One of the reasons I was REALLY excited about going to Disneyland this fall (aside from the fact that I had never been and we were running a little race there) was because the Disneyland Resort just went through a MAJOR makeover. Mostly at the California Adventure park, where the park basically had a HUGE makeover that was essentially a redo of the original concept. As part of the makeover, Disney added two huge new lands to the park–Buena Vista Street and Carsland. I expect you’ll see stuff about both here, but let’s start with Buena Vista Street and its centerpiece, the Carthay Circle Restaurant.
Buena Vista Street is the newly re-imagined entrance to California Adventure, and it’s meant to represent Hollywood in the 1920s when Walt Disney first arrived. It’s centerpiece is the Carthay Circle Theatre, which is a replica of the theatre where Snow White premiered. Inside the beautiful theatre building is a fancy restaurant and the new exclusive 1901 Club.
As soon as we firmed up our plans to head to Disneyland, I knew I wanted to eat at Carthay. I’m a foodie, and it’s the new fancy property in town. Seems like a no brainer. But I started to get concerned after the first reviews started coming in from Carthay after the Grand Opening in mid June. People were saying that the food was okay but the service wasn’t great. Uh oh. I have a well documented love-hate relationship with Disney theme park food, and I was getting concerned that Carthay would be the most expensive incursion ever into the hate category.
Despite my concerns, we kept our reservations at Carthay for lunch after the marathon, because we wanted a celebratory meal and we wanted reserved World of Color viewing, which Carthay offers. Although the restaurant was totally booked up for the day, we were able to add my Dad to our lunch reservation the morning of our lunch. We arrived at the restaurant right on time for our reservation, checked in, and waited a few minutes in the lounge area before being taken up the elegant staircase to the main dining room.
My first impressions were that the space was gorgeous, elegant, and surprisingly not crowded with tables for a theme park restaurant. We were seated at a table right near the kitchen, which is always fun. Our waiter was at our table shortly, and took our drink order, offering helpful suggestions on drinks from the bar. But then he disappeared, and it took our drinks FOREVER to come up. We were wearing our race medals, we were in a good mood and we were clearly in a drinking mood, so it was odd that our drinks took SO LONG. We had put in our appetizer and entree orders before the drinks turned up. Slightly awkward.
They were quite delicious when they did come. We also waited quite a while for our appetizers to show up. Since we were doing the World of Color reserved seating package, each person in our party had to order an appetizer + entree OR an entree + dessert. We were hungry, so this didn’t seem like a particularly bad deal, and the portions at Carthay are on the smaller side (as is true with most fine dining locations) so it wasn’t a ton of food.
The apps were delicious. The grape leaves were perfectly steamed and filled with a soft and lightly salted goat cheese. And the garlic on the side was really delicious–like eat it right out of the bulb delicious. The biscuits were fried almost like hush puppies, with a salty melted cheese and bacon center. They were served with a lemon curd, which seems like a strange choice, but was actually an interested flavor layering.
Our entrees were out almost on top of the apps, which was service hiccup number two of the meal. But they, like the apps, were very good. Dad had the pasta with house made chicken meatballs, which he said was good, but not fantastic. Noel had the Cathay’s twist on a Cobb Salad, with flank steak. He said it was a good cut of meat with a great salad. I think I was the winner, with Halibut, which was a huge piece of fish, with oranges and pepper relish. Delicious.
Finally, it was time for dessert. We only had to order one, but there were two that sounded good so we ordered both. And a dessert cocktail. First up, the lemon pound cake served with fresh blueberries, which had a really nice lemon flavor that paired nicely with the fresh berries. And a seasonal fruit pie, which I believe was mixed berry. It was very tasty, with a good pie crust for a high volume restaurant. We also shared a Brandy Alexander, which was a great end to the meal.
Overall, I would give Carthay a B. The food was good, but the service was too uneven for a $200 meal. Is it still leaps and bounds above most theme park dining? Yes! But for a flagship restaurant in a newly rededicated park, they need to iron out the kinks. We were really happy with the World of Color viewing, so that was just icing on a pretty good experience. I would definitely recommend the bar, and perhaps in another six months or so, when there is time to work out all of the service issues, I would highly recommend the restaurant.