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Old 02-08-2012, 07:26 PM   #1
Jing
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An Analysis: Deluxe Dining Done Right Lives Up to the Hype!

About Us: Hubs is a food and wine journalist and I grew up in a house of amazing and diverse cooking styles. We love being creative in the kitchen at home and enjoy international flavors and generally avoid the fast/food counter-service tray of doom. We absolutely enjoy a good hot dog and wings, but we get critical when it comes to fine dining. After initially scoffing at the idea of pre-paying for dining, I ran some quick, conservative figures and realized we would at least break even with the plan if not save a good amount. We were shocked that this was one of the best food and wine trips we have ever had and this includes a number of trips to Europe and South America.

Our Plan: We made our ADRs a couple of months ago and, with the exception of California Grill, changed all of them at least once. Actually, we changed a number of them while on property so it was a good thing it was slow season! We did not want to be slaves to expensive dishes, bread baskets, or unnecessary dessert just for the sake of the plan so we ordered exactly as we would have if we were paying OOP as we went. We stayed concierge level so had coffee, water, and fruit in the mornings with tea and nightcaps in the evening. The resort mug was wasted on us since we only drink water outside of meals and did not count it in our end total. We figured we would use most of our snack credits on vitamin waters during the heat of the day with a few treats to bring back for home (probably would have spent the same amount on an extra t-shirt or hat so I counted it in our total).

Reviews (coming soon)

Sanna
Citricos

Pizzafari
Marrakesh

California Grill

Kona Cafe
Flying Fish

Hollywood Brown Derby
Jiko

Boma

Last edited by Jing; 02-09-2012 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:30 PM   #2
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Ooh, a foodie review! I can't wait. As someone who strives to be a foodie and appreciate unique flavors and preparations, I'm looking forward to hearing your perspective on Disney dining.

I'm also very impressed that you managed to order what you felt like. We don't use a dining plan often, but whenever we do I feel compelled to order steaks even when I want seafood. Can't wait to see the DxDP done right!
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:36 PM   #3
iloveeeyore
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Oh, boy, I seriously can't wait for this one!! My mouth is already watering. My family is doing deluxe dining for the first time in the beginning of August, so your experience will be greatly appreciated! I hope we get it right! We have some of the same establishments on our list as yours.

Bring it on!
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:55 PM   #4
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Experience is a big part of dining for us, and we hate walking out of a place feeling like we need to unbutton our pants! I know it is tempting to order expensive to get your money's worth. We ran numbers using the spreadsheet from disney dad to work out if it would be worth it ahead of time and figured even without figuring in desserts at lunch and using any snacks, we would break even at the very least: http://www.dadsguidetowdw.com/walt-d...ning-plan.html
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Old 02-08-2012, 08:00 PM   #5
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Thumbs up

Sanaa (Lunch at Animal Kingdom Kidani Village)

We had noon reservations and just made it in time after checking in. Our server Chris was spectacular – attentive, knowledgeable, and upbeat. Atmosphere was lovely with a view of the Savannah. Lots of zebras and exotic birds all around! We love Indian food at home but the blending with South African cuisine is unique and representative of the intermingling of cultures in the area.

Appetizers
Lamb Kefta Kabobs with mint chutney – juicy, moderate spice level, very homey tasting.
Trio of salads – Watermelon, lime and relish was refreshing and easily regrettable at home. Roasted beet was earthy with the red, yellow, and white varieties cooked to the perfect texture. he Bhel Puri was the most unique of the three with cucumber, tomato, onion, and puffed noodles. Went well with the Jardin Chardonnay.

Entree
Tandori Chicken – came out as delicious looking at the picture on the website. Although it is on the large side to wrap up as a sandwich, using the naan to make smaller portions is the way to make it manageable while getting all of the flavor in every bite. Enjoyed with Sequillo Red, but hubs wished he had just ordered a second glass of the Jardin.
Spicy Durban Chicken and Beef Short Ribs – the Durban was spicy and flavorful with a good amount of heat. The batsami rice was the perfect side dish to cool it down while maintaining the flavor. The short ribs were not as tender as they could have been, but still delicious.

Dessert
Tapioca pudding – not my style, so I didn’t try it, but hubs though it was refreshing and yummy
Chai Cream – Best dessert of the trip - it tasted like Christmas in a ramekin! They hand out the recipe if asked, which we did! Went great with the press pot coffee.

Total: $71.08 plus tip and wine
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Old 02-08-2012, 08:51 PM   #6
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Red face

Citricos (Dinner at Grand Floridan)
The original reservation was for Narcoossee’s, which we changed thanks to numerous Diser guidance and my husband’s look at the wine list. We had an 8:10 reservation (was able to see part of Wishes from the window) and hung out at the bar for a bottle of Gruet until our table was ready. This was overall our least favorite atmosphere due partially to the architecture that made conversation impossible when crowded and because we saw a lot of staff standing around chatting with each other while our water glasses dried out (after we asked for water 3 times). The bartender was easily flustered and could not keep pace with the orders. Our server was friendly when we saw him, but it looked like the front-of-house- manager did more of the work while the restaurant manager patrolled the dining room without interacting with guests. Hopefully it was an off night and not the state o restaurant operations, because the food was excellent and I would love to try every single dish on the menu.

Appetizers
Sautéed Shrimp – the classic that everyone gushes over was a tie for my favorite appetizer of the trip. So simple, yet full of great flavors that make a great dipping sauce for the bread (whole grain and kalamata olive breads with sea salt butter).
Seared Ahi Tuna – nice spice rub with tangy slaw
Braised Beet Salad – good choice for the goat cheese lover (server let this one count as dessert)

Entrées
Braised Veal Shank – I usually have lamb so the veal was a different, yet no less savory dish. The carrot potato mash was appropriately sweet but I only had a few bites because I wanted more room for the shank. The veggies were perfectly roasted with just a hint of bitterness to round out the dish. Chateau de Cruzeau Pessac-Leognan was the perfect pairing.
Grouper – Flaky with a nice sear on top, and just the right amount of citrus. Hubs makes a great risotto, but lamented he never made one that matched the squash variety used in this dish. Paired well with the Chablis, Domaine Voceret.

Dessert
Trio of gelato – This night offered chocolate, vanilla bean, and cappuccino, all of which were rich and creamy without being overly sweet. The espresso topped off an incredible meal that would have been our favorite if the service and atmosphere would have matched.

Total: $152.70
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:07 PM   #7
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Mmmm, love that chai cream at Sanaa. Agreed that the South African flavor additions (such as Durban curry) really work, and in fact Indian food is very common in South Africa, so it's a perfect combo.

Sorry that the atmosphere at Citricos was off - I've never seen it crowded, and usually it's quite calm and relaxing for us.
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:16 PM   #8
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That was what everyone said about Citricos so I was surprised. We would still go back though. Our favorite local restaurant had horrible service the first time we went so as long as the food is good, we will give a place another shot.

FYI: I never got a change to try a Dole Whip
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:18 PM   #9
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Excellent reviews so far! Can't wait to see what else you have... We are doing the deluxe plan this fall and I want to show DH your choices to see if it helps with ours...
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:27 PM   #10
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Hi, We LOVE CITRICOS and dine there every time we visit WDW. We have always had exceptional service, so I was sorry to hear that your service was not good at all. We have not dined at Sanaa but we have an ADR for lunch there in March, so I was happy to read your great review! Joan
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:34 PM   #11
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Pizzafari
We did the Sunrise Safari, which was the best perk of staying concierge level at AKL. Not part of the dining plan, but figured I would mention it since they serve breakfast. The breakfast buffet was okay for me, but I have never been a breakfast person. For those that are, the buffet had a rockin’ sugar crusted banana French Toast that all the kids were wild over. It also had the usual eggs, bacon, sausage, breads, and pastries that looked great. I ate the African egg and beef dish, spicy sausage and peppers, berries, pineapple, coffee, and some amazing juice concoction.

Restaurant Marrakesh (Lunch at Moroccan Pavillion in Epcot)

Long story short, when we planned this trip I did not think my Giants were going to the Super Bowl, so we were supposed to have gone to HBD right after the safari. Park and dining plans changed and we were not sorry! It had been years since I went into the Moraccon pavilion so we were due. We walked in just as the musicians and bellydancers were in the middle of their set. The dancer got all of the kids in the audience up to have them dance with her and some of the boys were real hams! Hubs is an Iraq vet and to be honest, this realism of the place might have been a trigger for him a few years ago. Actually, he had a nice talk with a fellow vet who was having a rough go of it in the pavilion. Morocco has it’s own flavor profile different from other north African/Middle eastern countries (just like different styles of American BBQ) so if you enjoy nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon spices with your meats, or if you think it sounds interesting, this is worth a stop for a romantic and/or entertaining meal.

Berber Feast: Hubs decided to go with this for the variety and was nice enough to share a number of bites. The Jasmina salad was crisp with a light, creamy, yogurt dressing. I stole half of it. Chicken kabobs were well seasoned and moist. Roasted lamb was unusual in that it included the joint, not just the femer, which provided a richer flavor. We could not get enough of the vegetable couscous and our server was nice enough to provide his mother’s Friday night recipe for us (it involves 3 separate steamings and about 5 hours of time – no wonder ours has always come out kind of blah!). He enjoyed a glass of the Ksar then later the Amazir with the lamb which he felt were good pairing.

Seafood Bastilla: This could have been a soggy, fishy, mess but it was flaky with an enjoyable texture and mild flavor. Went well with a glass of the Amazir, however I will admit I will take red over white any day and the Ksar would go better.

Lemon Chicken: This is a common Middle Eastern dish, but each country has it’s own spin. This version tasted like it had been marinated and slow cooked for a week it was so tender. The citrus of the lemon balanced nicely with olive flavors and helped lend extra flavor to the potatoes.

Bastilla: Sliced almonds with vanilla custard over flaky filo dough, and dusted with cinnamon sugar was the perfect way to end the meal.

Moraccon Coffee: Word to the wise, this drink is NOT included in the dining plan. They add a little orange blossom water, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the brew and it comes out beautifully. Come to think of it, I might give that a shot in he morning!

Total: $68.12

Tambu Lounge
Quick detour to watch the Super Bowl and just wanted to mention how awesome the bartenders and staff at the Poly were. The Backscratcher was my favorite cocktail and the raspberry runner was a bit too sweet. Hubs enjoyed a few rounds of Stella and a Makers on the rocks. The bar and O'Hana TV areas were swarmed with serious but well behaved fans (okay - I wooted a few times). At halftime they brought out new wings they are testing out and all they asked for was our feedback. Nice touch! Would love to make it a yearly event.
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:39 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jing View Post
FYI: I never got a change to try a Dole Whip
Aw, that's okay. Maybe next time (whenever that is) you'll get to. As a recommendation, I really enjoy the pineapple dole whip, but pineapple-vanilla swirl might be even better (because the vanilla helps cut some of the tanginess of the pineapple).
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Old 02-09-2012, 01:37 PM   #13
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California Grill
Our best overall dining experience of the trip! We had 9:10 reservations and were quickly seated in the lounge area while waiting for our table. We never made it to the dining room after meeting our server, who was a level two sommelier and our new best friend. He showed us the unpublished wine list, which changes with availability. After starting with two glasses of the Roedeer Sparkling to go with our appetizers, we ordered a bottle of Trefethen "HaLo," arguably the best wine of the trip and almost certainly the best paring for both of our dishes. Since we like to share our apps, we had them come out one at a time to provide more time to enjoy the experience. A repeat lounge dining is the 100% must-do on our next visit, only next time we will be there at 5 and hang out all night!

Appetizers
Spicy Kazen Roll: The infamous sushi chef did not disappoint with the creativity and flavor. The fireball sauce with bay scallops still makes my mouth water thinking of it!

Rock Shrimp Salad: While the flat breads looked great, we figured this was the safer bet if we wanted to make it to our entrees! Simple ingredients, but well executed and a great transition from the spicy roll to the robust entree meats.

Entrées
Filet: Perfectly cooked to medium rare with no knife necessary. Al dente broccolini and a mix of white and purple potato puree were tasty accompaniments that did not steal anything from the beef.

Bison: Bison is difficult to cook well and hubs commented it may have been the best cut and preparation of his life. We have long felt truffled mac & cheese is overdone and overrated, but this one managed to infuse the truffle flavor deliciously without dousing it in oil.

Dessert
Cookie Plate: My favorite was the butterscotch crackle cookies and hubs loved the peanut butter whoopee pie. The toffee bars were also wonderful and the side of hot chocolate with marshmallow was rich and creamy. Enjoyed with a glass of the Klein Constantia Vin de Constance from South Africa.

Valrhona Cake: I was barely allowed a bite of this my husband dug into it so fast! I was toeing the line between tipsy and intoxicated at this point, so I do not remember what was paired with this, only that it was a port and about 3 times more expensive than the other one, which our server told us was on him.

The coffee and walk around Contemporary before heading over to MK to catch the bus to AKL was much needed!

Total: $173.36

Last edited by Jing; 02-13-2012 at 03:49 PM.
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Old 02-12-2012, 07:11 PM   #14
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Since the Giants were kind enough to win the Super Bowl, our plans to hit Epcot for the UnDISCOVERed Future World Tour followed by lunch at Akershus was scrapped. After using snack credits for a side of sausage and a bottle of water, we grabbed a couple of massages, made it MK to see Eli come down Main Street USA, and decided to monorail it over to the Polynesian for lunch.

Kona Café
Appetizers
Pot Stickers: Standard fair, but I wanted a bottle of the ginger sauce that came with them. Decided to enjoy it with a Grand Smash plus a little muddled mint.
Pork Ribs: Fell off the bone and smothered n a sweet, tangy BBQ sauce with a side of crisp and crunchy slaw. Perfect with the house Lager.

Entrées
Pan Asian Noodles with Chicken: Nice blend of sweet and spicy without being too salty. Vegetables were fresh and cooked andante, noodles soaked up the flavor of the sauce without getting soggy, and the meat was abundant and lean. It is the kind of dish that I crave a lot at home.

Teriyaki Steak: This was the single mediocre dish of the trip. The steak was cooked fine but the cut was grisly. There was only a tablespoon of the pineapple salsa which was the main reason hubs ordered it. We also found it odd that it came with two starches – sticky rice and macaroni salad. Both were good, but in retrospect he would have ordered the fish tacos.

Dessert
We went with the coffee and skipped dessert. Between the music, lush surroundings, and general lack of sleep, we needed the caffeine way more than the sugar.

Total: $59.05
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Old 02-13-2012, 03:44 PM   #15
JanaD
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I'm curious

The post prior to the Kona Cafe.....was that for the California Grill? I can't decide between Cali Grill or Narcoosee's for our trip next month.
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