Dining Out and About:
by Jack Spence
AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the December 16, 2008 Issue #482 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Recently, Anita Answer and I were joined by our friends Flo, KC, and Donald for dinner at Citricos. Located off of the lobby, on the second floor of the Grand Floridian, Citricos is considered one of Disney World's premier restaurants. I've eaten here a number of times and have always been extremely pleased with both the food and service.
Flagler's Restaurant originally occupied this space and featured Italian cuisine, complete with singing waiters and strolling musicians. It closed on July 7, 1997, to be replaced with a more upscale eatery. Opening on November 8 of the same year, Citricos was designed by the Martin Dorf firm, the same people who designed the Flying Fish Cafe and California Grill. Although all three restaurants have a similar ambiance, each is distinct. Of the three, I think Citricos has the warmest atmosphere.
Citricos means citrus in Spanish and the restaurant's color scheme reflects this. Muted oranges and yellows are evident everywhere, accented by several shades of blue. Tiled walls and walkways, curving metal wine racks and chandeliers, and a playful carpet blend to create an inviting space. The restaurant has a stylish yet whimsical quality that cordially welcomes its guests.
The check-in podium is located just outside of the restaurant's sculptured metal gated entrance. Also in this area are a number of wicker chairs and marble tables where you can relax while waiting for your table. Just inside the restaurant is a chic cocktail bar, the perfect spot if you'd like a drink before dinner.
The restaurant has three distinct dining areas. The first is a long room with three rows of tables. The tables on the right side of the room sit beside floor to ceiling windows and offer lovely views of the swimming pool and gardens. The row of tables to the left afford the best view of the large show kitchen. And a third row of tables runs between the other two. Although the sights of the gardens and the kitchen are nice, it has been my experience that they are quickly forgotten once you begin to dine. So in my opinion, it really doesn't matter where you sit.
At the far end of the restaurant is an octagonal-shaped room. Once again, a number of tables line the windows while others are scattered in the middle of this area. The majority of the tables along the windows look out at the pool and gardens, but a couple of them view a small portion of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the evening fireworks can be seen from here. You can request these "fireworks" tables, but since only two, maybe three of them have this view, your chances aren't good. Also, the show kitchen isn't visible from this area, so if you enjoy watching the chefs work their magic, request a "kitchen" view when you check in.
The third dining area is called the Chef's Domain. This is a private room that can seat up to 12 guests at a long, oval table. The room is small, but mirrors and glass walls help overcome any claustrophobic feel you might encounter. The back wall of this room features a wine bar with a staggering collection. In the Chef's Domain guests can order off the menu or ask the chef to create a unique meal tailored to their liking. A sommelier will be on hand to help you with your wine selections. Two seatings are available each evening and advanced reservations are absolutely necessary. A minimum purchase of $650, non-inclusive of gratuity & tax is required, however. If you go, be sure to look for the hidden Mickey on the room's entrance door.
When you arrive at your table, it's set simply with flatware, various colored bread & butter plates, a white cloth napkin with "Citricos" embroidered on it, and a single flower floating in a bowl. You are handed menus and a wine list and told your server will be with you shortly.
Danny was our waiter on this most recent visit and we couldn't have asked for a more personable cast member. He greeted us warmly and took our cocktail order. When he returned, he explained several of the menu choices and shared his personal favorites. We tried to pin him down on what he thought might not be up to par, but that proved to be impossible. He believed everything Citricos has to offer was exceptional.
Danny also brought olive bread and multi-grain bread to the table. Both were extremely good and we all went back for seconds. He also brought two plates of butter -- plenty for five people. The top of the butter was sprinkled with a smoked sea salt. When he told us this, I thought it was a little gimmicky, but I have to admit, it added a nice flavor.
When Citricos first opened, the chefs tried to infuse some sort of citrus flavoring into each offering. As time passed, this became less and less apparent and eventually discontinued. Today, the menu offers American cuisine with a strong Mediterranean influence.
Donald, KC, and I ordered appetizers. Anita Answer and Flo had had a large lunch and decided to only order an entree.
Donald started his meal with the Cheese Course Trio ($14). This featured Lemon Ricotta, Casciotta D'Urbino, and Forme D'Ambert cheeses served with accoutrements on a lovely, four-sectioned plate. The presentation was so nice it would have improved the taste of Velveeta.
KC ordered the Salad of Romaine Lettuce ($8). It came with hearts of palm, Maytag blue cheese and a late-harvest Riesling vinaigrette. Once again the presentation was nice and KC said he was pleased with the taste.
I ordered the Gateau of Crab ($12) -- in other words, crab cake. It was served with a tomato fennel slaw, was extremely moist, and the portion size was reasonable. I was most satisfied.
Since opening, Citricos' signature entree has been the Braised Veal Shank ($46). It is slow-roasted for six hours and arrives at the table so tender, the meat can be flaked from the bone with a fork. This is my absolute favorite dish and I order it on almost every visit. But since I was doing a review, I felt I needed to try something different. Darn. But I thought that someone at our table should enjoy this treat so I talked Flo into ordering it. She was glad she did and said she'd gladly request it again. It's currently served with carrot-potato puree, roasted vegetables, and toasted citrus Gremolata. I can't recommend this meal enough. Please note, if you're expecting a mild-flavored "white" meat, that's not what you'll get. This is a hearty piece of meat that is far better suited to a robust red wine than a chardonnay.
I ordered the Pork Two Ways ($34). This selection includes several slices of roasted pork tenderloin and a piece of Berkshire pork belly. I was most pleased with the tenderloin, but if there had been salt at the table, I would have used it on the pork belly as I thought it lacking in flavor. The meal also comes with polenta, which was outstanding, and Swiss chard and heirloom apples.
KC ordered the Filet Jardiniere ($41). This beef dish is served with house-cured vegetables on a bed of Quattro Formaggi crushed potatoes with a veal glace de Viande. Our waiter Danny recommended this selection and KC was happy he took his advice.
Anita Answer and Donald both ordered the Bone-In Ribeye ($45). This is a 22-oz. piece of beef (bone weight included) and is definitely meant to be enjoyed by a meat-lover. When it arrived at the table, both Anita Answer and Donald said they would need a doggie bag as there was no way they could eat the whole thing. However, they both seemed to find room for it all and only the bone was left on their plates when they finished. This entree comes with Spanish onions, marble potatoes, and a veal glace de Viande.
An extensive wine list is available with selections that would please the most ardent aficionados. The prices will also take your breath away. Although there were a few bottles in the $30 range, most were higher -- much higher. We even spotted one bottle that sold for $2,000. For those of you with a "Tables In Wonderland" card, you'll receive a 20% discount off of this price. That's a $400 savings. How can you afford not to order this wine? (he says, sarcastically). If you're contemplating wine with your meal, you might want to consider Wine Paring, where a different varietal is presented with each course.
With the exception of one slight mistake, our service was outstanding and timed beautifully. Of course, I can't mention a "slight mistake" without telling you what happened... As our waiter was busy with other tables, another server and manager brought us our entrees. Somehow they were confused as to what was ordered by whom and they presented the wrong items to several of us. After a little pointing at one another and chuckling, all was set straight. I know this is a minor detail, but it's a pet peeve of mine. I hate it when a server comes to the table with my food and then has to ask, "Who ordered the steak?" I know that Disney trains their servers to code their checks so this mistake rarely happens when dining at a Disney restaurant. But it should never happen at one of Disney's premier establishments. I'm assuming that on this occasion, the manager and the other server just got confused on their way to the table from the kitchen. I'm sure if Danny had been available to serve the food, all would have been fine.
I also want to thank the management of Citricos for helping us create a special birthday celebration for Flo. We had forgotten to make advanced arrangements and at the last minute, they bent their rules for us (long story) and created a wonderful celebration. You gals and guys were great!
Because we enjoyed birthday cake for dessert, I can't recommend anything specific in this review. But I did see someone at another table relishing the Seasonal Berry Gratin with Champagne-Grand Marnier Sabayon ($8). It looked fantastic!
A major complaint I have about many restaurants is the noise level. When I'm spending top dollar for a meal, I don't want to have to shout to be heard. Although not as quiet as Victoria & Albert's, Citricos is a good choice for a romantic dinner as the sounds from the kitchen and other diners are subdued.
With the Disney Dining Plan in full swing (two credits for Citricos), I would guess that half of the tables were occupied by families, including their children between the ages of 5 and 10. A child's menu is available at Citricos and offers a few upscale choices like Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Pan-roasted Fish. But don't despair, for the picky eater, Macaroni & Cheese and Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches are available. Take note, besides the food selections and games on the children's menu, there are also two advertisements for soon to be released DVDs. Personally, I think this is a little much. Do children really need to be barraged with an ad campaign while visiting a Disney restaurant?
The restrooms, located near the check-in podium, were recently remodeled. Now, not only is the water faucet motion activated, but the soap dispenser and paper towels are triggered with just a wave of the hand. I like not having to handle the various facilities.
Excluding Victoria & Albert's, Citricos is my second favorite Disney restaurant. The Flying Fish Cafe is my first choice. But the difference between these two is slight. I have always had great food and exceptional service at both of these establishments.
During certain times of the year, Citricos is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but they are currently open every evening from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations are almost always needed and can be made by calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).
Citrico's Menu: http://allears.net/menu/men_cit.htm
Citrico's Kid's Menu: http://allears.net/menu/men_citk.htm
Citrico's Photo Gallery: http://allears.net/din/gall_res2.htm Reader Reviews of Citricos: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=172&cat=46
Other articles by Jack Spence: http://allears.net/btp/jacks.htm
Jack Spence's blog, The World According to Jack: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/
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.