Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dining at Disney, Part 3: Biergarten and Le Cellier

After much delay, this the last in my Dining at Disney posts. Today I'll cover two of the more difficult to get into restaurants: Le Cellier, in the Canadian Pavillion, and Biergarten, in the German Pavillion.

Le Cellier Steakhouse is the best rated restaurant in Orlando, Florida, according to Trip Advisor. Several other sites prefer the adults-only snootiness of Victoria and Albert's. However judging by how hard it was to get into Le Cellier and how easy it was to even inquire about same-day reservations at Victoria and Albert's I'm going to make the assumption that Le Cellier is more popular among guests of Disney World. We made our reservations 90 days in advance of our lunch, which just happened to be the same day as Canadian Thanksgiving.

Le Cellier is a pretty restaurant that looks like it is in the basement of a castle, hence the name. The hosts/hostesses were all very friendly and more than a little surprised that we even knew it was Canadian Thanksgiving without having been prompted (thanks Sean for the text message stating such). Our server had the strongest Canadian accent I have ever heard...and was not enhancing it for the effect.

Since we were there for lunch, we ordered off the lunch menu. The folks split a meal that included a sliced beef sandwich and several sides including their famous cheddar soup and "Canadian potato salad." I ordered an appetizer of duck three ways and tasted the spouse's cheddar soup. In addition I also got the sliced steak sandwich with fries. The cheddar soup, I must say, really is as good as advertised. It's creamy and cheesy without being overbearing. In all, very well balanced. The duck three ways was very much worth getting. Melt in your mouth goodness. My father didn't care for the spiciness of the "Canadian potato salad" which was generated by the overuse of raw garlic. However we all enjoyed the sliced beef sandwiches. Mine was slightly dry, but I think it's because I was unable to have it with the caramelized onions that are supposed to come on it. Our entrees were served with pomogranite lemonade, which I have to admit was far too sweet. The beer selection was quite good, with reasonable prices. Had it not been around 95 degrees F outside I might have preferred a beer. Dessert consisted of maple creme brulee. Yum. As you all know I like maple syrup in just about anything. Creme brulee was a nice match.

In all, we all enjoyed our food at Le Cellier Steakhouse. Coming for lunch was nice, particularly since the prices were much better than for dinner. We would all definitely go back. Although the idea of making reservations so far in advance for lunch is quite daunting.

Next up is Biergarten, in the German Restaurant. Three guesses on the theme to this restaurant. Yup, it's Bavarian. A lot. There are flags displayed to represent the other regions of Germany, but the food and atmosphere are unmistakably Bavarian.

As some of you already know, I have a pathological fear of buffets. I think this all started when I was very young and spending my summers in Ocean City, Maryland. There's a legendary buffet there called Paul Revere's. It's legendarily bad. We got sucked in my a decent price, boardwalk location and really cool marketing photos showing fresh fish and other foods. Unfortunately the reality of the place is that it's amazing more people don't get campylobacter or salmonella from eating there. Additionally, most buffets end up with the same boring overcooked food, slowly degrading on steam tables. There's nothing tasty about that. Nor is there anything appetizing about the idea that the sneeze guard doesn't really serve any function.

So when my father announced that we had reservations at Biergarten, I was apprehensive. Trip Advisor reviews referring to the place as "fun" didn't help allay my fear for the food. However the folks really wanted to eat there so we had to humor them and do it with our best smiling faces. And we were pleasantly surprised.

Yes, the atmosphere is cheesy. Yes the buffet contains stereotypically German food that's really Bavarian. However the quality of the food was quite good and I could see the staff regularly turning over the food on the line; a very good sign. Much of the featured food were sausages, as well as head cheese, potato and pickle dishes. There were also vegetable dishes and, my favorite, spaetzle. Yum. Additionally there was a prime rib carving station, which I ignored due to the variety elsewhere on the line.

In addition to the quality of the food, the beer selection was quite good. I was not prepared for hefeweizen by the liter, though. Needless to say it made for a fun lunch with my family.

The Bavarian-style shows ran about every 30 minutes with a small oompa band cranking out polkas. Seating is Munich-style, where you're likely to share a table with another group. Our group was a fun group of guys in town for a convention.

In all, I was impressed. Mostly because it was good food on a buffet. It's technical challenge to keep everything hot and fresh on the line. Does this mean I've made peace with buffets? NO. All it means is that there is now one buffet in the world where I will eat.

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