Update and clarification: Because of incorrect information supplied to SJO, Narcoossee's status among Disney restaurants was not presented properly -- it is among those restaurants designated as "signature dining" venues. Also, the Key lime creme brulee is a creation of the Narcoossee's kitchen staff and not pasty chef Erich Herbitschek.
Narcoossee’s has always been a bit of a disappointment to me in the past. The Grand Floridian restaurant, in a separate structure on the shore of the lagoon with a commanding view of the Magic Kingdom, never seemed to try very hard. Its location, apparently, was enough. And with two top-level restaurants -- the very good Citricos and estimable Victoria & Albert’s -- at the same resort, perhaps the culinears decided Narcoossee’s shouldn’t try to compete.
But I had a chance to revisit Narcoossee’s recently, and things have changed dramatically. There appears to be a new initiative to be a better restaurant. All the food I sampled was first-rate.
The chef here is Joe Wilson, and his revamped menu is still seafood centric although surprisingly Asian nuanced. There is, of course, a plain old filet mignon option for those who simply can’t give up their daily steak or who refuse to try anything unbovine.
But even for those who are more adventuresome in their dining, the crispy whole snapper might be a tough sale. Not that it wasn’t good. It had crisply fried flesh with a sweetish vinaigrette and a sort of salad-as-garnish of charred green beans, bell peppers and frisee. But some people might be put off my the near anthropomorphic way the fish is presented on the plate, as though plucked from the sea in mid swim. Just the head and tail intact are enough to turn some folks off, but they’d be missing out on a real treat.
I also had a chance to try the togarashi-spiced blue fin tuna and jumbo prawn. It would be difficult to find better, more buttery textured tuna than that, gently seared -- it could have qualified as sashimi -- and graced with a citrusy soy sauce. The prawn was indeed jumbo and charred nicely. The dish included sticky rice topped with wasabi cream.
The appetizer was a sampler of three that are offered individually (the grouping was a special serving for the media dinner I attended). It included the lobster spring roll, Prince Edward Island mussels and jumbo lump crab cake. The spring roll was very good, but the crab cake was better. The mussels were fine, neither unacceptable or oh-my-god wonderful.
The second course of roasted beet salad was oh-my-god wonderful. The multi-colored beets had a lovely smoky flavor and were tossed with frisee, chervil, goat cheese, topped with sweet candied pecans and dressed with a delicious orange-honey vinaigrette.
Its location at the Grand Floridian earns Narcoossee’s the services of master pastry chef Erich Herbitschek, so the desserts are phenomenal. None was better than the Key lime creme brulee, which is just the sort of meal-ender a place called Narcoossee’s should feature.
Actually, if I had been asked about the focus of the menu, with its Asian leanings, I probably would have advised a different direction. Grand Floridian. Narcoossee’s. It doesn’t scream Pacific Rim. But I won’t niggle on the fine points. I’m pleased that Narcoossee’s has raised the level of its dining experience, and I’m even happier to, for the first time since it opened over two decades ago, recommend it.
Narcoossee’s is at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Walt Disney World. It is open for dinner daily. This link will take you to the Narcoossee’s page at Disney’s website. The number for reservations is 407-939-3463.