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RESTAURANT REVIEW - Le Cellier Steakhouse @ Epcot

Yeah, Epcot's World Showcase has fancy schmancy French food, la-dee-dah seafood, weird-sounding Norwegian food, but where's the beef? At Le Cellier, which Kevin reviews for you.

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: September 12, 2004 at 3:12 PM

From the official WDW website: Enjoy regional Canadian cuisine inspired by the provinces of Canada. A steak-lover's paradise, this is the place to enjoy perfectly prepared prime rib and filet mignon from aged corn-fed Canadian beef, as well as seafood specialties — served in an environment inspired by castle wine cellars of the grandest of Canadian chateaus: Frontenac and Laurier. Steak lovers, head north!

Wow, a blurb without massive hyperbole. I don't know what to say!

Normally, I don't bother with steakhouses. My mommy makes great steak, and I rarely find any restaurant versions that compare. But then I rarely order steak, since I am so rarely enchanted by it. ("Enchanted?" I think I'm going to make up for Disney tossing out the thesaurus on their blurb!)

So how "enchanting" is the restaurant itself? Ehhh. The chateau lording over the pavilion is gorgeous, but the restaurant is a bit dark and uninviting. It's also basically one room, which is something I never like. Sure, there are pillars throughout the room, breaking it up a little, but it still feels more than a little like a cafeteria. The openness of the tables contrast with the closed feeling of the cellar theme. A bunch of high-backed booths would certainly improve that theme.

What about the food? Fortunately we visited for a late lunch, meaning there were sandwiches filling out the steak-filled menu. But first the appetizers! The appetizers are the same on both Lunch and Dinner menus, and don't change in price, surprisingly enough. Except for the Pan-Seared Scallops, though, the selection is mostly wanting. The Asian Shrimp Cocktail, which sounds decidedly un-Canadian, reads as being too spicy. The Oven-Roasted Mussels and Beef and Barley Soup seem boring. And the Vine-Ripe Tomato Stack just sounds gross. The Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup (with Moosehead beer as an ingredient) also sounds gross, but we had heard great things about it, so we both ordered it. And LOVED it. I could have had a gargantuan bowl of this and the breadsticks and been happy.

Oh, the breadsticks! Each table is presented with a vaseful of differing sticks and a verbal explanation how each flavor represents a different province in Canada. A cool idea, though some of the breadsticks weren't the tastiest things we have ever had. It's also a bit annoying having to ask your server for more of this, this and this breadstick but no more of that or that one. Still, most servers seem to have that stereotypical Canadian friendliness, so being selective doesn't seem to be a problem.

As for the main meals, there aren't a lot of choices. Ten items on both Lunch and Dinner menus. Like most changing menus in WDW, it seems Dinner will get you more seafood options, as well as more steak options, naturally. The sandwiches here aren't all that inventive, as three of the five all involve steak in some fashion. (At this writing, one is chicken and the other is roast beef.) The entrees involved three different steak options, a Portobello veggie thing and a Sauteed Shrimp Pasta with Smoked Salmon. That last one almost seemed interesting, except for all the weird vegetable additives (onions in pasta is just nasty).

So I ordered the Grilled Steak Burger, which comes with cheddar, gruyere or bleu cheese. I, of course, wanted all three but went with the bleu cheese, as I figured the soup would be enough cheddar for me. The burger was fine, and it being under $10 made it that much better. Steak entrees cost about what they would at an outside steakhouse, which is in the $20 range. While entrees don't change prices from the Lunch to the Dinner menus, the Dinner-only entrees can climb near $30, with one plate nearing $40. So $10 was a real find, especially knowing crappy counter burgers within WDW cost almost that much.

My companion isn't nearly as averse to steak as I am, though she also admits my mom's steak is usually better than restaurant steak. So I talked her into getting the Grilled Petit Filet Mignon. Mainly because I wanted to try the cream cheese mashed potatoes. Yummmmmm! I tried her steak (unlike most females, she likes her steak as bloody as I do) and it was fine, but... well, you know.

Fortunately - or not, depending on your viewpoint - we had room for dessert. Most Epcot restaurants used to feature Spaceship Earth desserts, but I can't find them on any menus now. I distinctly recall Le Cellier's version, a chocolate sphere filled with maple creme. Yummmmm! I have no clue why these aren't on the menu anymore, as they were both fun and delicious. We tried three different varieties in one visit and wanted to try more. Well, the desserts here seem interesting enough - the maple creme is now in the Maple Creme Brulee - but I found the best idea to be the dessert sampler, which unfortunately doesn't feature the two desserts I would order, the Mike's Handmade Peach Cobbler and the Honey and Mascarpone Cheesecake. No matter what the flavor of sorbet, it just can't compete with that!

Overall, we enjoyed our visit, but we had no desire to rush back. This may have had a little something to do with our server, who was fresh from her home country and far too friendly for our taste. "Blah blah blah" is all well and good, as long as you bring us our food! We actually had to ask her at one point if our food was ready yet, as we were starving (it was, of course). But then service can be a problem at most World Showcase restaurants, as they have lots of employee turnover due to work visas and all that. So go in expecting it, and you won't be too disappointed if it happens.

On the TPI Scale, I give Le Cellier a 7 - Good. Although I probably will never return, I think it is worth a visit once. If you agree, call 407-WDW-DINE for a Priority Seating reservation up to 90 days in advance.

Readers' Opinions

From Josh Counsil on September 16, 2004 at 6:16 PM
I am disappointed in the Canadian pavilion just a little bit (as I'm sure anyone who saw their home country's pavilion would be).

During various visits, we noticed that Canada has a Beavertail (like a funnel cake but different) stand, and another stand selling maple syrup and... paper hats. Since when did Canada become famous for its paper hat trade? Cripes, I'm young and ignorant and I could have thought of something better to sell. Why not poutine? Fries with gravy and cheese curds... superb.

And the restaurant... despicable. More like a dungeon. The exterior, themed after the Chateau Laurier here in Ottawa and the Frontenac, is beautiful. So is the backdrop, although the mountains could be higher and could have more trees. Why don't they refurbish the restaurant to look like the Chateau's restaurant (which is excellent)? The Chateau's restaurant is also a multi-room restaurant with booths (for Kevin), and it has a more "bright" atmosphere, with large windows and paintings, just like at the Wilderness Lodge, rather than wine barrels.

And what's with the film? They make you stand through that boring thing. At least create an Impressions de France-style theater.

And what's with the lack of any ride (applicable to all pavilions, except Norway and Mexico, but those rides are even sub-par). Clearly there's room for a raft ride, maybe themed after Brother Bear (yeah, it was crap, but just use the moose pair to orate the ride, or something). Or do a log drivers' waltz-style flume (for those of you who are aware of that annoying Canadian cartoon and song). Just put something there.