Le Cellier - Poutine on the Ritz at Epcotby Roan Poulter, contributing writer
Tucked neatly beneath the Canada pavilion is one of the most divisive restaurants in all of Disney dining. Le Cellier is for many an overrated and over salted experience. it rates among the very most difficult table service restaurants in Walt Disney World to book, often selling out 180 days in advance. How that level of seemingly insane popularity affects those perceptions of value was unclear to me. I have never planned a trip six months in advance, so we feared we had fallen into the group who ridicule the restaurant without having ever tasted their food.
As I wrote in last month's column, Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival is a very busy time for the park, but can occasionally afford some tremendous opportunities. We were able to secure a table the same day, on a Saturday during the heart of Food and Wine. Whether some long planning tourist had overindulged on cheese soup and Belgian waffles, or had just changed their minds, their cancellation allowed us to treat our daughter to a magnificent dinner and cross one of the remaining bucket list restaurants from our ledger.
Le Cellier is not meant to be from Quebec or Montreal, as many might surmise from the French name, but Manitoba, Canada. The fact that you walk through the homage to Butchart Gardens to get to it is all the more comical when you realize that they are about 1000 miles away from each other.
The bright Florida sun may be shining outside, but in Le Cellier it is always dark and welcoming, a shelter from the at times blistering Florida heat.
My first impression on walking into the dining room was how small it is. Little wonder tables are hard to come by when you could politely shout for the salt from the furthest tables. Certainly there is no room for in house entertainment, however the dizzying waltzes of servers maneuvering between the tightly packed tables is worth noting.
In good Canadian fashion our server was pleasant and extremely helpful in ordering. The menu is expensive, but not out of line with an upper end steakhouse. Choices tend to favor the heavier dishes, for example in Canada even the fries come with gravy. We ordered based on our server's recommendations and waited to see which camp, lovers or haters, we would fall into.
The bread course is a tour of Canada, sourdough bread celebrating the Yukon Territory festival, pretzel bread from the second largest Octoberfest in Ontario, and multigrain from the prairie province. Each was fine, if maybe a little overhyped. The multigrain best resembled a healthy trail mix that fell into not enough bread dough. We did request more of the pretzel bread later, but that had more to do with the next course.
Poutine, French fries with gravy, has long been a staple of middle Canada. The first time I heard of it, I thought they were kidding. It has started popping up more in the last few years, in fact a new counter service poutine stand is now open in Disney Springs, to which I thought, meh. However, I was now in line to taste the gold standard of poutine. Fresh cut fries, cooked to perfection, drizzled with truffle oil, combined with a squeaky cheese curd and covered at the table with a red wine reduction gravy. The way those flavors combine, the earthy truffle, back of the palette tang of the red wine, and the fatty cheese curd, is magic. Easily one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. Could not recommend it highly enough.
Le Cellier's filet mignon is Canadian tenderloin served over a bed of mushroom risotto with a side of asparagus-tomato relish and truffle-butter sauce. It was delicious, and the risotto pairs well with the filet. The portion size is small on the sides if two are planning to share.
Ribeye steak with heirloom carrots and truffle butter doesn't show on the menu, however, it was available the afternoon we dined. It was a beautiful cut of meat, cooked exactly as I ordered it. The heirloom carrots were perfect and grounded the steak as only a root vegetable can.
Overall the food was amazing, if expensive; we would definitely return. However, I don't think I would order steak again here. I have found with other similar high end steak restaurants, the steak is always good. Good cuts of meat, cooked for the correct amount of time, salted and topped with butter will always please, but I can make that at home. I want to be wowed, I want to have my taste buds treated to an altogether unique sensation. The Le Cellier poutine has that in spades, so on our next visit we will skip the steak and explore the uncharted waters round the outside of the menu.
Our ratings are as follows:
Dad (41): 4.6 of 5 – The poutine was absolutely out of this world. The menu seems small and odd that there were no more exotic meats.
Food Quality: 4.9 of 5
Value for money spent: 4.0 of 5
Ambiance: 4.75 of 5
Mom (41): 4.5 of 5 – Beautiful atmosphere with a very pleasant staff.
Daughter (17): 4.5 of 5 – Appreciated the birthday chocolates the server brought her on her special day.
Son (15): Not Present