Le Cellier
Canada - World Showcase - Epcot

by Debra Martin Koma
ALL EARS® Senior Editor
February 2003

I'd been hearing rumblings recently that one of my favorite World Showcase restaurants, Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion, had slipped in both service and food quality. I'm very relieved to report that neither was the case during my visit to Le Cellier with friends last week.

A sudden downpour had made this usually jammed restaurant foyer even more crowded with soggy, hungry guests, which added to our wait to be seated despite our Priority Seating arrangements. A long wait is not uncommon at Le Cellier, though, and with limited seating in the entry way the wait often seems longer -- my only recurring complaint at this restaurant. Once we were seated, however, our server Shawna couldn't have been more accommodating and efficient.

Although the setting of Le Cellier is sparsely decorated and somewhat austere -- you are supposedly in a "cellar", after all, and that affect is definitely achieved -- the bustle and congeniality of the many servers and patrons creates an ambiance that's far from dreary or deprived. There's no dank feeling, no echo -- the overall feeling is a festive one.

We therefore started our evening with a perusal of the wine list, which is populated with fine Canadian vintages, many of which I've sampled in past visits. This time, though, our dinner party members opted for some favorites: A Beaujolais Villages, and the hard-to-find, very sweet Trentino Moscato.

Appetizers soon followed. The hearty Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup ($3.99), seasoned with real bacon bits and accented with a healthy dose of Moosehead Beer, is a longtime favorite of mine, and I found it as flavorful as ever, just the thing to take away the dampness of the rainy evening. Another member of our party tried the Asian Shrimp Cocktail ($8.99), which was greeted with oohs and ahhs of appreciation as it was brought to the table. We all were wowed by the clever presentation: pretty pink shrimp served with a spicy wasabi slaw tumbled out of a tipped-over, white Chinese take-out box! It was deemed as delicious as it was eye-catching, with a tangy horseradish chili sauce for dipping -- "could have made a meal out of it" was the capsule critique. The Steakhouse Caesar Salad ($3.99), with baby red and green romaine lettuce, was a slight letdown, the greens not as crisp as they could have been. Our disappointment was short-lived, though, when we bit into the warm assorted breadsticks placed in the center of our table -- slightly tart Sourdough to celebrate Canada's miners who made the sour bread while searching for gold in the Yukon; Multigrain, to represent the wheat production of Canada; and the ever-popular soft, doughy Pretzel Bread, in honor of Oktoberfest and Canada's German settlers (at least, that's how CM Shawna explained the breads to us!). Mmmm... Le Cellier's pretzel bread and cheese soup are good enough for a meal all by themselves.

But far be it from me to stop at the appetizers, especially when there's such enticing entrees on the menu. I wavered in my decision for a minute, recalling a friend's past compliments on Le Cellier's Maple-Ginger Glazed Salmon ($18.99) -- but instead I opted for the restaurant's specialty, red meat. For years, Le Cellier was well-known for its mushroom-stuffed filet mignon. A while ago, though, it switched to a variation on this popular dish -- a tender piece of filet mignon, served with a wild mushroom risotto on the side, garnished with herb beurre blanc, fried onions and a hint of truffle oil ($25.99). For a true beef and mushroom lover, this dish is a more than adequate substitute for the original. The risotto is creamy, and chock full of pungent mushrooms, both pieces and whole, and the succulent filet is prepared to your liking with very little seasoning.

The evening's special, Surf and Turf (varies with Market Price), coupled a juicy lobster with a sizeable Strip Steak, both prepared to perfection. The 7-oz. plain filet mignon ($23.99) was topped with a mildly oniony shallot butter and accompanied with the creamiest cream cheese mashed potatoes. For the non-carnivore, the night's vegetarian selection, Oven-Roasted Beets and Lentils ($15.99), combined firm golden and pink chioga beets and lentils with French green beans, aged goat cheese, and virgin pumpkinseed oil in a dish that was so tasty you scarcely noticed that meat was missing. The strong goat cheese flavor could be a bit overpowering at times, but the overall effect was of a main dish that was at the same time savory and healthful.

Desserts were slightly uneven, but desserts have never been Le Cellier's strongest suit. The Apple Tart with Caramel ($4.99) left us cold, with a tough pastry and a scant drizzle of spiced honey sauce that made you wish you had ordered something else. Something like the Classic Creme Brulee ($4.99), for example, whose caramelized maple sugar covered a light, sweet, creamy custard that received a thumb's up from all who sampled it. The delightful child's dessert, the Chocolate Moose ($3.99), breathed a bit of whimsy into the meal's finale -- a chocolate mousse moose rolled in toasted chocolate crumbs, with maple leaf cookie antlers, a raspberry nose and blueberries for eyes, all set on a chocolate chip cookie base, garnished with a raspberry sauce tongue and chocolate whiskers.

Finishing off a mostly very nice meal with a cup of Nescafe coffee is a bit of a come-down, but one we have come to expect at many Walt Disney World restaurants these days. Still and all, a meal at Le Cellier is, overall, a very welcome experience.

Chocolate Moose