My mother and I went here on Saturday night after a day of walking around EPCOT center and sampling some of the foods at the Food and Wine festival. We had an 8:20 reservation, which we were just in time for.
First, it seems that they bunch up the reservations like this for a first and second seating arrangement at the restaurant. While this does seem to make sense in some ways, in others it means that there are some flow control issues, and you get a lot of bunching up of things. Ah well, we didn’t mind waiting for our little buzzer to go off, as it has a decent range and we were able to go out on the pier and watch a performing clown do a show with hats. Quite entertaining.
As we were being seated, the hostess explained to us something about the restaurant, detailing how it was a restaurant featuring the recipes of Cat Cora, how the kitchen was laid out in the open so that everyone could see what was going on in the kitchen, etc. Very reminiscent of the California Grill on top of the Contemporary Hotel. I don’t know how much of a change this is compared with Spoodles, but I don’t mind the layout… it works. The room itself is semi-high ceilinged, and while conversations of guests do carry to some extent, it is not excessively loud in the eating area, something that I am not a fan of. While there is guest noise that carries, it isn’t to a point that it becomes bothersome and you find yourself yelling across the table just to be heard. If they could tune it so that it was a little quieter, it would be better… perhaps some sound baffling in the ceiling or something. Come on Imagineers! Get to work! 🙂
Seated, we were introduced to our server (almost said waitress there, but decided to keep it more neutral, keeping in line with what Disney apparently wants to present) who had a strong southern drawl (hey, we are in the south… no biggie!) She was sweet, but a bit distracted by things that were going on around her. I’m not sure if this was considered a busy night, caused by it both being a Saturday night and having the Food and Wine festival just down the path in EPCOT, but it seemed like the wait staff were a little short-handed… and when I say a little, as if they were missing maybe one or two people and therefore each server’s area was an extra table or two larger than normal. No idea, really. I would have to go on a weekday night when things are typically quieter to see.
First came the drinks, of course. I am not a drinker, and really the only thing I drink in the alcohol range tends to be things like ice wines. I did look over the mixed drinks quickly, but as they were all the standard Disney World drinks, I passed and went with a pomegranate lemonade… more on that in a bit. My mother ordered the Retsina wine, which surprised the waitress… I’m not sure why, since Retsina is a classical greek wine and this was a restaurant featuring greek food. I tried a bit of the wine… not something I would order myself, but interesting… it is a dry wine with an interesting pine taste to it. Not really horrible, but then, I also can enjoy Beverly from EPCOT’s Cool-Zone, where you get to sample different Coca-Cola beverages from around the world. (However, they have been messing with the mixtures there… just about everything is sweeter now, and Beverly isn’t nearly as bitter as it once was…)
Looking over the menu, we decided against any of the appetizers. They just didn’t seem appealing to us at the time. My mother is somewhat picky in what she selects in restaurants, and the appetizers just weren’t in her list of things she wanted to try. Mom wanted to try the beets dish, until she realized that the beets were chilled. I might have gone with the Kouzzina Sampler, which is a choice of two skewers with olives, cashews, dolmades, tzatziki, hummus, grilled pita, and a choice between prawns, lamb meatballs, or chicken.
I went with the lamb shank, which has oven-baked gigante beans and a pepper sauce, along with a side dish of brussel sprouts (I know… I know… Brussel Sprouts? Are you nuts? Hey, I like them, particularly if they are done right) with capers and lemon. My mother went with the Kouzzina Trio, which is a tasting size portion of Greek-style lasagna, char-grilled lamb burger, and cinnamon-stewed chicken with orzo, along with a side of herbed orzo with olive oil and kasseri cheese.
The food arrived on the table very quickly. I don’t know if they had it ready to go in back somewhere and just microwaved it or what (I’m kidding… I am sure they prepared it properly) but it was on the table in no time.
Let’s start with the Kouzzina Trio: The cinnamon stewed chicken was amazing, and afterwards my mother said she would happily order that as a full dish instead of the trio. The lamb burger was good, but we both felt that there were too many toppings. The burger would have been better without some of the toppings taking away from the taste of the lamb itself. I tried eating just a piece of the lamb burger meat alone, and it was quite good, so the toppings just took away from that taste. The lasagna, while quite good, also had cinnamon in it, and thus it was somewhat reminiscent of the chicken dish. We both felt that pairing it with the cinnamon-stewed chicken was a bit of a mistake, and that the third dish should have had some contrasting flavors. While it was good, it just didn’t fit quite right with the other two items on the plate.
My lamb shank was wonderful, and combined with the gigante beans it was a very good dish. The lamb was baked to perfection, and we were both happy with it. I don’t really have that much to say good or bad about this dish. It is what it is, and if you are in the mood for lamb, it is certainly worth having.
The herbed orzo side dish was also quite nice, and added a nice contrast to the items we already had. I found it to be a nice palate cleanser so that when I switched to different dishes I would have a clean taste going in. The cheese that was melted on top of this dish was also perfectly suited for the dish. A welcome side dish to just about any entree you happen to select.
Finally, the brussel sprouts. First of all, I received a bit of a look of surprise from the server when I ordered this. I don’t understand why, because brussel sprouts, when done properly, are wonderful. I assume that because we were obviously American, we were not big brussel sprout eaters. I beg to differ… I love the bloody things. The sprouts were quite good, and the saltiness from the capers brought out the flavor of the sprouts. My only comment on the dish is that less oil should be used in the preparation, and more capers should be used. In my book, another nice side dish to complement a main course.
The only other issue that occurred with this meal was the server’s inattentiveness. She did a good job of keeping us going with the meal, and was not intrusive with asking us if everything was going well (something I hate… I swear they are trained to ask this question exactly when my mouth is full.) However, I found the pomegranate lemonade to be extremely sweet, and would have preferred to switch to something else after the first glass. When it came time for a refill, she asked if I wanted a refill (which is fine), and when I started ask her a question she nodded and turned to another table, blithely ignoring the fact that I wanted to ask her something. She came by after about five minutes with a full glass of the lemonade again. I didn’t comment at the time because it wasn’t that big a deal, but it still bothered me, and that was reflected in the tip at the end.
We are slow eaters, and we took about two hours to eat. When we were done, the restaurant had pretty much cleared out.
Would we go again? Absolutely. My mother said she would like to try the whole fish at some point, and I might like to try either the flank steak or the seafood stew… both looked quite good, at least on the menu. I never got up to walk around a bit and see what other folks were eating, which I now realize was a mistake.