Sunday, July 1, 2012

Anniversary #4 (Part 2 - Restaurant Reviews)

We are big fans of the Disney Dining Plan. The plan may or may not make sense for your family, it depends on your dining habits. For us, one of the best parts of vacationing is trying new restaurants. So below is my review of the new restaurants we tried on this trip. I will do a separate blog post on restaurants that we deem worthy of repeat visits.

Crystal Palace
This was our first character buffet together, so we weren't sure what to expect. As we visited on arrival day for MNSSHP, we entered the park at 4pm and were hungry from travel, so we were ready for an early all-you-care-to-eat dinner! 

When we made our reservations, we mentioned we were celebrating our anniversary. It was a pleasant surprise to see our table decorated to celebrate the event. Personally, I thought the buffet was just okay. They did have a nice variety, so it's a good choice if you have picky eaters. As we were starved from traveling all day, the food hit the spot but it wasn't a memorable meal.  

The lighting inside CP made it hard to get a good picture, but I love these pencil sketches because I feel like I'm part of the story. 
I'm not big on character meet and greets (I'm sure it that will change once we go with kids), but it's always fun to have a one-on-one moment with the characters. Crystal Palace has Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger. On the next trip, I've booked a breakfast reservation before the park opens (mainly to get a photo in front of the castle while the park is empty) and I've heard you can get a pretty funny reaction if you eat bacon in front of Piglet, wink, wink.

The staff was friendly and prompt. Our server even presented us with an anniversary card signed by all the characters. We'll be back as this is one of the few table service (read: air-conditioned meals) in the Magic Kingdom.

La Hacienda
This is a newer Mexican restaurant in Epcot, which we really enjoyed. There is some outdoor seating on a deck overlooking the lake. We got a decent seat indoors next to the window, which would have been prime if we had a later reservation to watch Illuminations. As we like to taste our way around the World Showcase, we opted to share some appetizers instead of eating large entrées. We did pay out of pocket for the apps.

We had some tasty chips and salsa. Our favorite was a bowl of sweet peppers and chorizo. It was the right amount of salty, sweet, and spicy! I highly recommend it and would definitely go back for that dish. It's just too bad that you can't get it To-Go to enjoy while strolling around the lake.

Kona quickly became our new favorite restaurant and we definitely plan on returning! Located inside of the Polynesian resort, the restaurant overlooks the lobby in all its island-décor splendor. 

To start with, the Hawaiian bread was simply fabulous! Soft, sweet and still warm from the oven; it won us over. It came with the most delicious honey and macadamia nut butter. I have never liked butter on my bread. Ever. Well, I was converted! I could easily have made a meal out of this alone. If I stayed at this resort, I would take advantage of this every day. It rivaled the fresh baguettes I enjoyed while living in France. 

As I recall, we were very hungry this particular day, so we ordered 2 appetizers. We must have been so hungry, we devoured the dish before it occurred to us to take pictures.

We each enjoyed a juicy steak. Bill ordered the New York Strip and I had the Rib Eye. They both came over a large stalk of steamed broccoli. It was hands down one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. 

Dessert did not disappoint, although we each took about one bite and had to call it quits. (Note to self: next time wear sweat pants to Kona.) Bill's all-time favorite fruit is pineapple, so despite the delicious menu options, he knew right away that the Pineapple Upside Down Cake was for him.

I'm a chocolate lover, so the warm brownie with chocolate sauce, topped with raspberries was the way to go for me. 

Full Disclosure: My mouth is watering as I write this post.

We had heard many good things about Citricos, particularly that it was a romantic, adult location with a potential view of Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks show. We decided to pull out all the stops and dress up! Of course, the only photo I got was of Bill enjoying the jazz band playing in the lobby of the Grand Floridian. 

Personalized anniversary menus were waiting for us at our table. The server even let us take them home! The atmosphere was very peaceful and quiet; we enjoyed a view of the chefs preparing desserts. I had the Pork Two Ways and Bill had the Oak-Grilled Filet of Beef. Both were 5-star meals. 

The desserts were unforgettable! I had the warm, chocolate banana torte (left) and Bill enjoyed the fruit cobbler. As Citricos is a Signature Dining experience (and thus requires 2 table-service credits on the meal plan), I would probably just go back for desserts only and watch the fireworks. Although our table was not near the windows, we finished our dinner just before Wishes started and had a fabulous view from the restaurant lobby windows. If you're looking for a romantic experience, I definitely recommend a leisurely dinner here.

What's your favorite Disney restaurant?

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