California Grill, which underwent a nine-month refurbishment last year, opened back up in the fall. You’ll now find shades of yellow, blue, orange and red, along with dark wood and nods to famed Imagineer Mary Blair. The effect is both chic and comfortable at the same time. And of course, you’ll still enjoy that spectacular view.
With an entirely new look, it’s not surprising that the menu has changed a bit as well. While the menu has some incredible new additions (hello, banana fritters with salted caramel sauce, I’ll see you in two weeks), I’m going to focus here on two standbys that guests have grown to love over the past few decades: The filet and the pork loin.
The oak fired filet, once served with a barbeque teriyaki sauce and seasonal vegetables, is now served with a tomato risotto:
This creamy tomato sauce is a tiny bit sweet, based on the tomatoes used that day. I’ve had this dish twice since my first try in September and it’s always a little bit different, but it’s always delicious. The steak is tender and flavorful but I’m going to add one caveat: I’ve found that Disney restaurants usually overcook their steaks a tiny bit, regardless of the location. If you want your steak medium, go with medium rare and it will probably be perfect. At the very least, have a conversation with your server about how you like your steak. I’m not one to send food back, but at these prices, don’t hesitate if it’s not cooked to your liking.
Everyone’s favorite, the pork tenderloin with polenta, has changed a lot. You may recall that prior to the refurbishment, the tenderloin was served on a bed of poltenta with mushrooms in a red wine sauce. That’s still the idea behind the new “Pork Two Ways, but that portion is smaller. You’ll also be served a square of lacquered pork belly and this is the real star of the plate. Imagine a chunk of the best bacon you’ve ever had cooked slowly so that it’s crispy on the outside but with a good deal of the fat rendered out of it so all you have left is that meaty, bacony essence. Don’t worry though: There’s still a nice chunk of satisfying fat to bite into. It’s so wrong, no question. But trust me on this one and worry about it the next day.
The California Grill is my favorite Disney restaurant, hands down, but the menu had gotten a little tired. It’s nice to see that they’ve kept two of the most popular dishes on the menu, but made them better. Next time you’re in Walt Disney World, stop by and enjoy!
Insider tip: If you can’t get a reservation, walk up to California Grill’s check-in desk on the second floor of the Contemporary Resort and ask to sit in the lounge. This is best done at opening, since it fills up fast. You can get the full menu there and if you’re lucky, you’ll get Karl as your server. Not only is the best server I’ve had in any Disney restaurant, but his wife is the bartender, which means your drinks come fast and strong.