Setting foot into Disney California Adventure yesterday, I could feel an intense excitement throughout the entire park. The energy was charged as if it knew something big was coming. While we’re still several weeks away from the Grand Opening of Pixar Pier, the park is all abuzz with anticipation. The reimagined Paradise Pier will complete its transformation and open under its new name on June 23rd. For most of us that day can’t get here soon enough. Pixar’s characters and films have touched audiences on a deep level, and those of us who were growing up as Toy Story came to life, want to be fully submerged in the worlds that brought us so much joy.
As the park prepares to unveil the beloved area, they’re also just as excited about Lamplight Lounge. Formerly the Cove Bar, Lamplight Lounge will bring a casual elegance to the Pier and it’s guaranteed to be the place to visit. The restaurant offers seating for up to 200 guests on the upper level and 261 guests on the lower level. Guests will feel right at home in the “California casual gastro-pub” where they’ll be able to enjoy, sweet and savory foods and signature cocktails as they take in the gorgeous views of the Pier.
Disney has always stood out from typical theme and amusement parks for several reasons. Their commitment to storytelling through script, as well as music and visuals give guests an experience they won’t get anywhere else. And while the parks offer plenty of excitement, they’re not solely about the thrills, but rather the story and emotion behind those thrills. There’s also the food element. Sure, guests can enjoy the standard hot dog, pretzel, ice cream, and popcorn, but they can also nibble or feast on a variety of cuisines. Disney’s team of chefs continue to amaze with their excellently curated menus, selection of quality ingredients, and creative twists on classic dishes. The Lamplight Lounge is no exception.
The food and beverage team responsible for the Lamplight Lounge menu have been working on this specific project for a year. Menu creating is an incredible task in and of itself. There’s so much more than saying, let’s serve steak, chicken, quinoa salad, and apple pie. Flavors have to come together, ingredients have to be available, chefs and cooks need to be able to prepare and assemble dishes quickly and elegantly, and beverages have to accompany all. When all is said and done, there’s no good way to describe the feeling of satisfaction one gets when everything takes on a life of its own and guests are wowed at what’s available to them.
Much to the disappointment of Chef John State, the Lamplight Lounge won’t open with its entire menu lineup. However, he’s very excited about what will be available on June 23rd. When the Lamplight Lounge team set to work on this particular restaurant concept, they asked what it was that guests want. With social media taking the world by storm, more and more park visitors are taking pictures of their food and posting reviews of individual items. Additionally, guests are fond of ordering smaller, sharable plates allowing them to taste more of the menu.
The menu starts out with shareable “Pix & Bits” or appetizers, followed by “Bigger Bites”, entrees, and “Budding Artists” or kids plates. A standard drink menu will be available along with uniquely named cocktails and mock-tails including Disney’s spin on the classic Moscow Mule. 12 beers will be served on tap in the lower level of the Lounge and 6 beers will be on tap in the upper level. Local brewery, Bottle Logic is also making a beer unique to Disney that isn’t served anywhere else in the country. It won’t even be available in their tasting room, so if you want to try it, you’ll have to head to Pixar Pier.
During my visit, we were able to sample two of the Pix & Bits option on the menu: the Potato Skins, and the Carne Asada Roll. Chef John is the best person to explain the new menu as you’ll see in the video, but I’ll gladly tell you about my taste test.
These smashed Yukon gold potatoes were heavenly. The potatoes were cooked to a perfect crisp on the outside while remaining soft, but not mushy, on the inside. There’s a subtle sweetness from the potatoes that compliment the saltiness of the cheese and capers. The brown butter yogurt adds a touch of tanginess, and the paprika aioli is rich and flavorful. It’s not a spicy dish making it perfect to share with everyone.
Carne Asada Roll
Contrary to popular belief, sushi is not raw fish, but rather the vinegared or seasoned rice. Think of this as a beginner’s sushi. All of the traditional items are there: vegetables, protein, sushi rice, and a seaweed wrap. While it’s hearty enough as an appetizer, it’s less filling than the potato skins and it seems a little healthier. The New York strip steak was cooked to a perfect medium pink that added a texture component as well. The vegetables were crisp and the cilantro brightened up the entire dish. Definitely something to try whether it’s your first sushi roll or you just want to mix things up.
If that’s not enough to get you excited about the new restaurant, they maybe this will help: Lamplight Lounge is now accepting dining reservations. Disney California Adventure is anticipating this culinary haven to be quite popular and wants to ensure that guests have a pleasant dining experience. If you’re at all interested in visiting Lamplight Lounge, I’d recommend making a reservation.
Fans of Pixar films will also notice surprises and nods to the studio and it’s characters. The imagineers wanted the Lounge to feel like Pixar “regulars” had just been there and have left small traces of detail for guests to discover. Everything form sketches, drawings, concept art, to toys, and memorabilia will be sprinkled throughout the restaurant.
Pixar Pier and Lamplight Lounge will have their Grand Openings on Saturday, June 23rd. Both locations are located in Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort.