A Trio of New Eateries Mark the Completion of the Paradise Pier Remodelby Britt Winslow, contributing writer
There seems to be a consistent progression in the life cycle of theme park. First, the park is brand new and offers visitors seemingly endless potential for fun and thrills. And then along the way some of that new stuff just isn't so new anymore. Often times when that happens, changes will occur.
None of the Disney Parks are immune to this fact. Sometimes, what seemed to be a great idea in the beginning never took off the way the imagineers thought it would. You won't find a Disney Park that has changed more since its opening day that Disney California Adventure Park.
Disney California Adventure Park is only a few months past its tenth birthday. Yet by my quick count there are only four dining options serving what I would consider a full meal – an entrée, a side and a drink – that have remained virtually unchanged since opening day in 2001. Those four are Award Wieners, Taste Pilot Grill, Pacific Wharf Cafe and Corn Dog Castle.
Long gone are the days of Soap Opera Bistro and Hollywood & Dine. What are those places, you ask? That's exactly my point. Two places that sounded like a good idea but never caught on with the average Disney Parks guest.
When the Walt Disney Company announced the multi-year expansion project for Disney California Adventure Park in October 2007, Disney fanatics everywhere knew we'd be getting some good things in the Anaheim theme park that wasn't called Disneyland. While most people were anticipating great things from Toy Story Midway Mania and World of Color, I was hoping for some really great places to eat.
It is easy to forget that ground zero for the $1.1 billion dollar expansion of Disney California Adventure Park was the Paradise Pier section. Toy Story Midway Mania was the first new attraction to come on line under the new plan (it actually began construction before the official expansion announcement was made). Then as luck would have it, at least my luck anyway, the last part of the Paradise Pier project to be completed was the opening of the two new restaurants.
No matter how you get to the western most portion of Paradise Pier, you cannot help but notice how much room has been allocated to the new dining facility. The second thing you will notice is how beautifully laid out and landscaped the area is. There are plenty of shady places to sit. There is a bandstand with live music. There is a refreshing sense of comfort and relaxation.
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta
If you are like me, you probably didn't get too excited when you first heard the name Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta. Let's face it, Pizza Oom Mow Mow had both pizza and pasta. And once the novelty of surfboard shaped pizzas went the way of Mulholland Madness, Pizza Oom Mow Mow was just Redd Rocket's Pizza Port dressed in a board shorts and a tank top.
But guess what. Both the pizza and pasta served in Paradise Pier are better than the respective dishes served at the Tomorrowland counterpart. How can that be? Doesn't Disney only cook one style of food and then redress it in every restaurant? Not exactly, and if you haven't tried the new menus at Village Haus and Tangaroa Terrace then the pizza will be totally new to you.
Forgive me for a paragraph or two while I ascend Mount Pious and preach to you about pizza. Sadly, far too many people in this country have no idea that they are eating horrible pizza. Pizza isn't made in a hut, it shouldn't have anything to do with a game based on small white tiles with black dots and most importantly it shouldn't be delivered to your door in less than 30 minutes. The doughy crust served in most chain pizza stores robs you of what should be a simple yet explosive burst of flavors and textures. And with the exception of the cornmeal crust deep dish pizzas of Chicago, pizza crust should be thin.
The pizza served at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta are called flat bread pizzas. Currently, there are four pizza options, cheese, pepperoni, and–for the more developed palates–BBQ Chicken and Portobello Mushroom and Spinach.
In addition to chicken and barbecue sauce, the BBQ Chicken pizza is topped with applewood-smoked bacon, smoked gouda, mozzarella, red onions and cilantro. Mouse Planet's own Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix summed this pizza up well by stating, "the smoked gouda was nice on this, but I thought there wasn't enough sauce and the bacon was much more noticeable than the chicken."
The clear winner in this pizza quartet is the Portobello Mushroom and Spinach pizzas. Topped with sliced Portobello mushrooms, spinach, herbed marinara, mozzarella, artichokes, pesto, ricotta salata and pecorino romano, this pizza is good enough to make me want to walk by the best corn dog in Orange County. The flavors work well together, especially the pesto and ricotta salata, and they are complimented perfectly by the thin crust.
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta also offers three pasta dishes. Spaghetti with Meatballs, Five-Cheese Ravioli, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta. The pastas are made in small batches in a demonstration kitchen.
The campanelle pasta topped with a sun-dried tomato cream sauce is a great dish served directly from the pan that bursts with a rich tomato flavor. However, as good and simple as that dish is, I enjoyed the Five-Cheese Ravioli the most. This dish is a little heavier than the other two but the green and white striped pasta–achieved by alternating ribbons of spinach and traditional pasta side-by-side–filled with five different cheeses and then topped with pesto and toasted pine nuts makes it special. The richness of this dish makes it ideal for sharing.
The third demonstration station of Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta is the salad section. Even though this course didn't make it into the name of the restaurant it doesn't take a backseat to the pizza and pasta dishes. Chef de Cuisine Jay Garcia had this to say about the salad station. "Look at the way the salads with the fresh ingredients are being tossed." The chefs have worked extensively with the line crew to make sure the food is prepared consistently, no matter who makes it. The goal is for customers to get their salads within minutes of them being prepared, so they aren't sitting too long and wilting."
I really enjoyed the Boardwalk Field Greens salad. This delightful mixture of fresh greens topped with tomatoes, blue cheese, cucumbers, Craisins dried cranberries, caramelized pecans, golden raisins, with a basil vinaigrette gives you salty, sweet, and acidic flavors in every bite. Complimenting the flavors are the crunch of the pecans and the chew of the raisins and dried cranberries.
What about dessert? There are three dessert options at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, a Limoncello Cheesecake, an Espresso Brownie and a warm Dessert Pizza. I tried the Limoncello Cheesecake and thought it was pretty average. I do enjoy limoncello, the lemony Italian aperitif, and I think it was a nice touch to the dessert. Like the drink, the lemon flavor in the cheesecake is subtle and doesn't dominate the custard. However, the fact that this dessert is prepackaged and sitting in a refrigerated case doesn't help the crust. It's soggy and lacking the contrast in flavor and texture you would expect from a quality cheesecake.
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta does have some menu alternatives for guests with dietary restrictions. Gluten-free pizza crust is available as is gluten-free rice pasta. Pizzas, pastas and salads can be modified for dietary or allergy reasons but special requests might take some additional time. Desserts are pre-made in the pastry kitchen and cannot be modified.
Paradise Garden Grill
As much as I enjoy pizza and pasta I was really looking forward to the addition of Paradise Garden Grill. Especially after I learned that Mediterranean cuisine was the inspiration for the menu. I know that a lot of people will look at the menu for Paradise Garden Grill and think that it is weird. I think it is safe to say that this is the boldest food idea in a Disney theme park since the opening of Marrakesh in the Morocco pavilion in Epcot.
This counter service restaurant's menu revolves around Mediterranean Skewers. Guest can choose from four proteins, Grilled Steak, Lemon-Oregano Chicken, a spiced ground beef called Kefta, or Vegetable and Tofu. Then the guest can choose one of four sauces, Moroccan Chili, Chimichurri, Tandor-Spiced Yogurt, or Tzatziki. Each dish is served with rice pilaf, cucumber salad and pita bread.
Chef Garcia explained that the sauces have four unique flavor profiles, spicy, hearty, refreshing and tangy. Garcia knows that not every guest will like every sauce, but he feels that every guest will like at least one sauce. I can tell you this much, I am one of the guests that likes every sauce. And think about that for a minute. You can eat at Paradise Garden Grill sixteen times and never have the same skewer and sauce combination twice.
Here is the other thing I really like about this menu. Even though the skewers are called Mediterranean, you really get a worldwide flavor profile from the sauces. The Moroccan Chili sauce is tomato based and flavored with harissa chili and garlic giving you a North African experience. The cucumber, garlic and lime flavored yogurt sauce called tzatziki is a Greek classic. But the herb-and-citrus-based Chimichurri sauce transports you to Central and South America. And finally, the tumeric and coriander flavors in the Tandor-Spiced Yogurt is straight from the Indian subcontinent.
As someone who eats this style of food a lot, I do have a couple of criticisms about the product you get on the plate. First off, you only get one skewer of protein. Two skewers is usually the standard at the countless Mediterranean restaurants within a few miles of the Disneyland Resort. The second knock is the rice portion is a little skimpy. You won't see half of your plate filled with rice here. Chef Garcia had an explanation for the portion sizes. The menu was designed to be light and fulfilling as well as healthy and refreshing. After I had my skewer I was pleasantly full but not uncomfortable. I was able to continue my adventure through the Disneyland resort without the carbohydrate coma I often get after eating too much rice.
The third and final addition to Paradise Pier is Bayside Brews. Located near the exit of Silly Symphony Swings, guests can enjoy a nice cold draft beer from Sierra Nevada, Karl Strauss or Blue Moon. To go with the beer, guest can choose from a jalapeno cheese-filled pretzel, an cream cheese-filled pretzel or a Mickey Mouse Pretzel. Bayside Brews also serves the Coca Cola family of soft drinks available throughout Disney California Adventure Park.
So there you have it. Three new eateries with a diverse selection of food for you to enjoy in Paradise Pier with my two cents thrown in to boot. What more could you ask for? One more review? All right, here you go.
Dulce Adventura translated into English is Sweet Adventure. This new dessert window was a surprise addition to Pacific Wharf last weekend. Located in the corner of Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill–the same corner where they used to make the gourmet fortune cookies when Disney California Adventure Park first opened ten years ago– this sinful addition offers an assortment of apples, cookies, brownies and other confections.
Unfortunately, there isn't anything too unusual or special about this new sugary outpost. Most of the cookies and apples are the same that you will find in Greetings From California and Marceline Confectionery. However there are a few items served at Dulce Adventura that I have not noticed at the Disneyland Resort before. I tried the spicy peanut brittle and it was delicious. Here's how they do it. After they cook the peanut brittle and pour it out to cool, they dust the top if it with chili powder. I love spicy food and this has just enough heat to keep me interested. Next time I will have to try the spicy peanut apple.
While it is nice to not have to walk all the way to the main entrance for a cookie or an apple I was a little disappointed that Dulce Adventura didn't offer fresh desserts prepared on the spot. Tres leche cake is simple, inexpensive and carries the Latin theme. Churros with a dipping sauce would have been another nice addition. Even flan would have been a nice treat and a definite dulce adventura.