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|Restaurant Review - Le Cellier Steakhouse|
One of the highlights of Epcot Center when it opened in 1982 was dining at the various countries in World Showcase. Guests would queue up at interactive terminals to sign up for tables at the restaurants as soon as they entered the park, and it was not uncommon for guests to find their restaurants of choice fully booked unless they got there bright and early. Although dining in World Showcase is still popular, it is now much easier to get a table.
Le Cellier Steakhouse originally opened in the Canada pavilion as a cafeteria-style restaurant. Located down the hill and past the garden, it did indeed appear to be a cellar. The food was very good, and eventually Disney decided to close it down, do some work inside, and open it back up as a full service restaurant. Currently it is one of the most popular restaurants for a steak meal, and it is relatively easy to get in for lunch. Priority seatings are always recommended, but lunch is often possible even at the last minute. Dinners are much more difficult to arrange at the last minute, particularly during events such as the Candlelight Processional, where guests can buy a dinner package that includes Le Cellier as a dining option.
Le Cellier is one of the few Disney restaurants that I consider worth a visit every trip. Given the large number of restaurants on the property, spending limited vacation time and budget eating at a familiar place rather than trying somewhere new might not sound very appealing, but Le Cellier has always been good enough to return for future meals.
The restaurant is staffed with young cast members from Canada. The dining room is divided into several sections that each represent one of the provinces. There are no visual signs of one province ending and another beginning, but the person seating the party explains which province the table is in, and should explain where in Canada it is located.
The restaurant has stone walls and lighting that evoke a wine cellar. The wooden tables and chairs are simple, and a fireplace is located near the center of the dining room. Despite the cellar theming, it is not a dark restaurant, and there is sufficient light to read the menu with ease. There are small rest rooms in the back, and it is possible to look into the kitchen from a few of the tables. The atmosphere is comfortable, the stone walls make it feel cool during warm days, and dining here has always been a pleasure.
The servers usually talk about where they are from, and give some information about their hometown if the guests appear interested. Every table receives an order of sourdough, multigrain, and pretzel breadsticks. The servers explain that the sourdough represents Yukon Territory, which has an annual Sourdough Festival. The multigrain represents the three Prairie Provinces, and the pretzel variety represents Octoberfest in Canada. All are delicious, but the pretzel breadstick seems to be the most popular. They are also great dipped in the famous cheddar cheese soup.
This year, I returned for lunch on July 12 in a party of eight, and on July 27 with one other person. It is also an excellent choice for solo diners. We did have a problem with our server being very slow for the first lunch - leaving us waiting between courses and for the check. She was very friendly, but not very efficient. Since this was highly unusual, I wanted to give them another try and on the next visit everything was back to its usual level of excellent service.
Unsurprisingly, the menu is heavy on steak choices; however, it also provides seafood and other entrées. Perhaps the single most popular item is the Canadian cheddar cheese soup, which is made with smoked bacon and Moosehead beer. It comes in a small cup but is very filling, and makes a wonderful meal for someone with a light appetite. They make the recipe available since it has been requested so often [see the bottom of this article for the recipe]. Other appetizers include shrimp cocktail, beef and barley soup, scallops, and rock crab spring rolls.
Salads, of both the dinner and entrée varieties, are available at lunch, including an unusual grilled chicken Caesar salad. Unless you ask otherwise, it arrives not chopped up, and the romaine may have been on the grill briefly. It is not soggy or wilted, but is a bit different. They serve a spicy beef tenderloin salad and another with trout on top of the greens. Generally any of the entrée salads are plenty for two people to share, especially when paired with an appetizer such as the cheese soup.
The lunch menu includes a number of sandwiches in addition to a small selection of entrées. The herb-crusted prime rib sandwich is very popular, as are the steak burgers. The burgers are large and delicious, and can be augmented with a variety of toppings. A chicken sandwich, steak sandwich, and reuben round out the sandwich offerings.
Lunch entrées run the gamut from sweet potato ravioli, Prince Edward Island mussels and pasta, or New York strip steak. The dinner menu also includes lamb chops, filet mignon, prime rib, salmon, chicken, and duck. A very popular entrée is the mushroom-stuffed filet mignon, served with wild mushroom risotto.
The wine list includes wines from California, Oregon, and Italy, with many being served by the glass for $8.50 to $10.25. Reasonably priced nonalcoholic smoothies are also available for $3.79, and include Northern Lights (cappuccino), Niagara Refresher (mango with cranberry), and Red Maple (berry).
Children have their own menu, with a choice of a burger, hot dog, chicken fingers, or pasta for $4.99. They can also choose a child-sized portion of prime rib or chicken for $6.50, and even splurge on s'mores or chocolate mousse for $3.29.
Dessert is often the highlight of any meal, and Le Cellier does not disappoint the sweet tooth. The creme brulee is reportedly excellent, and the Walt's 100 Years of Magic Chocolate Cake is the current featured dessert. The cake is huge - easily enough to share. Other desserts include an apple tart with caramel, espresso cheesecake, and raspberry sorbet. One of the most creative desserts is found on the child's menu - the chocolate mousse.
This dessert is large enough to share, and starts with a chocolate chip cookie topped with a large scoop of chocolate mousse rolled in chocolate cookie crumbs. Two blueberries serve as eyes, and a smaller scoop of mousse forms the nose. The tongue is drawn on the plate using chocolate syrup and a raspberry sauce. Any chocoholic would love this dessert, and best of all the staff serves it to anyone who asks, regardless of their age.
I plan to be back for yet another meal at Le Cellier on my next trip, and recommend it to anyone else. Priority seating arrangements are generally necessary for dinner and recommended for lunch, but walkups are possible during the afternoon. Le Cellier is a terrific place to cool off and take a break from the heat and crowds while enjoying a delicious meal and efficient friendly service.
Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup (Le Cellier)
Slowly heat milk. Brown the regular bacon first, then after it is rendered halfway, add the smoked bacon and render together. Add the butter and melt. Add celery, onions and leeks, cook until translucent. Add flour and mix thoroughly to form a roux. Add chicken stock and simmer for 3 minutes. Add warm milk and stir vigorously to thicken. Cook out roux until thickened (it should not have a starchy taste). Reduce heat to low, add cheese, and stir until melted. Season with kosher salt, pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Add warm ale just before serving. Makes 1 gallon.
Important re-heating instructions: When reheating soup, do not bring to a boil; it will break down.
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