A week ago I posted my Walt Disney World Dining Bucket List. Florida’s expansive resort offers way too many incredible dining opportunities, and I am not lucky enough to be able to visit more than once a year or so, so there is so much I have yet to experience … not to mention that I am a creature of habit, and if I love a restaurant, I will return until I’m basically a regular. This is also something I struggle with in New York — I live in a city teeming with glorious restaurants and new amazing concepts opening on a weekly basis, yet I’ll keep patronizing the same places once a craving strikes. It’s hard out there for the food-obsessed.
On my last trip, though, my wonderful boyfriend treated me to dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Though his family didn’t visit Disney World as frequently as mine did when we were kids, his parents preferred ritzier dining options than mine did — they ate at the Royal Table as well as the Brown Derby, both of which I experienced for the first time on my last trip, while I dragged him for the first time to the ’50s Prime Time Café, which used to be a highlight for me. But I’m starting to digress — this was my first time at the Royal Table, and it was divine.
Our reservation was for 8 p.m. on Jan. 1, 2012. OUR FIRST DINNER OF THE NEW YEAR. After a quick ride on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin with my parents and sister, who were also along on the trip, we parted ways for dinner. They headed to Tony’s Town Square, another childhood favorite of mine, and my boyfriend and I headed toward the castle … only to find it roped off for the evening parade and fireworks! We looked at each other, panicked, before I located a cast member walking the length of the velvet rope. We hurried up to her and told her we had Royal Table reservations, and she smiled, unhooked the rope and told us to have a lovely dinner.
We checked in and were ushered into a lobby, where we sat on an ornate bench and admired the medieval décor — stained glass windows, coats of arms, suits of armor and Cloisters-esque tapestries — while we waited about 20 minutes to get our picture taken with Cinderella for the photo package that is included with the cost of the meal. I don’t normally take photos with “people characters” — I always try to get a photo with Mickey and stop for some of the awesome fully costumed characters like Marie from “The Aristocats” and the Beast, but that being said, I am an adult lady and it makes me somewhat uncomfortable to have to chit-chat with some poor diminutive female dressed as Princess Jasmine. Still, I had been psyched for this princess experience for months and put on my character game face.
After the stop-and-chat with Cindy, we waited a few more minutes until we were called to the dining room. We worked our way up a fabulous spiral staircase to the dining room.
We were seated and immediately attended to by a waiter, who presented us with a basket of piping hot bread, took our drink order (I would’ve killed for a glass of bubbly to round out the magical experience, but settled for unlimited goblets of Coca-Cola) and presented us with a MAGIC WAND, A SWORD AND A WISHING STAR. I had read online that only children received the free wands and swords and was frankly PSYCHED OUT OF MY MIND ABOUT GETTING THESE. Maybe they were tipped off that I’d be into the accessories because I was carrying my R2-D2 Mickey ear hat, but I really appreciate when the cast members go out of their way to make things special for the Disney-besotted 20-somethings.
Then it was time to make our dinner selections. It was a prix fixe menu and we each got to choose an appetizer, entrée and dessert. We ordered everything at once and it wasn’t long before the first course was brought out. Boyfriend got a roasted beet salad with arugula, goat cheese and cherry vinaigrette — all of which sounded good to me except for the beets. I don’t care for beets. But they were on the side, so I ostensibly could’ve ordered the salad and let my boyfriend eat the beets.
However, I opted for the Royal Tasting of Cheese, described as “a trio of cheeses with accompaniments.” I order and eat a lot of fancypants cheese, so I was kind of disappointed when the trio of cheese turned out to be super basic — some white cheddar, a wedge of Brie and a little ball of goat cheese with a few berries and dollops of preserves and honey. But I quickly got over the lack of burrata and Époisses de Bourgogne and devoured the stuff on my plate. Cheese is cheese and cheese is delicious.
Our options for entrées included a seafood pasta dish, a fish special braised in pomodoro sauce and served with vegetables and angel hair pasta, a bean-heavy vegetarian cassoulet, pork three ways (which seemed to be a pulled pork with a bacon and sausage sauce), a stuffed chicken breast and beef tenderloin. My favorite dish is rare steak, but didn’t think they’d let me order the tenderloin rare — plus I had already had a fair share of red meat on the trip thus far, so I chose the stuffed chicken. My boyfriend ordered the seafood pasta.
My chicken was a bit more rich than I expected it to be — there was a panko-y breading and it was stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, asparagus and prosciutto and served alongside sautéed leeks, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. The boyfriend’s pasta featured chunks of crab and crawfish along with some mushrooms and spinach in a white wine cream sauce. I’m not a huge fan of crab meat, and I had never had crawfish before. I had a (crab-free) bite and quite enjoyed it.
For dessert, we got to choose from a berry sorbet, almond cheesecake, Valrhona chocolate mousse or the chef’s dessert trio. Feeling adventurous, I went for the trio, while boyfriend chose the mousse.
I love chocolate mousse, so I got a bit jealous when my boyfriend’s plate arrived. The mousse was a perfect little pyramid, drizzled lightly with chocolate sauce, flanked by raspberries and sauce and topped with a chocolate triangle.
But no worries! I got my own little cup of mousse.
My Valrhona chocolate mousse was served in a square shot glass and topped with a generous dark chocolate shaving. I also received an almond cheesecake bite served with a bit of tart jam and a tiny berry tart topped with streusel. Each was delicious. I definitely recommend doing the dessert trio, as they seemed to give you a sample size of regular dessert menu items — a taste of everything for those (like me) who struggle making even the easiest decisions!
OH DID I FORGET TO MENTION THAT THE ENTIRE TIME WE WERE EATING THESE TASTY MORSELS, DISNEY PRINCESSES WERE VISITING OUR TABLE?
I was psyched to see Ariel, because “The Little Mermaid” was always my favorite movie growing up, but Belle charmed me the most out of all the princesses. She noticed my R2-D2 ears and asked me if I was a fan of “Star Wars.” I told her I loved it, but was surprised — aren’t the princesses supposed to stay in character? But Belle immediately followed up by saying that she too was a huge “Star Wars” fan and that she had read about the space adventures in the library in her “poor provencial town.” Bahaha! As we were chatting, my boyfriend was fumbling with my camera to take a picture. “Is this your Beast?” Belle asked me. I laughed and said yes. “My Beast is terrible with cameras as well,” she continued. Man, she was on her game. Loved her.
In addition to the bevy of amateur point-and-shoot photos, our profesh package photos with Cinderella arrived at the conclusion of our meal. Completely stuffed with better-than-average Disney food and more than a fair share of Disney magic, we ambled out into the night — to some absolutely breathtaking sights. A perfect beginning to the new year.