When the love of my life J. and I get together for dinner, I usually plan something out. It is almost always some upscale restaurant with great food and some novelty going for it (view, motif, etc.). But on my last trip to Orange County, J. did all the planning. No matter how much I inquired, I was not given any indication as to where we were going until we pulled into the Disneyland property and J. informed the guard at the gate that we had reservations at the Napa Rose.
We were given our valet pass and directed to the porte cocher and main entrance to the Grand Californian hotel. The valet swept our car away and we walked through the amazingly beautiful lobby with its towering Christmas tree and Santa listening to the wishes of children. We walked on by and through the doors of the far side of the lobby and down a covered sidewalk to the entrance to Napa Rose. Sadly, the entrance to Napa Rose had little fanfare and had we not been paying close attention, we would have walked right past it.
J. took the lead and gave our name at the host station and we were invited to take a seat in the bar for a few minutes while our table was prepared. We sat in the lounge and waited about ten minutes before being escorted to our table in the center of the dining room. The table for four was spacious and the seats were lovely with their high, narrow backs and comfortable seats. We reviewed the menus and noted that the menu is almost strictly seasonal with plenty of autumn selections.
Our server arrived inquiring about our drink order and we kept it simple with one Iced Tea ($3.00) and one Diet Coke ($3.00). He then explained the menu does change every three months but that the chef’s tasting menu changed weekly. J. and I liked some of the selections on the tasting menu, but we had our hearts set on some of the other offerings. Since we were ready to order, our server took down our selections. To begin my meal, I chose the Wood Fired Pizzetta ($12.00). For J., the selection was the Roasted Rabbit with Sage Spatzle and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms ($14.00). We would follow this by a salad course: the Endive and Duck Confit Salad ($13.00) for J. and the Pear, Fennel and Prosciutto Salad for myself ($12.00). For our entrees, I knew J. couldn’t pass up the Lamb Two Ways ($38.00), and being the steak lover that I am, I went right for the Ribeye with Bacon Mac & Cheese ($37.00).
Just as our server left our table to get our beverages and place our order, a bread basket arrived on a black, iron holder that reminded me of reindeer antlers. The basket contained two offerings. The first was a chewy yeast roll with a semi-hard crust and lots of flavor. Combined with the unsalted butter, it was quite good. The other was a cheese flatbread that was fantastic. It was crunchy, but with a tiny bit of resistance and a pungent flavor that was perfect for munching.
Our drinks arrived and we took in the interior while we waited for our appetizers. I thought the interior was gorgeous. Slightly understated and tasteful, the color scheme gave off a wonderful glow and warmth. That being said, the lighting was way too bright. If the lights had been lowered by about 30 percent and small votive candles placed on the table, the interior would have gotten a big 10 points. J. agreed and noted that the bright lighting all but killed any sort of romance the place would have going for it.
Moments later, another server appeared carrying two plates. They contained an amuse bouche of a crab salad with pecans topped with micro greens and served with a light mustard cream sauce and mandarin orange segments. J. and I both agreed that this was an excellent jump start to our palates. The crab was fresh and the crunchiness of the pecans and the micro greens were nice touches to this small taste. The sauce and oranges also added a tangy and sweet dimension.
We had just finished our amuse bouche when our appetizers arrived. J.’s Roasted Rabbit with Sage Spatzle and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms was a deep, rich burgundy color that was very appealing. J. found the rabbit tender and flavorful along with the mushrooms. J. seems ambivalent about the spatzle, noting that they needed something more than sage for taste, although the sage was a perfect flavor for the autumn season. Still, J. managed to devour every bite.
The Wood Fired Pizzetta I ordered turned out to be a creative calzone. The dough had been stuffed with a wonderful mix of turkey, cranberries, spinach, cheese and various spices. It was an Italian Thanksgiving sandwich and was possibly one of the best calzones I have ever had. The crust was spot on and the fillings were hot and juicy, bursting with flavor and just brilliant as far as capturing the season. Wow.
Next up at the table was J.’s Autumn Endive and Duck Confit salad. On top of two beautiful radicchio leaves, J.’s salad was long shavings of endive, duck confit, eggs, and fingerling potatoes dressed with a warm Truffle Brown Butter vinaigrette. The warm salad was savory and rich due to the confit and the dressing. The flavors were a wonderful mix and I loved the taste of the egg with this salad. It all just melded perfectly. J. thought it was quite good and loved the bits of shredded duck.
Where J.’s salad leaned toward the savory side, my Pear, Fennel, and Prosciutto salad leaded more toward the sweet. The salad was composed of plenty of slices of comice pears, shaved fennel bulb, prosciutto, grated parmesan cheese and whole almonds. I loved it from the first bite. There were so many flavors going I was concerned something would get lost, but it was excellent. The pears added the sweetness, the ham and cheese the salty, the fennel a bit of tang and a blast of crunch from the almonds. J. commented that my salad, overall, was slightly better than the endive salad. I don’t think you could easily compare the two, but I also liked this one just a tad better.
After another round of bread and drinks, we were alerted by our server that our entrees were on their way. So, we got ourselves prepared. Moments later, J.’s Lamb Two Ways arrived. The plate was awash with lamb and plenty of wine reduction. True to its name, there was lamb presented in two styles. The first was a double lamb chop that had a delightful sun-dried tomato crust. The second was a braised lamb Osso Buco style with roasted garlic and rosemary. This all sat on top of a mix of root vegetable and the reduction. J. was in heaven. Both lamb styles were tender and exquisite. J. favored the lamb chop and noted that it wasn’t gamy, but fresh and delicious. J. thought the plating was nice with the chops resting against the osso buco.
My Ribeye with Bacon Man & Cheese was sublime. The char from the grill had give the meat a fine smoky taste. It was almost fork tender and the Cabernet Reduction and Whole Grain mustard sauce were fantastic counterpoints to the savory meat. The marbling in the steak had done its work and the rich, beefy taste satisfied a meat and potatoes man like myself. The Bacon Mac & Cheese was unreal. Instead of traditional pasta, the chef had used orzo which gave the dish a rice-like texture. The cheese was a sharp cheddar which seemed a bit smoky, but that could have been some of the drippings from the steak. I was more than pleased with my dish and thought it was worth every penny.
We soaked up nearly every drop of sauce using the rolls from the bread basket. The entrees were a great success and we were stuffed by the time we finished. But it didn’t take much for our server to entice us with dessert. Since we knew we couldn’t finish two desserts, we opted for the autumnal Pumpkin Bars with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pumpkin Ice Cream and Cranberry Sauce ($10.00). When it arrived, the dessert was sitting atop a beautiful crystal and gold dish. Two large pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing were sitting perpendicular to each other and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds and topped with a scoop of pumpkin ice cream. Off to the side was a small dollop of cranberry sauce. The pumpkin bars were cold, dense and full of spices. These were excellent. The pumpkin ice cream was also good, but faded quickly due to the potent flavors in the bars. The cranberry sauce was a nice finishing touch to the dish that really made you think of the holidays. We were both very pleased with this selection.
Our billed was brought to our table and the total was $153.02 including tax. We felt this was an exceptional value considering the quality, creativity and freshness of the food. Our service was very good, although at times, I felt our server was a bit too “chummy.” We exited the restaurant and made our way back to the lobby. Santa had long departed but people were still admiring the tree. The valet retrieved our vehicle and we headed back home to relax and succumb to food coma.
I thoroughly enjoyed Napa Rose and understood why it had such high accolades. It wasn’t perfect, but it was wonderful. I would like to see the lighting dropped a bit and the addition of some sort of palate cleanser between the salads and entrees would be a way to cut some of the richness of the food, but those are wishes that hopefully will come true.
It is, after all, on a Disney property.
1600 South Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92803
Dress: Resort Casual to Formal
Notes: Inside the Disney Grand Californian Hotel
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com