Against my better judgement, I booked a reservation for Le Cellier on July 4th at 7:10pm. I actually made the reservation just two days before – something unheard of prior to the restaurant’s shift to a “signature dining experience.”
Apparently a blurry photo of both sides of the Spaceship Earth queue full. As one might expect, Epcot was officially “not recommended” with the guaranteed crowds for Independence Day. Although Touring Plans actually had Magic Kingdom as their only “Best Park” for July 4th. A park that had a Phase 2 closure at 11am. That was elevated to a Phase 3 closure at 4pm. And didn’t reopen until 8:15pm. This DIS thread has some amusing responses to the recommendation. My favorite is the person who suggests that they may have overlooked the fact July 4th is a national holiday.
Disneyland’s 50th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room merchandise has rolled out around Disney World, including the Art of Disney store at Epcot (on the right after you pass the big golf ball), the Cinema at Magic Kingdom (about half way up Main Street on the right), and the Polynesian’s gift shop, among others.
This is the original angle of the picture. Adobe Lightroom 5’s “perspective correction” straightened it out as you see in the picture above with one click. Pretty neat.
I own virtually no Disney merchandise, but when I saw these ceramic cups, I knew I’d be picking them up. At $39.99 they’re expensive, but well made. The shorter, fatter one is 10x cuter (in my opinion) and also holds more liquid.
Canada is one of the more glossed over World Showcase Pavilions. Perhaps the only one skipped over more often is Morocco.
There is not a whole lot to do here – Oh Canada is the Circle 360 show narrated by Martin Short.
The store offers mostly stuffed animals, but they do have bottles of Crown Royal and maple syrup. And you might run into the cast member calling the restaurant “Luh Selleeair:”
Taping a stuffed animal head to your wall seems like a very Canadian thing to do.
And moose onesie pajamas.
Once the most popular restaurant on property, and one of the most difficult reservations to snag, Le Cellier has fallen from grace with a lot of visitors due to increased costs and the switchover to an all-day menu that costs two table service credits on the Dining Plan. Gone are the days of being able to pop in for lunch for an outstanding burger and a couple Unibroue drafts for not a whole lot more than you’d pay for a lousy burger from Liberty Inn.
If you’re looking at a steak, you can’t get out of the restaurant for less than 40 bucks.
The restaurant sits underneath the Hotel Frontenac and is themed to (YOU GUESSED IT) a wine cellar.
Check-in is rather mundane. You’ll sit or stand here waiting for your name to be called. Walk-ins are almost always turned away, but you may be able to walk up during less popular meal times – say 3:30pm. They don’t open until 12pm, but you may be able to get in at that time too. Or just make a reservation – they should be available for most dates just a few days out.
The menu is presented in-restaurant in what appears to be a tablet or electronic device of some kind, but is actually just a paper menu against a light. I wish San Angel would do the same. More menu:
Unibroue is one of the best breweries on the planet and Trois Pistoles (twaw pistolee) on draft is a real treat. Considering bottle pricing at the store, the upcharge is less than your typical Disney restaurant. A 750ml bottle of the Grand Reserve 17 would run you $12 – $15 at the store, compared to $17 at the restaurant. And at 25.4 ounces and 10% ABV, you’re getting about four Budweisers worth of alcohol.
Pictures aren’t great, but should be more or less readable.
The restaurant is not particularly well lit and the two-top tables are quite small. Excuses, excuses.
Another reason for the difficulty securing reservations is the relatively small size of the restaurant.
But they pack ’em in tight. Lisa’s arm is just about six inches away from the chair at the next door table. I’m not real sure what the deal was, but the family sitting next to us stared at us the entire time we were there, which was kind of weird. Maybe I’m just that good looking.
This $9 bowl of Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup – made with Moosehead Beer, “Nueskie’s” Applewood Smoked Bacon is the most popular item on the menu. It is not a particularly large portion for the money, but it’s also quite decadent – creamy and cheesy with a distinct bacon flavor.
Here’s the recipe if you’d like to replicate it at home. It’s also served during the Food and Wine Festival in a tiny little cup for around $3. You get about three bites for that.
Your cheese soup is best used as a dip for the complimentary pretzel bread. The other two rolls are forgettable compared to the deliciousness that is pretzel bread. Lisa started with a most unbloggable glass of $13 North x Northwest cabernet. They were out of the Kuleto Estate Native Son that was listed as being paired with the Filet Mignon. Either way, it tasted like wine.
Deeming the $9 Blueberry Ice Wine Martini – Iceberg Vodka, Chateau des Charmes Icewine, and Muddled Blueberry bloggable, I went ahead and ordered one. Speaking of the Food and Wine Festival, if you want a look at some of the most upset people on Disney property, hang out at the Canada booth where they serve icewine. For around $8, you get about an ounce of ice wine. Anyway, the glass was presented tableside with the blueberrys on the bottom and the server shook the cocktail at the table, which may or may not be a nice touch. The Martini was good – sweet, but not in an overpowering way. It was not particularly boozy so it may be a good choice for someone looking to imbibe without going straight for the Bacardi 151 shots.
Speaking of cocktails, a number of the choices are on your left as you’re walked to your table.
This is Canada in a painting.
Lisa ordered the $44 “Le Cellier” Mushroom Filet Mignon – AAA Canadian Beef Tenderloin, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Pickled Pearl Onions, White Truffle-Butter Sauce. A staple of the Le Cellier menu, the Filet is an impressive piece of meat – extremely tender and perfectly cooked to a medium rare. The creamy bed of risotto does not have an off-putting mushroom flavor for those of us not too heavy into the fungus scene. I managed to steal a bite. The flavor was subtler than my ribeye, but equally delicious.
The $54 Dry-Aged Bone-in Rib Eye – Dry-aged for 21 days, Fingerling Potatoes, Roasted Garlic Butter. I’ll spare you a picture of what it looks like half eaten this one time. Just wait for the “aftermath” shot of the Karubi Style Pork Ribs from Pecos Bill!!! I’m not sure if the steak looks as significant in the picture as it does in person. This is a big steak that was much less fatty than I was expecting. Like the Filet, it was extremely tender and flavorful. The bone was pretty insignificant up in the corner of the steak. Occasionally your ribeye will appear that’s 75% bone and fat – not the case here. I think it’s safe to say this is my favorite steak on property, surpassing those found at Jiko, California Grill, Monsieur Paul, Brown Derby, Yachtsman Steakhouse etc. The original plan was to do a Le Cellier vs. Yachtsman vs. Shula’s post, but I think I’ll “review” them individually and then compare/contrast at the end.
The potatoes seemed pedestrian and considering the size of the steak, superfluous. You’re not paying $54 for the potatoes. I ate a few and they seemed to lack much flavor.
I unfortunately did not capture a great shot of the Le Cellier Poutine – Canadian Cheddar, Black Truffle, Red Wine Reduction – $8. You’ll see them at the top of the first ribeye picture for a better idea about size and color. I had read good things about the Poutine (SURPRISE SURPRISE DISNEY FOOD BLOG LIKES SOMETHING), but I would characterize it as “bad.” And with the size of the steaks and the fact that almost every entree is served alongside potatoes, another side of potatoes was ultimately a waste. There was really no cheese to speak of and the salty red wine reduction poured on top of the already-too-salty fries was massive overkill. I’m not sure if we caught a bad batch or what. But I would consider the size of the entrees and whether adding a large side of potatoes is a good idea. We ended up eating just a few. You can also order the poutine as an appetizer. Considering how good the pretzel bread is and again, how much you’re paying for the steaks, I’m not sure I’d want to go overboard on fries before the entrees arrived. Disappointing.
After very briefly considering the cost of the meal, I sent in an order for the beer flight STAT. I’m a sucker for draft beers. I’m generally of the opinion I can pop open a can of beer or a bottle of wine at home – I don’t need to pay a 700% upcharge for someone else to do that for me. But I don’t have kegs of Unibroue on hand (normally). Anyway, Unibroues really are world class beers and this is a nice way to try three different kinds.
What it boils down to here is whether Le Cellier is “worth it.” Pricing is in line with Disney’s other signature restaurants. I’m not sure I want to know what California Grill is going to charge for their Filet when it reopens from refurbishment. It was $47 pre-refurbishment, for example. I enjoyed the food as much or more than any restaurant on property in recent and not-so-recent memory. But Le Cellier is not a destination restaurant, like you might be able to argue California Grill, Narcoossee’s, Artist Point, etc. are. The theme park atmosphere does not lend itself well to high end restaurants, though Le Cellier “feels” a little ritzier than Hollywood Brown Derby. With tables that are virtually on top of each other, the atmosphere isn’t particularly “intimate” despite the turned down lights and cellar theming. Service was friendly and attentive, but not necessarily what you would expect from a high end restaurant off-property. But the casualness of it all isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the target audience here remains families, which means the kids at the table next to you may stare in your direction for an hour straight and there may be a six-year-old less than a foot behind you at the next table. But I can say I enjoyed the experience and the food more than most other restaurants I’ve experienced in the last year. Yes, Disney has priced a lot of people out of the restaurant and yes, it would be awesome if you could pop in here for one of their $15 burgers and an excellent draft Trois Pistoles like it was 2010. But if we want to discuss Disney restaurants in 2k13, we have to compare what this is to what else is available, and in my opinion, Le Cellier holds up well.
If I were planning one nice meal at Disney World, this would probably not be it. My personal preference would be to get fancy and head out to a resort for what would hopefully be a more intimate, relaxing meal with similarly great food at similarly absurd prices. But I’d be surprised if you were disappointed with the quality of the meal.
Independence Day is one of the few days that IllumiNations deviates from its usual snoozefest. Actually, the regular snoozefest precedes five minutes of some amazing fireworks.
Here’s the July 4th IllumiNations tag. I don’t know if anybody actually watches fireworks videos, but check out the last minute in 1080p. The ground “literally” shakes at the end. I don’t think it’s obvious quite how loud it is.
And you can watch the Hollywood Studios show that begins at 10:15pm inside Epcot.
Crowds for the show weren’t as bad as I was expecting. It may look like there are a ton of people here (and there were), but finding a spot to watch IllumiNations about 30 minutes before the show began was not a problem.
Walking toward the exit is a little trying as a lot of people are shuffling through fixed walkways. In addition, there is inevitably an accident somewhere on property that causes traffic to slow to a standstill. We got out before this year’s happened, but I read horror stories of people being stuck for over an hour in the Epcot parking lot and then two to three hours just outside the gates.
People. Is all the aggravation “worth it” for five minutes of fireworks? Hard to say. It’s a fun show, but I’m really glad we didn’t get stuck for four hours trying to leave.
I’m kind of behind on in-park updates. I have about 500 pictures of Epcot menus, merchandise, etc. from the 7th along with a brief Magic Kingdom update. We might even see a Universal update with dinner at Bubba Gump’s and Lombard’s.