When we arrived at the check-in desk downstairs in the Contemporary, we asked the hostess whether it would be possible to wait for a window seat. She said that she would see what she could do, and she radioed upstairs to let them know that a couple at Disney for their anniversary was requesting a window seat. She then warned us that it might be a bit of a wait and sent us up on the elevator.
When we arrived on the 15th floor, we wandered out to the outside walkway, fully expecting to spend quite a while out there. The walkway had a good amount of people on it, waiting for a table, so we assumed that it would take a bit of time to get a table. Wrong! Within 5 minutes our pager was buzzing, and we were off, to be seated at the most glorious table in all of Christendom. Coincidentally enough, this was the same table we were given last year, so perhaps it’s now a tradition for us?
To show you just how magnificent this table was, I’ll post two photos of our view:
Both of these photos were taken from the table. Fantabulous, hmm?
Now, I have to give a disclaimer about the photos that will accompany this review. They kind of stink. My husband said that the ISO was set wrong (?), and so they look extremely funky. But you will get the idea, at least, of the presentation & the quantity of the portions.
For our appetizer, we began with Yoshi’s Deluxe Sushi Platter. We both love sushi! And we both really love the California Grill sushi, which is always inventive and always fresh. For example, one of the items on the sushi platter was a roll with fried shrimp inside. My husband’s fried shrimp roll had a piece of strawberry in it, which we’ve had before, and we both love. The tart, juicy strawberry contrasts so nicely with the warm, crispy-coated shrimp. Heavenly… My fried shrimp roll had pieces of melon inside it, which was a nice surprise. Again, the crispness of the melon went very well with the tempura fried shrimp.
The rest of the items were fairly standard rolls & nigiri, some with slight twists like the fish with lemon zest over it. All of the pieces of fish were tender, soft, and very, very delicious. We enjoyed this dish was much as we usually do.
For his entree, my husband elected to go with the BLT flatbread. He was saving room for the cheese platter here! He really liked the bacon on it; it was good quality bacon and was quite thick. He wished that the cheese had had a little more flavor to it, but the crust was nice; crispy and well-seasoned. The lettuce was interesting, because he wasn’t used to lettuce on a pizza, but he liked it. He thought that the tomatoes were a bit juicy, and he wished that they’d been drained a little better. Overall, he enjoyed this selection, though he couldn’t finish it. By the end, the richness of the cheese & the heaviness of the bacon were too much for him.
My entree was another sushi platter: the Yellowfin Tuna Three Ways, poki, tataki, and tartare. The poki was just large-ish, competely raw chunks of tuna, topped with something that was funky looking and bright green. I don’t know what it was, but I enjoyed it! Each of the three items was topped with a different color caviar. The poki had red caviar; the tataki had green caviar; the tartare had yellow caviar.
The tataki was very nice, though I have to give the edge to the Flying Fish’s version of this. The outside was lightly seared, and the inside was nice and rare, but I had been really wowed by the Flying Fish chef’s use of interesting spices on the crust of their tuna tataki. In comparison, this one was a bit bland.
I saved the tuna tartare for last, because it’s usually my favorite, but this one, while good, was actually a touch too spicy for my taste. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t tolerate heat well, so a normal person may find the level of heat to be just right. The small cubes of mango mixed in with the tuna were quite nice, and I enjoyed their fruitiness. It complemented the tuna very well.
For dessert, we couldn’t wait for the cheese plate! The cheeses were, from first to last:
- Coulommiers- a bit mroe flavor than a brie; liked
- Lionza- mild
- Flixer- good to see you, old friend! Thanks for the Flying Fish memories
- Clochette- good, not too goaty
- Hubbardston Blue- not memorable, at least at this point
We took our time eating these cheeses, savoring each one; I liked them all. The cheese plate at the California Grill costs $2 more than the one at the Flying Fish, and we didn’t know why that was, except possibly because the California Grill serves larger portions of cheese. We were quite pleased with the size of the cheese wedges here.
Our server was so kind as to bring us out a slice of possibly the richest chocolate cake I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. We couldn’t quite finish it, but we made a good effort! It was lovely, with a thick, cold, extremely rich chocolate ganache layered between the slices of soft, moist chocolate cake.
For those interested in dining at the California Grill, the dress code is business casual. Shorts and tank tops are out of place here. Sushi platters average $20, and entrees range from $23-35. The flatbreads are a relatively affordable entree alternative with a $10-$14 price tag.
Many people come solely for the view, which is a mistake. Odds are against ever being given a window seat, especially around fireworks time. For as many times as we’ve been to the California Grill, we’ve only gotten a window seat twice: our past two visits. If you don’t have a window seat, forget about trying to view from within the restaurant. People at the bar will shout at you to move and crouch down, even if you happen to be barely 5 feet tall (I know this from experience!). And people on the viewing walkway will shove you around. Apparently fireworks at Disney are the equivalent of a shipment of food to the Sudan. People are ready to hurt you, just to get a better fireworks view. It’s a scary thing.
But the food alone is worth visiting for. In many ways, I wish they’d move Chef Mickey’s up here and just create a Lord of the Flies-esque pandemonium on Floor 15, while letting those of us who enjoy good cuisine quietly eat our California Grill meals, sans shoving or yelling, in a less view-centered arena.