Three Meals, One Family

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Recently, I finished my yearly family vacation at Walt Disney World.  It’s not generally a long trip, but it is a high paced roller coaster ride of pure park madness each year that I look forward to.  The kind of trip a neurotic Disney person like myself can really sink my teeth in to.  There are a couple of things that attract us into the parks during October each year.  For starters, October is prime time for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  We generally schedule a wine tasting or two, tackle the food booths, etc.  And then, both my stepdad’s birthday and my birthday happen to fall in October.  We generally have a “who gets the most free stuff from our birthday button contest” each trip.  Pretty sure my stepdad won by a cupcake this year.

However, after all the running and free treats, we like to sit down and have a nice dinner each night we’re there.  Without a doubt one of the biggest parts of any WDW trip is the food.  As a result, a large part of our planning is spent taking into account the needs and wants of our families and fellow travelers.  Then, we wake up early one morning roughly six months before our trip, and spend time calling the Disney Reservation Center or hopping online to book our meals.  First choices, second choices, etc.  And then suddenly, when all is said and done, you have your dining reservations.  Months later you find yourself in the parks, eating.

Kouzzina

For our first night we tried something a bit different then my parents are generally used to, mostly because we thought my brother would really enjoy it.  My wife, Cheryl, and I have eaten here a handful of times before.  And while I disagree with some of the menu choices – like the fact that that Parmesan cheese is a bad choice on top of Brussels sprouts – I’ve found that like all Disney restaurants they are willing to make modifications if you desire them.  The experience at Kouzzina has always been a mixed bag, though they have always taken great care of Cheryl’s dietary needs. This time was no different.

We had a 6:45pm reservation, and we arrived about 10 minutes before that.  Unfortunately we were made to wait until 7:20pm before being seated.  This would have been okay normally, except that we watched other parties of 5 or 6 come in after us and be seated before us.  So we got a bit irritable, especially my Stepdad.  When we were finally being seated he let everyone know how upset he was from the greeter, to the wait staff, to other people eating as we were led through the restaurant.  Ultimately the restaurant did the right thing and comped us the Kouzzina Sampler platter, but when they brought it to us, instead of being sized for two, it was sized for all five of us – that’s a lot of food, but it was nice because we could all taste anything we wanted.

Interestingly enough, there was a special event going on – we knew this because we were seated at a table between the outdoor seating door, and the event room.  Then, as we were picking up our menus a familiar looking chef walked by and into that room, it was Cat Cora herself in her restaurant working her magic that night.  While ordering, and eating, we watched her do some work in the kitchen, and move some plates into the back room.  After, she began moving from table to table throughout the restaurant.  Eventually working her way to our table – she was really sweet, nice and very friendly.  She even made a phone call to a friend for me (yes Cat Cora held my iPhone), and spent a number of minutes with us.

I had ordered the Wood-grilled Flank Steak medium as it was one of the main courses I’d not yet had before.  It was great, exactly what I needed after a day at Animal Kingdom.  The meat was crisp on the outside and super moist and soft on the inside – perfectly cooked to be honest.  My brother got a the whole fish, something I’d done on two prior occasions he loved it.  To be honest, if you can stomach a fish head being on your plate, it’s the best dish in the restaurant.  You can pick at it yourself, or have your waiter fillet it for you.  The pins (bones) are of the large, thick variety and easy to avoid, and don’t forget to pick out the cheek meat from the head – typically some of the best meat on any fish.

The Chef (no, not Cat I’m afraid), made Cheryl this fantastic bean, vegetable, and humus dish – the leftovers for this became my breakfast the next day after my morning run.  Spicy goodness.  My stepdad got the Trio which consists of Pastitisio (meat pie), Char-grilled Lamb Burger, and Cinnamon-stewed Chicken with Orzo.  He seemed to enjoy all but the chicken which he felt was sort of bland.  My mom had a bowl of Avgolemono (lemon chicken soup), and Spanakopita (spinach pie).  She loved the soup, but felt that the Spanakopita was a bit plain and a little dry.

Overall the meal started on a real low point, hit a nice high point with Cat Cora, and balanced out somewhere in between.  After talking with the family I’d say the restaurant probably came out to be a solid B rating for us.  Not spectacular, but not not terrible either – just somewhere in between.

Le Cellier

On our second day we went to an early dinner at Le Cellier.  My stepdad had been wanting to eat here for the past two years of trips prior, and there had been no reservations both times.  Cheryl managed to get a reservation this year, but it was for four because we made it before we knew my brother was coming down also.  However, there was no way to rescheduled it or change the number.  While they were turning away walk-ups left and right including this one guy who pleaded with them for a good 10 minutes, they gave me no problems with changing the reservation to five and we were seated quickly.

This was a somewhat exciting meal for me as the menu had recently changed, some items were replaced with similar items.  But like all meals at Le Cellier there was only one way to start, with Pretzel bread rolls.  We did polish off the initial mixed batch, and followed up another full batch of Pretzel bread only.  My brother went for one of the specialty beers, the Trois Pistoles – I tried some and it was pretty good.

For appetizers the Duck Three Ways has been replaced with Duck Meatballs served on puff pastries, which my brother ordered.  Each was topped with water cress and a diced tomato mixture along with some sauce. He noted that they were good except for being a bit salty.  My parents each got the Prince Edward Island Mussels (a dish I can’t eat at all) but it looked really good – the kind of mussel dish where your only utensils should be the shells they come in.

For our meals I ordered the new Maple and Pecan Crusted Salmon that is served on top of mushrooms and creamed corn mixture.  And as if I needed more cream in the meal I went with the creamed spinach as a side dish.  Usually I’m having steak in Le Cellier, so I’d never gotten this side dish before, but had always wanted to try it.  Since I’d had steak the night before, and I was getting fish, this was the time.  And while the salmon was good, but nothing special – the creamed spinach was a big win.  Can’t recommend it enough.

Cheryl got another amazing looking creation by the chef complete with corn, peas, asparagus, carrots, mushrooms, and fried shoe-string sweet potato.  I’m pretty sure she loved it because nothing came back to the room with us that night.

Everyone else ordered the fillet.  Usually this is the dish to get if you’re going to have steak at Le Cellier and haven’t before.  My brother also ordered a side of the asparagus – I was supposed to split this with him so he could have some of my creamed spinach.  At this point the meal took a nose dive.  While Cheryl and I had fantastic dishes, you could tell there were problems in the kitchen that night.

All three fillets, while coming out at the same time and all having been ordered the same way came out at three different levels of doneness.  Including my brothers being completely rare in the middle.  On top of that the risotto underneath was majorly over salted by the kitchen as was the asparagus.  The spears had so much salt on them that there was a layer of black charred particles on top – as I almost never salt my food it was inedible to me. I bailed on splitting the asparagus with my brother.

Desert helped redeem the meal as a whole.  My brother got the Mount Blanc Semifreddo which is like a dessert soup, not my thing, but he slurped it all down.  Cheryl got the sorbet as it was dairy free already.  My stepdad got the ever popular Chocolate “Moose”.  When it was set before him he said, “Did I order this?”  He wasn’t expecting the little moose head design on his plate.  I got Chocolate on Chocolate Whiskey Cake.  It was very rich, but also pure chocolate excellence – hard to finish but loved every bite.

This meal was not a complete disappointment, but my stepdad and brother were both expecting more out of the experience, and were a bit disappointed with their entrees.  My mother, Cheryl, and I sort of knew things had changed and understood what we were getting ourselves in to.  Family rating puts it around a B+.

The Wave

Since it’s opening The Wave has become one of my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World.  In the beginning the service had been very slow, but the food has always been consistent and great.  Now that the service has picked up and with its concept of sustainable foods, I suspect that in the years to come the popularity of this restaurant will increase dramatically.  I can only recommend that you try it.  And if you’ve been here before there have been some menu changes, so come on back.

Cheryl’s parents joined us at this meal, so we were able to get one of the larger U shaped booths, I’d only ever been at a table before so I enjoyed this a lot.  It gave me a different viewing perspective as I only had to look out, not around.

Let me tell you a secret, the multi-grain bread that they give you is literally my favorite bread in all of Walt Disney World.  To the point where if I could have one slice of any single bread every day for the rest of my life, I would pick this bread.  Combined with some butter & rock salt… excuse me I’m shvitzing.

In the “more stuff I can’t eat” department, Cheryl’s parents split an order of scallops for an appetizer while my parents split a combo scallops and crab cakes.  My brother also got the scallops and crab cakes.  They all enjoyed their appetizers immensely.  Cheryl and I split the avocado and citrus salad – if you like the chemical reaction between citrus and avocado you can’t go wrong with this salad.

Both of our moms ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffle.  The waffle is not actually a traditional waffle, though it is pressed in a Belgian waffle press, it’s actually potato.  Even so it’s still served with maple syrup on the side.  I had to try a piece of the waffle with the syrup, and found myself surprised at how good it tasted.  The moms both really enjoyed this dish.

Our dads also ordered the same dish, but they chose the Linguini which comes with littleneck clams and rock shrimp.  Cheryl’s parents are from Massachusetts originally (they live in Kissimmee), and that there were no complaints from her dad, I’d say this dish is a win.  No complaints came from my stepdad either, he just quietly ate his dinner.  He also had a side dish that he split with my mom – it looked like a scoop of mashed potatoes, but it’s actually a different root vegetable entirely (sorry don’t recall the name).  It had a really great flavor from the few forkfuls I had.

My brother and I both got the Lamb Shank, and I have to say it was fantastic.  I never once picked up my knife – it just flaked off the bone as I picked at it, but it wasn’t falling from the bone without that picking.  Generally this is the right consistency for a shank, you want to pull it from the oven just before the meat falls off the bone on it’s own – otherwise you get stew.  My brother also got the Wilted Rainbow Chard side dish – I didn’t try it, but he said it was great.

Chery’s special dish of the evening was rice pasta elbows with tofu and an assortment of vegetables. Again she seemed very satisfied with her meal.  And from the bites I had (I always like to try what she’s eating), it was very tasty indeed.

Initially I wasn’t going to get dessert, but the waitress said that both birthday boys were getting their desserts on the house.  How could I say no?  The deserts at the wave shift around constantly, but are generally three small bits of desert that are combined together into a tasting tray.  I chose a gelato trio of caramel corn, raspberry cheesecake, and rocky road.  I wish i could get a pint of the caramel corn.  My stepfather and brother each got trios, I don’t remember what they got specifically.  Cheryl got a bowl of Tofutti with a gluten free brownie and some strawberries.

Overwhelmingly my family felt this was the meal to remember for the trip.  They literally had no problems with anything that was put in front of them.  Everyone was both happy and content with their meals.  And they felt the restaurant was a fantastic value.  It was also voted that of the three, The Wave was the restaurant to book again for our next family trip to WDW.  Definite A from my family.

What about you? Have you ever eaten at Kouzzina, Le Cellier, or The Wave?  How was it?  Would you go back?  What did you like?  What did you hate?  What WDW restaurants do you and your family love to eat at? Eat healthy, be well.  Or is that the other way around.  I forget.

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Posted on November 11, 2010

16 Responses to “Three Meals, One Family”

  • Have tried all three restaurants and have pretty much the same reaction as you did. Kouzzina we loved, but did wait WAY too long to be seated. After that though, our meal was fabulous. Still waiting to be there when Cat is there. :) Le Cellier? I like it but again, most of the items I had were wayyyyy too salty. And The Wave? LOVE it every time I go. The bread is hands down the best on property, and I love their wine selection.

    • Had no clue ahead of time she’d be there. Because last I had read the F&W calendar her event was on 10/29 – no idea what the 10/28 event was. It was a good surprise.

      I’ve never seen the food at Le Cellier that salty before, it was way more than normal. Pretty sure some trainee went a little heavy handed there.

      I occasionally drink during meals, but didn’t for any of the above. I completely forgot to mention that my brother and parents both got wine flights at the Wave.

      Bread… *drool*

  • I ate at The Wave for the first time in September. It was absolutely the best meal of our vacation, without a doubt. We tried the pork tenderloin and the beef tenderloin, and they were both excellent, as were the sides. And yes, their bread is amazing! Like you and your family, our meal at The Wave was a definite A.

    • Awesome, I think you’ve not got me considering the beef tenderloin next time around. The chef that took care of us there is a real nice young guy named… I think… Jamal. He was very passionate about the food and his work – so it’s no wonder that it shines through the food.

  • I loved Kouzzinna, but I am jealous of your Cat Cora meet.

  • by Dana (aka DragynAlly) on November 14, 2010, at 11:31 pm EDT

    Shh… Don’t tell people about my Wave. It was so nice and calm and quiet and the food delicious. Look, now I’m talking about it! ;-)

  • Le Cellier – disappointing our family since 2007. :(

    • Yeah… I sort of knew in advance what I was getting in to. It was a bit worse that day then I was expecting though. This article sort of is where I am about Le Cellier specifically: http://blog.touringplans.com/2010/08/12/two-what-for-a-steak/

    • by Cheryl Stevens on November 23, 2010, at 11:34 pm EDT

      Now you have me a bit worried. I have tried for 5 visits to get reservations for Le Celler! Finally we have them for February and now I am not so sure.

      Have eaten at many Disney resorts and park restruants and Kuzzina’s was my favorite when it was Spoodles. Hands down Maryann was the best server I encountered in all 5 visits.

      I have stayed away from the Wave as we live on the East Coast of Canada known for it’s seafood. Don’t want to mess with perfection. Thanks for the advice.

      • If you haven’t been to Le Cellier, I say don’t sweat it and go. Plenty of people still love it, just I’m not one of them. There was a time where I really loved it – but it has been disappointing and inconsistent of late. Cheryl and I did have a really good lunch there with my friend Kelly and her dad.

        If you have been, I’d rethink it.

        The Wave, while having fish on the menu is more about the sustainable source of the foods it serves. I think Chef Jamar is a man who completely loves food, you can tell just from minutes of talking to him about it.

  • Haven’t eaten at Kouzzina’s, the menu doesn’t appeal to me. Le Cellier, in my opinion is way overated! The filet and cheddar cheese soup are good, but the restaurant is not worth 2 table service options, which it will be in 2011. The Wave is one of the best restaurants on Disney property. Our meal in September of beef filets was excellent. The meat was cooked exactly as requested. The Turf club at Saratoga Springs is also an underrated steakhouse. The food here is very good.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I think the only thing we disagree on is Kouzzina, the menu appeals to me, though there are items on it I’m not interested in. Due to my dietary limitations (Kosher Style), there’s a lot of things I’ll just avoid or modify when I get them.

      I honestly think that Le Cellier is going to 2 credits not for the food, but to control traffic flow some. Not sure it will help, but we shall see.

      I 100% agree about The Wave and Turf Club.

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