Wolfgang Puck Cafe: Orlando -- Theme Park Fare

Wolfgang Puck's motto is live, love, eat.  He serves plenty of that up at his Wolfgang Puck Cafe at Disneyworld. Remember -- people come to see Mickey, but Mickey can't cook.

A day at a theme park includes long lines and lots of walking, bolstered up with available and tempting food like turkey legs, corn dogs and ice cream. Last week I did see new healthier offerings such as edamame. After having the corn dog bites on the kids buffet at Animal Kingdom's Tusker Cafe, I realize the pesky stick in a traditional corn dog is in the way -- bites only for me from now on.

At the end of any day, I want to sit down and have a nice dinner. After a Disney day -- it's a must. Downtown Disney is a lively, outdoor promenade lined with shops and restaurants -- some new and some familiar, like Wolfgang Puck's Cafe. Reservations are necessary.

Disneyworld's Wolfgang Puck Cafe

Puck's Cafe is at the end of the road -- if arriving on one of the resort buses, leave 20-30 minutes just to walk to the Cafe from the bus drop off. There's a cab stand closer, which comes in handy after dinner, or if you have little-legged children.

Disney had a reservation service, Disney Dining; however we used it and upon our arrival, the Cafe couldn't find our reservation, even when we gave them the provided confirmation number. The hostess attempted to be rude, but she was quickly sniffed out as an amateur. A manager, who realized he has food to sell, swooped in and organized a table upstairs in the Dining Room -- which we preferred as it was quieter and they had a more upscale menu.

I love Wolfgang Puck's food. But, one of my general complaints about Wolfgang's casual restaurants is the noise and cluttered decor. His food deserves better surroundings -- he was raised in and inspired by beautiful Austria. His food tastes like the Alps -- clean, bright, and a little out of this world. When I see violent splashes of jagged mosaics and suffer deafening acoustics, my lederhosen gets in a bunch and it's hard to separate the terrific food from the surrounding terror. 

Downtown Disney's Wolfgang Puck Cafe

Spending the day at Animal Kingdom and seeing all of those wild animals made us hungry. We ordered a sushi assortment, a beet, goat cheese and arugula salad, the tuna tartare, the pork schnitzel, the beef goulash and his spicy steamed fish. We placed them all in the center where the four adults could share. My 5-year old niece ordered spaghetti -- and it was terrific, beautifully plated and topped with freshly shaved Parmesan. I did wish that the waiter had included the child in his initial water service -- it's a small world after all.

The tuna tartare was wrapped in savory, nutty, delightfully spicy tuile cookies - making this one of the best variations on what is usually a very predictably familiar theme. The caviar was the salty icing on top.

Tuna Tartare at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe Orlando

It's important to note that their website clearly states that their food is "inspired by" Puck's original dishes. Take that with a grain of salt, which you will need for the Beef Goulash. Wolfgang isn't in Orlando -- completing the flavor profile of the original chef is hard for a line cook to do. It's like asking Walt Disney himself to operate the Dumbo ride. I'm not saying Goofy's in the kitchen,  but I do invite Wolf to be my guest and fedex his Disney branch some Paprika like his recipe calls for -- they left it out.


Beef Goulash at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe Orlando

If I ordered pork schnitzel as my one and only entree and the waiter placed this in front of me:

Pork Schnitzel at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe Orlando

I would reach up, grab his necktie and pull him close to my plate, demanding to know if he thought I was big enough to ride this ride.  A portion this size is asking too much of my appetite, time and artery space. But we were sharing it so I backed down and picked up my sharp knife.

Looks can be deceiving. As I cut into the schnitzel, the light crunching sound caught me off guard. My knife easily freed a chunk, and as I took a bite, a wave of calm relief rushed through my body, eased by the smooth, tangy mustard sauce. The schnitzel was delightfully crispy, deceptively light, and the best thing we ate. The tiny discs of fingerling potatoes must have been lovingly sliced by the Seven Dwarfs themselves, whistling as they worked.

This is the point where "inspired by" is important. At Puck's Chinois on Main in Santa Monica, they dramatically plop a whole, fried fish on a plate and place it in front of you in a showy, impressive presentation. The vegetables in that dish practically light up like fiery sparklers.

Our waiter here was careful to point out that here in Orlando, guests did not cotton to the idea of seeing the fish served with head and tail, so they gave it the Marie Antoinette treatment. The Florida grouper was overcooked and rubbery, hard to cut but fun to poke and feel the bounce. The peppers in the sauce saved the flavor though.

Steamed Fish at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe Orlando

We tried all of the desserts, but the apple pie hit our sweet spot. I am never angry at a properly prepared molten cake, so there's a good chance I ate that too.

Apple Tart at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe Orlando

Disneyworld is the new Vegas -- what we eat there, stays there.  Live, love, eat -- and be glad there's one big bad Wolf at Disneyworld who isn't going to eat you, but feed you well.

Wolfgang Puck's Cafe 
Downtown Disney -- 1482 East Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista , Florida 32830  

(407) 938-9653 

1 comment:

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