During my recent solo Walt Disney World vacation, I went to California Grill for my first time on it's re-opening night (9/9/13). I have always wanted to dine here, but never made it a priority on past Disney World trips. This time, I snagged a reservation about 2 weeks out and took advantage.
I went in to this experience fully aware of the very high menu prices, but figured this will be fine because it's Disney. The experience will be worth it. So I was willing to look beyond the sticker shock. I am not a cheap person. To put this in perspective, I have no problem paying $69 for lobster at Narcoossee's, or $47 for ribeye at LeCellier. I also didn't flinch at the prices for king crab at Fulton's, or Breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table. All of these are restaurants at Walt Disney World.
So when I ordered the scallops at California Grill, I knew I was paying $43 for a dish that would be awesome. Then the dish arrived at my table. A sprinkling of grilled onions, mixed in with a few small bites of roasted pork and a petite handfull of gnocchi. All perfectly seasoned. This was topped with three (3) parmesan foam covered scallops. They were tender and very tasty. But did I mention there were THREE of them. There are some restaurants where a dish like this would be considered an appetizer.
For dessert, I ordered the chocolate pudding cake. I"m not sure I would call this a "cake". It's very dense (like a fudge), and filled with a warm chocolate pudding. This dish was well-presented, and quite flavorful. But for $15, once again it fell short of my expectations, especially after the scallops.
Drinkwise, I enjoyed the Twisted Mai Tai from their cocktail menu. At $10, this was excellent, and by far, the best value of the evening. I'm very happy I did not order an appetizer. If I received three pieces of sushi for $24, I would have lost my mind.
My server was very good, and knowledgeable. She checked on me when appropriate, and answered all of my questions. The bread service was fine. I requested to be seated at a window so that I could enjoy the views that everybody rave about. I was seated (at 5:15pm) two tables away from the window, in a half-empty dining room. I did venture out to one of the oudoor decks to take in the view of the Magic Kingdom and Bay Lake, which was nice. Although the views when parasailing over Bay Lake are much more breathtaking.
I was not impressed with the "remodel" of this restaurant. But since it was my first time there, I had nothing to compare it to. Some use "subtle" to describe the decor of places like California Grill. In the case of this restaurant, I would replace "subtle" with "boring". Maybe I just don't get it. But as a Californian, I just can't figure out why this place (or its menu) is named and "themed" after my state. Oh well.
In the end, I paid around $85 (including tip) for this over-rated dining experience. Unfortunately, California Grill did not live up to the hype, or my expectations. The next day I didn't blink when I paid $94 for an excellent lunch at Epcot's LeCellier Steakhouse. I truly wanted (and expected) to give California Grill a much higher rating and review. If I was on the Disney Dining Plan I might not have had a problem with the lack of value in this experience, and the horribly small portion sizes in thier dishes. But I just can't help but feel a little ripped-off and underwhelmed by this dining experience.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.