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California Grill
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Dine at an authentic "California Style" restaurant located at the top (15th floor) of Disney's Contemporary Resort while overlooking the Magic Kingdom.
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Average Reviewer Rating: 3.9 out of 53.9 out of 53.9 out of 53.9 out of 53.9 out of 5
Number of Reviews: 19 ( Displaying Reviews: 1 - 10 )
4.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.0   September 16, 2010
Reviewer: tabbypanther13 Houston, Texas     June 07, 2011
We loved the experience! The food was great and the servers were very friendly and ready to serve. We had an early reservation (around 5:45pm). There are are two great things about this place: 1) the view is amazing! you can see the Magic Kingdom off in the distance (where we sat). 2) if you ate there you can come back to watch the Wishes Fireworks from their viewing deck! This was also amazing.
I am glad that we went early because the night time crowd was a little snooty. When we went back to view the wishes fireworks the wait time (even if you had a reservation) was extremely long and the people were a little too cranky.
But as a whole the experence was great!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful
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1.0/5.01.0/5.01.0/5.01.0/5.01.0/5.0   May 12 and 13, 2009
Reviewer: ForU2know Chicago, IL U.S.A.     May 26, 2009
During our recent anniversary celebration at WDW, we scheduled four dinner reservations at the Contemporary Inn's California Grill during our week-long trip (rooming at Grand Floridian). We love the place that much; enjoying fabulous meals, wine, and service numerous times within each of the six visits made to WDW in the previous nine years. Their food, we tell friends, is five-star; top notch; heaven on a fork.

However, this year's visit could be our last to California Grill for dinner. We had two miserable dinners in succession, and cancelled our last two reservations. Something big has changed. The menu still has some of the familiar offerings -- the Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Oak-fired filet of Beef -- but a longstanding favorite is no more: their selection of Brick Oven Fired Flatbreads. If a one and a half planet option had been available, THAT would be our rating; but certainly not two planets!

We ordered different meals our first night, the entrees disappointed. The filet of beef was too heavily salted to be enjoyed or eaten, and the grouper was slightly above room temperature while the vegetables below it were steaming hot. We were told the chef cooks the fish to a medium-rare heat unless instructed otherwise; thats why it wasnt warmer. Hmm... the fish had been cooked through, but cold. But per the explanation we'd received, we reordered.

The filet wasn't salted on the second service, while the fish was now too undercooked. We requested to please fire this just five more minutes, which should have allowed us to dine together. INSTEAD, nothing come back for about twenty minutes. So one of us ate without the other having any meal before them... They redid the entire grouper order (NOT what the customer requested!).

When the fish finally returned, it was fully cooked but the vegetables beneath were not of the same wonderful quality the first two servings had been. In fact, had they offered to leave the vegetables on either the first or second service, that would have been a good gesture.

We ended-up spending over 2 hours simply to have an entree each; and over 3 1/2 hours from our seating through dessert and coffee (sashimi and cocktails, or coffee and dessert). It derailed our evening entirely.

The manager and server were as good as they could be over it. But alas, being on Disney's Deluxe Dining Plan, we'd already prepaid for dinner, so "comping" wasn't an option to help wipe away that disastrous first dinner tab ($170.00 + gratuity). We also tip generously, in cash.

Because the front of the house staff had been so gracious about the ordeal, we returned the next night, certain that the first evening had been a fluke and that we had nothing to worry about.

We both ordered the pork tenderloin, a meal each of us has enjoyed on numerous visits over the past six years; I substituted carrots for the polenta because I'd ordered a cheese appetizer. My appetizer (Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, shiitake mushrooms and basil) came out with parmesan and another (?asiago) cheese grated onto it. I do not care for parmesan cheese. I explained this to the server, and noted to him that there was no mention of parmesan or additional cheeses for this item as it appeared on the menu, otherwise I would have asked them not to be included. I requested that another be prepared without the added cheeses atop. He wondered if we might just "push them aside?" I pointed-out that I'd be losing all the other wonderful flavors -- tomato, pesto and spices; because the grated cheese was covering everything (the waiter earned distinct demerits for his insensitivity). The second service on the goat cheese ravioli was fabulous ... even worth the inconvenience of waiting twice.

Then the entrees came. Again, we were served salty food. The pork was salted; too much for our liking, but edible at least (NOT enjoyable). My carrots were another story. They were served in little diagonal disks. I'd expected something more "earthy" in presentation, but the problem was this: each little orange disk was carrot turned salt lick; entirely inedible. Each little sliver of carrot was so salty as to be entirely devoid of carrot TASTE.

What has happened to this fabulous restaurant is beyond our comprehension. Some of the staff have been there for many years; we spotted some familiar faces this trip and still recall their excellent service from years past. But the food has suffered. Each meal we enjoyed over the years had been a harmony of fabulous flavor; pure delight. Proper food prep does not include over seasoning so as to overwhelm on the taste buds. The food served at California Grill was never salted as such before; if at all, it was quite subtle -- so as you would barely notice it. We are hoping things improve before our next WDW visit. And we'll remain hopeful, but we might share a meal to play it safe if we dine there again, just to ensure that we can dine together.
6 out of 10 people found this review helpful
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5.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.0   October 26, 2007
Reviewer: Inkyprintz Schaumburg, IL     February 18, 2008
We made reservations for dinner at the California Grill for Friday, October 26, 2007. First let me give you a little background about us and why we were dining there. My boyfriend is a bit of a foodie. I'm not as adventurous and he is but I do like to try some new things. We both enjoy dining out and don't mind paying more for good food, good service and a pleasant atmosphere. However, in my 30 plus trips to Disney parks, I've never been one to try too many of the resort restaurants. I usually prefer to spend more time in the parks rather than to leave a park, get dressed up and make my way to another resort. Also, I work in the travel industry and I'm usually booking a reduced room rate so I don't qualify for the Dining Plan. When I travel with my sister, we usually aren't too keen to pay over $100 out of pocket for dinner when there are so many other things to spend money on! But the California Grill was on my boyfriend's list of restaurants that he really wanted to try. If I'm being honest, I grudgingly went along with the plan. It was important to him and as much as I hate to admit it, it's not all about me! Our reservation was for our last night at WDW. The week before we had experienced a lot of rain, higher than normal humidity and crowds during the previous week so it would've been nice to run around and do some of the things we hadn't been able to get to. I did not have the best mindset that night. I was sort of just thinking, "OK-Lets get this over." Our reservation was for a little later in the evening so that we'd be able to view the Hallo-wishes fireworks from the viewing deck. We checked in about 20-30 minutes early and were sent right up to the restaurant. As we stepped out of the elevator, my first impression of the restaurant was, "Oh no. This is not good!" The noise level was deafening! There were kids running around and the front area by the bar was packed. The noise was just bouncing off the walls. We didn't have to wait long to be seated and as the hostess led us to our table on the other side of the restaurant, we were pleased to leave the noise behind us! We were seated at a very pleasant table with the windows facing the Grand Floridian behind us and the kitchen in front of us. Our server was extremely friendly and very welcoming. I am not a wine drinker due to allergies and I did not feel pressured in any way to order wine, drinks, or anything else for that matter. We both started out with the Lobster Bisque with brandy whipped cream...and it was dee-lish! I'm a soup person and I could've have made a meal out of a big bowl of the soup and the crusty bread. My entrée was Grilled Pork Tenderloin with creamy goat cheese polenta, zinfandel glaze, and sage. Again it was excellent! I could've licked the plate clean! My boyfriend had the Oak-fired Filet of Beef with root vegetables and teriyaki barbeque sauce. It was so good, he's still thinking about the tasty veggies! I really didn't have room for dessert but everything was so good up to this point that I just had to have something. My boyfriend chose the Year of a Million Dreams- Honey Crunch Cake with Chantilly cream, oven-roasted golden pineapple and crunch candy crumble, which he enjoyed tremendously. I had the Green Apple Trio- apple jalousie tart with caramel foam, green apple shooter, and green apple meringue with apple sorbet. It was all good but I could eat that apple sorbet by the bucket! When my boyfriend made the reservation he mentioned that we were celebrating my birthday so when the dessert came it included a little white chocolate HAPPY BIRTHDAY sign. Also, at one point a man came to our table and took our photo. Later on he presented it to me with a Dreams certificate for my Birthday. It was such a nice touch! When it came time for the MK fireworks, we got up and moved outside to the viewing area. We had been to 2 of the Halloween party nights at the Magic Kingdom that week so it was fun to see the Hallo-wishes fireworks from a different perspective. As you can tell, The California Grill won me over. I began the night not very excited about going. But I ended the night I was very pleased with every aspect of our dining experience. I cant wait to go again!
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful
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5.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.0   1-9-08
Reviewer: cactusgirl Texas     January 16, 2008
The California Grill met my expectations. We were on the dining plan and we were celebrating our 10th anniversary. Our reservation was for 9:00 and we arrived about 8:55. I mentioned to the lady at the desk that it was our anniversary. We joked for a minute and then she escorted us up the the CG in the bar area.
We sat at bar for a moment and tried to decide what we wanted to drink--individual glasses or share a bottle. The bartender overheard our conversation and told each of us to close our eyes. He poured a few samples for us and we selected one. I was a little nervous about selecting a wine without knowing the price, but I was pleasantly surprised that the one we selected was very reasonable (for Disney) at under $50 for the bottle.

We quickly were seated in the Wine room--lucky us. Whereas it was a little noisy in the main dining room, here it was very quiet and intimate. There was a main server and an assistant for the few tables in that room so our service was superb.

We started with the mushroom soup (wow) and the goat cheese ravioli (good). DH had the beef filet (muy bueno) and I had the fish (nice, but nothing to write home about). To finish the meal we had chocolate cake--way too rich--and the "Where dreams come true" honey crunch cake. It truly was the stuff of dreams. They even put a chocolate "wishes" message on the desserts that read "Happy Anniversary." Our server offered to wrap ours up for us when we had finished. We declined his offer, but it was nice of him to suggest it.

Overall, we loved our experience. The atmosphere and food selection reminded me of Palo (the adults only rest. on the cruise line). The only difference was the noise level. If we had been in the main dining room, I might have ranked the CG a little lower; however, the Wine room ambiance guaranteed this a firm 5.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful
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4.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.0   June 15, 2007
Reviewer: RockDoc07 Long Island, NY     June 23, 2007
A colleague of mine heavily recommended the California Grill to us for our trip to we decided to give it a shot. We did the dining plan and used our two credits each. We were certainly not at all disappointed. The food certainly deserves 5 planets but I will get to why we chose to only give it 4.

We made reservations at 9:30 pm because we wanted to be able to have a seat to watch the fireworks at 10. I knew that if we wanted a good seat we should arrive early. We ended up arriving VERY early (8:30) to check in just to see what was up. They told us that there would not be any good seats at 9:30 and that they had a table and they would seat us then. So that's what we did. If we had not been there that early we would have had some issues with seating and that might not have been the best so they need to work on their seating techniques a little bit. We did not have to wait on the second floor at all, which was good. But the woman basically said that we should go up right then and there.

Our waiter was Mike. absolutely great guy. Helped make great suggestions for appetizers for us. We had a lot of questions about the way the fireworks could be viewed and how it would be timed with our meal and he made sure that we were taken care of in that respect. He didn't try to push any other drinks or anything else other than what we ordered.

The ambeince and atmosphere in the restaurant is top notch. We had a view of Epcot at the end of the room and I had my back to the window so I had a view of the MK out the far left window and the exhibition kitchen in front of me.

Meals: She had the goat cheese ravioli to start and the swordfish entree for her main course. I had the "spicy sensation" which was tuna/avocado inside-out roll with a baby scallop on top of each piece and a "volcano sauce" on top. It was the best sushi I have ever had. Phenomenal. I had the free-range roasted chicken breast with rice for my entree. She had strawberry crepes for dessert and I had the honey crunch cake.

Mike was more than happy to hold our desserts so that we could go out and watch the fireworks after our entrees. He also took our drink orders in advance and brought them to us just before we were ready to head out to the viewing deck for the show. Only one problem (that dropped the rating down for me)-- when we ordered our cocktails, they could not make a mojito. I was a little surprised being that it's a very popular drink right now and it's a big top-shelf restaurant. But I had an excellent martini nonetheless.

In summary, atmosphere and service were awesome. The quality of all our food was sensational. The price was a little elevated if we were paying up front for it, but still was pretty good considering the experience and the atmosphere.

We would both absolutely eat here again, and really want to go with our families now.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful
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5.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.0   October 3, 2006
Reviewer: lisaboo Sacramento, CA     October 18, 2006
We were on the dining plan and decided that the California Grill would be our one "special" meal of the trip. We booked specifically because we love sushi and we wanted to see the fireworks. We arrived slightly before our time and they took us directly up to the restaurant, however they were not ready to seat us so we got drinks at the bar. Once they did seat us we had a beautiful view overlooking the Magic Kingdom. Our waitress upon finding out we were on the dining plan immediately brought us a large bottle of Evian, which I thought was a nice touch. For our appetizers my fiance had the deluxe sushi platter and I had the tuna three-ways. All of the sushi was delicious and fresh. We were almost completely stuffed even before our entrees came. We had the halibut and the salmon, which were both very good but quite large and hard for us to finish. For dessert we both had the valhrona chocolate souffle, my fiance with the raspberry sauce and ice cream and myself with just vanilla ice cream. The desserts were very good. We chose to stay inside to watch the fireworks as we had a good view from where we were sitting. I only wish they would have dimmed the lights as we had read that they did. In the future, I would return to the California Grill but pay out of pocket and only order sushi and dessert as that was more than enough food and the best part of the restaurant.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful
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4.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.0   July 2004
Reviewer: hmp2z Charlotte, NC     July 28, 2006
We were seated almost immediately, upon arrival, and we were given a poor waiter. He was extremely affected and very snide. He would disappear for long periods of time, and was slow to clear for the next course. We ordered a Moscato Giallo, which we enjoyed, but our choice seemed to upset him for some reason. I can't fathom what that could be.
We had a beautiful view of the Magic Kingdom from our table, and Andy got a few photos of the sun setting. We watched the Water Parade right from our table.
Our appetizer was the Sushi Deluxe Platter, which was wonderful. I enjoyed the Peeky Toe Crab California Rolls they taste so different, when its real crab meat, not the artificial stuff. Andy had a tempura shrimp roll, then he had a tuna roll, while I ate the salmon roll. I had the yellowtail sushi and the shrimp sushi, and Andy had cuttlefish, sea bream, tuna, and salmon sushi. The salmon was very tender, just like the salmon sushi at Tempura Kiku. All of the sushi that we had here was tender and fresh and delicious. It was a much better quality than what we can usually procure here in Charlotte, being completely landlocked.
For my main course, I ordered an appetizer, because I realized that I always ordered way too much food. I had the Heirloom Melon with Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Serrano Ham, Arugula, and Pine Nuts. This was very light, and was just what I wanted for dinner. The melons were cantaloupe and honeydew, and I ate those with the cheese and pine nuts. The contrasts of flavors and textures were wonderful! The melons were crisp and sweet, while the cheese was smooth, creamy, and a bit tangy. The pine nuts added a nice crunch, and they all worked well together. I did not enjoy the Serrano ham, because I felt like I was just gnawing on a raw pig. It tasted so porky, and had a weird pig smell that I did not enjoy at all.
Andy had the Oak Fired Beef Filet with Three Cheese Gratin, Green Beans, and Tamarind Barbeque Sauce. I suggested that he try this, because our friend Wendy had raved about it during her recaps. He really enjoyed the sauce, though the outside of the filet was a bit charred. He had ordered the filet rare, and the inside was rare, but he thought that the outside could have been less charred. He liked the sauce a lot, and wished that there had been more of it on the filet! When he first ordered it, he didnt think that he would like it very much, because hes not a big fan of barbeque sauce, but he found it to be surprisingly good.
For dessert, we had the Valrhona Chocolate Cake with a Molten Center and White Chocolate Ice Cream. This was incredible, just as it had been the last time wed had it. The center of the cake is so rich, and the cool ice cream works very well with the warm chocolate cake and the rich, creamy, gooey center. We're not fans of white chocolate, but we enjoyed this ice cream with the cake.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful
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4.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.04.0/5.0   December 1, 2005
Reviewer: OneForTheTeam Boston     April 22, 2006
I've eaten at the California Grill several times and always had a good meal. This last time was a little different.

First, this was my first visit since the new check-in process. It used to be that people would cram into the lounge to wait for thier table in typical Disney fashion. Now, you may enter the restaurant only when your reservation time comes. They are no better at seating you on time, but at least now you can get a seat at the bar and you don't have to climb over people to get to your table.

The other thing I learned was that, while the California Grill is a great place to watch fireworks, it's an even better place to not watch fireworks.

Several times now, I've informed my server that I plan to watch the fireworks and they are happy to time your meal so that you can leave the table during them. This time, I stated that we would not be watching the fireworks.

The service was outstanding! We asked for wine to be paired with each course and left it to our server to pick. She did an excellent job. They always do good, but this time there were no gaps in the service. Our server was able to take the time to talk to us. It was all very pleasant.

So there it is. The California Grill is very popular and people go there for different reasons. They tend to over-book a bit, so it can benefit you to tell them that you are not just there for the fireworks.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful
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1.0/5.01.0/5.01.0/5.01.0/5.01.0/5.0   10/25/05
Reviewer: burnell316 Elizabethtown PA     December 07, 2005
Dined at California Grill on October 25, 2005. While we LOVED JIKO & KONA, the California Grill was AWFUL. Our dining plan took care of the $170 bill for 2, but the plan could not turn poor food and dismal service into good. The dinner took 3 hours. This place is only concerned with selling you sushi and wine. Wines that cost $50 - $300 a bottle. The view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks was not worth a special trip to this place. The California Grill is a case of enough people saying something bad is good and the masses agreeing. The sushi was bland; our dinners were flavorless, and very basic. Nothing original and special like the menus of Kona, Jiko, Boma, the Whispering Canyon Cafe, and Restaurant Akershus.
2 out of 8 people found this review helpful
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5.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.05.0/5.0   June 1, 2005
Reviewer: kjb     June 25, 2005
We visited the California Grill as part of our trip to Disney World for our anniversary. Our waiter was outstanding, making our night so special. The found was outstanding. We had from appitizer to dessert. The waiter gave us wonderful suggestions and treated our child with respect yet made it fun for her too. Between the three of us we tried many different foods and couldnt find a negative with any of it. The steak I had was so tender that we could cut it with a butter knife. The chocolate lauva cake was to die for. The ravioli and flatbread was excellant. We didnt have to wait more than 5 minutes to be seated and were given a come back anytime we were there and we could watch the fireworks. Just hang on to our receipt. I cant say enough wonderful things about our waiter-Ron--Its a bit pricey but oooooo so worth it. We were so pleased with the evening.
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful
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