We return to California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for Sunday brunch.
california grill brunch is the single most pleasant experience on walt disney world property, in my opinion. panoramic views. unlimited mimosas. great food. vibrant atmosphere. fun experience pic.twitter.com/iD1Cb9h58j
— josh (@easywdw) December 6, 2017
The website does not typically speak in absolutes, but I find myself deeming the brunch as the most pleasant experience on property. And I’m sticking to it.
I last reviewed brunch in October of 2016 when it caught me by surprise. Life is, after all, an expectations game. Expect one new post per year on this website and you might find yourself ecstatic when two appear. Expect four and you may have a bad time given the same two posts.
So with elevated expectations, I returned to see if the experience was as good as I remembered. And it was.
California Grill brunch is a buffet/table service hybrid.
Most importantly, your meal begins with a complimentary mimosa or specialty non-alcoholic beverage.
You’ll be handed one on the way to your table and then they’ll be replenished throughout the meal. I thought they were a little heavier on the juice this time around, but you can always have 14 instead of 12.
The Bloody Mary Bar is available at an additional cost.
Each runs $15-$17.
And they’re probably worth it as a cast member affixes a shrimp to the celery stalk.
Peppers, olives, cheese, and meat along with pickles and shrimp.
I think you’d have to go bacon and shrimp.
The friendly, vibrant atmosphere is part of what makes the California Grill brunch experience so fun and carefree. You’ll enjoy live music throughout the meal.
And it’s virtually impossible to beat the sweeping, panoramic views.
You can head out to any of the observation decks at your leisure.
You can also bring your brunch receipt back to the second floor check-in podium before the fireworks and they’ll let you up to watch the show from the restaurant’s famous balcony.
As a reminder, you check in for the restaurant on the second floor, just up the escalator.
There. Valet parking is included with brunch if you’re parking yourself.
Back to what we’re really here for – the food.
The House-made Charcuterie spread with Napoli Salami, Serrano, Wagyu Sausage, Venison Terrine, Pork Belly Rillettes, Dijon Mustard, Zellwood Pickles, Sweet Onion Jam, and Sweet Drop Peppers is superb.
Toscana Salami and Prosciutto.
A number of accompaniments.
Tillamook Cheddar, Barely Buzzed Beehive Cheese, and Point Reyes Blue. So good.
A couple of tasty sushi options are on the buffet, including this California Roll with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat.
Typically, this sort of thing would get an eye roll (sushi pun) from my uppity brain, but there is quite a bit of real crab involved and the ingredients are fresh and flavorful. A similar roll at dinner will run you $24.
Tuna and Salmon Nigiri – straightforward, but fresh, quality ingredients are used.
The Spicy Tuna Tekka Maki Rolls are probably my favorite – there’s a pleasant mild spice to the sauce and the cucumber adds a nice crunch to each bite. Very good.
The “Shrimp Tempura Roll with Orange Drizzle and Mango” is a fruity take on your typical sushi with the shrimp providing a satisfying crunch and the sauces naturally sweetening everything up. A good choice if you’re not into the whole raw tuna thing.
The “Apple and Goat Cheese Salad with Golden Raisins, Asian Pears, Candied Pecans, and Apple Vinaigrette” continues the contemporary Asian theme with crisp greens, tangy cheese, crunchy nuts, and an acidic vinaigrette that helps bring out the sweetness of the apples and pears. It was every bit as good as a $16 salad that the restaurant would serve as an appetizer at dinner.
The “Soba Noodle Salad with Soba Noodles and Amazu-Ginger Vinaigrette” is another winner. It uses rice wine vinegar, which adds a pop of brightness to the zesty, spicy ginger sauce that’s used to sparingly coat the thin, nutty noodles. Very good.
We depart from the Asian influence with the “Bacon and Egg Salad – Greens, Frisse, Quinoa, Avocado, Cherry Wood Bacon Lardon, Pecrino Romano, Sherry Vinaigrette, Egg.” It’s a hearty salad packed full of stuff and covered with a mellow, complex vinaigrette. It’s also an opportunity to grab an egg if your brain feels like it needs a reminder that you’re at breakfast.
And another opportunity here with the “Deviled Eggs – Crispy Lardons, Spiced Aioli.” “Lardon” is a fancy way of saying chopped bacon, here adding a salty component with a rich pork flavor and without the heaviness of a larger strip. I’m not always in the mood for deviled eggs at 10am, but these have a nice creaminess to them with just a little bit of spice from the aioli.
lol no thx
The Raspberry Parfait is really good too with the cool flavors of the yogurt playing well with the raspberries and crunchy granola. Very refreshing.
A bad picture of bagels.
A worse picture of smoked salmon.
A particularly unappetizing picture of Smoked Cod Spread. You’re on your own with that monstrosity.
A better picture of the Hardwood-Smoked Salmon along with the accompaniments.
Yogurt with granola, strawberries, blueberries, and honeycomb.
California Grill makes a number of seasonal changes throughout the year – all of the salads are different than our original visit, for example. The sushi selections, deviled eggs, smoked salmon, and yogurt have been constant offerings since brunch began.
One other minor change from our original visit.
You’ll find the bread, including these gluten free scones, on the buffet line rather than delivered to the table.
Multi-grain Croissants and Cheddar Biscuits.
Sticky Buns and Guava Turnovers. These are among the best pastries I’ve ever had – fresh and flavorful. It probably makes some sense to put them out at the end of the buffet so fewer are wasted. With finite tum tum space, a lot of people are probably eyeing another bite of Lobster Benedict over the thought of a 9-grain croissant.
Overall, it’s a satisfying spread with plenty of stuff to tide you over until it’s time for entrees.
Here’s a reminder of what that portion of the menu looks like:
Only the Eggs Benedict and Grilled Hanger Steak remain from the original menu. One tip: you can order more than one entree, so if the Steak and the Lobster sound good…get both. The cast member operating the elevator on the way up to the restaurant suggested doing exactly that.
Here is said “Eggs Benedict – Two Soft-poached Eggs, Toasted English Muffin, Honey Ham, Classic Hollandaise,” which is available with Salmon or Lobster if you want to go in that direction. It’s a delicious, rich combination of perfectly-poached eggs in between the crispy muffin halves and the decadent hollandaise. There’s quite a bit of lobster meat in there too.
And the “Blueberry Pancakes – Local Blueberries, Vanilla Custard, Blueberry Compote, Warm Canadian Maple Syrup,” which is another incredible dish with pillow-y soft pancakes and deliciously bright fruit. Very good.
I’d suggest adding the “U-10 Shrimp – Gulf White Shrimp, Gruyère-Piquillo Pepper-Antebellum Grit Cake, Smoked Paprika Aïoli” to your order.
The portion size is on the small side, but the shrimp stand up nicely and the grits do a fantastic job of soaking up all the flavors from the mildly spicy, smoky aioli with a pleasant, creamy cheesiness of its own.
I went with the “Grilled Hanger Steak – Two Eggs Any-style, Chimichurri, Marble Potato Hash, Charred Red Onion.”
The beef is incredibly tender, cooked to a dark red medium rare here and topped with a thin, garlic-heavy chimichurri that gives it a little bit of a Spanish vibe. It tasted great against the piquant quality of the grilled red onions. And because I am incredibly basic, my scrambled eggs were very good as well with a pleasing buttery quality. I sometimes wonder how people get into different styles of eggs. I guess I’ll have to stop panicking and start ordering them a different way.
Don’t forget about the sides – the potatoes are simple and delicious with butter, salt, and pepper.
Sausage and bacon are up for grabs as well. The pork here is flavorful with a nice spice rub – obviously freshly made.
Overall, the entrees impressed and it’s nice knowing that basically everything is included for the $80/adult and $48/child price.
Dessert is a delightful assortment of goodies that I typically have boxed up for later.
The macarons in particular are fantastic and I love the brittle chocolate covered in fruit and nuts.
Coffee is included, so don’t be shy about putting in an order at some point during the meal.
One last look at the buffet line. It’s easy to pop up and grab a little of this and a little of that, unlike the more hectic scene of something like Crystal Palace.
Overall, California Grill brunch is an incredibly relaxing, incredibly delightful experience in a beautiful setting with attentive service and fantastic food. The hybrid buffet/entree setup means you’ll have delicious food in front of you just a couple of minutes after sitting down and it’s hard to beat a walkable, complimentary mimosa that’s constantly refilled. The pacing is perfect – both times I’ve been we ended up being there just over two hours, but it’s hard to get up from so much goodness.
Like most things Disney-related, it’s not an inexpensive proposition and those that don’t drink will find less value. Your typical Disney mimosa runs $10, so it’s relatively easy to get your “money’s worth” after putting three or four back. The steak entree is easily worth $30 compared to what you’d pay elsewhere, but there’s less value if you’re going to go the chicken or pancakes route. $48 for kids is also on the rough side considering most will eat just a couple of dollars worth of food. But I think it’s the perfect sort of thing for couples that enjoy sparkling wine and want to enjoy a serene experience in one of Walt Disney World’s most scenic locations. If you’re looking to add a splurge, I think California Grill brunch should be on most people’s short lists. I love it.
We’ll try dinner and $100 cocktails next.