Review: Dinner at The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

It’s been a while since we have taken in dinner at The Wave…of American Flavors. Time to take care of that right now!

The restaurant, located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, is truly a hidden gem.

This spot masquerades as an unassuming, run of the mill table-service restaurant, but they approach their menus and food sourcing a lot like the high-end signature restaurants on property do.

It’s well worth a visit for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; and it’s just a short walk or monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom!

Let’s take a look.

Atmosphere

Have you ever been to The Wave? If not, your first challenge is to find it! Head to the Contemporary Resort. If you’re monorailing over, you’ll land on the Fourth Floor Concourse, so take the escalators or elevator down to the first (ground) floor.

The Contemporary Lobby Level

The Contemporary Lobby Level

The restaurant occupies one back corner of the lobby. Head past the front desk to the right, and you’ll spy it. Look for the sign and the magic lighted tunnel to lead you on your way. :-)

The Wave Entrance

The Wave Entrance

Once inside, you’ll see that The Wave offers an interesting, futuristic-ocean vibe.

Check-in Counter

Podium

To the right, you’ll see this groovy lounge that always reminds me a little bit of a cruise ship. There are several of these along this back wall, flanking the bar.

Lounge Seating

Outta This World Lounge Seating

Everywhere in the dining room, you’ll see echoes of the “wave” motif. Here, though, it almost seems to echo amber waves of grain rather than something from the sea…

Dining Room

Dining Room

Well. Except for these vaguely jelly-fishy lights.

Ceiling Lanterns

Ceiling Lanterns

But interesting decor aside, there is something that you should really pay attention to at The Wave, and that’s the drink selection. The restaurant not only features some interesting signature cocktails, but they also offer New World wines exclusively — primarily screw-top (check out this post for more info on that) — as well as organic beers. It’s a great chance to try something new.

The Wave Bar

The Wave Bar

Seating is reasonably comfortable, although I prefer the padding of the banquettes to the straight-back chairs.

Wave Tables

Wave Tables and Banquette Seating

But with these tables situated rather closely, I usually opt for a table in the center of the room.

Table Seating

Table Seating

Of course, if I can snag one of these high backed, more private booths, I’ll take it!

Secluded Booths

Perfect Brunch Table at The Wave

Now that we’ve had a bit of a look around, let’s see what we enjoyed during our visit earlier this month.

Eats

The Wave is definitely one of the most market driven, non-signature spots that you’ll find at Walt Disney World. So know that while some things may be around during your visit, it’s likely that the dishes we feature may not be available for long. Menus, which feature local farms, change regularly.

To begin our review of the menu, we’ll take a look at Specialty Cocktails, Draft Beers, and Non-Alcoholic Specialties. In addition to a few Wave exclusive cocktails, we see some of the aforementioned Organic Beer options available on tap. Organic is a recurring theme here, as you see it pop up in the N/A choices as well.

Cocktails and Beer Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Cocktails and Beer Menu — Click to Enlarge

Wine lovers will find many options to choose from, both by the glass and the bottle. As previously noted, all of the selections are from New World spots — the United States, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. Previously, the restaurant featured almost exclusively Southern Hemisphere wines, but they seem to have expanded a bit northward.

Wine Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Wine Menu — Click to Enlarge

I went with a favorite varietal of mine, Riesling. This particular one was a Dry Riesling by Chateau Tanunda from Australia’s Barossa Valley. And it did happen to have a screw cap closure — a feature that was previously the hallmark of all Wave wines.

Chateau Yalumba Dry Riesling

Chateau Tanunda Dry Riesling

Onto the Main Menu! We immediately saw several items that piqued our interest.

Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Click to Enlarge

We began with The Wave’s complementary Bread Service, which included Butter with an ample sprinkle of Sea Salt.

Bread and Butter

Bread and Butter

For our first appetizer, we chose The Wave Cheese and Charcuterie Board, which features a combination of American Hand-Crafted Cheeses and Artisan Cured Meats. Accompaniments included Nuts (including almond powder), Grapes on the Vine, Fruit Preserves, Honey, and Toasted Baguette Rounds.

This was, of course, killer. Cheeses were Mt. Tam Brie from Cowgirl Creamery, Cabot cloth-bound Cheddar, and Smokey Blue — also from Cowgirl. The portions were generous (something you don’t see everywhere in Disney World when it comes to cheese plates), and I appreciated the lack of honeycomb with the honey. I know it’s pretty and fancy, but I LOVE honey with my cheese and I always end up picking chunks of wax out of my molars.

Cheese and Charcuterie

Cheese and Charcuterie

This app paired perfectly with my Riesling, too. Sitting there after a long day of park-hopping, it felt so good to relax with a glass of sweet-dry white and a paddle-full of cheese and meat.

But there was another interesting appetizer that we couldn’t pass up: Bacon and Eggs. Taking a cue from the breakfast favorite, this beautiful dish includes Maple-lacquered Pork Belly with Lake Meadow Naturals Perfect Egg and Tillamook Smoked Cheddar Grits.

OK, once you get past the pork belly and cheddar grits, I know what you’re going to ask — because I asked, too! “What’s a ‘perfect egg?'” It has to do with how it’s cooked…not how it’s, um, made. In this case, the “perfect egg” is basically a sous vide egg — cooked in a water bath to a perfect 143 degrees. This turns the yolk, basically, into a custard, and it’s enchanting. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Overall, this appetizer was pretty incredible. I hope it stays on the menu forever, because I WILL be having it again.

Bacon and Eggs

Bacon and Eggs

We soon turned our attention to our entrees. First up — the Braised Lamb Shank. The tender meat was served with Blue Cheese Polenta, Baby Carrots, and Butter-poached Turnips.

This was beautiful, and the meat was perfectly cooked. The dark, slightly fatty meat was fall-off-the-bone and had a truly indulgent texture. The flavor was gamey (I’m not a lamb fan), but if you love lamb, this is a must!

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

We also chose the Herb-Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin. The steak was served with fairly traditional sides, which included Caramelized Crimini Mushrooms, Garlic-Green Beans, Whipped Potato Purée, and Sauce Bordelaise.

Herb Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin

Herb Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin

This was PERFECT. The meat was perfectly cooked to my medium rare preference, and felt like BUTTAH. And the Bordelaise added richness and depth to the dish.

Herb Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin -- Up Close

Herb Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin — Up Close

We enjoyed our dishes and felt like something light would be the best way to go for dessert. The Wave takes a slightly different approach to their sweet endings; several of their options are presented as Flights, allowing you to sample from a trio of smaller desserts. Crème Brûlée is also available.

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Dessert Menu — Click to Enlarge

I liked the variety represented in the American Flavors Flight. During our visit, it included some really interesting flavors. Closest in the picture below is Coconut Panna Cotta with Passionfruit Drizzle and Passionfruit Boba. While I’m not normally a huge fan of panna cotta (aka milk jello), I thought the Passionfruit Boba were super flavorful.

American Flavors Flight Trio

American Flavors Flight Trio

The S’more Graham Cracker Cake with House-made Toasted Smokey Marshmallow is a grown-up take on a childhood favorite. I could easily have put away a jumbo sized one of these. The texture was spot on — almost like a fudge — with ample, buttery graham cracker crust at the base. I’m not a huge marshmallow fan, and the stickiness of this one just got in the way of me digging into the chocolate, but it completed the concept.

Smores Graham Cracker Cake

Smores Graham Cracker Cake

Finally, the Gluten-Friendly Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Mousse, Rum Roasted Pineapple, and Carrot Sorbet was…not the winner I’d expected it to be. With a mound of cream cheese mousse, I was expecting a flavor-packed bite of deliciousness, but this one fell flat for me in texture and taste.

Gluten Friendly Carrot Cake

Gluten Friendly Carrot Cake

If I get this dessert again, I’m asking for three s’mores — hold the marshmallows! ;-D

Overall

The Wave. I always have the same idea when I eat here: why don’t I eat here more often?? Sure, the decor, while fairly interesting (they did what they could with the windowless space), isn’t really much of a draw. But the food! It’s market-inspired, locally sourced when possible, and largely sustainable. But the best part it — it tastes amazing. And if you enjoy the study of wine or beer, there’s always something interesting to try here.

While we tend to consider The Wave mostly for breakfast as a quiet alternative to the party going on at Chef Mickey’s, don’t overlook The Wave when it comes to making your dinner plans. I don’t think you’ll go wrong, and even a last minute advance dining reservation is an option if your first choice spot is already booked.

Let me take a quick second to comment on the service here as well. I’ve posted several reviews here on DFB lately where I was simply unimpressed, if not shocked, with the bad service. My recent trip turned that around, and The Wave was a big part of it. I walked in for my dining reservation at 9:20pm…and the restaurant closed at 9:30. My server, Meaghan, was my best friend by the end of the meal. She was knowledgable, polite, interested in what we were doing — and just plain fun! I have to give a shout out to Chef Kimi, too, who took the time to come out of the kitchen to discuss the perfect egg with me, answering all of my questions. What a great way to end the evening!

So…The Wave. Yeah. Do it. Go there. It’s doesn’t carry the panache of a signature restaurant or the draw of a character meal, but it’s one of those quiet winners when you really need to relax after a big day.

Have you been to The Wave? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Comments

  1. Frank says

    Thx for the great review. We always stop here on our Monorail Pub Crawls..Usually ending up at the CA Grill for dinner. But we really need to try this restaurant for the food.
    We love the bar. Great service, great drinks.
    Frank

  2. says

    I really enjoyed the food when I ate here. I had the vegetarian curry which was very good and a nice vegetarian option! Only downside was our server was so slow. We waited over half an hour from the time we finished eating to just getting our check.

  3. Jess says

    We LOVE the Wave. Started going here 3 years ago, and it does not disappoint!! I stand by the Beef Tenderloin. This past November, we tried the chocolate flight for dessert. The chocolate creme brulee was pure perfection!!

  4. Sarah says

    As a first timer to Disney this past October I was pretty proud of myself for finding this place. My husband and I loved it. Our picky 6 year old, not so much but she did eat 2 desserts. I would go back again and again.

  5. Jeff says

    We ate at The Wave on New Years Day 2015 for the last meal of our trip. I can honestly say that it was the best meal that we had on our trip. As a party of 3 that was on the dining plan we were on the fence about ordering an appetizer before our meal (the cheese plate wasn’t on the menu) and our server offered to bring us the cheese plate that they offered for dessert for us to nibble on before our meal. It was this kind of service as well as the amazing food that will keep us coming back for more.

  6. Mark says

    We’ve eaten here and the food was good. Our let down was how the place felt. Not a lot different than scores of hotel restaurants we’ve eaten in over the years. Your pictures of the table seating really say it all – boring and plain. Not worth going out of your way for.

  7. Hannah says

    We have been here a couple times in the past, and loved it. The items we had are no longer on the menu which is too bad cuz it was really good. The organic beers are great also.

  8. Lynne says

    I am in love with the bacon and eggs. I got it a year and a half ago. I was sitting at the bar and the chef delivered it to me. He told me it was the best thing on the menu. I concur, it’s amazing!!!!!!!

  9. says

    First, thank you for being the one source I can always rely on to keep me updated for Disney Food. Despite visiting multiple times a year myself, there’s no way I have the time to revisit locations like you do, and I find your opinion (and pictures) invaluable when assisting my clients with their Disney dining plans.

    Second, I’m glad to see that The Wave is keeping the bar high! I love that they are continuing to update their menu and serving interesting (and high quality) dishes!

  10. Lori says

    Disney Fan says
    “Do you know why it’s called “Gluten-Friendly” not gluten free carrot cake?”

    A lot of restaurants are using the term gluten-friendly now. The reason is because the FDA recently defined the term “gluten-free” as meaning that all food labeled as gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. That’s a pretty low threshold and many restaurants who don’t have dedicated facilities to prep gluten-free can’t guarantee it so they use the term gluten-friendly instead because that term is unregulated. What it usually means is that the ingredients are technically gluten-free but it may have been prepared in facilities used to produce food that contains gluten. For example, gluten-friendly tortilla chips might be gluten-free corn chips but have been fried in the same oil as chicken nuggets with regular breading. Gluten-friendly is considered to be potentially dangerous for those with celiac disease but might be fine for those who are gluten intolerant.

  11. Kate says

    I love the wave! We always have dinner here the day we arrive at Disney! It sets off our vacation just perfectly! I almost always get the swordfish. Its the best piece of fish I have ever had!

  12. Jeff says

    Food is amazing.
    My wife samples the menu, I always have the ‘Wave Appetizer for 2′, but all for me.
    I agree with some that the restaurant atmosphere is plain.
    But that’s not a problem, because it has one of the coolest lounges anywhere within the ‘World’.
    GO TO THE WAVE!
    EAT (and drink) AT THE BAR!

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