So it turns out that Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí were good friends. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
In 1945 the two began a collaboration on an animated short film called Destino. It went unfinished until Disney’s nephew, Roy, completed and released it in 2003. It’s a little over six minutes and can be viewed on YouTube.
It’s phantasmagorical and classically surreal with plenty of Dalí trademarks, including several things that melt. At one point, a hole opens in the palm of the main character and ants crawl out, then the ants morph into men riding bicycles with baguettes on their heads. Disney and Dalí must have had a lot of fun planning the film. Or at least, ahem, getting in the mood for it.
As I said, it’s a little over six minutes but that’s enough to inspire the Gran Destino Tower, a 16 story, 545 room addition to the Coronado Springs Resort, and to provide the backstory for the new top-floor restaurant, Toledo, and the adjacent Dahlia Lounge. Pronounce the name of the restaurant like the city in Spain, toh-LAY-doh, and not the one in Ohio. Otherwise the lounge would be called Dayton.
Dahlia, apparently, is the name of the main character in the film. How you’re suppose to know that I can’t say; I didn’t glean that from watching the movie. Anyway, in one of the fantasy images, Dahlia’s head turns into a dandelion poof. This isn’t nearly as disturbing as the time it turns into a baseball, which her love interest then bats into left field. The lounge’s decor features dandelion chandeliers and the ceiling is meant to resemble her flowing hair. She has really, really long hair when her head isn’t turning into other objects.
Toledo’s decor features a high barrel-vaulted ceiling of multicolored light panels. There are large live olive trees, a wine cellar built into one wall, and a small show kitchen at the far end of the long room.
Both venues offer sweeping vistas from inside or on the open-air balconies. Seeing Toledo, it’s hard not to think of California Grill, at least in the early days before CG lost some of its elegance.
The menu at the restaurant, whose full name is Toledo - Tapas, Steak & Seafood, is Spanish inspired. The chef is Robby Sayles, who was previously at Tiffins in the Animal Kingdom, and the general manager is Michael Scheifler, who moved over and up one flight from California Grill. I was invited to sample some of the dishes as part of a media dinner recently.
We started with a trio of pintxos — Mussels Escabeche, Valdeón Cheese and Tortilla Española. The tortilla, the traditional potato omelet, was wrapped in salty Serrano ham and topped with an olive relish. It would have been my favorite if not for the tangy wonderfulness of the Valdeón blue cheese, served on a slice of bread smeared with fig jam. The three were served on a plate fashioned out of a melted bottle because Dalí would have wanted it that way.
For my entree I chose the Tilefish, which was balanced atop small whole potatoes and topped with a stack of shredded fennel. It was accompanied by singed cauliflowerettes and a Valencia orange sauce. The fish had a beautifully crisped exterior and the white flesh was moist, flaky and delicious.
The Scallops were just as well prepared and artistically presented on a plate smeared with fava hummus and harissa sauce and garnished with whole roasted carrots.
We also sampled the Plant-based “Seafood,” which featured a crab cake, calamari rings and scallops, all mostly fashioned out of mushrooms. It’s nice that they offer a vegan option for the people who need one, but I’m glad I’m not one of them.
For dessert we had a mini version of the Toledo Tapas Bar, a chocolate bar topped with little flavor bursts of berries, coffee and lemon. Plus a taste of the Crema Catalana, with a bit of Valencia orange sauce and a chocolate tuile.
The staff is up to the usual Disney standards and thankfully no one wears headgear fashioned out of bread. You should know that this is not a budget restaurant: Entrees range from $28 to $36.
There are a couple of new-agey things about the hotel that are worth mentioning. You’ll be whisked to the 16th floor in an elevator without buttons. In the elevator lobby, you indicate on a touchscreen which floor you want to go to and the screen tells you which elevator to get in. There are no buttons in the elevator car; it just takes you the floor you requested. No more little darlings getting on the elevator with you and lighting up all the buttons.
Also, if you leave your car with the valet, you can send a text with your ticket number when you’re ready to leave. Your car will be waiting for you. Nice touch.
I sort of wonder what the new hotel tower and its restaurants and bars would have been called if Disney and Dalí hadn’t collaborated on the bizarre film and if Roy Disney hadn’t finished it. But I’m glad they did, and I’m glad the bizarre obtuseness of the movie didn’t dissuade the Disney culinears from using it as inspiration for a wonderful new restaurant.
Toledo - Tapas, Steak & Seafood is at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, 1000 Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-939-3463.