Finally made it in to Paddlefish for a proper, sit-down dinner. I had visited previously for a media event, but that was a walkabout affair that served food but didn’t allow one to experience it as a restaurant. I’m happy to report that Paddlefish, with a culinary team led by chef Mark Boor, offers a very nice dining opportunity and is a good addition to the growing list of Disney Springs venues.
Paddlefish, of course, is the reimagined Fulton’s Crab House (née Empress Lily), on the nonfloating structure made to resemble a vintage paddlewheel river boat.
It’s less vintage-y with the recent renovation, which gave it a modern look, both inside and out (though the frozen-in-place paddles remain).
This is a huge facility, but it features several smaller dining rooms that keep it from feeling like a large main feeding room on a cruise ship.
My guest and I were seated at a pleasant water-level table next to a floor-to-ceiling (deck-to-bulkhead?) window that afforded the occasional view of automobiles floating by.
We were intrigued by the Crab Fries appetizer and so got an order to share. It was sort of a seafood version of poutine that featured a stack for fries topped with lump crabmeat and Louie dressing. Unfortunately, the fries were a bit dry, and beyond that, the Louie dressing was not spiced enough and there wasn’t enough of it. If you’re going to do a dish like this, I say go all-out gloppy.
But then the chef brought out a complimentary appetizer of “Bacon & Egg,” perhaps his way of saying, “You chose poorly.” The bacon was braised Kurobuta pork belly and the egg was, well, an egg, but one that had been soft-cooked for five minutes, peeled and rolled in panko crumbs. Split open, the egg oozed its yellow goodness onto the pork belly for an all-day breakfast treat. Choose wisely, order this for your starter.
Then get the Black Cod en Papillote. Opened tableside, the parchment paper held moist chunks of flaky cod with spaghetti squash, shiitake mushrooms and uni butter. Fish rarely gets better than this.
My Midwestern roots caused me to gravitate to the Catfish, dusted here with blue cornmeal and served with a crisply fresh succotash with cubes of bacon. Of course, the catfish of my days growing up next to the Mississippi River was always served with heaps of tartar sauce. Here the sauce was creole mustard, but not nearly enough of it. (It’s taken a long time to realize that catfish requires a lot of sauce.)
Service was attentive and a sommelier was on hand to make pairing suggestions.
Paddlefish is owned and operated by Levy Restaurants, which also has at Disney Springs the very good Portobello and Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe (time for them to turn their attention to that tired venue and bring it up to the level of the other two).
It was cold on the night I dined recently, so I appreciated the cozy inside table. But when the weather warms, head for the top deck. It’s a terrific space, one of the best at the Springs. And now we know, a good place to dine, too.
Paddlefish is at Disney Springs, 1670 Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (The Lime parking venue is the nearest.) It is open for lunch and dinner daily, including late night on Friday and Saturday. The phone number is 407-934-2628.
Click the video below for a Facebook Live tour of the restaurant.