A flair of Mary Blair that is. Cheap rhyme aside, I was so pleasantly surprised by the newly re-imagined California Grill, which pays tribute to the art and artistry of Disney Legend Mary Blair, famous for the Grand Canyon Concourse mosaics found within Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The color scheme on the upholstery, carpets, art and more all honor the original colors found when the Contemporary first opened. It is a wonderful mix of mid-century modern aesthetics, with sleek state-of-the art accompaniments found throughout the restaurant.
The now floor-to-ceiling windows offer even more incredible views than before, streaming in light from all around. On the night we arrived, a thunderstorm had just ended, providing an incredible rainbow right over the resort. When we got upstairs, we could see not only the gorgeous sunset but also the storm in the distance; an unrivaled panorama of Walt Disney World Resort scenery.
Mixed in with the regular tables and booths are now long tables which seat 10 over on one side of the restaurant. There is also seating at the bar, where a special sushi menu is offered for guests seated at that location. The private rooms are also still available as well and offer even more tributes to Mary Blair with reproductions of her artwork. I just can’t express enough how wonderful it is to see Mary Blair and her work in such a special location.
The food we sampled was incredible, from the Pacific halibut with parsnip silk, roasted heirloom beets, arugula, macadamia vinaigrette and beet syrup, to updates of longtime favorites, such as Pork Two Ways, now grilled tenderloin and lacquered pork belly with goat cheese polenta and mushrooms – my favorite! The oak-fired filet of beef is served with heirloom tomato risotto, marinated baby vine tomatoes and basil was just perfect. Sonoma goat cheese ravioli returns in a tomato fennel broth with crispy shiitake mushrooms.
And don’t forget the sushi! The Grill’s popular sushi menu expands with a 12-course omakase menu that includes a tasting of the restaurant’s freshest ingredients (not just fish and seafood). 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,” says Executive Chef Brian Piasecki. The menu might include ama ebi (sweet shrimp) tempura, lobster sashimi, crunchy Japanese bone marrow with sesame beef tartare and red onion marmalade, and spicy-crusted oysters.
I cannot wait to get back and try full-size portions of some of these, at which time I’ll offer a full review of my experience. The mix of side items and the presentation really live up to California Grill’s existing reputation – and surpass it. This will now be a must-visit for a special occasion dining experience, date night, or just a wonderful gourmet meal. While I love trying new things, I’m not a food reviewer, and certainly didn’t have the old California Grill menu memorized, so for a ‘first-timer’ so to speak, I was really satisfied and impressed with what I tried. Hopefully based on the photos below and descriptions of ingredients above, you can decide if the California Grill will work for you and your guests. Dessert descriptions are listed in the gallery below.
The wall of wine immediately catches your eye when you step off the elevator; 1600 bottles on display, with 250 wines on the list, 80 by the glass. There also are 10 varieties of sake, eight kinds of craft beers and ciders, and signature cocktails created just for California Grill, such as the sake martini, which I sampled and really enjoyed. I am not usually a fan of sake on its own, but this was a light, sweet, tropical drink and a great way to enjoy sake.
For more scenes from the new California Grill, see the gallery below, and click to enlarge any photos:
The refurbished California Grill has instantly become my favorite new spot in all of Walt Disney World. Perfect views and ambiance, wonderful Mary Blair touches for Disney fans to appreciate, and wonderful food to complement the entire experience. Truly a jewel in the Walt Disney World crown. I hope to get back sooner than later! Speaking of, reservations are now available (if you can find any) to book at 407-WDW-DINE, online or using the My Disney Experience app.
What do you think of the new look?
Disclaimer: I was invited to preview the new California Grill and its food at a press event. I was not asked or required to post in any way and my opinions above are my own. It’s just THAT good!