This is going to be kind of a mixed up review. I want to comment on the fact that we are here as a result of the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package, and how that may effect our meal at this restaurant, and I want to give fair commentary on what it’s like to eat here as a gastric bypass patient. So skip the parts that don’t pertain to you, but you might want to go over the stuff that will help you plan in the future.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Candlelight Processional, this amazing holiday event takes place at EPCOT at Walt Disney World each year from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. It is the classic retelling of the story of the nativity – the birth of Jesus Christ – performed by a celebrity narrator, and accompanied by a 150 voice choir and an orchestra. For us, this is a must do. I have loved this program since the very first time we saw it, back when Brighid was a baby, and it is well worth a special trip to Orlando just to witness the spectacle. At least to me. The Candlelight Processional is included with your park admission into EPCOT, but a while back, Disney introduced Candlelight dinner packages that gave you priority seating at the show if you purchased one. You pay to get in the park, and then you make a reservation at one of EPCOT’s many restaurants. Your meal is a fixed price meal that includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert, as well as soft drinks, coffee or tea, and then a special ticket/sticker/pass to get priority seating at the show. In recent years, they have made it more complicated by separating the restaurants into three tiers – each tier is a different price. And if that’s not complicated enough, a year or so ago, they made it so that you are required to eat prior to seeing the Candlelight Processional – so if you planned on seeing the 5 o’clock Candlelight Processional, then grabbing dinner, that’s not an option any longer – you have to eat prior to the show (which is performed 3 times each night).
Okay, so that’s the background on the show. In years past, despite having a reservation, we often waited a very long time to be seated at the restaurants, and it really did seem one year that we might not make it to the show in time because our meal was so delayed. It seems to have gotten better with the tiers and the scheduling of your meal prior to your show, but you really MUST book your package well in advance. The most popular EPCOT restaurants book quickly for the Candlelight packages, and you would do well to book your reservation as soon as the packages become available in the late spring/early summer.
We have never, in all of our years going to EPCOT, eaten at Le Cellier, and it is one of the more difficult restaurant reservations to get during normal times. I do not hold out much hope that I will get a table for a party of 7 when I call, but I do call the day the packages become available and I am able to secure an early dinner seating at Le Cellier for Jim, the girls, my in-laws, and myself. I have heard rave reviews about this restaurant, and there are people who have said they would rather eat here than some of the other very high priced steak places in the Orlando area. I am excited to have a table and look forward for months to eating there.
The restaurant, when we arrive, is very busy, but we have an early dinner time and we arrive early by about 25 minutes to make sure we get in on time. We really only wait about 5 minutes when they are calling us to be seated. I am surprised at how small this restaurant is! The waitress tells us they can hold about 150 people, and for a theme park, that seems like a very tiny place. No wonder they are always booked!!
The dinner package for adults is $47.99 per person, and I do not ask to negotiate down to a child’s price because then I will have to order from the children’s menu, which has nothing on it you want to eat if you’ve had gastric bypass surgery. If you want to try on a normal visit to negotiate for a child’s meal, they offer pasta and sauce; a hot dog; and a grilled steak. I could have taken a chance on the grilled steak, but honestly, I am more likely to have steak get stuck than anything else, and I don’t want to spend the night in agony.
The appetizer selection includes the famous Cheddar Cheese soup, and that is one thing I have been dying to try. I know, however, that I will never be able to eat a whole bowl of what I imagine to be a rich, thick soup, so I talk Jim into ordering the soup. I cannot eat shrimp comfortably, so that rules out the shrimp cocktail option; and I’m not in the mood for a salad, although they offer a mixed green salad, a steak house caesar salad, and a caprese style salad. You could certainly eat any of those, and although the mozzarella in the caprese salad (I think they call it a beefstack salad) is probably not part skim, the protein is good. They also offer a chipotle chicken sausage, which I do not try only because I don’t like spicy foods, so I settle for the other soup option – a beef barley.
Now, you know if you’ve had surgery, you don’t eat as quickly as you may have at one time. At least you are not supposed to. So when I order soup, I like it to come out piping hot so that I still have warm soup by the time I get to the bottom. I was so disappointed when my soup came out at barely room temperature. The waitress is busy, and she seems like we are bothering her to be here, so I hesitate about asking for a hotter cup of soup, but Jim catches her eye and brings it to her attention, and she is soon back with a much hotter cup of the soup. There are huge chunks of beef in this soup, and that is a good thing protein wise, but the meat in my soup is a little tough. I can eat some of it, but I do have to leave some in the cup. It’s also very bland. I have to add salt – a lot of it – to make the soup palatable. This is not a good start to the evening.
Just before we ordered anything, a chef came out of the kitchen and asked if there was someone at our table that had asked to see him due to food allergies. I told him I had issues with food, but not allergies, so he must have the wrong table, and he asked me what my issues were. I told him I had gastric bypass surgery, and he offered to look over the menu with me and work something out. I had already browsed the menu on my own, and had almost resigned myself to having either the salmon or the chicken, when I asked him if he could do the shrimp and scallop pasta dish without the pasta or the shrimp. He looked quizzically at me, but then said he could do something, serve it over vegetables, and figure something out. I told him to give it a shot and I’d see what I ended up with. Well, when the meal came, to look at it, it was a little unattractive. These were not plump sea scallops, but rather small bay scallops that you would use in a salad or a sauce. They were in a reddish colored sauce that was served over a julienne of fresh mushrooms and some other veggies. It smelled so good that I had no trouble overlooking that it looked like an odd meal, and then the first bite removed any doubt that this was delicious. The sauce is a little on the rich side – made from lobster stock with lobster oil – but it tasted soooooo good. There were dozens of the little scallops, and the mushrooms were tender and perfectly cooked. I’m so glad he made the mistake of coming to our table, and I hope someone at another table didn’t suffer some type of serious allergic reaction because the chef never got to them!
You will find this restaurant – a steak place – heavy on steaks. There are two filet mignon dishes – one a mushroom filet that was really good – as was the mushroom risotto that accompanied the steak. But even as tender as the filet is, I cannot in any way eat much of it without feeling ill. There is a salmon dish, although it is served with maple butter. You can opt out of the butter if you think it will cause you problems. The other most friendly gastric bypass dish on the menu is the seared free range chicken, however, it is served with a corn pudding – something I cannot eat since my surgery. You will also find a pork chop on the menu, but it’s a good sized chop and I just don’t see how they can prepare it so that it’s tender enough to eat.
Desserts – again, had I notified the restaurant in advance of a special dietary need, I’m sure they could have made accomodations for a sugar free dessert. After the huge plate of scallops, however, I had no need or desire for dessert, and I ordered the chocolate mousse for the kids to share.
Overall, I was disappointed in the restaurant, perhaps because my expectations were so high after years of hearing how amazing it was and maybe because our first taste of the place occurred during the busy Candlelight Processional season. But, if previous attempts at trying to book a meal here are any indication, this particular restaurant is this busy all of the time. The food was okay – my scallops were really good, but they were the one standout among the crowd. We might make an effort to eat here again in the future when it’s not Candlelight season, just to verify that while they are a nice restaurant, they certainly do not compare to anything like a Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s.