Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews, Part Two
BY MIKE WARING – MAY 2009
This is Part Two of a multi-part set of reviews from our most recent trip in May 2009.
Wolfgang Puck Dining Room in Downtown Disney
We decided to eat at the upstairs, somewhat more formal restaurant at Wolfgang Puck Café, which is called the Dining Room. We had previously tried the downstairs Café (more than once) and the sushi bar adjacent to the downstairs Café, but we’d never tried the Dining Room. It has a different menu, interestingly enough, though it all comes from the same kitchen.
The Dining Room is fairly small, with seating for what looks like maybe 50 or so people. The room itself looks out over the lake adjacent to Downtown Disney. Surprisingly, even though the space is considerably smaller than downstairs and has a high ceiling, the noise level was quite competitive with the much larger and more boisterous downstairs. I’m not sure what accounts for the sound level, but it really does detract from the experience if you’re expecting a more subdued and quiet evening.
Mary ordered a vodka gimlet, which in its original version is a simple of combination of vodka and Rose’s lime juice. Wolfgang’s managed to first deliver a vodka tonic (we think) which is kind of easy to discern, since Rose’s lime is bright green and there wasn’t the slightest hint of green in evidence. Also, gimlets aren’t normally fizzy-like.
The second attempt appeared to have gone better, since it was actually green and not at all fizzy. But alas, this time the cocktail contained a bug, species unidentified, which had decided to go for a swim. We again importuned our waiter to take the offending libation from our sight and replace it with one that 1) contained the requested combination of ingredients and 2) did not contain miscellaneous wildlife. Third time was the charm, and all that. My gin and tonic unfortunately was not blessed with such interesting goings-on, and was merely adequate.
The menu was a little surprising. Compared with the offerings downstairs in the main restaurant, the menu upstairs is a bit more limited. Well, actually considerably more limited. Gone are the pizzas and pastas, and say a fond farewell to the sushi, which is really a shame because I think the sushi is Puck’s best stuff. Steaks are rather strongly represented, with manly-man stuff like rib eyes and New York strips and the more effete filet. We found this strange since Wolfgang Puck is known for a number of culinary achievements, but steak is usually not one of them.
For appetizers we had the potstickers and a beet-and-cheese-salad-y type thing that was nice, though it could have been improved by more beets. But then I think that about almost everything, at least as long as it isn’t pickled beets, which are just plain wrong. Mary found her potstickers acceptable, though not exciting.
In addition to the appetizer items we selected, there are also crab cakes, scallops and tuna sashimi, among others. The salads and soups are, frankly, ever so slightly uninspired today. Back ten years or so ago, soups like butternut squash and wild mushroom were new and interesting. Today, they’re starting to enter the comfort food zone. Don’t get me wrong, I like both type of soups, as well as all of the salads offered, but I’m not going to go out of my way to eat them anymore.
The entrees were pretty much a mixed bag. Along with the steaks we previously mentioned and subsequently ignored, there was Wienerschnitzel, which is obviously a nod to Wolfie’s roots and not exactly a sound seasonal choice in mid-May in Central Florida. There’s the requisite salmon, with Asian seasonings this time, as well as a tuna Nicoise that sounded inviting, but I think of that dish as more of a lunch entrée.
The usual roast chicken half was there, and an interesting sounding beef goulash, that again I really wasn’t into, what with the temperature outside being 1000 degrees or so. Mary had the special, which was a Hong Kong style fish. She liked it, though not enough to go out of her way to try again. I had a little more conventional shrimp risotto because I’m occasionally, at strange times and places and under a full moon, a somewhat more conventional type of guy.
Even while restricting ourselves to dishes that weren’t as filling as say, weinerschnitzel, we found ourselves only marginally interested in a dessert. We settled for coffee and splitting a 24 Carrot Gold cake. Dang, I hate food puns. The cake was merely and exclusively adequate.
The service was (other than messing up the cocktail order, for which we magnanimously did not demand the requisite flogging) quiet, unobtrusive, and measured. And by measured, we mean a little slower than usually is the case in Walt Disney World. We’re not complaining about the pace – we like relaxed dining, probably more than most – but just keep it in mind if you schedule dinner in close proximity to a Cirque d’Soleil show, for instance.
Overall, we almost certainly will not bother with the upstairs Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Café in the future. It’s a bit more expensive and while it’s not as hectic and frenzied as the downstairs venue, it’s still remarkably noisy. Overall, we think if you’re going to eat at the Puck’s you could do a lot worse than sidling up to the bar and getting some sushi and a salad. I know that’s what we’ll do from now on.