Last night, we had one of our top 5 meals of all time at Walt Disney World. Certainly our best dinner ever in Epcot’s World Showcase, and right up there with great experiences at Yachtsman Steakhouse, Jiko, California Grill, and Flying Fish. The only meal it ranks behind would be Victoria & Albert’s.
It was so good that I got up early to write this, and it’s preempting our scheduled post for today, because I want anyone who can to take advantage of this incredible dinner. Seriously, if you’re at Walt Disney World right now or have a trip planned, cancel whatever Advance Dining Reservation you have for Epcot and do this instead. You can thank us later.
This experience came via the ‘Summer Special Discovery Menu’ at Monsieur Paul, the Signature Restaurant in Epcot’s France pavilion. The meal blew us away, surpassing our last dinner at Bistro de Paris, which was good enough to rank at the time as the #2 restaurant at Walt Disney World. However, after hearing hit or miss things about Monsieur Paul from friends the last several years, having only an okay experience last time we dined at Chefs de France, and seeing the menu prices, we’ve been putting off a return visit. In fact, we almost didn’t even do this dinner…
Even the Summer Special Discovery Menu almost wasn’t enough to convince us to visit Monsieur Paul. The new Takumi-Tei Signature Restaurant is a must-do for us at some point, and the menu prices there will eat our entire ‘eating out’ dining budget for a month or so.
When it came to this menu, we were also worried that rather than being a great value, Monsieur Paul’s dinner special would cut corners or otherwise fail to deliver. Fortunately, that was not even remotely the case. It was a superlative experience in literally every single regard…
First, a bit of info about the Summer Special Discovery Menu at Monsieur Paul. This is available now through September 27, 2019. For $59, you can order a four-course prix fixe menu that begins with a cocktail and amuse bouche, appetizer, entree, and dessert. Note that this menu is available only by request–we were handed other prix fixe menus when seated, but not this one.
I guess that makes it a “secret menu.” It’s really more like an unadvertised one. Rather than being a gimmicky thing, this is likely being offered to drive new business to Monsieur Paul without being offered to guests who’d dine here regardless. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse than a secret menu, but it’s a clever move.
Regardless, it’s not having the desired effect, at least not yet. We arrived at 7:30 p.m., and Monsieur Paul was less thanone-quarter full, with guests only being seated at window tables. This is great news for guests, as it’s a comfortable environment and everyone would have a fireworks view.
Although it’s not the greatest view in Epcot, we were really looking forward to watching IllumiNations from Monsieur Paul. Alas, it was not to be, as the fireworks show was repeatedly postponed. Instead, we were treated to a cool show throughout our meal–some of nature’s fireworks via an epic lightning show.
In terms of atmosphere, Monsieur Paul is similar to its predecessor, and offers a classic and authentic Parisian sensibility (minus the smoking). We previously described that as “restrained elegance” and that description remains apt.
This is one instance of a restaurant modernization being an actual plussing. In comparing my new photos to ones from my archives, the light fixtures have been upgraded, as have the window treatments and some of the seating. There are also some vaguely Art Nouveau flourishes, but it’s all fairly subtle.
What’s great about Monsieur Paul is that it’s opulent and well-appointed without being intimidating or overly stuffy. It’s very obviously a fine dining restaurant, but wall photos of the late Chef Paul Bocuse with giant mice and a rat help to remind that this restaurant is indeed in a Walt Disney World theme park.
In other words, Monsieur Paul is fairly approachable. I’d still recommend avoiding standard theme park attire, as most guests do dress for the occasion and the restaurant has a loosely-enforced dress code. (Monsieur Paul is a good option if you’re staying at a Crescent Lake Area Resort and can walk to your room to shower and get changed.) I would also hesitate to bring children unless they’re well behaved, but the restaurant is unlikely to turn anyone or any attire away.
Our server was attentive and excellent; in fact, our interactions throughout the meal with the entire restaurant staff were great. With that said, don’t be surprised if you’re met with a cold response upon requesting a window table upon arrival, or if your server’s interactions are a bit brusque. Your mileage may vary with French service; don’t take it personally if you don’t receive warm and bubbly Disney encounters at the France pavilion.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the menu, but this review encompasses everything on the Summer Special Discovery Menu at Monsieur Paul. Where we don’t make a recommendation between the two options (which is for most of them), it’s because it’s pretty much a toss-up…
Here are the drinks: Monsieur Paul’s Cocktail, and a non-alcoholic alternative.
The drink is essentially a champagne cocktail while the non-alcoholic version is a fruit cocktail. Nothing particularly noteworthy here.
Next is the amuse bouche.
It doesn’t photograph well, but this is a spectacular tomato and mozzarella dish. It had a zesty and piquant flavor, and was a refreshing start to the meal.
For our first appetizer, we had the Watercress Soup with fish quenelles, vegetables, croutons.
The creamy soup here was poured table-side (I wish I had gotten a photo before that, as there’s an abundance of fish quenelles and vegetables under the sea of green). Sarah described this as a “Tour de France,” as each bite offered something different, and exceptional flavors. A real standout.
For our second appetizer, we had the Smoked Salmon and Ricotta Tart with arugula coulis and marinated vegetables.
The smoked salmon itself here was good, but it was the perfect marriage of literally everything itself that took everything to the next level and made this an interesting and exceptional dish. Still, it wasn’t quite as good as the Watercress Soup.
For our first entree, we had the Roasted Red Snapper with stuffed calamari, grilled shrimp, ratatouille, plus fish and tomato stock.
Another dish that was finished table-side, and another incredible symphony of flavors. The light sweetness of the red snapper contrasted nicely with the punch of the tomato stock; often, I find snapper a bit too mild and dull, but this dish was bold and inventive. The ratatouille was likewise wonderful.
Next, the Peach Glazed Duck Breast with savory savarin, baby turnip, radish puree with brown butter, and duck jus.
Again, we have another dish where presentation was meticulous and exquisite, but that’s not the only thing here. The duck breast was phenomenal, on par with what I’ve had at a Michelin-rated restaurant in Paris. The meat itself was perfectly prepared–tender with a slight fattiness for flavor layered below the crispy-glazed skin. That peach glaze provided a nice sweetness without overwhelming the natural flavor of the duck.
Desserts are variants of items you’ll find on the regular Monsieur Paul menu. First, the Meringue with vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet, vanilla chantilly, raspberry coulis.
This is actually like a mash-up of two regular desserts: the Meringue and Vacherin Glace Vanille. It was exceptional, with the variety of textures and mix of sweet and tart flavors making for a playful and delicious dessert.
Our other pick was the Warm Chocolate Almond Cake with raspberry coulis in the center, hazelnut crust, and hazelnut ice cream.
This is one of the highlights from the regular dessert menu, and is a holdover from Bistro de Paris. Sarah likened this to the Chocolate Soufflé we had ages ago at Victoria & Albert’s (that she still talks about!), which is about the highest praise possible. Rich, dense, and offset perfectly by the creamy hazelnut ice cream.
Oh, and as for IllumiNations, although it was a disappointment to not see it out the window at Monsieur Paul, it did end up running after the lightning ‘show’ was over, starting just after 10 p.m. We ended up having the best of both worlds there, enjoying the lightning from Monsieur Paul (and audibly reacting to it with frequent wows like we’d never seen lightning before!), and then being able to stroll into what’s normally a reserved waterfront viewing area for IllumiNations after dinner.
Overall, this review probably undersells just how phenomenal our experience was at Monsieur Paul. Despite more exposure to haute cuisine and fine dining, I still often find myself at a loss when it comes to describing the cuisine. My palate knows nuanced and superlative cuisine when I taste it, but my brain is lacking in the whole “words for that” department. Suffice to say, this was one of our best meals of all-time at Walt Disney World, and that is not hyperbole in the slightest.
If the goal of the Summer Special Discovery Menu at Monsieur Paul is to drive new business to the Signature Restaurant, wow guests with a great experience, and convince them to return and spend more money…mission accomplished. Our thinking is that if the $59 prix fixe menu was this good, we can only imagine the quality of the $89 or $119 options.
Speaking of price, you might be thinking that at $59 per person, it’s hard for this to qualify as a “dinner deal.” We wholeheartedly disagree. At Chefs de France, the average appetizer is $12. “Comparable” fish or duck entrees are $32. Dessert is another $10. Add a drink and you’re well over $60 for what’s unquestionably an inferior restaurant.
Granted, it’s not as good of a deal as we shared in our Best Value Lunch in All of Walt DisneyWorld post, but it’s the best dinner bang for buck you’ll find in the parks, at what’s easily Epcot’s best restaurant. It’s also important to keep in mind that value is relative. At a Walt Disney World Signature Restaurant that’s actually comparable for a meal that’s actually comparable, you’d easily spend $20-30 more.
Another thing worth noting is that the Summer Special Discovery Menu at Monsieur Paul runs until September 27, 2019, which is about a month into the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Ordering everything on the food menu at the Italy booth (one of the most popular marketplaces at the event) would’ve cost $27.20 last year (adjusting for Disney inflation, that’s ~$87.20 this year). This meal at Monsieur Paul is easily 37 times the quality at roughly double the cost. Even if you order the absolute best items at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, they won’t begin to touch this experience. Plus, you’ll spend more in the process–and you’ll be outdoors in the summer heat and humidity. No question about it: spend that Food & Wine budget on Monsieur Paul instead.
Have you dined at Monsieur Paul lately? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Does this $59 prix fixe Summer Special Discovery Menu at Monsieur Paul strike you as a good deal, or is it still too much to spend on food at Walt Disney World? 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!