Napa Rose Chef’s Counter Review

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Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel is the best restaurant at Disneyland Resort. Blue Bayou, Carthay Circle Restaurant, and even Club 33 all pale in comparison to Napa Rose. A big part of this is likely that Napa Rose is the only restaurant of those I’ve mentioned not located in a theme park. While it still has a bit of a captive audience in terms of tourists visiting Disneyland Resort, it’s not nearly to the degree of the in-park restaurants.

Given that the Orange County and Los Angeles foodie scene is among the best in the country, Napa Rose really has to bring its A game to attract locals who aren’t heading into the parks. I mean, this is an area with some of the finest Pop Tart culinary creations known to mankind. When restaurants throw down the Pop Tart gauntlet, you know it’s on. Although Napa Rose doesn’t have any gourmet Pop Tarts on its menu (yet), it has basically responded with the sage words of Barney Stinson, shouting “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED” with regard to the competitive Orange County foodie scene.

In so doing, Napa Rose has demonstrated that it can run with the big dogs, winning a variety of awards since first opening, and being recognized as one of the top restaurants in Orange County by the likes of Zagat and other restaurant critics. Interestingly, the restaurant only scores an 81% on crowd-sourced Urban Spoon, but in glancing through those reviews, many seem to focus either on price or are tourists used to large portion sizes. No question, Napa Rose is an expensive restaurant serving smaller portions–this is pretty much a universal truth among fine dining locales. In other news, the sky is blue and Snoop Dogg likes to party.

We’ve already covered the regular menu at Napa Rose in a separate review, so for this review we will focus solely on the Chef’s Counter experience… (more…)

Avengers Assemble!…at Disneyland?

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This post covers a couple of things: new Avengers food at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in Disneyland, and whether a Marvel attraction is replacing Innoventions next door. Let’s start with the more intriguing subject. That’s right, the food.

I’ll admit that I was pretty hyped when I read an article on the Disney Parks Blog about the Iron Man waffle (yes, you read that correctly–it’s a waffle shaped like Iron Man) on Friday afternoon. I mean, it’s a waffle, shaped like a super hero. That’s something truly special, and I felt the need to consume it ASAP. In actuality, my excitement probably wasn’t so much about the waffle itself as the fact that I now had a pretext to head to Disneyland after finishing work.

I met up with Hawkeye4Life Fan Club Founder Guy Selga, and we each purchased all of the Avengers items at Pizza Port (besides the pricey Iron Man novelty cup). There was much excitement in the air, as the potential of a delicious waffle shaped like a super hero could instantly catapult Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port from being one of the worst restaurants at Disneyland to one of the best restaurants…in the world. I mean, c’mon, it’s a waffle shaped like Iron Man? That’s serious business.

Let’s take a look at whether the waffle and other Avengers foods we assembled lived up to the hype. Oh, and also the minor question of if and when a Marvel attraction is coming to Tomorrowland… (more…)

Cafe Hyperion Review

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Cafe Hyperion is a counter service restaurant at Disneyland Paris in Discoveryland that is a contender for the worst restaurant in Disneyland Paris. Perhaps the worst restaurant in Paris. Perhaps the worst restaurant in the World?! Worse yet, Cafe Hyperion is perhaps the most popular restaurant at Disneyland Paris, and that’s something that is really depressing. I don’t know if Cafe Hyperion has a slogan, but if not, I have a suggestion: “Cafe Hyperion: Where Unpleasant Dining Takes Flight!”

I think this slogan is really great, because it encompasses both the good and the bad of Cafe Hyperion. First, the good. The totally awesome airship Hyperion poking out from the edge of the hangar at the entrance to the restaurant. Next, the bad. Literally everything else about the restaurant.

Okay, perhaps that’s a little unfair. Cafe Hyperion has some flashes of detail and quality design, albeit on a more superficial level than other amazing restaurants at Disneyland Paris. Unquestionably the most interesting aspect of the restaurant to me is its front, which is a resurrected element of the Discovery Bay plans for Disneyland that never came to fruition.

Tony Baxter, the Imagineer who spearheaded the Discovery Bay plans also played a substantial role in the initial construction of Disneyland Paris, and you can definitely see aspects of the unbuilt Discovery Bay making a home in Discoveryland. The entrance to the restaurant was lifted from the entrance to the unbuilt attraction, “Island at the Top of the World.” (This really should just be a blog post about how awesome Discovery Bay would have been and why it should still be built, because I can sum up the food at Cafe Hyperion in one word: sucktacular.)

The backstory for this airship Hyperion differs from that of Discovery Bay, with the premise here being that the airship’s captain mysteriously vanished on the morning of its 50th scheduled flight, after a long career of world exploration. The murals around the ordering area depict this, and they are pretty cool. There are also a lot of steampunk touches in the restaurant, all of which are also nicely done.

So that’s the good of Cafe Hyperion. It could be argued that the airship is also “bad” given that it’s so beautiful and alluring that it draws unwitting guests into the restaurant, like a nefarious succubus ready to destroy all life that ventures into its lair… (more…)

Disney World Free Dining 2015 Dates

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The Free Disney Dining Plan is now available at Walt Disney World for booking by Disney Visa credit card holders and the general public! Free Dining dates for 2015 that are currently available are listed below. We will update this page as dates change or are added/removed. You can also sign up for our newsletter to be alerted as soon as we hear anything about 2015 Free Dining dates.

Here are the current Walt Disney World Free Dining dates available for booking by Disney Visa cardholders, and for the general public:

  • August 28 through October 2, 2015
  • October 25 through October 31, 2015
  • November 8 through November 19, 2015
  • December 15 through December 21, 2015.

These dates are OFFICIAL, not rumor. For 2015, there’s also the requirement that guests purchase at least 2-day tickets that include either Park Hopper or the Water Park Fun & More option, or both. This is a new requirement as of this year. Additionally, a 3-night minimum stay is required with a maximum stay of fourteen nights. This means you can’t purchase discounted Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller, which is something to keep in mind when doing the math to determine if “Free Dining” is a good value for you.

To answer some common questions: yes, you must purchase tickets with the offer even if you already have them (or an Annual Pass). No, bookings made with Disney Vacation Club points are not eligible for the offer. No, you cannot “stack” this offer with a percentage-off room discount.

More details about the 2015 Free Disney Dining Plan promotion are listed below… (more…)

Sailing Day Buffet Review

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Sailing Day Buffet is a restaurant in Tokyo DisneySea’s American Waterfront. As the name suggests, it’s a buffet, and it serves mostly Western options, but it really isn’t all American cuisine as the location would suggest; there’s a broad enough selection of different international items (all of which are completely tame), conventional options, seafood, carved meat, and more. It even it moderately vegetarian-friendly!

This review takes a look at the food available on the food on the buffet, plus the seasonal ambiance we experienced at Sailing Day Buffet at Halloween. The review costs 2800 Yen, which is currently about $23. I figured I should start giving the actual yen amounts in these reviews, as the Crystal Palace buffet is the same price, yet our review reflects a dollar cost of 30, which was what the conversion rate was at the time. As you can see, things have improved significantly since then. For an all inclusive price of <$25, Sailing Day Buffet represents tremendous value.

Now let’s take a look at the environment. The restaurant is set in a dockside warehouse for the United States Steamship Company, which is based on an actual company formed in 1848 to carry U.S. mail from New York to California, with stops in New Orleans, Havana, and Panama. The company had the SS Ohio and the SS Georgia built in 1848, and purchased the SS Falcon in early 1849; it also carried the passengers by steamship. It’s unclear whether the building is based on any historical photographs of boathouses used by the actual company. There’s plenty of details and supplies stacked high in the upper level and it feels authentic. Unfortunately, as far as Tokyo DisneySea goes, the concept itself is on the weak side (“a big warehouse filled with supplies where people get to eat–how exciting!!!).

That’s about the only downside of Sailing Day Buffet; let’s take a look at all of the ways it excels, including the skeleton performers! (more…)

Sultan’s Oasis Review

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Have you ever heard the idiom, “catch the tiger by the tail?” Well, the phrase likely originates from Sultan’s Oasis in Tokyo DisneySea. Here, at this seemingly unassuming little restaurant, one of the greatest snacks ever bestowed upon mankind, based on one of the greatest characters to leap from the mind of mankind, is served: Chandu Tails. Therein lies the problem, and the origin of the aforementioned phrase: how do you serve a snack that is so awesome in a location that is so awesome without exposing guests to catastrophic levels of awesomeness.

I’m no scientist, but clearly the good folks at Walt Disney Imagineering and the Oriental Land Company have solved this problem and made Sultan’s Oasis a safe destination for all. In all seriousness, Sultan’s Oasis truly is one of those special little places that is a great spot to slow down and soak up the remarkable ambiance that defines Tokyo DisneySea. This site is obviously not light on praise for Tokyo DisneySea, and if you’ve never been you probably have read it and heard praise from others and perhaps wondered how the park could possibly live up to the hype. After all, the headliners like Journey to the Center of the Earth sound fun, but can they really make the park that good?

The truth is, what often goes overlooked in reflections upon Tokyo DisneySea is how the little details and moments really define the experience. Let’s take a look at why snacking at Sultan’s Oasis makes for one of those sublime little moments… (more…)