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 [Read more…]

UPDATE: New California Grill Menu with Photos

As we mentioned in our update on the California Grill renovation, this popular restaurant at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will be unveiling new dishes when it reopens.

California Grill is expected to start taking reservations within the next few weeks for its end of August opening. But right now, in an off-site kitchen, California Grill Chef Brian Piasecki is creating delicious new dishes!

In our earlier post, I reviewed the three-meat meatballs — a new addition to the appetizer menu at the restaurant. They were delicious…

Oak-Fired Three Meat Meatball.

“We’re really trying to think of creative new ways to use our wood-fired oven,” says Piasecki. Those meatballs are one way, with pork, lamb, and veal spiced with house-made harissa.

An oaky, crispy crust makes them perfect for dredging in Meyer-lemon-scented chimichurri with a side of marinated picholine olives and a little orzo. “Perfect for sharing,” says Piasecki.

Three Meatball Appetizer.

Sourcing as much as possible locally is a priority for Piasecki. The Cape Canaveral prawns are a great example. He roasts them head on in the wood-fired oven and serves with oven-roasted tomatoes, charred lemon, and a handful of peppery baby arugula. (And he’s using the shells to make prawn oil.)

Prawns.

He’s also creating house-made duck charcuterie – prosciutto, sausage, rillettes, butter, and mousse, all made with duck and served with [Read more…]

News! California Grill Menu and Epcot’s France Ice Cream Shop Menu Updates

On my visit to Walt Disney World I got some great updates on the California Grill renovation at Disney’s Contemporary Resort,  and on Epcot’s new L’Artisan des Glaces France Ice Cream Shop opening! And I just couldn’t wait to share them with you!

L’Artisan des Glaces — Epcot’s French Ice Cream Shop Updates

The new ice cream parlor in Epcot’s France pavilion — L’Artisan des Glaces — will open in mid-June! Recently, I spoke with a General Manager of Operations at the France pavilion and found out a few great updates about the menu!!

Ice Cream and Sorbet Flavors
They’ll have 10 ice creams and 6 sorbets available. Varieties will change regularly and be served in either one scoop or two scoops with a choice of a cone or cup.

Flavors will vary and rotate, but standards will include chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, and — this one sounds awesome! – profiterole!

Details and Flavors for Liquor-Topped Ice Creams
Remember, you can also top your ice cream with liquor! If you choose the liquor option, it will be served in the same types of martini glasses that the famous Grand Marnier and Grey Goose slushes are served in at the outside kiosk in France.

Liquor flavors are still being finalized, but will likely include Grand Marnier, Grey Goose vodka, a rum from Martinique, and other options.

California Grill Menu Updates

During an informative conversation with California Grill Chef Brian Piasecki this week, I uncovered these fun updates!

Chef Brian Piasecki at California Grill!

California Grill Opening Date
California Grill is still looking at a “late Summer” opening…likely September. Get ready to make your reservations as booking should be available in the next 4 weeks or so.

New! Omakase Menu
I asked the Chef if he foresaw any Chef’s Counter or Chef’s Table option at Cali Grill in the future. While he said there wouldn’t be a typical Chef’s Table option, California Grill will be offering an Omakase menu at the sushi bar.

“Omakase” means “I’ll leave it to you” in Japanese, and that’s exactly what diners will do when ordering this menu! They’ll receive a 12 course, chef-directed meal featuring modern interpretations of Japanese cuisine and sushi, progressing from lighter dishes and flavors to heavier and richer options in later courses.

The menu will change for this meal regularly, and that could mean that you get a completely different meal from night to night. The items will not be available on the regular menu and will only be available for those ordering the Omakase meal.

California Grill Menu Updates
We got a taste of a brand new menu item! The Oak-Fired Three Meat Meatball with [Read more…]

News! Temporary Closure in 2013 for Disney World’s California Grill

Chef Brian Piasecki reveals a few details of the upcoming renovation of the popular California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World!

This high-end restaurant offers exquisite cuisine and top-notch fireworks viewing, but we’ll have to find another signature spot to dine for the first half of 2013! According to the DisneyParks Blog, we finally have a solid date for the restaurant’s closure that we reported earlier this year.

California Grill will close in early 2013, and re-open in the late summer. Save us a spot at this window table! ;-)

Great view from California Grill

Menu and Other Updates

While the menu will undergo some tweaking, a fresh, seasonal menu with top-of-the-line sushi will continue to be the main focus of the kitchen.

The continued use of creative flavors and techniques will allow chefs to [Read more…]