Monday, September 21, 2015

Disneyland-Dinner at Napa Rose's Chef Counter

At first we were bummed that Disneyland Park closed at 7 pm on the day we were visiting, but we turned those frowns upside-down and decided to take advantage of the earlier closing.  We booked an 8:30 pm dinner reservation at the Chef Counter at Napa Rose.

After changing into our fancy duds, we made our way to the Grand Californian Hotel. 

 We were still a wee bit early, so we decided to hang out by the hotel lobby's fireplace.

The architecture in the hotel is gorgeous, the furniture comfy, and if that didn't make the moment perfect enough, there was a pianist playing lovely piano arrangements of Disney songs.

It was an extra special moment that we didn't plan or expect. I think if I was a local and had a stressful day, I might go hang out in the Grand Californian's lobby for a few hours.

It was important that we arrive on time for our reservation as there are only two sittings at the Chef Counter (5:30 or 8:30) and seating is limited.

After being escorted to our seats, we were introduced to our servers for the evening, Rochelle and Roberto. We told Rochelle that we were interested in doing the chef tasting, and because we were in California, we couldn't pass up adding the wine pairing.

Now we have done chef tastings at other restaurants, but this was the first time that the Chef came over to talk with us first.  He asked if we had any allergies, and then asked if there was anything that we especially disliked (like mushrooms for Shannon). He jotted down notes as we gave our answers.  After that was done, Roberto brought us bread and butter, and Rochelle brought us an amuse bouche.

Amuse Bouche
I love an amuse bouche, mostly because it's fun to say. We were treated to a spring pea parfait, topped with shrimp and creme fraiche.

It was fresh, light, and tasted like spring in a glass.

We both got the same amuse bouche, but it was the last time we would travel the same plated path. This was the first time that instead of sharing dishes at a chef tasting, we each got individualized dishes that the chef thought fitted the receiver the best. Likewise, Rochelle poured a glass of wine, one for each dish, that paired best with our individualized dishes.

The food was a lot to keep up with, on top of the enjoyable diversion of watching the kitchen, and having a nice chat with the couple next to us, so I completely gave up trying to record the wines. I also didn't get every  detail on the dishes.

First Course

Shannon's first course was a lobster tempura and sliced filet mignon beneath an Asian salad.

My course, and I couldn't believe it, was octopus. I mean, how did they know how much I love octopus?

My octopus was topped with a sweet and spicy chili sauce that was the real winner of the dish. I also had an Asian inspired salad.  

I explained to Rochelle my love of octopus dishes and how I couldn't believe that the chef picked it for me.  Rochelle joked that Disney can read your mind.  I know she was joking, but I wouldn't put it past Disney.

Second Course

My dish continued a seafood theme.  I received a scallop over mashed potatoes, in a lobster cream sauce.

Oh my. The sauce was so rich and velvety, and the lobster meat added a nice sweetness. The creamy mashed potatoes did an excellent job soaking up the sauce.  All of the wines we had that evening were great, but this was the only wine I absolutely remember, because it was a chardonnay. Neither of us is a chardonnay drinking. Perhaps we've never had a really good chardonnay. The buttery notes of the chardonnay perfectly matched the buttery flavors in the sauce. It was a match made in heaven. 

Shannon also got a seafood dish, but in halibut form.

  His dish came in a lighter sauce with fresh tomatoes.  It was also very good.

Third Course

Perhaps because Shannon was adamant about no mushrooms, my third course was a hearty serving of mushroom risotto.

I'm a huge fan of risotto, so perhaps there was some mind reading going on. Now don't get me wrong, my risotto was creamy, tangy, and delicious, but Shannon's quail was dazzling.

Aside from the fabulous food, the other great part about dining at Napa Rose's Chef Counter, is watching the chefs up close and in action.  

They never stop moving, and they move quickly. They must be exhausted at the end of every night.

Chef Tae spent a lot of time preparing dishes on the counter space in front of us.  He was extremely friendly and was happy to chat about what he was making and/or what he was doing.  

Chef Tae on the left making sure everyone loves their food

All of the chefs were quite personable (no screaming Gordon Ramseys here) and wanted to make sure that we were enjoying our food. They took a lot of pride in their work. It added that Disney touch where you actually believe that everyone genuinely cares about your happiness.

Unexpectedly fun, was chatting with the couple who shared the counter with us.  Lon and Valerie were from San Francisco. 

Lon and Valerie next to Shannon

They were celebrating Valerie's birthday. We talked about pinball. We conversed about travel, they were gearing up for a trip to Germany. They wanted to know about living in Philadelphia, and we asked questions about living in San Francisco. They were cool and my biggest regret was not connecting with them somehow on social media before parting ways. Lon and Valerie from San Francisco, if you're out there, I really want to know how your Germany trip was. 

Fourth Course

For Shannon, NY strip steak with corn and fava beans.  It was wonderful, but....

Rochelle stated that some couples or groups will pick a winner for each course served.  We both agreed that I ended up with the winner of the entire meal (again everything was amazing so this was no easy decision).

My fourth dish was a filet mignon with portobello mushrooms.

It just absolutely melted in my mouth. Some of the best filet I've ever had. I also did my best to soak up ever last smudge of the delectable sauce. I wish I was eating it again right now.

For dessert, Rochelle gave us a choice. We could select a dessert off of a menu, or we could leave it as a surprise.  We decided to leave it as a surprise.

I'm finding that when I tell restaurants that I have an allergy to hazelnuts, they decide to play it safe and avoid giving me all nuts. This could be why this peanut butter obsessed girl was not the one to get the peanut butter banana dessert.

 Instead, I got a lemon cake with blackberries and donuts. It was good, but I think I was comparing it too much to the previous night's semifreddo. 

I liked Shannon's dessert more, and he liked mine more, but we never did end up switching. We were too busy chatting with Lon and Valerie and the chefs.  We also got a really good cup of coffee. We needed some pep for our ride back to Escondido.  


It was a magical eating experience. The chef tasting courses were outstanding. The experience of sitting and watching the chefs work up close, offered a unique entertainment. Rochelle and Roberto were exceptional, attentive servers.  Rochelle explained every dish and wine in impressive detail. By the end of the night, we agreed that Napa Rose joined the ranks as one of the best meals/eating experience we have had.

The chef tasting meal takes several hours, so don't book it if you have somewhere you have to be. Also if you have somewhere to be, or if you're hesitant to let someone else choose what you are going to eat, you can have a nice dinner from their menu.

One more thing. I must thank my friend Stephanie for gifting me this handy dandy notebook. I at least attempted to keep up with our courses by furiously writing them down.

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