One of Disney’s most popular restaurants, California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, will be reopening on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 following a major makeover.
When guests step out of the elevator on the 15th floor, the panorama view is the first sensation. Whether watching the sun dip slowly over the Seven Seas Lagoon or the bird’s-eye perspective of the Magic Kingdom, diners know it’s going to be a memorable evening. “The wall of windows and the vast horizon reminded the interior designers of mid-century modern California residences high up on hilltops,” said Eric Jacobson, senior vice president of creative development, Walt Disney Imagineering.
“The prime position atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort really spoke to us,” Jacobson continued. Warm oranges and yellow hues inspired by the magical sunsets of both California and Florida are foundational colors. A touch of Disney from that era is incorporated into the carpet design reminiscent of the sketches of artist and Disney Legend Mary Blair, who created the character designs for Disney attractions such as It’s a Small World, and inspired the 100-foot-high colorful mosaic tile art on the fourth floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The large wine display guests see as they exit the elevator houses 1,600 bottles in a climate-controlled, state-of-the-art showcase. A focal piece at the entry is an oil painting of California’s Napa Valley by California landscape artist Ann McMillan. The onstage kitchen is all new, including space to hold the stack of wood for the wood-burning oven, “bringing organic nature into the space,” said Jacobson. The popular sushi bar has been expanded with new display cases.
Dining room highlights include two new communal tables, each seating 10, strategically positioned at the north end of the dining room for optimal fireworks viewing. The 10-foot teak tables get a touch of color from hot pink chairs with leather seats, a departure from the rest of the room with linen-draped tables and wooden chairs.
“California Grill always will be a place that’s creative, seasonal, sophisticated and fun,” said Chef de Cuisine Brian Piasecki. Chef Brian spent nearly a year perfecting a new menu “that’s all about the composed dish, tastes that are designed to complement each other” he said. For instance, Pacific halibut with parsnip silk, roasted heirloom beets, arugula, macadamia vinaigrette and beet syrup: “taste the silky puree, the salt-roasted beets, the delicate fish, crunchy macadamia nuts … together it’s a symphony,” said Chef Brian.
The new menu updates longtime favorites, such as Pork Two Ways, now grilled tenderloin and lacquered pork belly with goat cheese polenta and mushrooms. The oak-fired filet of beef is served with heirloom tomato risotto, marinated baby vine tomatoes and basil. Sonoma goat cheese ravioli returns in a tomato fennel broth with crispy shiitake mushrooms.
Popular sushi expands with a 12-course omakase menu that includes a tasting of the restaurant’s freshest ingredients. Omakase means “to entrust,” and there’s no menu. “You just let the chef prepare fresh sushi dishes for you, perfect for sushi fans who want to try new tastes,” said Chef Brian. “Seasonal dishes and traditional sushi are combined for an exceptional experience.”
Pastry Chef Jeff Barnes has a whole new menu of sweet endings, such as a light, refreshing Meyer Lemon cheesecake, chocolate pudding, and his favorite, the Sundae Sampler, a trio with a Coke float, strawberry sundae and caramel corn sundae. Barnes also created two new breads just for California Grill – a whole-grain sourdough and a lavender-infused focaccia made with fresh California lavender, olive oil and herbs.
Known for its solid wine list, California Grill, under the guidance of sommelier Michael Scheifler, has expanded selections, with about 250 wines on the list, 72 percent from California, another 22 percent Old World wines and six percent New World wines. “We’ll have something for every palate,” said Michael, “from a first-growth Bordeaux to a boutique wine from Oregon or South Africa, there are some really special, highly allocated bottles.”
There are 80 wines by the glass, expanded from 50 on the previous menu. More than 20 sommeliers on staff will make pairing easy. And signature cocktails are recipes created by staff mixologists, from a bold sake martini to a breezy cucumber drink and a San Fran Pisco Sour – and the California Grill is the only Disney restaurant that serves the creations.
California Grill opens at 5 p.m. daily for dinner. For more information or to book a reservation, visit www.disneyworld.com/dine or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463).
Look for coverage of California Grill’s reopening on the Sept. 12, 2013 episode of “Orlando Attractions Magazine – The Show“.