After roughly a month of soft openings, Kouzzina by Cat Cora held its grand opening today (Sept. 17, 2009) at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. The restaurant’s menu features Greek and Mediterranean cuisine inspired by Cora’s own Greek heritage.
Cora is best known for her role as one of the Iron Chefs on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” television show. It was also recently announced at Disney’s D23 Expo that Cora will be starring in an online cooking show with The Muppets.
In attendance at the grand opening were Cora’s parents as well as president of worldwide operations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Al Weiss. Here is a video of the grand opening:
And our full unedited one-on-one interview with chef Cat Cora:
Today, we were treated to a number of offerings from the Kouzzina menu:
Spiro’s Greek Salad is named after Cat Cora’s father and features vine-ripened tomatoes, arugula, cucumbers, red onions, Kalamata olives, and Feta cheese. The salad is standard Greek fare but prepared with the freshest of ingredients, placing it high above your average salad.
Kouzzina’s spanakopita includes traditional phyllo pie of spinach, Feta, leeks, and dill. The phyllo was perfectly crispy while the center was filled with flavor.
The first entree that made it to the table was Cora’s take on pastitsio, which could be thought of as a lasagna served as a pot pie. It contains bucatini pasta, cinnamon-stewed meat sauce, and Bechamel sauce. It’s a very hearty dish, so don’t let its seemingly small size fool you. The meat sauce is thick but sweet.
The oak-grilled lamb burgers (spotlighted in the video above) were my personal favorite of the bunch. The burgers are a twist on the traditional gyro, substituting a freshly-baked onion roll for pita. Be warned: the lamb burgers are spicy! Their flavor is fantastic and the tsatsiki sauce helps calm the heat a bit but if you don’t like spicy food, you may want to skip this dish. Then again, I generally don’t like spicy food and I ate the whole thing.
I don’t eat seafood, so I can’t personally comment on the Fisherman’s Stew, which consisted of scallops, seasonal fish, shellfish, fennel, grilled bread, and Ouzo butter. I asked a woman at my table how it was and she said it was very good, so you’ll have to take her word for it.
Cinnamon made a second appearance in Kouzzina’s Cinnamon Stewed Chicken with tomatoes, herbed orzo, and Mizithra cheese. The chicken was moist and the sauce had a light, but still present, flavor, but I found the orzo to be ordinary. The Mizithra cheese made a great topping to the dish, so much so that when Cora’s mom stopped by our table, she sampled a few pieces off of my plate.
Side dishes served today included sauteed brussels sprouts with capers and lemon and oven-baked gigantes beans with tomato sauce and olive oil. I had never eaten brussels sprouts before, but have certainly heard plenty of nasty things about them. After today, I don’t see what the big deal is. The brussels sprouts served at Kouzzina have a wonderfully full and hearty flavor to them, reminding me of freshly grilled vegetables. I would definitely recommend them.
For dessert, we were served the Trio Sampler, which included chocolate Budino cake, Baklava, and Greek-style yogurt sorbet. With chef Cat Cora coming around to check on our meals and a trio of desserts sitting in front of me, it was during this course that I felt like I was a judge on “Iron Chef America.” For this course, I would have given Cora nothing but the highest score as all three desserts were perfectly prepared – and the presentation was wonderful too. The small glass of syrup and fresh fruit was to be poured over the yogurt sorbet, forming an incredibly sweet, but not overpowering combination. The Budino cake was thick and firm but also moist, like a perfectly cooked brownie but with a much richer flavor. The baklava was chewy, in a good way, and topped with plenty of sticky honey.
We were also served an iced drink made of coffee, milk, and sugar. Since I don’t drink coffee, one sip of this drink was more than enough for me. The coffee flavor was very strong and not my cup of tea – er, coffee.
Throughout the day, a trio of musicians played Greek music and Cora, her family, and even the restaurant staff hit the floor in front of the open kitchen:
When I eat at Kouzzina again, I will definitely be ordering the lamb burgers with a side of brussels sprouts and a trio sampler to finish it off. The rest of the dishes were good, but these three items were truly great and nothing short of what I expected out of a famous chef that I’ve been watching on television for years.
Cora says she’ll be returning to Kouzzina periodically to check in and I hope to have a chance to meet her again and congratulate her on a successful new restaurant at Walt Disney World.
[smugmug url=”http://photos.attractiondev.wpengine.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=9667717_zPJvH&format=rss200″ title=”Photos%20from%20the%20grand%20opening%20of%20Kouzzina%20by%20Cat%20Cora” imagecount=”100″ start=”1″ num=”20″ thumbsize=”Th” link=”lightbox” captions=”false” sort=”true” window=”true” smugmug=”true” size=”L”]