The California Grill is a table service restaurant located on the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Hotel, one of the Magic Kingdom resorts. We had 8:00 reservations, and we arrived at 7:50. We were actually on the elevator with another couple that was eating there, but we’d been first, so had checked in first. We were told it would be a 25 minute wait, so we went out onto the observation deck and exchanged photo taking with another couple.
We were seated at 8:05, at the loveliest table we have ever gotten. We hadn’t requested a window seat, though in the past we had and had never gotten one. This time we hit the jackpot. Quick seating, gorgeous view. We couldn’t stop staring at the Magic Kingdom below. I felt giddy with gladness the entire time we were dining.
The couple that came out after us on the elevator was seated at 9:00, at the table right next to ours. I don’t know if their reservations were for later, or if they said they wanted to wait for a window table, but we were wondering whether, if they’d gotten off first, we’d have had to wait that long to be seated!
We shared the Yoshie’s deluxe sushi platter as our appetizer, and this more than made up for our disappointment at Tempura Kiku. It had both maki and nigiri on it. There were two pieces of a shrimp tempura roll, with just rice, sesame seeds, and a wrapper around a piece of fried shrimp and slices of strawberry. This was delicious. The crispiness of the shrimp paired so well with the sweet strawberry slices. There was a piece of salmon roll and a piece of tuna roll, and my husband ate both of these. I had the two pieces of California roll, which had lovely, thick chunks of Dungeness crab in it. No crab paste for this restaurant!
For the nigiri sushi, my husband ate the piece of cuttlefish, tuna, and a white fish that we forgot the name of. I had the shrimp, salmon, and yellowtail. The nigiri was amazing. The fish was so fresh, and so soft and tender that it just melted in the mouth. I would come to this restaurant just for the sushi. It is really the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life. Sadly, we again forgot to take a picture. We were slacking off…
For my entrée, I had an appetizer: the Brentwood corn bisque with cornbread croutons and chili crème fraiche. I was a bit disappointed with this soup, especially after the Brentwood corn cream soup at Victoria & Albert’s. This soup was thinner, less creamy, and it had a spiciness to it that I could have done without. I did not enjoy the cornbread croutons, so I did not eat these.
My husband had the Dayboat scallops with fennel pollen, warm escarole, Nueske’s bacon, gnocchi, and grain mustard seed jus. He said this was very good; the gnocchi were like a fine cornbread, with a lemon taste to them, and he said that the escarole tasted more like cabbage. The sauce was good, though the fennel was a little strong, and the scallops were cooked perfectly, just barely opaque in the center. He enjoyed this dish very much.
With our dinners, we each ordered a glass of wine. I had the 2004 Conundrum, which I had not had before. We’d enjoyed the 2003 Conundrum, but had not yet had the 2004, and this vintage was also very good. My husband had a glass of Mer Soleil Chardonnay, which is the only Chardonnay that we enjoy. We are both big Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, and when our server brought out the Mer Soleil, she said, “I call this the Cabernet Sauvignon of Chardonnays.” That would explain our enjoyment of this wine!
For dessert, I had the Chocolate, Chocolate, and Cherries dessert, which was the Valrhona chocolate cake with the molten center, served with a scoop of cherry ice cream. This was an excellent choice, and, as always, I only wished that I had been less full when dessert time rolled around. I didn’t have room to eat more than half of this, but I enjoyed it very much.
The cake itself was lovely, with the hot, melted chocolate center. The cherry ice cream was my big surprise, because it was almost like a very creamy sorbet. It was much fruitier than regular ice cream, but much creamier than a sorbet, if that makes any sense. The cold, fruity taste of the cherry ice cream paired incredibly well with the rich, hot chocolate cake. We’ve had this dish in its several variations, and we always both enjoy it immensely.
My husband had a cheese platter for his dessert. This consisted of three cheeses: an Abbaye de Beloc (a French sheep’s milk), an O’Banon (a goat’s cheese from Indiana which was mild, but with an odd taste to it), and a Crater Lake Blue. The Crater Lake Blue was very salty, and we’d run to the bottom of our bottled water. The server hadn’t brought out regular water, and so my husband had some trouble swallowing this salty cheese. Each cheese had something that paired with it, like a fig gelee, pears, etc.
After the fireworks, a family we’d spoken to earlier at the Tower of Terror was seated at a table near us. They had been out on the observation deck, watching the fireworks, and when they were seated, they called the manager Lee over. We couldn’t hear except in snatches (yes, I confess that I was curious), but something bad had apparently happened to them on the observation deck. They were pointing to and describing another customer, a woman wearing a white dress and a sweater. The woman at the table next to this family got up from her table and told the manager, “It’s true. I saw her do it,” and also pointed to this same woman.
Whatever it was, the manager was profuse in his apologies, and kept saying, “I’m very sorry that this happened to you at our restaurant.”
We were curious, but never found out what had happened. Since people at Disney World generally behave around fireworks the way still-single-at-30 ex-cheerleaders do around the bridal bouquet toss, we can only assume it was some similar obnoxiousness.
The other interesting thing that we noticed here was that people were actually leaving and freeing up tables before the fireworks started. We’ve been here before, and usually everyone camps out until after the fireworks – not so this time. Several tables around us, including two window tables, got up and left 20-60 minutes before fireworks began. The table right by ours had a father and two French boys, and they were seated right before we were. They ordered, ate quickly, practically shoveling the food into their mouths, and then left 20 minutes before the fireworks began.
We just remarked upon this, as usually the pattern is different. We’ve had later dinner reservations and have had to wait around 45 minutes, until after the fireworks were over, for someone to leave. It was nice to see that people were leaving when dinner was over, instead of camping out.