For those who still lament the loss of the Sunday brunch at La Coquina, take heart. The newly established brunch at California Grill may be the worthy replacement.
Like La Coquina, the fine dining restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort that stopped serving in 2012, California Grill offers an elegant repast in a sumptuous setting at an extravagant cost.
CG, of course, is one of Disney’s top restaurants, figuratively for its upscale dining experience and literally for its location on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort. The restaurant is ordinarily open only for dinner, so dining during the daytime and being able to take in the bright vistas through the large windows — a sight that includes a Dumbo’s-eye view of the Magic Kingdom — is an especial treat.
La Coquina, you’ll recall, was special because the salads, charcuterie, cold seafoods and other starter foods were set up at stations inside the hotel’s kitchen, which ordinarily was out of sight of the diners.
California Grill does sort of the same thing with its opening courses. But since it features an open show kitchen (hard to believe it was one of the first restaurants in the area to bring the kitchen out front), such foods as salads, sushi and cured meats are set up in front of the kitchen stations without the need to go "backstage." And, as was the case at La Coquina, the entree course is ordered separately and delivered to the table.
Here’s where there is a major departure between the two experiences: La Coquina featured bottomless glasses of mimosas or Champagne — and good stuff, too. California Grill offers one welcome drink, then you’ll be billed separately if you would like more. And that welcome drink does not include CG’s Bloody Mary bar.
And it’s a pretty impressive BM bar. The vodkas are all premium, there are a couple of juice choices, including a house-made spicy tomato, and the garnishes are selfie worthy. Shrimp deserving of the jumbo designation, rashers of bacon, cheese stuffed thumb-sized olives, and usual accouterments make the $15 fee worthwhile.
It’s the $80 base fee that might give pause. And that, of course, does not include tax and gratuity. So essentially you’re talking about a hundred bucks per person for a one-drink brunch. But here’s some good news: valet parking is included. (Don’t forget to tip the valet.)
The food, of course, is very good. There’s no reason to expect that it will change when a new chef takes over for current chef de cuisine, Brian Piasecki, who is moving to a new position within the company.
Besides the sushi, charcuterie, deviled eggs and such, signature entree items include Poached Lobster Benedict, Pan-fried Buttermilk Organic Chicken Cutlet, Chef’s Fritatta, and Grilled Flat Iron Steak.
A duo played some lovely, appropriate music next to a window in the center of the restaurant.
Is it all worth it? For a special occasion splurge, a fabulous brunch like this is sometimes called for. Just keep reminding yourself, I’m getting free valet parking.
I experienced the brunch as an invited guest for a media tour, which also included the new brunch at Narcoossee’s. We hopped on the Monorail to travel between the two. I’ll tell you about that brunch next week.
California Grill serves brunch Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations can be made online or by calling 407-939-3493.