I’ll be honest: before this, we had always shied away from Catal. We’ve thought about it a few times, but the menu prices gave us pause. While it’s not as expensive as Napa Rose, it’s in the same ballpark. Whenever we’ve considered a fine dining meal at Disneyland Resort, we’ve always chosen to go that route instead. Not only is Napa Rose a known quantity that we love, but it’s one of the best restaurants in Orange County–not just at Disneyland Resort. For this meal, we were invited to sample the new menu. (In the interest of full disclosure, our meals were comped.)
We were eager to see if Catal could stack up. Like Napa Rose, one thing from which Catal benefits is real world competition. Being situated outside the “bubble” of the parks, Catal doesn’t have quite the same benefit of a captive audience as something like Carthay Circle Restaurant or Blue Bayou. While it obviously still caters to tourists, it’s also a popular spot for locals, who have a surplus of excellent dining options in Orange County and Los Angeles.
Likely recognizing this, new Executive Chef Timothy McDowell has introduced a slate of ambitious menus to Catal since taking over its helm ~7 months ago, with the fall menu being his latest. We found the options we tried from this fall menu were definitely ambitious, while still being approachable to most palates.
For our meal, we dined outside on the second floor balcony. We really liked this setting, which was more peaceful than the bustling scene inside, and would also offer views of Disneyland’s fireworks on select nights. The downside was that it was a bit chilly by the end of the night, and could be downright cold on a winter evening. In the summer, on the other hand, it would be ideal.
Sarah started with the Vojito to drink, which consists of Absolut vodka, berries, lime juice, mint, agave nectar, and soda water. She was impressed by how fresh the berries and mint tasted, making the drink quite…refreshing. 😉 She said it was one of the best drinks she’s had at Disneyland Resort.
We’ve likewise heard from other friends that the drinks here and at Uva Bar are among Disneyland’s best. (Once again, we’ve apparently made an oversight on our Guide to Drinking at Disneyland–a problem we will correct in short order.)
Our meal started with a lamb meatball, topped with foie gras compliments of the chef. As someone who loves both lamb and foie gras, I was expecting this to wow. Instead, it fell flat, lacking in flavor. It was fine, but not something I’d order again.
For our appetizers, we had the Ahi Bruschetta and Short Rib Canelon. The Ahi Bruschetta was interesting: the fresh cut of tuna was tasty on its own (and sizable) and the salsa and layered avocado on the bruschetta was also good on its good, but they didn’t coalesce into an exceptional dish.
I think too much was going on here, and I didn’t find the flavors complimented one another. Separately, the bruschetta and ahi were quite good, though.
The Short Rib Canelon was an unequivocal hit. Consisting of braised short rib, crispy shallot, guajillo butter sauce, and wrapped in a canelon, it was unique and delicious.
Neither of us have ever had anything like this, and we both struggled as to the best way to describe it. Depending upon whether you ask me or Sarah, you’ll get a different answer, and both of those answers fail to do it justice. This is one item we definitely want to revisit.
Next, we were served the Fall Greens Salad, containing Kenter Farms mixed greens, medjool dates, avocado, marcona almonds, grapes, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, poppy seed dressing. This salad was fine, but didn’t leave much of an impression on either of us. Given the $16 price point, I find it incredibly difficult to recommend to anyone.
For our entrees, we split the Oxtail Ragu and Diver Scallops. The former consisted of braised oxtail, masa gnocchi, and cilantro pickled slaws. The meat here was incredibly tender and flavorful, and the gnocchi was addictively good. I’d highly recommend this dish, albeit probably not paired with the Short Rib Canelon, since I think that might be a tad redundant.
The Diver Scallops were served atop butternut squash puree, maitake shiitake, crimini mushrooms, crispy kale, and an olive vinaigrette. I’m always hesitant to order scallops because they seem like such a small dish almost everywhere, and Catal was no exception to that, with only 3 seared scallops in this dish. However, they were large and tender, and the rich puree and mushrooms below made this a standout dish.
For desserts, we had the Tres Leches and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. Both of these absolutely wowed us. The tres leches cake was infused with a mix of fall spices, which complimented the traditional dish really well. Even setting that aside, this was the best tres leches cake either of us have ever had, but the fall twist took the cake to the next level. Think Pumpkin Spice Latte meets tres leches cake, and this is the best possible version of that.
The Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding was exceptional in its own right (albeit not that good). It was served in warm squares, with a drizzle of dark chocolate, crispy chocolate sprinkles, a dusting of powdered sugar, and with vanilla ice cream on the side. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but still very good.
Overall, the meal was excellent, and makes me want to revisit Catal. Strictly in terms of cuisine, it’s above just about every in park restaurant save for maybe Carthay, but most of those (Carthay included) beat it with theme and ambiance. Outside of the parks, I don’t think the menu is on par with Napa Rose; even though Catal is cheaper, Napa Rose remains my go-to recommendation for fine dining at Disneyland Resort.
With that said, for tourists who have limited time on their first trip to Disneyland Resort, Catal remains a tough sell. However, for locals or Disneyland regulars looking to try something new, it is a far easier recommendation for a full meal here. For both tourists and locals, it’s also an easy recommendation for a nightcap consisting of drinks and dessert.