Date of Review: Tuesday 27th February 2018
Well here we are, the final dining review of my February 2018 trip to Disneyland. Boy oh boy, did I leave the best until last. The Carthay Circle Restaurant opened at Disney California Adventure in November 2010 as part of the major $1.1bn expansion to the park. Located at the end of the gorgeous Buena Vista Street – also added during the expansion – the restaurant is an idealised replica of the Carthay Circle Theatre in which Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs debuted.
Like the Fantasmic dining package at Disneyland, a dining package is offered at select venues in California Adventure for the World of Colour nighttime show. Currently the package is only offered at Wine Country Trattoria and Carthay Circle Restaurant. Previously it was also offered at Ariel’s Grotto but this restaurant is closed at time of writing for Pixar Pier construction. The cheapest option for the dining package is lunch at Wine Country Trattoria ($39 per adult), followed by Lunch at Carthay Circle ($46), dinner at Wine Country Trattoria ($49) and finally dinner at Carthay Circle ($62). As I was looking for the best value, I settled on lunch at Carthay Circle.
I checked in for my meal a few minutes early and took a seat in the stunning lounge area while I waited to be called.
This is a very popular place to grab a civilised drink within the park. If you don’t fancy the menu or the cost involved in eating here, I’d recommend at least popping into the lounge for a drink and look around. When my table was ready I was taken upstairs. Here you pass lots of incredible historic photographs, such as this image of Shirley Temple presenting Walt Disney with special Oscars to commemorate the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
I was then led under this archway into the stunning main dining room.
The restaurant is made up of several rooms but I’d lucked out and had been seated in the main dining room. There a few words that come to mind here – classy and opulent are two immediate examples. One of my favourite details was this mural on the ceiling.
Even with the upmarket feel I never felt uncomfortable though. They’ve managed to get a good balance between a high class dining experience while maintaining the relaxed feel most people want when eating in a theme park. I ate in a casual tshirt and jeans and never felt out of place.
As soon as I sat down I was presented with the set menu offered as part of the World of Colour Dining Package, as well as the drinks menu.
Click to see the full size image.
As this was my “fanciest” meal of the trip I decided to splash out and order a cocktail which isn’t included as part of the package. After having a look through the extensive drinks menu I settled on a Bourbon Crusta – Bulleit Bourbon, Cointreau, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and lemon juice with a sugar rim.
This was tasty but very strong. The taste of bourbon in particular really came through, which didn’t fuss me because its my favourite kind of alcohol. I found the sugar rim did a good job of giving a bit of a sweetness to counteract some of the more sour tastes coming from the drink itself. It was definitely one to be sipped throughout the meal. I also ordered a diet coke as my included soft drink and was brought water too! Honestly my table was pretty much covered in different drinks.
As I was waiting for my starter I was brought complimentary bread and butter.
I can’t usually find much to say about bread but this was a lovely and warm sourdough. The butter was also served chilled rather than frozen solid which meant I didn’t have to choose between waiting 5 minutes for it to melt a bit or having a solid chunk of butter one tiny bit of the bread. I can’t think of much to say about the bread but apparently I’ve got no problem chatting butter temperature.
After about 10 minutes my started arrived. I chose the Winter Red and White Endive Salad rather than the soup.
The first thing that struck me about this was all the different colours in the salad. It gave it a really nice look and was a far cry from a lot of the more boring salads I’ve had in life. Particular highlights here were the yams (think kind of like sweet potato but not the same) and the croutons which had a very slight fruity taste from the pumpernickel. This was so much more than I expected from any salad and was a light and delicious start to the meal.
Once my salad had been cleared I had about a 15 minute wait until my main course arrived. I would definitely say that this is a relaxed dining experience. As a solo diner I never felt rushed in the slightest and didn’t feel like I was treated any differently from other parties in the restaurant. If you’re the kind of person who wants a quick meal before getting back into the park though, I wouldn’t recommend this meal for you.
For my main I chose the Korean Chilli Glazed Angus Sirloin, cooked medium rare.
Firstly, the steak was incredibly tender and cooked to perfection. I didn’t feel like the chilli glaze was particularly noticeable and didn’t add much at all. The pineapple red pepper sauce was fantastic though and had a lovely mix of sweet and spice. I also loved the cashew fried rice – I always find fried rice a bit boring but the cashews added something a bit different. On possible negatives I’d say that this was quite a small portion, the dinner plate in the picture above is by no means large.
Dessert followed after another short break. To be honest I’d happily have eaten any of these but I settled on the “Cookies and Creme”.
This was essentially a cookies and cream macaroon, filled with cookies and cream mousse and served with chocolate fudge sauce and oreo sauce. I’d say this was probably the weakest part of the meal but it was still tasty. I just felt it was a bit less imaginative and more standard than the other things I’d eaten. If I was to do this again, I’d probably try the bread pudding instead which sounds delicious.
With the meal over I was given my reserved viewing ticket for World of Colour. The Carthay Circle is the most expensive of the dining packages offered and as such offers the most prime viewing spot for the show. (Note that a dessert package is also offered for World of Colour. I haven’t done this so can’t comment on whether this has a better viewing location than the dining packages) The area was slightly raised, right in the middle of paradise pier. This gives you the benefits of being higher than the people in front, hence less obstruction, and also being far enough away from the fountains that you avoid getting wet during the show. I was able to turn up around 20 minutes before the show started and get a spot right at the front of the viewing area.
Even with a few missteps, this was definitely my favourite meal of the trip. The setting is incredible, feeling both upscale yet relaxed, and the food was almost all fantastic. The dessert, while being the weakest part of the meal, was still a nice dessert. Having the package also ensured that I got to experience World of Colour for the first time with the best view possible, and due to the reserved area I was able to enjoy the other attractions while other guests were getting their spots in the standard viewing area. At $46 per person for lunch (around $60 once you include tip) its also a good value way of ensuring a fantastic viewing area and also getting to experience the food at this amazing restaurant.