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California Grill Will Reopen Sept. 9 with New Look, Menu

Written By Scott Joseph On August 20, 2013

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California Grill, the popular restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort overlooking the Magic Kingdom, will reopen after an extensive remodeling on Sept. 9. Pam Brandon reports in her Disney Parks Blog post that reservations will be taken beginning Monday, August 26. 

California Grill, which closed on Feb. 1, has long been considered one of the premier dining venues at Walt Disney World Resort. It opened in 1995 with a fittingly contemporary design by New York restaurant designer Martin Dorf, who fashioned his decor after the legendary Rainbow Room. (Dorf also designed Flying Fish Cafe and Citricos.)

The new decor, depicted in the illustration above, is by Puccini of San Francisco. The redo will feature a wall of wine and give more tables a better view of the panoramic vista. The show kitchen — one of the first in the area when it opened in May of 1995 — will still be open to the dining room, but chef Brian Piasecki told me that every piece of equipment except the pizza oven is new, and much of it state-of-the-art additions.

Piasekci returns to his kitchen post when the restaurant reopens. His menu, according to Brandon, will focus on “seasonal ingredients and a lighter touch.” Piasecki said he wants to do more with the brick oven so that it isn’t just producing the popular flatbreads. He said there will be more shareable apps featuring local seafood, such as prawns from Cape Canaveral and roasted New Smyrna Beach clams.

The sushi bar will be extended, but Yoshi, the popular pioneer woman sushi chef, retired when the restaurant closed earlier this year. Members of her team will be back, plus the restaurant has added Leo Anton, who has worked at Sushi Samba and Nobu in Miami Beach. A new addition will be a nightly omikase menu, a sushi chef tasting menu of 12 to 14 courses, available for only nine guests and only at the 8 p.m. seating. (And seating for that menu will be only at the sushi bar.) With 14 courses, the tasting menu will likely take diners through the fireworks program over the Magic Kingdom, one of the perks of dining at California Grill.

The grilled pork tenderloin will be back, although now it is “pork two ways” and is paired with lacquered pork belly. The grilled pork tenderloin with polenta has been a favorite since Clifford Pleau put it on the menu, and subsequent chefs realized they could remove it only at their peril.

What about you? Are excited about the return of California Grill? What favorites are you hoping will still be there? Leave a comment below.

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