Last week I had the pleasure of attending a media preview for the newly re-imagined California Grill restaurant on the rooftop of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Chef Brian Piasecki dubbed this signature dining establishment, which opened in 1995, “the restaurant that started it all”.
I was relieved that the restaurant would finally be opening back up after the refurb. Considering that Cali Grill has the best sushi on Walt Disney World property and is our “go to” spot for spur-of-the-moment lounge dining.
After taking your own private elevator to the 15th floor, you are immediately greeted with one of the more impressive new installations…the wine wall.
The sweeping views of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot area make your dining experience that much more luxurious. Here’s sunset over Space Mountain and one of the new signature cocktails, the Sake Martini.
The new design of the restaurant feels fresh and Contemporary retro at the same time.
Now that we’ve taken a look around the new digs. Let’s dive into the eats! Keep in mind that this was a media event and all of these dishes were served buffet style or on tasting plates. Your entree will look slightly different.
World renowned sushi chef Yoshi has retired but the hand-rolled sushi is still spot-on!
California Combination Roll ($24) jumbo lump crab, avocado, cucumber and shrimp tempura.
Yuzu-marinated Sashimi ($24) yellowfin tuna, salmon, hamachi, snapper and wasabi oil
Spicy Kazan Roll ($26) crab, shrimp, scallops, tuna and fireball sauce
Pork Belly Nigiri ($22) house-cured pork, bacon and yuzu rice with spicy teriyaki
Tuna Four Ways ($26) poke, tartare, maki and nigiri
From the Soups, Salads and Appetizers portion of the new menu we got to try the Duck in all its Glory ($17) house-made sausage, rillettes, prosciutto, duck liver pate and cranberry compote. I’m not a fan of offal so I did not indulge.
Bread service has been changed over to lavender focaccia (pictured below) and whole wheat sourdough (not pictured) and is accompanied by decadent sea salted butter.
Moving on to the Entrees, we were served sample sizes of the 24-hour Short Rib “Filet” ($40) caramelized root vegetables, olive oil-potato puree and red wine butter. Everything about this dish was perfection.
Roasted Squash Ravioli ($32) root spinach, parsnips, petite herb salad, sage brown butter and 12-year balsamic. I found the flavor in this dish delicious. The ravioli itself was tad bit too al dente for me. I think that may have been due to the fact that the dish was served from a tasting station and may have had a chance to dry out a bit. I’m hoping that won’t be the case when the dish is ordered and served out of the main kitchen. I’ve had ravioli from California Grill in the past and it was smooth as silk.
Pacific Halibut ($42) parsnip silk, roasted heirloom beets, arugula, macadamia vinaigrette and beet syrup. This dish left me looking for some added flavor. While the fish was cooked properly, I felt it lacked seasoning in comparison to the other dishes and sushi I had sampled earlier on in the night. If you are looking for a mild fish that isn’t too “fishy”, then this might be the dish to order.
The stand out dish of the evening was the Pork Two Ways ($37) grilled tenderloin, goat cheese polenta, mushrooms, laquered belly and applesauce. The pork tenderloin makes a reappearance on the menu in this dish and brings along a tasty, tasty friend with the addition of the pork belly. If you don’t order this dish…I pity you.
If you still have room for dessert after all of this let me show you what kind of treats you’ll be in for.
Warm Homemade Fritters ($12) Banana-stuffed, Cinnamon-dusted Fritters with Toasted Caramel Marshmallows complemented with a Trio of Dipping Sauces. These were amazing and light. Reminded me of the coffee and doughnuts dessert at Jiko. Lemon Meringue Cheesecake ($12) Meyer Lemon-Mascarpone Cheesecake, Ctirus Cookie, and Charred Meringue Clouds. I’ve never been one to order cheesecake. This one had a surprise. The charred meringue cloud on top was rather hard like a cookie. The cheesecake was delicate. If you like cheesecake…go for it! Chocolate Pudding Cake ($13) Luscious Chocolate Cake with Nutella Filling, Meringue Kisses, and Mint Chantilly. Amazing! Rich! Decadent! A chocoholics dream! The final offerings were two components of the Sundae Sampler ($12) Unique and playful Sundaes with a nostalgic twist: Caramel Corn, Coke Float, and Strawberry and Basil. The strawberry basil was delicious and had a nice crumble on top. The caramel corn was cloyingly sweet. Your kiddos will probably love this playful dessert but it was a tad too sweet for my adult tastes. Have you made your ADR’s for the new California Grill? What do you plan on ordering?