Well… it’s not like you go and spend five nights at Disneyland, and NOT stuff your face, right?
As part of our entire Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend experience, Boots & I decided to take advantage of the variety of restaurants around the entire resort area. There were certainly plenty of options available: between Downtown Disney, Disney’s California Adventure, and Disneyland itself, they had everything covered from your basic corn-dogs and a soda (soon!) to hoity-toity fine dining. And since I spent the weekend racing 19.3 miles and walking God-knows-how-many others around the area, I needed to replace all those burnt calories. I mean, you know, before I starved and withered away to nothingness…
We arrived in Anaheim Thursday morning, checked in, hit the parks and pool in the afternoon, and thus decided to have dinner Thursday night at the Cathay Circle Restaurant, located in the heart of Disney’s California Adventure.
The restaurant is modeled after the landmark Hollywood theater in which Walt Disney held the grand premiere of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs in 1937, the very first feature-length animated film. With the look and feel of an old-school movie palace, there’s no mistaking the sensation of stepping into another time and place when dining here. Our reservation was at 6:30PM; we arrived around 6:15 and it was utterly packed with excitement. They were booked to capacity, and even finding a spot to lounge wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Thankfully, we found a small seating area. Boots & Ann sat and waited while I explored and took a few crafty pictures.
I headed outside to take pictures of the marquee as well as the celebratory plaque explaining the significance of the Cathay Circle:
I went back inside to try to capture as much as I could of the lobby. Unfortunately, it was pretty full; the most interesting areas were blocked by people waiting for their tables. A particularly impressive collection of Pinocchio maquettes were on display in a glass case, but in order to get any kind of picture of it, I would have had to move a whole bunch of tired and hungry looking people from their chairs. So no dice, gang. Sorry! So here’s a picture of the lobby for you:
I also got a pic of the bar area:
Hey wait, isn’t that Sarah from Running At Disney? Certainly is! But I didn’t bother her — who wants to be bugged by a fellow blogger you’ve never met while your dining with friends? — but I managed to catch up and say hi the next day at Downtown Disney.
OK well… we were finally called and seated at around 6:40. A hostess led our hungry group of travelers upstairs, giving us a history of the restaurant and the original Cathay Circle theater. I could see why the place gets booked solid so quickly: there wasn’t a whole lot of seating available. Which was nice. The atmosphere was upbeat but not excessive or harried. You never felt like you were in the middle of a theme park. No evidence of screaming kids, balloons, sweaty red-faced tourists, etc. It felt very level inside. Definitely not necessarily tranquil, but relaxing and comfortable.
Our waiter pointed out that the ceiling arch was painted to resemble the forest from Snow White…
… while the grain in our wooden table was actually shaped to resemble the Evil Queen herself! Unfortunately no picture I took could adequately capture how cool and impressive this looked, so you’re sorta gonna have to take my word for it.
OK, so let’s get to the food part of it all. Once again, I am in no way, shape, or form a dining critic, food reviewer, whatever you want to call it. I just let you know whether or not Stuff Taste Good. Keep that in mind as we go along, okiedokes?
For appetizers, we decided to try the Cathay Signature Fried Biscuits and Fire Cracker Duck Wings.
Every review of the restaurant absolutely insisted that you simply had to order the biscuits. And after reading the description, why not? These were fried biscuits stuffed with bacon, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese, and served with an apricot butter. Based on that description alone? SOLD! Unfortunately, the end result was not particularly impressive. We all pretty much agreed that you couldn’t really taste much bacon or jalapeno flavor, and the filling inside the biscuit was basically just CHEESE! And not very good cheese either. We’re talking cafeteria-quality consistency, an extremely processed flavor. Even the apricot butter didn’t help matters much. Instead of being just a hint of apricot, it tasted more like a too-sharp apricot spread that didn’t mesh well with the processed-cheesy mess of the biscuits. For so much hype, I have to say we were pretty disappointed with the biscuits.
The Fire Cracker Duck Wings fared better. They were coated in a sauce made up of soy, lime, and Sriracha, giving them plenty of spicy kick but not enough to overpower the flavor of the duck itself. The wings were very good but not perfect; I have the sneaky suspicion that they were sitting under the heat lamps for far longer than they should have. Still, coming after the disappointment that were the biscuits, we enjoyed them for the most part.
So now we’re at that point, during dining at a new restaurant, when you brace yourself for the worst. The appetizers have been cleared away and you’re awaiting your entrees. But the appetizers weren’t all that great, and usually (let’s be real) that’s the best part of the meal, right? So if the best so far was one disappointing dish and one decent but not extraordinary one, what hope could the main courses have?
Well I’ll be darned…
Ann and I both ordered the Western Cut Pork Chop…
… while Boots had the Sauteed Short Rib Raviolis:
I didn’t try any of Boots’s raviolis, but she adored them. They were served along with portobello mushrooms and red peppers with a Cabernet sauce, and as you can tell by the picture looked damn good. She agreed that they tasted as well as they were presented.
Now that Pork Chop… holy cow! Delicious! I was actually surprised how much I really, really enjoyed it. I’m a medium-rare guy, and it was grilled to perfection. Perfectly tender, juicy, plenty of flavor, with a delicious glaze sweetened by summer peaches and served with fingerling potatoes and string beans. It was absolutely wonderful. I had quickly gotten over my disappointment of the appetizers thanks to how perfect my entree had come out.
As much as we wanted to, we simply could not find any room for dessert. I couldn’t even finish my pork chop. Schtupped to the rim. The group agreed that we overall enjoyed Cathay Circle and would probably return again, but we wouldn’t consider it a must-visit restaurant either. The ambiance, decor, service, and details were all well done. Our entrees were excellent all around. The appetizers… not so much. And it wasn’t exactly the cheapest of meals, either. For that kind of scratch, we expected just a little more. Overall it’s a fine place to dine and very worthwhile if you want a slightly more upscale and relaxed dining experience inside a theme park, without all the screaming children and bustling noise. Just be prepared to pay extra for it (and maybe skip the appetizers).
And here’s the video: