by Kevin Klose - 1/04/08
As part of our yearly tradition, we book a Candlelight Processional package for Christmas Eve. This has been the case for several years.
We have a plan of attack for the day that Candlelight Packages are to begin booking. We get up at the crack of dawn and begin dialing the phone. We communicate via computer and the first one that gets through makes the reservation.
Our restaurant of choice for Christmas Eve dinner has always been Le Cellier. I’m not really sure why this is so…but it is…or I should say it has been.
Disney has mucked around with the Candlelight Processional packages (from here on out to be referred to as CPP….purely for my convenience as Candlelight Processional Package is a pain to type) in that they have changed the way these can be booked.
In the past, you were allowed to book your CPP with the show first with dinner to follow. This allowed you to line up early, see the fantastic show and then enjoy a leisurely dinner with a beautiful stroll out of Epcot, past the tree and lighted arch and home to wait for Santa.
Well all of that changed last year when Disney decided that you must eat first and then see the show.
This makes for a rather rushed evening as you must have dinner and then rush to the Americas Theater in order to get in a line with the same population as one of our smaller states. For those of you familiar with the Epcot terrain…we got in line near Morocco. That’s TWO countries away. So much for leisurely….
I can see Disney’s reasoning for doing this. It allows them to turn over their tables more frequently by rushing you through dinner in order to go see your show. It also allows them to fill the less desirable dining times with folks doing the CPP and still have openings for guests not partaking in the package.
Just because I understand it…doesn’t mean I have to like it. And I don’t.
It just may be time for a new tradition.
On to the restaurant review…
It is my understanding that the chef from Le Cellier has recently left to fill an opening at Jiko in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Jiko found itself with an opening when
its chef left to go….oh I don’t know where…but it doesn’t matter as this about Le Cellier.
I have always been fond of Le Cellier (in it’s current form…it used to be horrendous many years ago). It is a cozy little restaurant that lends itself to intimate meals in a charming setting.
We arrived for our advanced dining reservation a bit early on one of the busiest nights of the year armed with reservation numbers and thoughts of good things ahead.
As we have done this before, we made two reservations, each for a party of four, knowing fully well that we might be sat at opposite ends of the restaurant. But we also know that trying to make a reservation for eight on a holiday makes the Disney agent’s head explode. We have found this method to be far easier.
Upon approaching the podium, we were met by what seemed to be a pre-programmed animatronic hostess. She had a spiel to share and she was not deviating from it. I was trying to explain that we had two reservations and would like to sit together but completely understood if that was not possible. During my explanation, she asked if we had reservations as that evening was completely booked. I can understand that she was preparing for the onslaught, but it hadn’t started as of yet.
After explaining the situation again, she let me know that she would try to accommodate our wishes. We explained again that we understood if it was not possible.. we were asked to wait a few extra moments and finally we were seated at a table for eight.
I need to give credit to Disney when they do something right. This was well handled.
Upon receiving our menus, we noticed that there were some minor changes but the majority of the menu remains in tact. There have been no drastic changes in what is being offered.
As part of the CPP, you are allowed an appetizer, an entrée, a dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage so we got busy making decisions.
We ordered our appetizers and upon their arrival quickly began noticing some changes after all. The portion sizes have gotten smaller on several items. The bowl of Beef Barley Soup ($5.99) is now a cup. Two of our party ordered it and deemed it so salty that it was inedible. The two bowls were sent back and replaced with different appetizers.
The famous Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup ($5.49) was also served in a smaller cup. It was good but could have been hotter.
Someone also order what might be the oddest choice on the menu. It was the Spicy Chicken and Chipotle Sausage ($8.99). It was an extremely spicy sausage serves on a bed of polenta with “sweet onion jam”. Does that scream Canada or what?
The biggest disappointment during the appetizers was mine. I ordered the Beefsteak Tomato Stack ($7.99). This is something I order every year. I know I’m getting it when I make the reservations. It’s not a fancy dish, but I love it. It’s usually thick slices of ripe tomato layered with slices of mozzarella cheese with greens and vinaigrette. It’s always big enough to share and Le Cellier has these salt grinders (similar to a pepper mill) that leave great chunks of salt on my tomatoes. Can you tell I like this dish?
It has been reduced to a slice of tomato, with a teaspoon of tomato puree on top and two marble sized balls of mozzarella with a few specks of balsamic vinegar. It was dreadful and not worth the price. I was sorely disappointed and I know it’s not a big deal. I can make this at home….but it’s disappointing all the same.
After we received our appetizers, I asked our waiter about the changes and he firmly stated that there had been NO changes made. He also let us know that he’d been there since March. Oh well…..dinner is coming.
The entrees faired much better. We ordered the Seared Free-Range Chicken ($19.99), two orderes of the 14 oz New York Strip Steak (29.99) and the Le Cellier Mushroom Filet Mignon ($28.99).
All of our meals were fair to good. There was really nothing bad to note. I believe the worst thing I could say about the entrees were that they were acceptable. There were no wow factors but also no major disappointments.
My Mushroom Filet was good but not great, but for $29.00 it should be great
Desserts at our table were crème Brule, chocolate cake and sorbet. Again…there was nothing to note and most of dessert was left on the table as we had to rush off to get in line for the Candlelight Processional.
It is my opinion that Le Cellier has reached it’s iconic status as the “must do” restaurant in Epcot based not on the quality of the food but more on the fact that reservations can be hard to get. It’s one of the smaller restaurants in Epcot and the law of supply and demand has given this restaurant a reputation it does not deserve.
Also….if you are in Disney when the Candlelight Processional is playing…go see it!!!. Whatever your religious beliefs…..it’s rousing to hear that many voices. It’s a good show.
As for the Candlelight Processional Package…..I think Disney has mucked it up enough to make it far less enjoyable. No one should feel rushed through dinner.
I think next year, we will make an ADR for earlier in the season and then go see the show like we used to and spend Christmas Eve doing something else.