A Taste of Citricos

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the February 26, 2002 Issue #127 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Citricos -- not surprisingly, it means citrus in Spanish.

Doesn't that conjure images of sunshine, palm trees, warm Mediterranean beaches and foods prepared with fresh ingredients and lots of olive oil? It did to me. And those images, coupled with the fact that Citricos is located in the luxurious Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World, had put this upscale restaurant at the top of my must-try list.

As I walked into the restaurant on my recent visit, my enthusiasm grew. The decor is refined, but decidedly not stuffy, the airiness of the space accented by palms, wavy metal grates and numerous windows. An almost amber glow radiating from the artsy light fixtures created a warm ambiance, while subtle hints of soft orange on the walls emphasized the Mediterranean feel and citrus theme.

An open kitchen, matte-finish stainless accents at the curving bar, and a swirling patterned carpet contributed to the contemporary atmosphere. I was not surprised to learn later that the interior was designed by Martin Dorf, the same man who worked on the whimsical Flying Fish Cafe at Disney's Boardwalk.

To further enhance my initial impression, I was treated to a colorburst of fireworks while waiting for my table, standing by the tall windows looking out over the Magic Kingdom below.

Once our exuberant party of 14 was seated, we eagerly inspected the menu. Despite the Citricos name, we found few items listing citrus fruits as an ingredient, aside from the vodka martini infused with fresh orange and lemon ($8).

But that really didn't matter. The elegant printed descriptions of the Mediterranean-inspired fare, embellished upon by our server, who was knowledgeable and competent, if not overly cordial, made us anxious to sample more than a few of the items listed.

Our favorable impressions of Citricos started to crumble, though, with the arrival of the first courses. The Salade Maison ($6) was overpowered by the tangy and somewhat vinegary balsamic vinaigrette, although the olive tapenade and tomato-garlic spreads that accompanied the salad's petite toasts burst with fresh flavors. The Arugula Salad ($7), filled with tender, flavorful greens, was accompanied by fatty and tasteless prosciutto. Lobster Bisque ($9) was creamy and mild with generous chunks of seafood, its scant serving left the diner craving more. The one hot appetizer sampled, the warm Onion Tart ($8) with a walnut vinaigrette, was the only starter that received an unequivocal rave review. The well-seasoned and generous portion was enthusiastically deemed "an onion lover's delight." Still, a previous version of this tart, priced the same, had also included a sampling of duck.

One of the evening's entree specials, slices of medium rare Veal Tenderloin ($29) fanned out atop a bed of asparagus risotto, led me into temptation. The risotto, with the unusual addition of one of my favorite vegetables, was perfectly creamy, and the veal was cut-it-with-a-fork tender; unfortunately, a heavy hand had peppered it, leaving my poor tongue afire. The Marinated Pork Tenderloin ($25) and the Grilled Filet of Beef ($33), however, were exactly as requested, tender and juicy. The filet, in particular, stood out, featuring an unusual violet mustard sauce. The attendant crushed potatoes were seasoned with olive oil, lending them a unique taste that married well with the richness of the beef.

The succulent Roasted Duck ($25) was presented medium-rare, as requested, although with a portion that was on the small side. Although the accompanying sweet and sour pomegranate sauce leaned more to the sweet, the mild duck was an exceptional entree, and its fragrant rosemary polenta the perfect complement.

Though there were four seafood offerings on the menu, three were passed over in favor of the Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops ($26), which came with a side of orzo pasta and red wine butter. The five generously sized scallops were lightly browned on the outside, tender and flavorful within, and the orzo blessed with bits of shiitake mushrooms.

Although the option of wine pairings with the meals (three glasses matched to specific courses for $25) was offered, the selection of wines available by the glass was somewhat limited. A Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon (Chateau Ste. Michelle), however, served as a good accompaniment to the dinners enjoyed by several in our group.

Desserts, all priced at $8, failed to recapture our favorable first impression of the restaurant. The Tropical Fruit Creme Brulee, an extremely large dish of it in fact, had a strong passion fruit/pineapple flavor that left a rather unpleasant aftertaste. Caramelized chunks of banana, coffee ice cream and an impressively swirled chocolate garnish enlivened an otherwise ordinary warm Banana Chocolate Torte. The Seasonal Berry Gratin, a melange of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, made a lovely presentation, but the champagne-Grand Marnier sabayon was nearly soupy, far too thin and runny. The French press pot of deep, dark coffee (definitely NOT instant) that finished the course was a saving grace.

By the end of the evening, many in our party, even those who had dined at Citricos previously, shared the same opinion: Citricos, while featuring a comfortable and pleasant setting, competent service and overall good food does many things well, but is not as exceptional as its prices would imply -- there are other dining spots on Disney property offering a similar quality experience for about the same price or less, including the aforementioned Flying Fish Cafe, located on Disney's Boardwalk.

Citricos, on the second floor of the main building in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, serves dinner only between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. There is no formal dress code, but no tank tops are permitted.

For a look at a recent Citricos menu: http://allears.net/dining/menu/citricos/dinner


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.