Please join me in celebrating my 50th Birthday...Deluxe Style! FINALLY COMPLETE

Discussion in 'Disney Dining Reviews' started by jabead, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. jabead

    jabead DIS Veteran

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    After checking into the Polynesian, collecting our luggage which had been transferred for us from the Boardwalk, and changing clothe s, we were ready to take the Resort Monorail to the Contemporary for our 7:30 ADR for…

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    Dinner at CALIFORNIA GRILL



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    SHORT VERSION

    Highlights – Table by the Window, Candlelit Dessert, Filet Mignon & Mashed Potatoes

    Disappointments – Overall experience compared to last time

    Would We Return? – Probably

    LONG VERSION

    First a little background information. Our first experience with California Grill was 4 or 5 years ago and it was not a very good one…the food was not great (with a few exceptions), the service was rather slow, and the restaurant was deafeningly loud. It was bad enough that we did not return until our 25th Anniversary trip last fall. I had been reading so many great reviews here that I decided it was time to give the California Grill another try. I am so glad that we did because it ended up being our favorite meal of the many (including 5 other Signatures) that we had on that trip. In case you are interested in reading about that meal, here is the link. So anyway, because of this nearly perfect experience which hit the dining trifecta with delicious food, excellent service, and great atmosphere, I went into this meal with pretty high expectations.

    Ok, now getting back to where I left off in this review. After arriving at the Contemporary on the monorail we went down to the 2nd floor to check-in at the reception desk for the California Grill. Then we were given a pager and directed to take the special elevator up to the 15th floor where the restaurant is located. My request to be seated at a table by the window was granted and we had a lovely view of the castle.


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    View of the Castle at Sunset



    So things started out well but then our server committed a major faux pas according to DD. Without asking first, she immediately took away DD’s wine glass. In our server’s defense, DD is only 21 and was carded each and every time she ordered an alcoholic drink on the trip (with only one exception). On the other hand, this is the one and only time that a server just assumed she was not old enough to drink and took away her glass. So of course DD then insisted that we order a glass of wine. When she saw a Malbec listed in the wine menu under “Interesting Reds” category she chose it, as Malbec is currently her favorite type of wine. More specifically, this was a Navarro Correas “Alegoria” Gran Reserva Malbec from a Mendoza, Argentina winery ($12).



    Like last time, I chose Conundrum, a wine listed under the “Interesting Whites and Rose” category ($14). In case you are not familiar with it, Conundrum is a California white wine that's made from a blend of five different white grapes. If you like white wine that is light and fruity, but not overly-sweet then I highly recommend this one. We both were happy with our choices.



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    Navarro Correas Malbec and Caymus Conundrum




    Moving on to the food now, I couldn’t decide between the Crispy Asian Rock Shrimp Salad and the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli for my appetizer. So what did I do, I ended up ordering the same appetizer as last time, the Triple Cheese Flatbread with Pecorino, Asiago, and Provolone cheeses, Sun-dried Tomato and Arugula Pesto. :laughing:


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    Triple Cheese Flatbread


    In my defense, this was my favorite appetizer from our last trip so it was hard not to have it again when the opportunity arose. Although this was very good, it was not quite as good as last time because it was a little bit greasy.


    On our last visit, DH (who knows nothing about sushi) surprised me when he decided he wanted to try a sushi roll. Our server recommended the Spicy Kazan Roll . . . Crab, Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Tuna, and Fireball Sauce. Both DH and I liked this so I recommended it to DD, the sushi lover of our family. So that is what she chose for her appetizer and unfortunately was not impressed. I guess I am to blame for this, as I probably built it up in her head too much and set her up for disappointment. Anyway, she claims that a restaurant in Austin, TX called Uchiko has far better sushi. So I guess I won’t be giving out any sushi advice again. ;)



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    Spicy Kazan Roll



    Last time I had enjoyed the filet, but decided I needed to change it up a little since I had already ordered the same wine and appetizer as before. So I ordered the second most appealing (to me) entrée on the menu, the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese Polenta, Roasted Mushrooms, Zinfandel Glaze, and Sage. Sadly I didn’t really care for this. It tasted strongly of Dijon mustard (I think), which I am not a fan of. On the other hand, DH ordered this last time and really enjoyed it, but then again he likes Dijon mustard. This entree generally gets rave reviews, so I guess maybe it's just me. Is there anyone else out there that doesn't love the Pork Tenderloin here?



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    Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese Polenta




    DD chose the Oak-fired Filet of Beef with Mashed Potatoes (I think they were Garlic), Roasted Delta Asparagus, Spring Onion Oil, and Teriyaki Barbecue (served on the side per my recommendation). She thought the steak was very good and loved the mashed potatoes which were served with it (she is a big fan of mashed potatoes). When I had the filet here in Nov. ’10 it was served with Dauphinoise Potatoes, which were nothing special. On the newest menus I’ve seen, they are now serving Mascarpone Potatoes with the filet. So I guess the California Grill makes frequent changes to the potatoes served with their filet. ;)




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    Oak-Fired Filet of Beef with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Delta Asparagus



    My favorite dessert from our last trip was the Valrhona Chocolate Cake - Warm Chocolate Cake with Molten Center, which was then served with Peanut Butter Gelato and Marshmallow. So I couldn’t possibly resist ordering this again, however this time it was served with Macerated California Strawberries and a Grand Marnier sauce. Also, I believe it was vanilla ice cream that accompanied it. This was served to me decorated for my birthday, complete with lit candle. Though it was very good, it was not quite as good as the last version with the peanut butter gelato and marshmallow. I guess this is another thing that frequently changes at California Grill.



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    Valrhona Chocolate Cake



    I should add here that we each had a cappuccino with our dessert as our included non-alcoholic beverage.



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    Cappuccino with Chocolate Biscotti (Sorry about the blurry picture)



    For her dessert, DD ordered the Bananas and Caramel, described on the menu as Crispy Baked Phyllo Squares Layered with Banana, Caramel, Mascarpone Mousse,and Caramelized Banana. She was hoping it might be similar to Flying Fish’s Caramelized Banana Napoleon dessert, which she loved. But sadly this one paled in comparison to the one at Flying Fish. I just now noticed from the picture that DD’s dessert was also decorated for a birthday celebration. I’m not sure why, maybe because we had talked about sharing our desserts when we placed our order. :confused3


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    Bananas and Caramel




    Shortly after our desserts were served, the fireworks began. Since we had a good view from our table we decided to just stay there and enjoy eating our desserts while watching the show.



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    As for the service, after getting off to a bad start with DD, our server provided us with pretty good service for the remainder of our meal. However again I can’t help comparing it to the excellent service we had received here from Dawn last time.


    So using a baseball analogy, California Grill struck out their first time at bat, but then redeemed itself by hitting an “out of the park home-run” their next time at the plate. However, this time up they hit only a double…albeit a solid, stand-up double.



    Now for the numbers...

    Total cost of meal (not including tip and wine) - $180.26 (or $45.07 per Dining Plan credit)


    And so I can do a DDP vs. TIW Cost Comparison at the end...

    Total cost of meal (again not including tip and wine) if we had used my Tables in Wonderland discount of 20% instead of the DDP - $144.21

    20% TIW Discount on Wine - $5.20


    4 Deluxe Dining Plan Credits used, 0 Remaining :sad1:



    That concludes the Deluxe Dining Plan portion of our trip so…

    NEXT UP: DDP vs. TIW Comparison
     
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  3. jabead

    jabead DIS Veteran

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    Here are the final numbers regarding our first 4 nights/5 days on the Deluxe Dining Plan.

    We paid approximately $632 for the two of us for 4 nights on the Deluxe Plan.
    And just as a side note, since I am an Annual Passholder I still got a 45% room discount so we did not have to pay rack rate for our room or have to purchase full-price park ticket for DD in order to add the Dining Plan. This would have added significantly to the overall cost of the Dining Plan.

    The cost of our 8 sit-down meals (over 5 days) on the Deluxe Dining Plan was $966.37. In addition, we had 16 snacks totaling approx. $56.50 and at least 8 cups of coffee in our refillable mugs (included with the Deluxe Dining Plan) which was worth approx. $20. So the grand total of the value of our food and non-alcoholic drinks covered by the Deluxe Dining Plan was approx. $1043.00. Subtracting what we paid ($632), results in a net savings of $411 or a 39% savings. Not too bad!!! :)


    Ok, now for the Deluxe Dining Plan vs. TIW comparison that some of you have been waiting for...and me too. ;)

    If we had used my TIW discount of 20% (or 10% AP discount in the case of Teppan Edo) instead of the Dining Plan, we would have spent $782.70 for the 8 meals. Then if you add on the $56.50 for snacks and $20 for coffee, the total we would have spent would have been $859.20. Since we instead spent only $632 for the Deluxe Dining Plan, we came out ahead $227.20. YEAH!!! :woohoo:


    So I would have to say that the use of the Deluxe Dining Plan was again a great success for us. Not only did we save money, but we got to have 8 great meals (4 Signatures) and order whatever we wanted, regardless of its price. A common complaint regarding the Deluxe Dining Plan is that it is way too much food. By spreading out our 12 credits (4 nights worth) over 5 days and including 4 Signature restaurants (requiring 2 credits each) this didn’t seem to be a problem. We also shared one dessert a few times when we felt too full for two. So I guess we broke a few of the rules for maximizing the dollar value received with the Dining Plan. However, despite this, we still ended up with a 39% savings and even saved over $200 in comparison to using the TIW discount.

    One more thing…I’ve compiled a list of the per credit value of each of our meals. With only one exception (California Grill), the higher values were received at the non-Signature (1 credit) restaurants. However, it’s interesting to note that my favorite meal of these first eight was at Yachtsman Steakhouse…so for me that makes it the most valuable rather than the least. :thumbsup2


    Coral Reef - $51.88
    Teppan Edo - $48.09
    California Grill - $45.07
    Sanaa - $41.28
    La Hacienda - $40.76
    Narcoossee’s - $39.90
    Flying Fish - $34.02
    Yachtsman Steakhouse - $31.60






    NEXT UP: Grand Floridian Cafe breakfast
     
  4. CarolMN

    CarolMN DVC Co-Moderator Moderator

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    Thanks again for the great reviews - the pictures add so much!

    I really appreciated the TiW vs DxDP comparison, as well.
     
  5. queenmichelle

    queenmichelle Mouseketeer

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    Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake

    OMG I NEED this!!!!
     
  6. stubb

    stubb Mouseketeer

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    Hi
    I have really enjoyed reading your dining review. I am suprised at how expensive the glasses of wine were in the restaurants. In the UK I would expect to pay that price for a bottle!
    Another question how were you able to eat that amount of food!!! I know that there is a lot of walking to be done on a disney holiday but I dont think I would be able to!!!
    Thanks again for such a readable trip report
    Michelle
     
  7. disney_princess_85

    disney_princess_85 DIS Veteran

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    Fantastic reviews! ::yes::
     
  8. nocruisecontrol

    nocruisecontrol Where it all began....

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    Awesome reviews! I always think I'm going to remember to write down our dining experiences and then never do. Generally we'd be headed to Disney in September but we've opted for Hilton Head instead this year so I'm sort of going through Disney withdrawal, :) and it's too early to make spring break dining ADR's (but not too early to plan!).

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  9. Euphoria027

    Euphoria027 Mouseketeer

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    Just now catching up on your dining report! You're not alone in your feelings for California Grill's signature pork dish! I didn't love it either. Nothing was BAD, I just didn't care all that much for the way the flavors tasted together, I guess! Loving all the photos... It seems like you had a great trip!
     
  10. ocdisney08

    ocdisney08 Mouseketeer

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    I go to school in Austin and have been to Uchiko and think it's amazing! But I still really liked the Spicy Kazan Roll when I had it. Uchiko and California Grill are both great restaurants and make wonderful sushi, but to me they seem to have different styles, you know what I mean? But then again, I have the hardest time picking favorites :rotfl:

    btw, I have been loving your reviews!
     
  11. Linda67

    Linda67 Has a Masters in Margaritas

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    You are really doing a wonderful job of these reviews :thumbsup2

    Thanks for the Dining Plan/TIW analysis, really interesting
     
  12. jabead

    jabead DIS Veteran

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    Thanks Carol! Please stay tuned for the reviews from our last two days of the trip (sans Dining Plan)...including two sit-down breakfasts, lunch at Le Cellier, Tea at the Grand Floridian, two more Signature dinners, and our last day of Eating & Drinking around the World. Much more delicious food and adult beverages yet to come, and of course the pics too! ;)



    Looks like it won't be long until you can have it. ENJOY! :thumbsup2




    Unfortunately the wine is rather expensive at all of the restaurants at Disney World. I'm sure you could buy a bottle of decent wine for the price of one glass if you have a car and go off-property to a liquor store or even a grocery store. But if you are like me and enjoy having a glass of wine with your meal, then you are forced to pay the premium price for it.

    As for the amount of food we ate...reading back through my reviews I would have to agree that we did eat A LOT OF FOOD! :lmao: But at the time we were eating it, it didn't seem like that much. :confused3 We never stuffed ourselves until we were miserable. We ate very little for breakfast and then had early lunches and later dinners, with several hours in between. Also we often shared a dessert rather than both ordering one. So anyway, it all seemed to work out okay for us. But as you will soon see, during our meals for our last two days (not on Dining Plan) we do a lot of sharing. ;)


    Thanks for reading! More reviews coming soon. :thumbsup2




    Thanks nocrusiecontrol! Spring break will be here before you know it. :)



    I'm so relieved to hear I'm not the only one who isn't wild about the pork. :laughing:


    My daughter would be so jealous. She loves Austin! :love: She has spent the last two summers there doing an internship at the University of Texas and would love to live there someday.






    Thanks Linda! :)
     
  13. jabead

    jabead DIS Veteran

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    LIFE AFTER THE DINING PLAN

    We were up early today and took a short ride on the Resort Monorail from our resort, the Polynesian, to the next stop, the Grand Floridian, for our 8:00 a.m. …

    Breakfast at the GRAND FLORIDIAN CAFÉ


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    THE SHORT VERSION

    Highlights – French Toast

    Disappointments – None

    Would We Return? – Yes



    THE LONG VERSION

    DD rarely eats breakfast so I was very happy when she agreed to join me for breakfast at the Grand Floridian Café. I did have to make one concession though… we had to share. :sad1: So although I could have probably eaten an entire order of the delicious Maple Vanilla French Toast, I had to settle for ½ an order. This was brought to us already split between our two plates. The Maple Vanilla French Toast is described on the menu as…Challah Bread dipped in Maple and Vanilla flavored Batter with Bacon or Sausage (we chose bacon). I really like this version of French Toast and would highly recommend it to any French Toast aficionados out there. :thumbsup2


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    Maple Vanilla French Toast with Bacon (1/2 Order)




    I also had a cappuccino and DD had a Café au Lait. You have the option here of adding chocolate, caramel, or vanilla flavoring to your coffee drinks for an additional $.50. We both had vanilla added. I think this was my third cappuccino of the trip and was my favorite, probably because of the addition of the vanilla flavoring. ;)


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    Cappuccino with Vanilla flavoring added



    The Grand Floridian Café is very bright and cheery, with many windows that overlook the lovely gardens and quiet pool of the Grand Floridian Resort.


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    And I love the red roses which adorn all of the tables here.


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    Our server was friendly and efficient and had served our food and presented us with a check in about 30 minutes time. This was perfect for us, as we wanted to make the Magic Kingdom rope drop at 9:00. A great start to our first day of dining without the Dining Plan! :thumbsup2


    And so I can calculate my total savings with Tables in Wonderland…


    20% TIW Discount - $4.75



    NEXT UP: Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Lounge
     
  14. iloveeeyore

    iloveeeyore DIS Veteran

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    I have been following along and enjoying your reviews, just not posting. The GF Cafe looks so beautiful! It is definitely on my list of places to try, for every meal, someday!

    Your system of using a short version and a long version has inspired me to write my DR that way. I think I will do the short version LIVE and then edit to add the long version with pics when I return.

    I'm curious how you enjoyed the Poly vs. BW?

    Thanks for taking the time to write this excellent report! And Happy Belated Birthday!!
     
  15. librarygeek

    librarygeek DIS Veteran

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    I'm joining in late, but I'm loving your food review! My honeymoon to WDW is in less than a month and there are a few places you went to that we are doing as well :)

    So glad you shared the wine passport! I hadn't heard of it before and now I am so excited to try it on our upcoming trip!

    Also, I can completely sympathize with your daughter about the wine glass. I'm 23 but look very young for my age (I have occasionally been asked if I'm under 18!), so I really hate it when people just assume my age. For a waiter I feel like it's common courtesy not to make any assumptions like that, but I would guess he wasn't even thinking when he did it!
     
  16. Linda67

    Linda67 Has a Masters in Margaritas

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    Ooh that French Toast looks good :goodvibes

    I have read many good reviews of the Grand Floridian Cafe, I must try it sometime, especially as I love a good breakfast :thumbsup2
     
  17. jabead

    jabead DIS Veteran

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    That sounds like a great idea! I really enjoy reading live reports and look forward to reading yours.:thumbsup2

    As for the Poly vs. BWI, that's a difficult question. The Poly has long been our family favorite (we have stayed there more than any other resort) because of the theming and being on the monorail. However our favorite park is Epcot so we love the convenience of staying at one of the Epcot resorts and being able to walk in the back door of Epcot. That is why we almost always do a split stay. We have stayed at all of the Epcot resorts (except for the Swan) and prefer the BWI over the others. I would have to say that after our recent trips, the BWI may even be our overall favorite resort now. The rooms that we have had on our last two stays at the Poly were showing much more wear and tear than the ones at the BWI. Also the Poly still does not have the sink area separate from (outside of) the toilet/shower room, unlike all the other Deluxe Resorts. And now I have heard that they have cut back the hours that the monorail runs, making that advantage a little less attractive. So all these things plus the fact that the Poly is more expensive is definitely tipping the scales in favor of the BWI.



    Thanks librarygeek! :) And best wishes on your upcoming marriage. Hope you have a great honeymoon trip to WDW! :hug:




    Both the Grand Floridian Cafe and the Kona Cafe are great places to have breakfast before spending a day at Magic Kingdom. :thumbsup2 I too love a good breakfast, but sadly the rest of my family would rather skip breakfast and have the extra time to sleep. :sad2:
     
  18. butiflfeet

    butiflfeet DIS Veteran

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    I'm just now finding your reviews and I love them! You give some good critiques of the meals and overall experience. Thanks for sharing!
     
  19. sandyj55

    sandyj55 Earning My Ears

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    I am doing the dining plan for the first time next year and have really enjoyed reading your report and the pictures have made my mouth water. I am also from central Illinois about 50 miles from Bloominton so can get some great flights to Orlando!!! Disney has always been one of my favorite places to visit and it seemed like i was ther reading your review...thanks for taking the time!!!:surfweb:
     
  20. njphmom

    njphmom Earning My Ears

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    Thank you so much for your reviews and in- depth descriptions. I am curious as to the cost analysis in post #142? Where does the tip get added in your total cost of the Deluxe DDP? Would you not have to add 18 - 20 % tip from each of the meals and add that on top of the cost of the plan to get your total??? I am trying to figure out what is best for myself and 2 college- age children. We will be there next week. :banana:
     
  21. jabead

    jabead DIS Veteran

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    Thanks butiflfeet! :) I hope to have more reviews up soon, so stay tuned.



    :wave: Hello neighbor!!! I live about 20 miles north of Bloomington and I love to fly to Orlando from the Bloomington airport. You gotta love free parking. :thumbsup2



    When comparing the two (TIW vs. DDP) I didn't include the tip because it would be the same amount either way. With TIW the tip is calulated on the pre-discounted total at the rate of 18% and automatically added to your bill. In other words, you are required to pay a tip of at least 18% when using the TIW card. With the Dining Plans the tip amount is left up to you (unless there are 6 or more in your group, then you again are automatically charged 18%). So when comparing the two the tip is not really relevant, however in order to get an idea of what your total dining expenses will be for budget purposes you would need to include the tip. Does that answer your question?

    I hope you have a great trip! :thumbsup2
     

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