Sundae sampler. It was funny to have the little cola bottle to make a float. And the rest was nice but not that good as we had 2 years ago.
    We enjoyed being here. Was a great end of our trip to WDW. We saw the firework on the platform.
    But if we had to pay for a diner like this, I’m not sure if we would do it. But 2 points of the diningplan were totaly worth it.
    We would go there again, it is the total experience and that’s what we love.

  5. Jason says:

    @ Billy: the pork is even better now. Half of the dish is the same as it always was, but you also get their amazing pork belly. We have dined at CG for the past 13 years multiple times a year. There are some misses on the menu right now, especially in regards to dessert. However, the sushi is still amazing, and, overall, it is just as good as it ever has been.

  6. Auntie Sue says:

    Just had the pork two ways end on Halloween and it was fantastic! The chef was there that night (had to come out to our table as 1 member is gluten free) so maybe that makes a difference? Also try the duck 5 ways appetizer and you will NOT be disappointed if you are a duck fan!

  7. Rachael S says:

    I Just Ate There Last Week And Was Extremely Disappointed. We Didn’t Order Drinks So Our Waiter List Interest In Us And Never Brought Us Any Bread. I Ordered The Halibut And It Was Tough And Overcooked…For The $40 Price Tag It Was A Major Let Down. My Husband Had The Ribs And Loved Them But He Is Easy To Please. I Know I Won’t Be Going Back It Was Too Expensive For Such A Let Down.

  8. kathi giumentaro says:

    My husband and myself were there last month. We eat at the CG on our first and last nights while at Disney world. It is our favorite place to eat. I got the scallops and they were to die for. My husband had the 24 hour short ribs and it was so delicious I wanted to cry. The chef was there during our visits. Sorry you had just so so meals.
    (Donald was our waiter on our second night there)

    In response to MEALTRIP’s review. I totally agree. We had the hotdog with mac and cheese at the studios. The mac and cheese tasted like paste mixed with pasta. No cheese flavor at all. Very gross and tasteless. We tried this hot dog 2 years ago and loved it. I wont get it again.

  9. catherine says:

    The duck in all its glory is freaking awesome.

    They always take very good care of me in the lounge and bar, I have heard regular service is pretty slow.

  10. catherine says:

    PS I really can’t figure out why your dragon roll didn’t look in the least like my dragon roll. Which was HUGE.

  11. Tink says:

    We dined at Cali Grill before the “redo.” Can’t say as we’ll be returning. It was a pretty dismal experience. The server was unprepared to be working that night, and knew essentially nothing of the menu. (By comparison, the barkeep was excellent, friendly, and really knew his stuff).

    The food was flat out bad. My wife could not chew the ostrich she ordered as it was too stringy and terribly tough (and no, she didn’t order it overcooked). My meal was barely edible.

    Screaming children who were running up and down the aisles and to and from the windows were a serious detraction from the atmosphere. Not to mention we felt like we were overdressed (resort casual) as the majority of the diners looked as though they’d come straight from the park.

    Given the negative impact the DDP has had on the entire WDW restaurant “scene,” we no longer dine at WDW expecting excellent food or service. We save our “big dining dollars” for offsite any more.

    It’s a shame too. We used to love dining at WDW, and did so frequently (we are locals) quite often weekly.

    No longer, sad to say. For the money it costs, far better to venture off WDW property and enjoy excellent cuisine from any number of the locally owned restaurants. (Not the chains, mind).

    Thank you for an excellent and thorough review.

  12. Erin says:

    I am SHOCKED about the chicken! My mom and I both got it and it was amazing. I would get it again in a heartbeat. Everything was super flavorful and the mac and cheese on our night was not dry at all. Dad got the scallops and loved those too. Other items that night were the duck app, goat cheese ravioli app, tomato salad app, sundae sampler, seasonal sampler and the chocolate cake. Also had sake martinis and mai tais (YUM). Everything was outstanding. Loved that we went outside to watch the fireworks and came back to a freshly set table with dessert menus. Still holds as my top favorite restaurant at the world!

  13. Kris says:

    I believe “charged atmoshpere” means they charge you more (alot more) for the new decor. The price continues to climb and what used to be one of my Top 3 at Disney World is dropping way down. For not that much more money I took my girlfriend to Victoria and Albert’s and was blown away by everything we tried.

  14. Miranda midas says:

    We visited the new CG in October and our meal was definitely average, nothing more. I had the duck appetiser which had good and bad points, but I would not order again (and I love duck), he had the oven baked shrimp (which I thought were great, he thought were ok). We had the short rib filet (which was only just ok, had a weird texture and no real taste), and the regular filet (which I did really enjoy, but was not quite awesome). We didn’t bother with dessert since by then we just felt we had paid a lot for a pretty average meal. The thing we did love was the bread – the lavender foccacia was delicious! I still love Cali Grill – we had our wedding reception here 6 years ago, and we would give it another try on our next vacation, but honestly our meal was disappointing. I hope they nudge the menu into better shape soon and perfect some of the dishes that are not hitting the mark just yet.

  15. Alan says:

    Well, the comments along with AJ’s review show how subjective our tastes in food are. Two people can split a dish and have one love it and the other dislike it. That’s why reviews must be taken with a grain of salt ( or too much salt ). As Disney World fans, we should try every place that intrigues us regardless of the reviews. The problem with a restaurant like the Call is that it can be a very expensive ” Oh, gosh that was a waste of money ” feeling when walking out of there. Maybe, that is where the (over) charged atmosphere saying comes from.

  16. Mark Greger (mrHub) says:

    Hi AJ,
    Sorry your meal was so disappointing. We were there in Oct and absolutely loved our meal. I had the scallops which were delicious, not salty at all. My wife had the filet which is what she always love at CG. I had the Dragon roll for and app and she had the Heirloom Tomato salad which she loved. Dessert I had the Seasonal Tasting Dessert — Heirloom Apple, which wasn’t my favorite dessert ever, but it was good I thought, wife had the Chocolate pudding cake which she loved. We are going back in January and have to ADR’s for Cali Grill. Im looking forward to trying some of the newer items. I’ll let you know what I think of them.

  17. AmyW says:

    We have reservations there for our upcoming December trip. We’ll be doing the deluxe DP – can anyone explain how the “appetizer” course on the DP works? Would a flatbread or sushi count?

    Also, when you mention “slow” service – how long would you estimate for a meal? We have 5:00 reservations (first available) but are planning on heading over to the MVMCP that afterwards.

  18. Mark Greger (mrHub) says:

    Amy you shouldn’t have any problem with timing if your reservations are at 5, but anything can happen. Our service was a little slow also but nothing extreme.

  19. Trish says:

    I went back in October and wasn’t very impressed either. I’m not a big wine drinker so I opted for a Sangria and to me it tasted like a red wine more than a Sangria. It probably didn’t help that I was sick and would honestly have cancelled my reservation had there not been a fee involved. I had a 9:20 pm reservation and was not seated until after 10. I barely got there in time for the fireworks (due to VERY unexpected delays in Disney transportation …not complaining, just mentioning) If I go again, I’d like to have a reservation before the fireworks are supposed to start. I also ordered the Scallops, and they were not salty to me, I loved the dish. Honestly, I LOVED the seasonal dessert, especially the Creme Brulee. They were kind enough to give me a to-go cup of the apple cider since drinking it made my sore throat feel so much better. I’d definitely try it again, but next time I’d prefer a dinner guest.

  20. Alyssa says:

    Amy- we were there in September on the deluxe DP- I can’t remember if sushi was an app, but the flatbread was. I had the tomato and mozzarella flatbread in this review and it was fantastic. We had a a 7:30 reservation and did not leave until 10:30- however, Hallowishes began at 9:30, as our entree was being cleared and they did not come back until after the fireworks to take our dessert order, so it just may have been the timing of our reservation.

  21. Billy says:

    @Jason: Thanks for the deets! If pork belly is one of those two ways, sign me up. Still going to head on over after all.

  22. Selena says:

    I just ate there on Friday on my trip to Florida. The Saki Martini was amazing. It tasted almost like melted Dole Whip. But it was super light and refreshing. The Duck In All It’s Glory was our appetizer. Loved that as well. I was a little disappointed in the duck bacon but all the other duck items on the plate were great. I ordered the 24 Short Ribs too. While it was good, I agree – unmemorable. The star of the night for me was the Lacquered Pork Belly, part of the Pork Two Ways entree. The Pork Loin was so-so. But that pork belly was to die for.

  23. Holly says:

    AmyW – I went in December 2012 (prior to the renovation) on the Deluxe Dining Plan and anything above entree was considered an appetizer to include flatbread, soup or salad. I am not sure about the sushi as I don’t eat sushi (I know I am weird). So yes, you can pick out an appetizer, entree and dessert. (It becomes a ton of food if you are there awhile – our trip was 10 days!).

  24. Carol says:

    Went end of October for my husband’s birthday celebration. Service was great and drinks were good. Sushi was good and my goat cheese ravioli was GREAT! We were not disappointed but did notice that it was not as crowded as it had been for years. The view is worth it and have apps and drinks at the bar if you don’t want dinner. We will return.

  25. Diana says:

    I have to say that I disagree with you about ordering the chicken. I went to the california grill on October 30th and we all had a wonderful meal. I ordered the farmers salad as an appetizer which was very fresh and tasty and the bell and evans chicken for an entree. The chicken was prepared differently than what you got. Mine came with yukon gold mashed potatoes and kale. I was disappointed that I did not get the truffle mac and cheese that night. I really thought my chicken was very moist and flavorful and the turkey sausage was more well down which is how i like it. Although i have to say the kale did not do the dish any favors but the mashed potatoes were so creamy and amazing I wanted more. So i would have to disagree with you and say that for non-beef eaters the chicken was an excellent choice.

  26. Mary says:

    I have been to the Cali Grill three times with my daughter over a two month period since the remodel. I had good service all times – ordered a glass or two of wine but was not a big drinker. The first time I had the scallops, did find it salty and did not enjoy the seasoning. I have had the filet and found it to be impeccably cooked. My daughter has had both the chicken and the filet and enjoyed it as well. My last visit was all about the sashimi and I did enjoy it. It certainly is pricey but that is no surprise. I am dissappointed that the crowd is becoming more and more casual. We dress appropriately for the restaurant except for we went in full Halloween costume. Because we were both wearing gowns you might could say we were overdressed. I do not like the new dining area they opened- I’d rather be part of the bigger crowd. They readily moved me at my request. But the view of all the parks is special. And I definitely agree that the “better” restaurants are trying too hard with the Mac and cheese! Just keep it cheesey and creamy, chefs!

  27. Emily says:

    This review definitely confirms that my parents and I are making the right choice for our upcoming Disney trip in the spring. We’re using the Dining Plan, but we’re going to do a signature meal at either Yachtsmen or Flying Fish, and pay for California Grill out of pocket so we can get mostly appetizers. I don’t want to be forced to get an entree when there’s so many amazing appetizer choices for all of us to share! Thanks for the review!

  28. marie says:

    We ate at the California Grill in mid October and were disappointed with the food and service. Unfortunately this time it was not up to the magical experience we have come to expect there. It could be that they are still working out the problems.

  29. missbianca says:

    I am not sure I could eat a thing in the presence of that ugly carpet.

    The only time we tried the CG was before the renovation and the atmosphere for us was also spoiled by children running about and babies crying. Perhaps “charged” means they are charging too much for people to bring their kids?

    One thing, AJ, I think you could be a little more demanding of a fine restaurant. Want extra butter? Ask for it. Want the goat cheese ravioli as your entree? Ask for it. I get appetizers as my entrees all the time. Scallops salty to the point that they are inedible? Gently ask for the dish to be replaced. How will the kitchen staff know they are messing up if you don’t tell them? For a restaurant to be as great as the CG aspires to be, they need to be able to handle these things with aplomb.

  30. Fred Thomas says:

    How can I possibly take a restaurant review seriously written by someone who doesn’t even like sushi and thinks cilantro is an evil herb?

  31. Keith says:

    I agree with Tink on the atmosphere of CG before the refurb…in fact, we had stopped going also because of the park-like ambiance. However, we returned last week and enjoyed the Omakaze menu. Everything was outstanding and the atmosphere has definitely improved FWIW.

  32. Lynne B says:

    I went there in October and had the most amazing meal. Everything we had was awesome!! I started with the pork belly nigiri, YUMMO!!! I then had the dragon roll. The one you had pictured I think is the other sushi you ordered. My roll was HUGE!! and incredable. I also loved the sake martini and the cucumber gin cocktail. I would recommend this place to anyone. I am heading back in April and can’t wait to go again. Oh also, fanastic serivice.

  33. Mark Greger (mrHub) says:

    AJ,
    I do agree with this part of what missbiancs said:

    “One thing, AJ, I think you could be a little more demanding of a fine restaurant. Want extra butter? Ask for it. Want the goat cheese ravioli as your entree? Ask for it. I get appetizers as my entrees all the time. Scallops salty to the point that they are inedible? Gently ask for the dish to be replaced. How will the kitchen staff know they are messing up if you don’t tell them? For a restaurant to be as great as the CG aspires to be, they need to be able to handle these things with aplomb.”

    If something is not right, mention something to you server. It’s the only way they will know. they may even thankyou.

  34. Katie says:

    My husband and I ate here on October 26th for the first time and unfortunately, our experience was hit and miss as well. The service was not good. At all. It took a long time for the service to first acknowledge us, did not offer us new drinks when he took our empty glasses, was absent for periods of time, had to correct him on the fireworks time so he would bring out our entrees accordingly. It was a three hour meal but not the good three hour kind of meal way.

    We also had the flatbread and agree it was a simple dish done really well. I liked that the tomatoes had bee previously cooked so they had a different flavor than just raw tomatoes on a flatbread. The goat cheese ravioli was phenomenal. I also ordered the squash ravioli for my entree and it was so good. The presentation and combination of flavors were great. My husband ordered the beef and had the same reaction – good but nothing extraordinary. We passed on dessert because nothing looked that great and we know the reputation of desserts at signature restaurants.

    So yes, the fireworks view from our table was great, and some dishes were hits.

  35. SCB says:

    Dined at the California Grill on November 10, and it was fantastic. I was worried, as I had read less than positive reviews about the newly renovated restaurant, but it exceeded expectations. Ask to be seated in the Coronado Room, as that is closest to the MK. Rakim was our waiter and he was amazing. We started with drinks and ordered flatbreads (mozzarella and pork pate) to be at the table after the fireworks and everything was delicious. I would order the mozzarella flatbread as an entree! We then had the “duck in all it’s glory” and it was possibly one of the best appetizers that I’ve ever had. The pork dish at the CG has been upgraded (it used to be my favorite dish before the renovation) and the pork belly is an excellent accompaniment to the tenderloins. The goat cheese polenta is also much better than I recall. We didn’t get any desserts, but they brought a complimentary “congratulations” creme brulee (we had run the W&D half marathon the night before) and it was some of the best creme brulee I’ve tasted! It’s expensive, but definitely worth the price for the food, service, and views. Great wine list too.

  36. TAC says:

    Sorry folks but I dined at Cali Grille in March of 2012 and it was awesome!! We dined there again on Nov 6th and it was not up to par!!! Service was EXTREMELY SLOW and it was not the waiter/waitress’ fault. The kitchen was visually disorganzed. At one point I witnessed an obvious “verbal disagreement” among 2 kitchen workers. I was getting ready to see punches thrown….. very unprofessional. We ordered a dragon roll app and 3 entrees a fourth being another dragon roll (my daughter wanted one as her entree) Not sure if that is what created all the confusion BUT (9pm reservation ) became a 2 1/2 hour ordeal. Our waiter kept going to the “kitchen wall” and nothing but the dragon roll was there (sat for quite some time-at one point we watched it get delivered to another table…..then it was brought back…..and sat a while longer. By the time we all were served our entrees a LONG TIME had passed. The frosting on the cake was when my oldest daughter (who had been coveting the creme brulee she had back in March 2012) was told the kitchen had stopped taking orders for the creme brulee as they were now out. Maybe if we hadn’t had to wait 2 hours for our meals???? Needless to say she was NOT HAPPY!!!

    As for food being salty….I found MOST of the meals we had were extremely salty…and we dined at several signatures. Not sure why the chefs feel the need to add so much salt to their dishes. Even the salted butter everywhere???

    Very disappointing to say the least!!!

  37. Georgeanne says:

    Sigh. I’ve been wanting to try some new places anyway, but this review and its comments have pretty much confirmed my decision to cancel our CG reservation in January. It’s just too much money to spend on something that might be terrible, which is disappointing because it was so worth it before! The fun part will be choosing a replacement: Citricos? Hoop de Doo? Artist Point?

  38. Nicole says:

    One item I recommend from the appetizers is the surf and turf. Simply amazing.

    The night I was there I had the oak filet of beef, which did not disappoint. I would definitely give it another try.

  39. Nicole says:

    One item I recommend from the appetizers is the surf and turf. Simply amazing. The marrow bone was long and perfectly cooked. It took all my might not to suck the last bits of marrow out caveman style – yes, it was that good. I also split the farmhouse salad with my husband and we found it to be very good, especially with the addition of the poached egg.

    I had the oak filet of beef, which did not disappoint.

    Our only concern on the night we dined was the noise. Wow. It was loud. We had a 5:30 pm seating and were seated at a window table near the door that takes you to the viewing platform. We had a stunning view of the Magic Kingdom and the surroundings. But we were also near two large tables of about 10. The noise from those tables and then the tables behind was incredible – I could swear the voices of people were bouncing off the ceiling. At one point, when I went to the restroom, I found myself sighing with relief at the quietness in the restroom.

    It was like being at a very busy bar or lounge, which I feel took away from the experience a little. Also, more than once we had small children running up to our table and squeezing behind my chair to look out of the window. Ultimately I solved the problem (after the third kid rammed my chair) by using an empty chair as a barricade.

    So while our meal was truly fantastic (loved the cucumber drink) the atmosphere was a bit too lively (loud) for an enjoyable dinner. We would definitely go back but would ask for a table in a quieter location (if that exists – I think they took away the wine room though.)

  40. Janet says:

    My husband and I dined at California Grille two times in October and found both times the service was extremely slow—it seems Disney has cut back on its wait staff, as my waiter was my bread and water person. It took 20 minutes to get a glass of water and rolls. The rolls were not warm and kind of hard. My husband has the scallop meal both times and loved it, I had the roasted squash ravs the first visit and they were served to me luke warm. I sent them back and after viewing the fireworks, they served both our meals to us nice and hot. The second visit I had the flatbread and it is excellent. I think overall the taste of the food we had was very good (except the cold and slightly hard rolls), but it does not warrant the price when you get such slow service. For the prices they charge no one should ever have a comment that they had slow service, cold food, or over or under seasoned food. I don’t think we will ever return and agree with a previous commenter—I think I will save my money for nicer dinners off of the Disney property.

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