One thing that I’ve struggled with for years, and something that I’m not ashamed to admit, is where to put “(Les) Chefs de France” in an alphabetical list of Epcot restaurants. On one hand, “Les” is clearly visible on the signage over the restaurant’s entrance as well as over the menus on display on both sides of the entrance. On the other hand, no “Les” appears on the “Experience the Tastes of France” sign closer to the front of this picture.
It’s Chefs de France on the front of the menu itself, sans Les, with the trademark symbol at the end of the name.
At DisneyWorld.com, “les” shows up from the drop-down menu if you type just “chefs de” into search, but does not appear anywhere in the text.
On the menu page, “Les” appears at the top, but not underneath.
On the official Bocuse Group site, they show the “Chefs de France” logo without “Les.” But then on the link provided, they include it. But then if you click said link, it forwards to a page that doesn’t!
Maybe this discussion is too soon for LSU fans.
Whatever you want to call it, “Chefs de France, Les” is the casual table service restaurant on the left side of the France Pavilion underneath the more upscale Monsieur Paul, which is classified as a signature restaurant that begins seating at 5:30pm for dinner.
Like a lot of theme park restaurants in recent memory, Chefs de France moved to an all-day menu late last year and in turn, eliminated a number of the less expensive options available earlier in the day. Above is the current menu that we’ll break down shortly.
Below is the old lunch menu from earlier last year:
The Prix Fixe menu in the center is now $16 more expensive or an increase of 67%.
Of course, three of the four prix fixe entree options are more upscale now, so it is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but the current menu also eliminates past favorites like the Croque Monsieur, in addition to all of the other less expensive items under “Sandwiches, Crepe, et Quiche.”
This Crêpe à la Tartiflette de Savoie (Crêpe from the Alps) filled with smoked ham, onions and potatoes, topped with melted reblochon cheese would have set you back just $15.99 last year. That’s slightly over half of the current average entree price.
But there is perhaps no reason to dwell on the past. And while the new menu sees higher price points overall, there are still less expensive options.
The (Les) Tartes des Chefs, for example:
Discount-wise, Chefs also accepts Tables in Wonderland only for lunch, so keep that in mind if you are a card-carrying member.
While it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go Prix Fixe if you’re paying out of pocket and planning on ordering the otherwise $18.99 Gratin de Macaroni, there may be some value with one of the pricier entrees and with a Disney Dining Plan table service credit, you would add the appetizer to your meal.
But the eight regular price entrees that remain on the menu arrive with an average cost of $29.88, which is on the high side. That makes it more expensive than the full buffet at Biergarten in Germany for example, or just shy of a $35 large specialty pizza at Via Napoli, which would easily serve three hungry adults.
Atmosphere-wise, Chefs is bright, airy, and charming during the day with high ceilings and long windows that offer some fun people watching opportunities.
Two-tops lining the windows offer a bit of romance from my experience, at least when it is two Disney lifestyle bloggers sharing the complimentary baguette and then arguing over who is going to pay for the single house salad.
For True Romance, you might consider Monsieur Paul upstairs for dinner.
Here is the current menu:
I have not had an opportunity to try Paul after Chef Nicolas Lemoyne took over in May, but there doesn’t yet look to be a ton of new offerings. I think most new Disney chefs, and particularly those that work for an owner whose father was Paul Bocuse, start out fiddling with the accompaniments before switching out major components of entrees.
But with price increases downstairs and the lack of discounts at both French restaurants at dinner, Paul may be the more attractive choice for couples or those with kids concerned that Skipper Canteen’s Arepas may be a bit too straightforward. Paul’s Beef Tenderloin above (which is a previous preparation with the roasted mushroom on top) should be a much nicer cut than what you’ll receive downstairs for just $8 more money.
You can check out my initial Paul review here and a followup as part of this post here. Above is a Roasted Duck Breast entree that would set you back nine more dollars than the duck entree downstairs.
Helen and family were nice enough to invite me out to lunch. If you ever see me making a Star Wars pun in the future, it was sourced directly from her son.
Meals typically begin with freshly baked, still-warn baguettes delivered to the table avec mostly frozen pre-packaged butter.
And while I don’t pine for it quite as much as the onion rolls from Yachtsman Steakhouse, the reliably crusty, chewy bread with a soft interior is above average and a nice way to begin a meal whether you want to save a few dollars by skipping other appetizers or not.
Here’s an example of one of those “good value” flatbreads referenced earlier. This $12.99 A la flamme Alsacienne – Alsace specialty Flatbread with crème fraîche, onion, and bacon.
This could work as a shareable appetizer or a relatively substantial full size entree for a potentially smaller appetite. The salty, flavorful bacon contrasts nicely with the tangy richness of the crème fraîche and the slightly sweet, delicately sauteed onion. The crust is thin and crispy and while it might be a bit better with properly sourced fromage blanc, it’s a more unique take on “pizza” than you might expect. Highly recommended as an appetizer.
Another reliable option is the $13.99 Tomate et fromage de chèvre (Tomato and Goat Cheese Flatbread). Again, the crust on this one is paper thin, which can make for a slightly more messy affair as there is more of a sauce/cheese component here than with the Alsacienne entry. But it is again a sizable “pizza” with just enough goat cheese to get a little in every bite and Chefs does a nice job of preparing these to just the right crispness.
This is admittedly not the finest picture of the $8.99 Soupe à l’oignon gratinée (French Onion Soup) topped with Gruyère cheese. This soup is typically served piping hot, which I appreciate, with a thick layer of (probably-not-actually) gruyère cheese that gives way to a flavorful stock that’s packed with onion and some chewy bites of French bread. I don’t think that I have tried all of the French Onion soups on property, but nothing is coming to mind that stands out as considerably better. Another good choice.
A venerable favorite, the $18.99 Gratin de Macaroni (Macaroni Baked) with cream and Gruyère cheese is a decadent entree that is one of the most gushed about on property. I’m not real sure what to say about this other than imagine a very large plate of al dente pasta topped with a lot of cream and a lot of cheese and then baked. It will markedly shorten your life, but then the election is right around the corner, so you might want to book those vacations in the next few days. I wish seven or eight bites could be served up in a precious lil cocotte dish as a side as this is a heaping, heavy portion. If you are a group that doesn’t mind passing plates around, you might plan to order it more as a side to share among a few people.
I ordered the $32.99 Fruit de mer à la provençale – Seared scallops, shrimp, mahi-mahi, clams served in a white wine broth with artichokes, celery, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, and coriander with red pepper oil.
It was a considerable amount of high quality, expertly seared seafood with two large shrimp, two sizable scallops, two pieces of mahi, four clams, and an assortment of vegetables in a light broth with just a hint of zesty pepper that was soaked up nicely by the scallops and cauliflower in particular. The mahi was appropriately flaky and provided some additional heft. I was impressed by the quality and portion size of the seafood – there was very little filler and it was seemingly freshly prepared, which isn’t always typical of Chefs. It was a lot closer to something that I would have expected to be served upstairs for seven or eight more dollars.
Chefs offers a cocktail menu:
In addition to wine:
The dessert menu:
Each will set you back $9.75.
The Meringue aux fruits rouges – Meringue Basket with fresh Berries, Vanilla Cream, Raspberry Sauce, and Strawberry Sorbet.
This is a light, sweet way to end a meal with a nice assortment of fresh fruit and raspberry sauce inside of a cute, crispy meringue basket with a sizable scoop of fresh sorbet next door.
The Gateau au Chocolat – Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Sauce, and Mint Chocolate Ice Cream is a more decadent choice, but the layer cake remains light and the ice cream adds a refreshing component. Both were very good and while they are similar to what you can order throughout the Pavilion, I thought they did a nice job presenting each dessert here.
So, Les Chefs de France…
The lack of a less expensive lunch menu may or may not be a bummer. As a local visitor, I liked to plan a meal here when I was in the mood for a less expensive, low key lunch that was only marginally more expensive than the quick service bakery next door. When inviting visiting friends that are already paying what seems like an arm and a leg for airfare/tickets/hotel/etc. a menu with four or five options under $15 is always welcome. But during that time, I often complained about food that arrived out of the kitchen with a conspicuous amount of punctuality and an attention to detail that was often lacking.
And feel free to interject with your thoughts on meals in the last 10-12 months, positive or negative, but perhaps Chefs has taken a turn towards a higher quality, more consistent experience. Quality costs money and while some of us deeply entrenched in the blogosphere blame the Disney Dining Plan for price increases, third party restaurants like Chefs de France are potentially trying to serve up better food at a higher price point. On the other hand, Chefs is probably now making more money serving fewer people during the afternoon hours as the reimbursement price for a Dining Plan credit exceeds what most guests used to pay out of pocket during the early daytime hours.
But some of the more sizable flatbreads and other appetizers may potentially bring down costs and those on the Dining Plan will find reservations more easily available during the earlier hours when eating here is now “just as good of a value” as later in the day when prices used to be higher. Out of pocket, it would be pretty easy for a couple to share one of the two reviewed flatbreads and the seafood entree for around $50 combined and leave perfectly satisfied. That’s a bit less than the average price of two entrees at other restaurants.
If you do visit Chefs and carry Tables in Wonderland, you may want to take into consideration that your discount applies to seatings through 3pm. If that discount is irrelevant, then you might consider a reservation that begins 30 to 45 minutes before sunset. That will give you an opportunity to be seated and order while enjoying the sunshine beaming in and then experience some of the ambiance after dark. Request a window table in the main dining room for the best promenade views. Those looking for a more intimate experience should consider what they’re likely to order and whether climbing the stairs to Paul makes more sense.
Chefs offers a less-than-ideal view of IllumiNations, but you may consider a later meal for a unique perspective. Like most restaurants, Chefs seats through around ten minutes prior to official close and for the first hour of evening Extra Magic Hours. So you can book dinner for 8:50pm with a 9pm close. One potential bonus of the late night reservation is that the restaurant will empty out considerably the later it gets and you can then enjoy a pleasant walk around World Showcase after everyone other than Bricker has left.
So Chefs will probably cost you more money than it would have last year or the year before, but there are some ways to bring down the overall cost and I think the experience should prove to be a more positive one more often than not.
You’ll still find me at Via Napoli.
Thanks again to Helen and family for the invite. We will check out the Boulangerie and some France Pavilion merchandise next.