Restaurant review: The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Written by Robert Niles
Last week, while in Orlando for the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions convention, I visited Disney's Hollywood Studios on Friday for a quick "day in the park" before heading to Orlando International Airport for my flight home.Tweet
And for lunch, I, of course, ate at the Hollywood Brown Derby.
Theme Park Insider readers consistently rate the Hollywood Brown Derby among their favorite theme park restaurants. It's a bit pricey, as many of Walt Disney World's sit-down, table-service restaurants can be. As a "Signature Restaurant," dining at the Brown Derby will cost you two table-service meal credits if you are using the Disney Dining Plan and not paying-as-you-go. (For the record, I'm always pay-as-you-go for Disney restaurants, though on this day I dined with a cast member - who doesn't work in either the parks or publicity, BTW - so we had a cast-member discount on the prices.)
I ordered the brown butter almond-crusted black grouper with golden beets, roasted celery root, leeks and a lobster beurre blanc ($31).
The fish came to the table as decadently enrobed as the menu description made it out to be. Yet the buttered almonds in a butter sauce didn't weigh down the fish too much. (I had an Icelandic Wolf Fish off-property at a Bonefish Grill the night before that was drowning in its sauce, so I appreciated the Brown Derby's relative restraint.) But the highlight of the meal was the roasted vegetables.
Our server explained that they switch the accompaniments on the grouper seasonally, and that the winter-appropriate root vegetables had just replaced a more summer-like presentation using peaches. I love to see theme park restaurants embrace seasonal ingredients, just as top restaurants outside the theme park world do. Granted "winter" in Florida's nothing like winter up north, but I enjoyed the hearty vegetables, sweetened by roasting, but not too much to make the dish cloying. The mix elevated the entire meal, boosting the flavor of the grouper.
Based on the recommendation of so many Theme Park Insider readers, I had to order the Brown Derby's Grapefruit Cake ($7) for dessert.
Again, this dish offered a nice flavor balance, this time with tartness balancing the sweet. It's a basic sweet cream layer cake, but with a tart grapefruit icing glazing the cake. A bite into the grapefruit wedges that garnish the cake will send your mouth puckering, too. The only flaw was the hard cream cheese frosting along the outer edge of the cake, which felt and tasted stale compared with the tender, moist cake. We just pulled that off and left it.
Our service was delightful, though, never rushed but always helpful. The Hollywood Brown Derby's a splurge - certainly - but for me, it delivered a premium experience for its premium price.
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