Citricos Reimagined Restaurant Review

Ci­tricos is a Signature Restaurant open only for dinner at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel. In this WDW dining review, we’ll share photos of food and the new Mary Poppins-inspired dining room, thoughts on reimagined menu, how this fine dining compares to other locations, whether it’s worth the money, and more.

Starting with the basics, Ci­tricos participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 2-credit table service restaurant for dinner (or would, when the DDP is available). It also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount (or would, when TiW is being sold), and offers Disney Vacation Club or Annual Passholder discounts for 10% off.

In terms of pricing, Ci­tricos is comparable to Narcoossee’s, the waterfront restaurant at the Grand Floridian. For years, we haven’t exactly been enthusiastic about either of these Grand Floridian Signature Restaurants. In fact, when Walt Disney World announced the closure and refurbishment of Ci­tricos early last year, we were excited–ready to see a fresh concept and menu hopefully revitalize the restaurant…

Let’s start with a look at the re-imagined restaurant interior inspired by Mary Poppins Returns. Per Walt Disney World, the dining room brings you into a fanciful garden scene that takes cues from the film’s animated sequence, with motifs of flowers, butterflies, and more.

You might recall that we were critical of the Enchanted Rose Beauty and the Beast Bar for being out of place at the Grand Floridian, an inappropriate use of intellectual property, etc. I still maintain that Enchanted Rose sticks out from the rest of the Grand Floridian’s lavish lobby like a sore thumb. Ci­tricos is a different story, literally and figuratively.

In theory, the Ci­tricos reimagining is entirely different because Mary Poppins makes thematic sense at the Grand Floridian. It’s already there in the Villas, and it’s in keeping with a Victorian hotel. While I don’t need intellectual property everywhere I go at Walt Disney World—especially in fine dining locations—this particular use of IP does not bother me in the least.

Even the original Club 33 at Disneyland had subtle nods to Walt Disney-era films. This is not really comparable to that from a quality perspective (those were props), but the point is that light touches are not necessarily incongruous with fancy restaurants.

That says “in theory” above because in reality, 99% of guests are never going to have any clue this restaurant interior is inspired by Mary Poppins (or the recent sequel, I guess, for some reason). The inspiration is subtle to the point that it’s easy to miss, with visual parallels, evocative patterns, floral motifs, etc.

If I were cynical, I’d guess that the team behind the Ci­tricos reimagining had the scope of their work changed after the project started. My bet would not be that the project were scaled back to remove more aggressive references, but rather, that someone higher up at the Walt Disney Company saw that it was a significant project devoid of IP and sought to have that remedied.

I have zero insight into what happened–there have been no rumors whatsoever about the reimagining of Ci­tricos–but it’s not hard to envision this type of change occurring. It easily could’ve been motivated by things like leadership changes, an unexpected multi-month closure, and/or the cancellation of a Mary Poppins inspired area in Epcot.

This would explain why the most visible references to Mary Poppins are confined to a yet-unused private dining room, and are props and photos that could’ve been added on a day’s notice.

There are other design elements that arguably are evocative of Mary Poppins, but only if you’ve already been told of the supposed inspiration. Every other supposed connection is far more abstract and tenuous. Then there are the details that are a real stretch, like the modern carpet pattern symbolizing the streets of London from overhead.

Much of that feels like ex post facto “storytelling.” As if Imagineering brought in a show writer mid-project to spin a yarn about some of the design choices already made for a clean, modern-meets-Victorian style that coincidentally had some parallels to Mary Poppins (Returns).

All of that is purely speculative on my part, and could be totally incorrect. Suffice to say, the Mary Poppins connections are incredibly subtle with absolutely nothing that’s in your face or over the top.

The design is “practically perfect” for an elegant restaurant in Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel. Whether that’s a matter of Imagineering exercising restraint or the connections being largely after the fact is mostly irrelevant.

The end result of the Ci­tricos reimagining looks nice. The restaurant felt tired before, like a country club’s take on Victorian style in the mid-1990s. This style will undoubtedly look dated in time, but at the present moment, it’s elegant, sophisticated, and tastefully modern while retaining its thematic sensibilities.

Knowing that they’re there, I find the Mary Poppins motifs to be a nice touch, too. The new-look Ci­tricos is not the pinnacle of themed design at Walt Disney World, but for a Signature Restaurant in a Victorian hotel, it hits almost all of the right notes.

Before we turn to the cuisine, there are a couple other things potentially worth noting. First, the evening we dined at Ci­tricos, it appeared to be booked close to capacity. (Don’t let these photos fool you–we did a late seating and were the last guests out and I took them as we were leaving. During Happily Ever After, the dining room was nearly full.)

This is notable because it’s the first “real” Walt Disney World restaurant at which we’ve dined where this has been the case (air quotes because the same has happened at Geyser Point, but that’s very different), and we’ve done many meals in the last couple months.

Second, there was not a single “earning my ears” tag in sight at Ci­tricos.

This is a sharp contrast to every other newly-reopened restaurant at which we’ve dined, where it’s not uncommon for half the staff to be College Program participants. At Ci­tricos, the servers and kitchen crew all appeared far more seasoned and were already back ‘in the zone,’ so to speak.

We didn’t ask our server about this, but my guess would be that some of the staff at Ci­tricos was previously at Victoria & Albert’s. Nowhere else has been able to reopen this late and recall that many Cast Members from the location.

Regardless, it’s great to see Ci­tricos hit the ground running from the outset. While we love seeing all the fresh-faced College Program participants at Walt Disney World, it’s good that fine dining locations like Ci­tricos are being staffed with knowledgeable and well-versed veterans. Their experience is very apparent in the high quality of the service.

Now let’s turn to the cuisine at Ci­tricos.

As always, the meal starts out with the bread service, which is the same as before: ciabatta and rye slices with olives. The ciabatta bread (above) had a crispy crust giving way to a soft inside. Fairly average.

The rye bread with olives is the better and more unique option. It probably also helped that we had a freshly-prepared batch that just came out (which is why they were served separately).

The bread service comes with an addictively-good citrus salted butter.

Dinner at Ci­tricos also started out with specialty cocktails: the Passion Margarita (Don Julio Reposado, Chef Orange Reduction, Passion Fruit and Passion Fruit Pearls) and Orange Blossom Martini (Diplomatico Rum, Orange Blossom Honey, Lemon Juice and Ginger Foam).

We were joined by a friend for the meal, expanding the lineup of everything we ordered. Let’s turn to the appetizers…

Sarah and I started with the Citrus-cured Hamachi: Passion Fruit Nuoc Cham, Compressed Star Fruit, Pasilla Oil and Blood Orange Puffed Tapioca.

This came recommended by our server, and was fantastic.

The tartness of the passion fruit permeated the sashimi, but did not overwhelm the fish’s natural flavor. The dish was imbued with a range of sweet and savory flavors, but it came together perfectly. My only “complaint” here is that it wasn’t served with a spoon so I could lap up the fruit and oil reduction.

Absolutely fantastic and unlike anything we’ve eaten elsewhere. The price was higher than all other appetizers, but seemed fair given its ambition and the portion of sashimi. Highly recommended.

Our friend started with the Berkshire Pork Belly: Boniato and Plantain Croquette, Salsa Verde and Ji­cama.

I didn’t try this, but both she and Sarah enjoyed it, saying it had a deep melt-in-your-mouth umami flavor that was complemented by the crispness of the croquette and the refreshing salsa verde.

For an accompaniment, we ordered the Truffle Macaroni & Cheese: House-made Gnocchetti, Summer Black Truffles, Sottocenere al Tartufo and Tarragon.

This is the most unique and “cosmopolitan” mac & cheese I’ve ever eaten. The top layer is essentially a light tarragon foam, with the cheese and pillow-y gnocchetti underneath. It’s rich and creamy, with an abundance of truffle flavor.

Several bites into eating, it dawned on me that the first photo “doesn’t really look like anything” so I took another. There’s probably 25% of the gnocchetti gone at this point.

While technically mac & cheese, this reminds me more of the hand-crafted pastas at Topolino’s Terrace. It’s a substantial and incredibly unique dish–but also quite an expensive one. Nevertheless, we loved it, would order it again, and highly recommend it.

We’ll start with the most underwhelming entree first, the Domestic Golden Tilefish with Jupiter Rice Chorizo “Risotto”, Key West Pink Shrimp and Confit Tomatoes.

This fish is mild and flaky, with the citrus providing a light lime contrast to the naturally sweet flavor of tilefish. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it paled in comparison to everything else–including the less expensive Cobia.

Speaking of which, that’s next up. This is the Butter-poached Florida Cobia with Mashed Fingerling Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Local Mushrooms and Grapefruit Buerre Blanc.

Sarah absolutely loved this mild, white fish. It had a robust flavor, nice texture, and was firm but tender. She said it was reminiscent of a swordfish. I didn’t try this, but just looking at it–the Florida Cobia looks meaty and substantial. This was Sarah’s favorite entree, and she’d highly recommend it.

Next, the Oak-grilled Filet Mignon: Potato Purée, Broccolini, Cipollini, Bordelaise.

This and the Oak-grilled 12-oz Prime New York Strip are Ci­tricos’ most straightforward options, and we opted for the filet mignon because we’ve recently had that at a few other high-end Walt Disney World restaurants.

This steak is phenomenal. The oak grilling comes through in the flavor, but doesn’t get in the way of what’s otherwise an exceptional cut of beef.

We both really liked this, but I loved it. Sarah would give the edge to the filet mignon at Topolino’s Terrace, whereas I think this gets the edge due to the unique oak-grilled flavor. (The underlying cuts are similar–maybe even the same.)

Finally, the Guava Barbecued Short Ribs: Aged Cheddar Creamy Grits, Roasted Poblano, Curtido Slaw and Brussels Sprouts.

These ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, with a delightfully sweet flavor (but not overpoweringly so) thanks to the guava bbq. While that was very good, it was the accompaniments that made this a standout. The cheddar grits were rich and decadent, while the curtido slaw providing a light and refreshing contrast to that. Normally, if I’m paying $50 for an entree, I’m not raving about the slaw…but this was amazing. The slaw had a succulent, citrus flavor that was perfect. This is an example of an entree as a whole being more than the sum of its parts. Highly recommended.

For our first dessert, we ordered the Blackberry Tartelette: Lemon Bavarian and Blackberry Mousse enrobed in Glacage with Candied Violet.

This thing looks like a work of art.

If you’re looking for something lighter for dessert, the Blackberry Tartelette fits the bill.

It has a semi-sweet, tart flavor with the crust providing some textural counterweight to the creamy mousse. With that said, neither of us thought this was anything to rave about. It looks better than it tastes.

Finally, we ordered the Chocolate Torte: Chocolate Financier, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Morello Cherries and Vanilla Mascarpone Cream.

Another gorgeously-presented dessert.

This is a sharp contrast to the Blackberry Tartelette–this dessert is rich, heavy, and gloriously decadent.

We both really enjoyed the core dessert here in the middle underneath the chocolate bouquet, for lack of a better term. Those shavings were fine, but more for aesthetics than consumption. The Morello Cherries and Vanilla Mascarpone Cream were fantastic, and elevated this. With all of that said, dessert was a disappointment as compared to the appetizers and entrees. That’s probably in part because these looked gorgeous but didn’t quite match that in flavor.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention pricing. While all Signature Restaurants at Walt Disney World are expensive, we spent a lot here–more than recent meals anywhere else. Even Takumi-Tei ended up costing us less than Ci­tricos.

In part, that’s because of deliberate decisions we made, ordering several of the costliest items in their respective categories (plus drinks). However, the menu boxed us into some of those decisions, as there were only a couple of cheaper options, and they didn’t sound nearly as impressive or ambitious. We loved the meal, but taking into account what we spent and what we’d spend to dine here again…well, we’d rather revisit Topolino’s Terrace or wait for other still-closed favorite Signature Restaurants to return.

Ultimately, we’ve never been huge fans of Ci­tricos in the past, but this experience at the new-look restaurant won us over. The menu is superlative, with sophisticated Floridian cuisine and an abundance of citrus infusions. Usually, even Signature Restaurants play it pretty fast and loose with their types of cuisine, but Ci­tricos stays true to its name and its resort. These dishes are inventive, beautifully-plated, delicious, and in keeping with the spirit of Ci­tricos.

In our view, the atmosphere is a marked improvement over the previous incarnation of the restaurant. Even if you’re not a fan of the cartoonification of Walt Disney World, that’s not an issue here as whatever they did with Mary Poppins is almost totally unnoticeable. Ci­tricos is still not my favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World, but that’s only because the novelty or style of options like Topolino’s Terrace, Takumi-Tei, Monsieur Paul, and a couple others all appeal to me more. Removing personal preference and reviewing it only for its cuisine and sophistication/elegance, Ci­tricos now belongs on our list of Top 10 Table Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World. Ci­tricos is now practically perfect, and this reimagining was a supercalifragilistic upgrade to both the menu and interior. Kudos to the chefs and Imagineers!

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Have you dined at Ci­tricos since it reopened? Thoughts on the new menu? What about the Mary Poppins-inspired reimagining of Ci­tricos’ interior? Are you on board with the “subtle” nods to intellectual property, or does this not belong in a Signature Restaurant? Are you a Ci­tricos or Grand Floridian fan? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

24 Responses to “Citricos Reimagined Restaurant Review”
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