Review: Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Narcoossee’s is the Grand Floridian Resort’s standalone, waterfront signature restaurant that “serves a spectacular, innovative selection of fresh seafood from both local waters and around the globe.” At least according to Narcoossee’s.

Like you, probably, it’s not a restaurant that I typically consider when I’m making dinner plans somewhere around the resort. I’ve always thought the food and drinks at Citricos tasted better and offered more innovative flavors.

And I’m not typically a fan of marrying sky-high prices with an overtly casual, easy-breezy restaurant atmosphere.

In my eyes, the experience that Narcoossee’s has historically offered doesn’t “feel” special, at least in a vacation kingdom with so many other unique options. I’m not crazy about the restaurant’s circular shape and lack of intimacy, either.

But Erin and I were so impressed by our Sunday brunch experience, which I review here, that I thought it was time to reassess the restaurant’s nighttime offerings.

On the plus side, Narcoossee’s is not at all stuffy and about as far away from pretentious as Walt Disney World signature restaurants get, even given the $72 price of the Whole-Steamed Lobster. That might make it a more viable option for families with rambunctious kids that may stand out a bit more at a low-key restaurant like Flying Fish or Yachtsman Steakhouse.

The views from the tables that line the windows are also pleasant, though I think I prefer the daylight hours when it’s easier to see the many comings and goings. That monorail passing by in the distance would be invisible after dark. Brunch at Narcoosse’s is typically unpopular, which also makes the chances that you’ll be seated next to the window more likely. At least half of the seats in the restaurant either face away from the water or are on the second level, where it’s much more difficult to see outside.

For the fireworks, it’s likely that you’ll want to leave the restaurant and watch from outside.

That’s true for a couple of reasons. First, at least 50% of the tables inside have no view of the fireworks. Second, unlike California Grill, where fireworks viewing is reserved for those that are either currently eating at the restaurant or enjoyed food and/or drinks there earlier in the day, the patio outside Narcoosee’s is first-come, first-served for anyone at the resort.

And somebody is going to arrive a couple of minutes before the fireworks and block the views of those sitting at the windows inside the restaurant.

This isn’t the end of the world, of course, as these pictures of HalloWishes were taken during our meal at Narcoossee’s. I’m just standing outside with everyone else. There’s also open-viewing available down on the dock to the left, which would offer a slightly closer, less obstructed view.

Narcoossee’s serves dinner with seating from 5:30pm through 9:30pm. Magic Kingdom’s fireworks are typically around 9pm or 10pm – a time for which you’ll want to double check if you have interest in seeing the show before, during, or after your meal. Timing your dinner obviously depends on a number of factors including what else you’ve got going on over the course of the day, when it gets dark, when you want to eat, and how you want to see the fireworks. Personally, I think I would want to be seated while it’s still light out, enjoy my meal, and then watch the fireworks afterwards from the outdoor terrace. Given time, I’d head over to the bar at Citricos to grab a drink in between dessert and the Happily Ever After or one of the seasonal Wishes shows.

Soups, Salads, and Appetizers are about what you would expect from a seafood-focused restaurant with your typical Lobster Bisque, Shrimp Cocktail, Calamari, and more, perhaps dressed up here and there with some interesting accompaniments.

We started with the $16 “Crispy Rhode Island Calamari – Peppadew-Banana Pepper and Olive Relish with Tomato Coulis.”

Longtime readers may recall that I am a big dipper and I am 4000% against this burgeoning trend of putting the delicious, zesty sauce underneath the fried stuff. Otherwise, there was more batter involved this time around compared to my last visit, but the thick, tender rings of squid were appropriately crunchy with a real fresh spiciness from the banana peppers, which was in turn tempered for a moment by the olive relish, before being spiced up again with the tangy coulis hiding underneath.

The $19 “Barbecue-grilled Shrimp and Grits – Low Country Grits, Cherrywood-smoked Bacon, and Pickled Green Tomato Chow-Chow,” pictured here during brunch, may be a wiser investment. It’s plenty of food to share at least two ways and would probably even work as a lighter meal. There’s a really nice tang from the barbecue sauce over the creamy grits and sizable shrimp. It makes me want to go back for brunch.

Here’s what the $13 “Maine Lobster Bisque – Butter-poached Lobster, Coral, Chives” looked like last time – creamy with a couple visible chunks of lobster showing through the thick soup.

Complimentary sourdough bread is also provided.

I thought it had improved considerably since my last visit – richer, with a bolder flavor and a mild tang alongside the golden-crispy crust. Adding the Hawaiian-salted butter made it virtually irresistible, even knowing that plenty of food was headed our way.

We apparently weren’t alone as the restaurant actually ran out of sourdough half way through our dinner. This caused our server to deliver a basket full of French bread, which was so flavorless that it immediately brought me back to the last time I had dinner here.

I’ve long-considered the drink menu at Narcoossee’s to be without much merit, though we do see a couple of interesting selections with the likes of the Key Lime Pie and Grand Martinis.

Here is a terrible picture of said $11.50 “Grand Martini – Grey Goose Vodka, Chambord, and a splash of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial” along with an unadvertised raspberry skewer. I didn’t really care for the medicinal flavor that was made even more bitter with the carbonation from the champagne. But it was packed with booze, at least.

After enjoying the Bloody Mary at Brunch, Erin went off-menu with a similar drink, here without all of the seafood goodies that arrive on Sunday morning.

A reminder of what that looked like. But at $8.25, the drink was a real bargain and had most of the spiciness and luscious tomato flavor of the morning standby.

Entree-wise, the menu at Narcoossee’s hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years with the $72 Steamed Maine Lobster continuing to headline the menu.

 

The Surf & Turf has actually been toned down dramatically.

Last time, it was $72 and served as a “Maine Lobster Tail with Grilled Black Angus 12-oz New York Strip.”

Interested in the difference between that and the current offering, I ordered the $50 “Surf & Turf – Sirloin Steak and Lobster Tail served with Yukon Gold Rustic Mash and Late Summer Beans with Herb Butter. Your choice of Butter-poached yielding a tender Lobster Tail or Steamed producing a firmer texture.”

The steak was probably larger than it looks in this picture and arrived with a rich, slightly sweet red wine reduction.

The meat was surprisingly tender and cooked to a juicy medium. The sauce added some garlic and rosemary to each bite with a surprisingly nuanced intensity. I think Disney is a little quick to slather its higher-end steaks in sauce – the filet here arrives with a Red Wine-Oxtail Reduction that may be the same as what’s served alongside the lobster here. But it works well with the meaty sirloin. I think I’d prefer less of it with the more-delicate tenderloin.

The size of the Lobster Tail didn’t impress upon first inspection.

But it easily weighed-in at several ounces and was firm, yet tender. Plus I got to dip it into as much melted butter as I wanted – something that was ripped away from me during the opening course.

I had heard good things about the $9 “Narcoossee’s Signature Mashed Potatoes – Yukon Gold Rustic Mash, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Tillamook Cheddar, Scallions” for years, but always forgot to order them.

That changed this time around and the potatoes are as close to perfection as you’ve probably heard – whipped up to a soft, but firm texture and loaded with all of the creamy butter, melted cheese, and bacon that you could possibly hope to be served. It’s a really rich dish and while you may not want to, best shared among a couple of people, particularly considering the sizable entrees. A pair of diners could probably share an entree along with a side or two and leave perfectly satisfied without leaving uncomfortably full.

I’ve taken up cooking myself over the last couple of months – those with HelloFresh deliveries may recognize the “Creamy Mushroom Pork Chops with Crispy Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts” from a couple of weeks ago. As you can probably imagine, I only have Disney-related dishes.

Now I can compare “my” version of a dish to someone else’s. Above is the $11 “Roasted Brussels Sprouts – Bacon and Lemon” from Narcoossee’s. The Sprouts seemed a little overcooked with a harsh, sour flavor from the lemon that wasn’t wholly corrected by the thick-cut bacon or butter. These are probably superfluous with everything else available.

Erin ordered the $45 “Benne-crusted Florida Red Snapper – Haricot Verts, Vidalia Onion Soubise, and Peanut Romesco.”

Florida Red Snapper is a pretty big deal as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hadn’t opened up its Fisheries to Red Snapper harvesting in the South Atlantic since 2014. Strict protections were put into place back in 2010. The fish otherwise has an incredibly firm texture that allows it to hold up really nicely to the crispy sesame seed cracker crust that further enhanced the fish’s naturally mild, sweet nutty flavor. The vibrantly orange Spanish sauce was a little thicker than I was expecting, but had a really robust peanut-y flavor on top with the creamy onion sauce underneath adding a creamy cheese quality with a touch of sugar.

I was surprised. I wouldn’t have thought Narcoossee’s could pull it off.

As is customary, service was a little more familiar than I would have liked, but if you’re expecting a casual experience to go along with your $45 snapper, then it might be preferable to something like Flying Fish.

Overall, Narcoossee’s hasn’t jettisoned to the top of my signature Disney Dining list, but I would no longer laugh hysterically while screaming “are you serious” and throwing things at you like I would have at the beginning of last month. I think I would value the experience more if there was more exclusivity to the fireworks view. Otherwise, strictly on food quality, I’d still give the nod to Flying Fish. But I was completely satisfied by my Surf & Turf for the money and it was nice to see the restaurant take advantage of Snapper Season here in Florida. Very close to recommended.

Comments

  1. on DisnKen says

    Romance softens a person. I’m not opining on whether this is a good thing or bad thing, but I will say I’m not sure I want to live in a world where Josh won’t “laugh hysterically while screaming ‘are you serious’ and throwing things at (me)” if his opinion differs from my own.

  2. Diane says

    My husband and I have eaten at Narcoossee’s many times and have had delicious meals. The pouched lobster is wonderful and you can have without worrying about the shell.
    It is one of my favorite restaurants besides
    Jiko.

  3. RebeccaMcK says

    Happy Birthday to Mickey Mouse today! 2 days after my own b’day. Josh, if cooking brussel sprouts at home again any time soon, try the way my mom makes them….after they’re cooked and drained, knife-shred them together in a bowl with butter and pepper. They turn out looking a bit like spinach but pretty yummy and easier to eat. Good for Thanksgiving.

  4. Heather says

    re: Ripping of the Dipping

    “Something that was ripped away from me during the opening course.” The Horror !!!1 😮

  5. CMM says

    AHH, RED SNAPPAH! MMMM, VERY TASTY

    Dined with my family here in early October and my observations were very close to yours, although I found the lobster tail with the “Surf ‘n Turf’ to be smallish and a bit overcooked.

    The place was absolutely jam-packed which, considering our total bill for a party of 6 was somewhere around $600, sort of surprised me.

  6. dusty says

    have not eaten here in years due too 2 bad meals & citricos being head over heels better. they used to have a fried shrimp app that was devine…….

  7. GLENN says

    Narcoosee’s is terribly designed, where half the seats have no significant view of the water. In addition, the exterior railing blocks part of the water view for even the better seats. And considering the high prices, my dinner experience there should have been more than “just OK”. And that’s a shame because the lake site and views offer such great potential.

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