Walt Disney World Restaurant Review – Le Cellier
BY MIKE WARING – FEBRUARY 2013
It’s been a long, long time since we were last at Le Cellier, and on that occasion we ate lunch, so dinner in this restaurant was something new for us. I really don’t recollect much of the previous visit, and I couldn’t have described the décor if you held a gun to my head. I believe we both had the famous cheddar cheese soup and pretzel bread and called it a day.
Like most of my North American brethren, I likes me some steak. However, when parsing through a list of restaurants in whatever far-flung locale we’ll be travelling to next, steakhouses will be pretty much at the dead bottom of the list. (Right next to vegetarian restaurants, but for completely different reasons.) When we eat out, I want something that I don’t make at home, either because it’s labor intensive or because it has ingredients that might be difficult to obtain. Steak just isn’t that great a pull for me, since I can char a pretty good New York strip all by myself, and if I can do it, I see little reason to pay four or five times the going rate for retail steak in a restaurant.
But I get the allure of a steakhouse, because sometimes you just want to cheweth of the beef and gnaweth on the bone. So it was time and past time to swing by Le Cellier and give it a proper try. And all I can say is wow, was I pleasantly surprised.
First, the basics. The décor is supposed to emulate a subterranean room deep under a castle. Why a castle for Canada? Why not, I say! If they want to use symbols of European monarchy and the trappings of a feudal society to represent their country, I will not gainsay them. Ah, well, the décor is pleasant and there are some nice details like images of Canadian flora along the walls. Lots of red plaid too, or at least that was my impression.
The food, as one might imagine, leans a bit more in the carnivore direction than not. Actually, among the entrees there is not a single dish suitable for a vegetarian. Among the appetizers you’ll find only a few items with no discernible meat or meat by-products. Seriously, if there is a vegetarian in your group, try someplace else. Or give them a twenty and send them off to fend for themselves, because this night you will partake of the meat with your fellow carnivores. Roar, like the wild untamed beast that you are!
I led off with the crab salad, which consisted of a timbale of very finely chopped crabmeat on thin disks of cucumber. It was very good, and light enough to allow you to feel like you really can eat a whole steak by yourself. Mary started with the traditional cheddar cheese soup and pretzel bread, because someone had to do it. It was, as we remembered, quite tasty, though surprisingly chunky, with little bits of onion in it. Also, one must be careful, as the combination of soup and bread can lead to filling up prematurely before the main event.
Speaking of which, my steak was better than I expected. It was not quite up to the quality of a high-end steakhouse like Morton’s, but still pretty good. Mary had the rack of lamb, which came with two of the thickest, meatiest lamb chops I’ve ever seen. They were great. Enormously great, or greatly enormous, take your pick.
The biggest surprise was a side dish I ordered strictly on a whim. Usually whimsical diversions don’t work out all that well, but this time, well, SCORE! I ordered Le Cellier’s version of poutine. Now, for those who are not big time aficionados of the cuisine of the Great White North, poutine was obviously first created by a guy. Only a guy could have come up with the combination of a bowl of fried potatoes topped with fried cheese curds and brown gravy. Women are much too sensible to invent a dish like poutine. The one saving grace of poutine is that it probably acts as a layer of insulation around the midriff during Canadian winters.
Le Cellier’s version of poutine is a fancified adaptation, with fresh French fries, sprinkled with truffle salt, topped with melted mature cheddar cheese, topped with a red wine reduction that is brought to the table in a small serving pot so it’s applied fresh to the poutine and won’t make it all soggy. I intended just to have a taste so I could write about it for this review.
Zowee! The poutine was awesome! It hit every single pleasure center in my brain, and little, and not so little, alarms were going off throughout my cardiovascular system, warning about arterial plaque, high blood pressure, and imminent failure of all of my heart valves simultaneously. In short, it was wonderful. Mary tried the poutine too, and we spent the rest of the meal greedily trying to stuff the lion’s share of the Canadian manna from heaven into our maws before the other person could eat it all.
After that fat-and-carbs orgy, naturally we decided to split a dessert between us, which Mary selected, primarily because I was distracted by trying to lick the bowl the poutine came in, in an attempt to get the last few molecules of wine-impregnated cheese. But it turns out that the pistachio cake was also quite a find and we pretty much had a battle of the forks over it, too.
The servers were enthusiastic, pleasant, and determined to tell you where in Canada they were from, even though to most residents of the USA — for whom the location of North Dakota remains a deep, dark mystery — the names of Canadian provinces are probably completely inscrutable.
As usual, and in common with most Disney World restaurants, Le Cellier’s wait staff were not very experienced. Our server forgot our poutine side dish initially and had to rush back to the kitchen to get it, thus dooming us eternally to a life where we shall always dream longingly of poutine. Although it isn’t her fault that we are now poutine junkies, it was she who brought us the instrument of our destruction. Sure, we ordered it in the first place, but we’re not taking any more responsibility for that than we do for any of our other ill-thought-out actions.
Okay, now for the bad news. Le Cellier is spendy. Very, very spendy. Only Monsieur Paul, also in Epcot, has a similar price point, albeit a bit higher. Appetizers range from $7.50 (for the soup) to $16, while entrees run $34 to $46. Desserts are $7-10. Sides are $8 to $10, which on top of a $44 steak is going to result in a pretty impressive bill. And if you order wine, the bill really skyrockets.
The other bad news is that the lunch menu is the same as the dinner menu. That means there is very little in the way of affordable meals to be had at Le Cellier, and the entrees are all pretty heavy. Personally I can’t see eating at Le Cellier for lunch and then spending the next several hours walking around the parks in the usual tropical Orlando heat and humidity, trying to digest a 12 ounce slab of beef.