Have you ever been at the beach, out in the water, watching the waves as they roll toward you, waiting for the perfect one to pick you up and carry you to shore? And then you spot it, off in the distance, coming at you as though it's going to break just right and give you a perfect ride. So you start paddling in anticipation only to have the wave fizzle out.
That's how I feel about The Wave restaurant at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
This is the first full-service restaurant to open on Disney property in quite a while, so anticipation and expectation were high. But it just seems that not enough effort was put into this concept, and there definitely is a lack of a follow-through on all fronts.
Things looked promising as I approached the new restaurant. The Wave occupies a space on the ground level of the not-quite-as-contemporary-as-it-used-to-be resort using an area that once held a game room and employee training classroom. You access the restaurant through a brushed metal tunnel that I suppose is supposed to resemble going through the curl of a wave. At the other end of the tunnel is a host stand, and on the other side of that, behind panels of mottled glass, is a large and stylish bar with cool blue lights and, overhead, glittering starlights.
It seems Disney spent all its money on the tunnel and the lounge area because the dining room is really quite plain. It's a vast, open space with seating for 220 at bare wood tables. Overhead are undulating metal panels -- oh, let's just call them waves, shall we? -- Above the metal waves are white and yellow neon lights that call attention to an unattractive acoustic tile ceiling.
The menu is surprisingly limited, and the food is even more surprisingly unexciting.
Appetizers were downright disappointing. The crab cakes ($11.49) had too much filler and a mealy texture. Lettuce wraps ($11.99) featured pebble-sized pieces of lamb along with bay scallops the size of an eraser on the end of a No. 2 pencil. They were sauteed in soy-rice wine vinegar and presented as a soggy mess that diners are supposed to scoop into lettuce leaves to eat. This one would have been a failure at half the price, which still would have been too much to charge.
The best among the entrees I sampled was the fish of the day, which is listed on the menu as "Today's Sustainable Fish" to capitalize on a current ecological buzzword. That aside, the halibut fillet I had was fresh-tasting and had a lovely crisped exterior and beautiful white flesh inside. It was topped with cilantro chutney that offered a nice herby note.
Braised chicken pot pie ($19.99) was an odd presentation of meat -- not much of it -- peas, mushrooms and carrots in a creamy sauce served in a small casserole with a flat biscuit on top. I get the pot part but where's the pie?
Braised lamb shank ($25.99) was a little more impressive, a huge hunk of tender meat laid atop a stew of bulgur wheat and lentils.
The wine list features an ecological gimmick in that all the wines -- sparklers excepted -- are in bottles with screw-cap closures. The ecological part is that cork trees needn't be ravaged just to make bottle stoppers. I have nothing against screw caps, called Stelvin closures, and in fact I think they're quite handy. The only problem with building a wine list around them is that availability is currently rather limited. So the Wave's list features wines almost exclusively from producers in the Southern Hemisphere, where the use of screw caps has been more widely embraced. I found no stars among the wines.
Oddly, a flight of wines is offered on the drinks menu in the lounge, but it is not made available in the dining room. And, I overheard two guests being told, dining at the bar is not available.
Service had the appropriate Disney perkiness, but timing was way off on both my visits and long, inexplicable waits were endured.
I wish things had been better, and perhaps the restaurant will improve over the months. But as it stands now, the Wave is a washout.