Review: California Grill

Last year, California Grill underwent a 9-month refurbishment. The restaurant received a face-lift and menu overhaul. It’s more sophisticated than ever!

Ambiance

California Grill sit high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, on the 15th floor. Guest check-in is on the 2nd floor and are escorted on the elevator to the restaurant. As guests exit the elevator they see a massive wine case. The restaurant features more than 300 wines!

Wine case - California Grill

Massive wine case of over 300 wines

California Grill bar

The bar is a great place to grab a drink before or after dining

California Grill bar tables

Seating is available in a lounge area near the bar

The bar is the first thing you’ll see entering the restaurant. The bar is full service and guests can take a seating nearby and enjoy a glass of wine or cocktails while waiting for their table.

California Grill dining room

California Grill dining room

California Grill dining room

The California Grill dining room overlooks Magic Kingdom

California Grill - lighting fixtures

Modern yet vintage lighting fixtures

The restaurant has a very warm feel with rich reds, yellow and oranges. The lighting fixtures are modern yet 70s vintage. They add warm light to the restaurant, much better than the previous design. For large parties, there are long wooden tables.

It overlooks the Seven Seas Lagoon and offers guests an amazing view of Magic Kingdom. It’s the perfect place to view Wishes, Magic Kingdom’s nighttime fireworks! You might even get lucky and have a table next to the window and get to view the fireworks without leaving your seat. For guests who aren’t seated by the window and want a better view, step outside and watch from the breezeway.

California Grill long tables

Large parties can be seating at long tables

California Grill kitchen

California Grill features an open-air kitchen

There is seating located around the open-air kitchen. Guests seating here will have an up-close look at the food being prepared. That truly is a dinner and show!

California Grill table for 4

California Grill table for four

The majority of tables seat two to four guests and are covered with white linens. All of the tables are already set with silverware, wine and water glasses, bread plate and a beautiful linen napkin with California Grill embroidered.

Menu

Chef Brian Piasecki created this menu to take advantage of fresh, seasonal produce, fish and meats. You’ll see this philosophy carried throughout the menu. The sushi menu, created by sushi chef Yoshie, is fantastic. After looking at you could decide to just skip the rest of the menu after looking at it.

California Grill napkin

California Grill napkin

Here is a look at some of the menu items offered:

Appetizers

Three-Meat Signature Meatballs – Piquillo pepper and Parmesan grits, eggplant piperade and tiny basil

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli – Tomato-fennel broth, crispy mushrooms, tiny basil and Benziger Estate olive oil

Sushi

Tuna Four Ways – Poke, tartare, maki and nigiri

Dragon Roll – Spicy and tataki tuna, shrimp tempura, bell pepper, avocado and chili-soy glaze

Entrees

Pork Two Ways – Grilled tenderloin, goat cheese polenta, mushrooms, lacquered belly and applesauce

Lamb Porterhouse – Lemon-roasted artichokes, fregola, macorna almonds and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette

Spanish Seafood Pilaf – Lobster, clams, gulf shrimp, scallops, chorizo picante and saffron-rice

Desserts

Sundae Sampler – Frangelico toffee, reverse root beer float and “banana split”

Seasonal Tasting – Sampling of a variety of desserts made specially for the season

The entire menu can be viewed here. You’ll find the appetizers, soup, salads, sushi, entrees, desserts, kids menus and some of the cocktails and beers.

Food and Drink

Fresh bread - California Grill

Fresh bread

Butter seasoned with salt - California Grill

Butter seasoned with salt

The meal starts off with a variety of fresh, house-made breads. It’s accompanied with unsalted butter that’s garnished with sea salt.

Oven-dried Tomato Flatbread - California Grill

Oven-dried Tomato Flatbread

We started off our meal with the oven-dried tomato flatbread. The flatbread is topped with beefsteak tomatoes, mozzarella di Bufala, fresh tiny basil and aged balsamic vinaigrette (13). This was amazing! The tomatoes had a lot of flavor the the mozzarella di Bufala was so fresh. It was so good it’s going to be difficult to try something different next time.

Oak-fired Filet of Beef - California Grill

Oak-fired Filet of Beef

Oak-fired Filet of Beef - California Grill

Oak-fired Filet of Beef cooked perfectly!

Steak lover will be thrilled by the oak-fired filet of beef. The accompaniments change seasonally. This one had heirloom tomato risotto, baby vine tomatoes with petite basil (49). We ordered the steak medium rare and it was prepared perfectly. If you are very particular with the preparation of your steak, no worries. They are spot on!

Jumbo Scallops  - California Grill

Scallops

Jumbo Scallops - California Grill

Perfectly cooked jumbo scallops!

The menu has a selection of seafood choices and we went with Georges Bank scallops. They were perfectly seared and served with gnocchi, sauteed brussel spouts and topped with Parmesan foam (43). Brussel sprouts have a strong flavor and can sometimes overpower the dish… these did not. They paired nicely with the scallops.

Chef's Selection Cheese Board - California Grill

Chef’s Selection Cheese Board

Seasonal Tasting - California Grill

Seasonal Tasting dessert

We tried the chef’s selection cheese board which came with five different types of cheese with accompaniments (20). The cheese board is available as a dessert or as an appetizer. We love cheese boards so we try them when we see them on the menu. The selection of cheese was great and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys gourmet cheeses. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, it’s definitely the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to desserts!

Our other dessert was the seasonal tasting, which comes with small portions of a variety of desserts with seasonal ingredients. The one pictured is the apple cupcake with cream cheese streusel, warm spiced cider served with a sugar swizzle stick, peanut butter-caramel apple brulee and apple turnover with compote (12). My advice is if you are a fan of the seasonal ingredient, as with this one – apples, then choose this dessert. If not, you’ll enjoy one of the other desserts much more. The dessert was good but I was appled out by the end.

Service

I’ve always been very pleased with the staff at California Grill. Being a Signature Dining restaurant the service should be better than your average table service location. However, on this particular occasion, the service was just okay. I don’t know if he was having a bad night, new to the restaurant or what, but the service wasn’t up to what you normally get at one of these fine Disney restaurants.

Coffee - California Grill

You must have coffee or tea with dessert!

Sugar cubes and sugar substitute - California Grill

Sugar cubes and sugar substitute

Here is an example of the service not being great. When we ordered our desserts we also ordered coffee with cream and sugar. Unfortunately, the dessert arrived before the coffees. If the restaurant was busy, I’d say that was the reason, but it wasn’t. We weren’t seated until almost 9 pm and by the time we ordered dessert, the restaurant was pretty empty.

Overall

Fireworks from California Grill

There is an amazing view of Wishes! from California Grill

Overall the restaurant was great! The updated menu and restaurant decor are fantastic. I’ll definitely be returning soon than later.

For guests unfamiliar with the restaurant, it’s a Signature Dining restaurant (or fine dining). It does have a dress code of business casual The Disney Dining Plan and Tables in Wonderland are accepted. Dining hours are 5 pm to 10 pm, daily.

Do you enjoying dining at California Grill? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

2 Thoughts on “Review: California Grill

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