Dining Out and About:
Le Cellier Steakhouse
by Jack Spence, ALL EARS® Columnist
This article appeared in the December 18, 2007 Issue #430 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
In early May of this year, I decided that I wanted to eat dinner at the Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion at Epcot. I called central reservations and foolishly requested a table for sometime between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the following Saturday. When the reservationist told me that the restaurant was booked for that night I asked about Sunday. Again, they were booked. Since my schedule is very flexible, I asked about Monday... and Tuesday... and Wednesday. This very kind and very patient reservationist continued to check day after day for me. Occasionally he would offer me a 3:45 or 8:30 time slot, but I was insistent. I wanted to eat between 5 and 7. Eventually, we found a 5:40 opening on Halloween, just five and a half months after my starting point.
I ate at Le Cellier for the first time in October 1983. At that time, it was a buffeteria restaurant. It featured salmon, pork-and-potato filled pie, maple-syrup pie, and other delicacies from north of the border. This restaurant was never very popular so in late 1994 it closed for retooling. Nine months later it reopened, serving sandwiches and salads. Attendance still wasn't what Disney wanted so the restaurant went through another change. It reopened for a third time in July 1997 as a full-service steakhouse. Ever since, Le Cellier has become one of the most popular restaurants at Epcot.
The restaurant is located in the cellar of the Hotel du Canada. The entrance can be reached by walking through Victoria Gardens or as you pass by after viewing the "O Canada" CircleVision 360 movie.
This restaurant is lovely. The same stonework that you see on the outside of the Hotel du Canada is continued in the interior. Think old wine cellar. Thick, sweeping arches, dark woods, smoked mirrors, low ceilings, and dim lighting set the mood. The chandeliers and wall sconces are designed in the shape of maple leaves supporting heavy glass chimneys. There are no windows in this establishment so it is perpetually dark, but not too dark. I've been to a number of authentic wine cellars around the world and this restaurant recreates that feeling very realistically.
Donald and I arrived at the Le Cellier Steakhouse 10 minutes early, just as I was instructed to do when I made the reservation. The waiting room was unusually quiet. Instead of the customary hordes of people that I have encountered in the past, there were only two other couples waiting to be seated. I checked in and took a seat on one of the three benches in the lobby. While we waited to be seated, four other parties came in and inquired if there were any available tables for "walk-ins." The hostess politely told each guest that the restaurant was completely booked, but perhaps if they stopped by later they might have an opening. "Good luck," I thought to myself.
At exactly 5:40, my name was called and the hostess took us to our table. In the past when I've eaten here, the host or hostess would tell you that the restaurant is divided into different sections, each section representing a different province of Canada. Today that bit of information was omitted. This actually didn't bother me since the restaurant is decorated identically throughout and this always seemed a little too gimmicky for me. However, a small brass plaque behind me said Saskatchewan.
This restaurant is small. It only seats 157 guests. The tables are packed in tight. Our table for two was situated in a small corner nook. There was a table for four on one side of us and a table for six on the other. Donald insisted that I get the better seat on the cushioned bench running against the wall, affording me a view out into the restaurant. He took the chair facing the wall. As it turns out, he may have gotten the better seat. His view was somewhat tranquil while I looked out into the continual activity of the restaurant.
Our waiter, Jason, approached us in a timely matter and asked us if we'd eaten here before. When we said that we had, many times, he asked if we'd like to order something to drink. A wine list was already on the table. Le Cellier promotes wines from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Having just attended a wine tasting at the Artist Point Restaurant that featured Washington State wines, I decided to try something from Canada. I selected a 2003 bottle of cabernet sauvignon by Jackson-Triggs.
When Jason opened the bottle, he failed to present me with the cork. I don't know if this is the practice of the restaurant, if he forgot, or if it was one of those plastic corks so that it wouldn't matter anyway. The wine was good but the first sip had a slight bite to it. I think that this will be a very good bottle of wine once it has aged a couple more years.
At the same time he brought the wine, Jason brought thick and chewy bread sticks. These were attractively placed in a wire container already on the table. Three types of bread are included: sour dough, multi-grain, and soft pretzel. All are scrumptious and I could make a meal on these alone. We were also each given our own butter.
After our wine was poured, we placed our order. We told Jason that we were in no rush so please don't hurry our food out to the table. Within five minutes our appetizers arrived. Sigh.
I ordered the Prince Edward Island Mussels served chowder-style with applewood smoked bacon and potatoes. When they arrived at my table, I was given two bowls, one with the mussels and one for the empty shells. Artist Point, take a lesson. This made it much easier to eat. My first bite was fantastic. The combination of mussel, potato and bacon created a wonderful taste. However, about five of my mussels had grit in them. I think they could have been rinsed a little better.
Donald ordered the Beefsteak Tomato Stack with caramelized onions, marinated mozzarella and yuzu vinaigrette. He enjoyed this dish, but was expecting more than just a small dab of mozzarella. He was expecting a slice (or two). Also, he detected a strong taste of cucumbers -- something he's not fond of. He wasn't sure if they were actually there or if it was the taste of the yuzu dressing.
Our entrees took a little longer to arrive from the kitchen. In fact, the timing of this course was perfect. It gave us plenty of time to sip our wine and engage in conversation before eating again.
For my entree I ordered the 14-oz. New York Strip Steak with balsamic red onions, watercress, and roasted Yukon gold potatoes, and finished with veal demi glace. I asked for it to be cooked rare. When I cut into it, it was dark pink, not the red which I consider to be rare. However, the waiter did ask if everything was cooked correctly and I said yes. I'm certain that he would have brought me a new steak if I had complained, but I didn't feel that it was worth it in this case.
I have said for a number of years that the best NY steak at Disney World can be found at the Flying Fish Restaurant on the Boardwalk. My opinion hasn't changed -- it's still the best. But the Le Cellier NY steak is also very good. It was extremely flavorful and tender. The Yukon gold potatoes were... potatoes. They were fine, albeit lukewarm.
Donald ordered the Herb Crusted Prime Rib. This dish also comes with the Yukon potatoes. He asked for an end cut cooked medium-well, which the kitchen was able to accommodate. He likes the extra spices you get when you order an end cut. He was very pleased and had no complaints other than the lukewarm potatoes.
I grew up in the 1950s. Unless we were having a casserole, my mother always served three items for dinner, a meat, a starch, and a vegetable, arranged attractively on the plate. I wish today's upscale restaurants did the same. The trend nowadays is to only serve two items, usually stacked on top of each other so you have to rearrange everything on your plate once it's served.
Since I wanted a third item to round out our meal, we ordered the Oven-Roasted Wild Mushrooms, and I was very glad we did. They arrived in a hot pan and there was plenty for the two of us to share. And they were extremely good.
For dessert I ordered the Chocolate Whiskey Cake and Donald ordered the Chocolate Moose. The cake was moist and a chocoholic would love it; however, any whiskey taste was undetectable. The Chocolate Moose arrived looking like the head of a moose, complete with cookie antlers, candy eyes, nose and tongue. Besides being very cute, Donald said it tasted good too.
With the exception of our first course arriving too soon, our service was very good. Jason was attentive yet not intrusive.
This restaurant is physically small, something I'm sure Disney wishes they could remedy, but alas, they can't. And it can get noisy in here, especially since this restaurant caters to families. For the most part, the din becomes white noise and you don't even notice it, but every so often you'll hear the shriek of a little one that brings you back to reality.
I don't believe any trip to Epcot is complete without trying at least one of the World Showcase restaurants, but when you do, you need to have the right mindset. With the exception of the Bistro de Paris, which is quiet and sedate, as most diners do not bring their children here, the Epcot restaurants can be hectic.
Our meal came to $145. That's a lot of money. But I arrived at Le Cellier knowing that the restaurant is small, the tables are close together, and there would be multiple children in attendance. Because I had the right mindset going in, I enjoyed my time here, and even though I had a few minor complaints, I left happy.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, reservations are difficult to secure here. If you're willing to eat at an off time, you might have a chance at getting a reservation with little advance planning. However, if you want to eat at a traditional lunch or dinner time, you should definitely plan ahead.
The Le Cellier Steakhouse serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Note: Epcot officially closes after the 9 o'clock showing of IllumiNations. However, diners at the World Showcase restaurants are not rushed out and can conclude their meal past this time.
One final comment concerning all restaurants at Walt Disney World... When the sugar substitute Splenda was introduced, Disney replaced Sweet'N Low with this new product. Most restaurants outside the "World" offer all three sugar substitutes, Splenda, Sweet'N Low, and Equal, but not Disney. I like Sweet'N Low and I can't for the life of me figure out why Disney can't offer all three.
Other reviews by Jack Spence: http://allears.net/btp/jacks.htm
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.