What's New, What's Next in Walt Disney World Dining
Patina Restaurant Group to open new Epcot restaurant. L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante in the Italy pavilion closes in September, and California-based Patina Restaurant Group will open a new restaurant in the same spot in fall 2008. (Patina will operate a temporary Italian eatery, Tutto Italia, until the new restaurant debuts
The Epcot restaurant is the newest flagship in Patina's portfolio of nearly 30 restaurants across the U.S. and its first in Florida.
"World Showcase was designed to continually evolve and offer new guest experiences that showcase cultures, traditions and immersive entertainment," said Maribeth Bisienere, vice president, Alliance Development and Operating Participants, Walt Disney World Resort. "With the Patina Restaurant Group coming on board, our guests will have the best of both worlds -- gourmet cuisine and first-class services."
Christine and Joachim Splichal opened their flagship restaurant Patina in Los Angeles in 1989. Today the Patina Restaurant Group includes a dozen New York City restaurants such as the Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, Nick & Stef's Steakhouse at Madison Square Garden and the Grand Tier Restaurant at Lincoln Center. At Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort, Patina operates Catal Restaurant, Naples and Tortilla Jo's. Other restaurants are in Los Angeles; Orange County, Calif.; Northern California and Las Vegas.
More changes for Epcot dining. Japan, China and Mexico pavilions are all updating their dining experience. The three pavilions have been open since 1982.
Japan's Tempura Kiku and Matsunoma Lounge will be replaced in the fall with a new spot, Tokyo Dining, showcasing traditional cuisine and ingredients of Japan with an emphasis on sushi and innovative presentation. The popular teppanyaki dining room is renamed Teppan Edo, but the concept remains.
In China, a new Joy of Tea outdoor cart features hot and cold teas, frozen green tea concoctions and alcoholic choices such as plum wine and wine green tea slush. The pavilion's Lotus Blossom Cafe has been renovated and features a new menu that includes Beijing barbecue chicken, sesame chicken salad and rou jia mo, a popular Chinese sandwich made with sliced beef stuffed in toasted wheat-flour flatbread. Nine Dragons table-service restaurant will close in early 2008 for renovations that include an exhibition kitchen where guests can interact with the chefs.
In Mexico, a 50- to 60-seat tequila bar replaces a retail shop in the pavilion's spacious indoor courtyard in summer 2007. And the pavilion's waterfront Cantina de San Angel is expanding with more seating with optimal views of World Showcase, and will offer a new menu by summer 2008.
Il Mulino newest dining at Walt Disney World Swan. New York City's Il Mulino has expanded around the globe in cities from Tokyo to Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. The newest outpost at the Walt Disney World Swan features family-style dining with fish, chicken, fresh pastas and meats, with seasonal ingredients inspired by Italy's Abruzzi region, and a wine list with more than 250 selections. With 220 seats, Il Mulino has intimate dining rooms that are available for special occasions or smaller group events. Open seven days a week for dinner.
Two new themed restaurants. Walt Disney World guests will have two new restaurants to choose from when they visit Disney's Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney. The restaurants will be operated by Landry's Restaurants, which operates the Rainforest Cafes at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney.
In early 2008 at Downtown Disney, guests will be able to dine face to face with a dinosaur at T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure, A Place to Eat, Shop, Explore and Discover, which combines table-service dining and retail in an interactive prehistoric environment built around water, fire and ice.
This November, guests who travel to the land of Asia in Disney's Animal Kingdom will get a real taste of that exotic part of the world with Yak & Yeti Restaurant. Inspired by the western Himalayan foothills in India and Nepal, this Asian-fusion establishment will offer table-service dining and a full-service bar, as well as quick-service food and beer-garden options, and retail offerings from Pan-Asia ranging from silk purses, incense and saris to fine teapots. It will seat 250 inside for table-service dining and 350 in a quick-service courtyard.
More dining changes at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Tusker House Restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom reopens in November, converted to a buffet restaurant that includes a character breakfast, Donald's Safari Breakfast. Hours are 8-10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. until the park closes. The restaurant features both indoor and outdoor seating. (Donald's Breakfastosaurus at the park's Restaurantosaurus closes Nov. 5, but Restaurantosaurus remains open daily from 10:30 a.m. until park close as a quick-service restaurant.)
Kids' menus get a makeover. Kids' menus at Disney slowly have been evolving, but recent changes make healthier choices the standard instead of the "alternate." Carrot sticks in place of French fries and 1 percent milk or bottled water instead of soda, for instance. Guests must request fries and sodas.
"The new healthful menus expand the options for our guests," said Ed Wronski, director of Product Development for Walt Disney World Food & Beverage. "The reaction, both from the chefs and the guests, has been very, very positive." During the test phase, about 80 percent of parents chose the healthier option in the quick-service restaurants in the parks.
The revised menus require that no more than 35 percent of calories can come from fat -- saturated fat and sugar must account for no more than 10 percent of the meal's calories.
The whole idea behind the new meals is simply to introduce more balance while focusing on smaller portions and fewer calories, said Wronski.
Out with added trans fat. Over the next year, Walt Disney World Resort is removing all added trans fats from food served in parks and resorts. All partially hydrogenated oils also will be phased out.
Constantly looking for ways to improve the nutritional profiles and tastes of popular entrees, Disney instituted other changes including a new guest-tested hamburger with fat content less than 20 percent and buns with 10 percent whole wheat, and new pizzas with lower bread and lower-fat cheese.
Disney is working with manufacturers to reformulate recipes for candy, packaged food and bakery items sold in the parks, or identifying replacement products. Portion-controlled snacks and treats and packaging to promote nutritious food are part of the changes.
New kind of tea party at Disney restaurants, lounges. Restaurants and lounges all across Walt Disney World Resort have a new way to enjoy tea: in trendy cocktails.
The tea-infused cocktails were created by Disney's beverage team, and are offered in most of the lounges and table-service restaurants. Exotic combinations include the Zen-tini with Skyy citrus vodka and green tea liqueur; the Lemon Verbena Martini with Ketel One Citroen and lemon verbena tea, and the Iced Chai Tea Latte with Malibu coconut rum, chai tea and half & half. After-dinner tea drinks are served hot, like the Cassis Infusion with cassis tea and Chambord, or the Vanilla Rooibos Soother with Navan vanilla cognac and vanilla rooibos tea.
Disney Dining Plan saves vacation dollars. A popular new way to save up to 40 percent on dining, the Disney Dining Plan lets resort guests pay in advance (including gratuities) for snacks and meals at selected restaurants. The plan includes one quick-service meal, one snack and one table-service meal for each night of a package stay.
Cost is $38.99, $10.99 ages 3 to 9, and kids under 3 can share from an adult plate at no additional charge. Guests can use the meals and snack in any order and in any amount through the package stay.
Diners have flexibility with the plan, as meal usage is tracked electronically, and a receipt shows the remaining balance. Dining at Disney's "signature" restaurants, dinner shows, Cinderella's Royal Table or room service require two table-service vouchers, for instance, so guests can plan ahead to include a variety of dining experiences.
Approximately 120 restaurants throughout Walt Disney World parks and resorts currently are participating in the Disney Dining Plan.
The plan can be added to a Magic Your Way Package up until three days prior to arrival, but guests are encouraged to make arrangements as far in advance as possible so they can book dining reservations at table service restaurants (which can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling 407/WDW-DINE).
Chef Tim Keating takes helm at Flying Fish Cafe at Disney's BoardWalk. Chef Tim Keating most recently was executive chef at the Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla., and prior to the Biltmore was executive chef for eight years at the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston, Texas.
New Jersey-born Keating began his culinary career in his early teens. Early on, he mastered his craft at several top California hotels, including Le Meridien in Newport Beach, La Valencia in La Jolla and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Laguna Niguel and Rancho Mirage.
Throughout his career, his restaurants have received numerous awards, and Keating was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Foundation awards for the American Express Best Chef-Southwest in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
He also is a founding member of the Chefs Collaborative, a nationwide group that supports local farmers and inspires their customers to choose nutritious and sustainable foods.
Chef Jens Dahlmann moves to California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Chef Jens Dahlmann moves from Flying Fish Cafe at Disney's BoardWalk to the award-winning California Grill high atop Disney's Contemporary Resort. Dahlmann oversees a team of chefs in the onstage kitchen, where his "Creative American" cuisine offers a "contemporary and light approach with European basics."
Born in Germany, Dahlmann's father was a chef, and his grandfather was a master pastry chef. He was a chef at Le Cirque 2000 in New York City and Cafe L' Europe in Palm Beach before coming to Walt Disney World Resort.