Andrew Rossi continues his look at the restaurants aboard the new Disney Dream with a review of Enchanted Garden.
Whenever I cruise aboard the Magic or the Wonder, I always look forward to dining at the various restaurants. I have always enjoyed the elegance of Lumiere's on the Magic and Triton's on the Wonder as well as the magical quality of Animator's Palate on both ships. Parrot Cay, however, has always been somewhat of a letdown when compared with these other restaurants. The dining room's tropical theme is somewhat generic and there is nothing about the dining experience there that makes it special or memorable; it just does not have the same Disney-quality feel as the other restaurants.
Aboard the new Disney Dream there are some similarities, but also many differences, with the dining experiences aboard the other two Disney ships. Animator's Palate has been carried over from the Magic and Wonder but given an entirely new spin to make it truly unique. In addition, while Royal Palace does have a similar look and feel to that of Triton's or Lumiere's, it far surpasses them in elegance and refinement. For the third of the rotational restaurants, rather than brining Parrot Cay aboard the new ship, I was happy to see that Disney devised an entirely new concept and one which is completely unlike anything found aboard the other ships.
Inspired by the picturesque gardens of Versailles in France, Enchanted Garden delivers the theming, detail, and magic that you come to expect from Disney restaurants. Located on deck two, just below the ship's atrium, the dining room is open for buffet breakfast and lunch in addition to being a part of the dining rotation for dinner. The restaurant's location was actually a concern for me. I thought that, being so low in the ship, you would really be able to feel the boat rocking. These fears proved to be unfounded. The only thing I did notice about the restaurant's location was that the portholes are smaller than those found on the higher decks of the ship. However, with so much to see inside the restaurant, your eyes will be drawn to many other things besides the portholes.
Enchanted Garden is just as beautiful as Royal Palace, but in a totally different way. While Royal Palace has a very upscale and refined feel, Enchanted Garden has more of a casual elegance. With a color palette comprised of whites, light greens, light blues and light pinks the dining room has a very serene, calm, and relaxing feel that provide a stark contrast to the opulent gold, marble, and crystal found in Royal Palace.
The theme of Enchanted Garden is that you are dining in an elegant conservatory amid the foothills in France and there is a tremendous amount of detail, both large and small, throughout the restaurant that help to immerse guests into this setting. Diners enter the restaurant flanked by beautifully painted murals depicting rolling hills, colorful gardens, and bright blue skies. The floor of the entryway is a stone mosaic that stretches down the center of the restaurant while overhead the ceiling is covered with an ivy-laced trellis and open views to the sky above. All these elements really help to bring the outdoors inside the restaurant, giving it an open and airy feel. This is especially important given the restaurants small portholes.
At the center of the dining room, and the main focal point of the restaurant, is a seven foot tall cascading fountain topped by a cherub Mickey Mouse.
Another nice detail to be found in the restaurant is the light fixtures that blossom and become bathed in color throughout the course of the day. If you go for lunch the flowers were be closed and more pale in color, but for dinner they are in full bloom.
One thing I found interesting about the restaurant was that the center aisle is lined by semi-circular booths. The rest of the restaurants aboard the Disney ships generally feature only standard tables and chairs.
One of the main attractions of Enchanted Garden is its ceiling, which changes throughout the course of the day. If you visit the restaurant for breakfast or lunch you will encounter a vibrant blue sky, but later in the day this will change to a golden sunset and finally a dark nighttime sky complete with twinkling stars. The previous pictures were taken earlier in the afternoon with the daytime sky, but here for comparison is the nighttime sky that greets guests at dinner:
I absolutely love this concept and it really makes the restaurant unique and lends to the overall sense of immersion into the theme of dining in a French garden. However, if you are not sitting toward the center of the restaurant you do not really get the full effect because the main portion of the ceiling that depicts the image of the sky runs above the center aisle of the dining room.
Also, execution wise, I think it would be better if the ceiling depicted an accelerated day, changing from daytime to nighttime throughout the course of you meal. I was in the restaurant for the second seating at 8:30pm. When we were seated the ceiling was already depicting the nighttime sky and there was no real change throughout the course of the meal. Those diners at the first seating, however, would probably witness the change from dusk to night.
Despite the openness and airiness created by the restaurant's atmosphere, I found the dining room to have a very crowded feel because the tables were positioned so close to one another. I was so surprised to see the tables basically right on top of each other because it was not like this at Royal Palace. Also it gave the servers very little space to walk between tables as seen here:
Despite this fact, however, the restaurant certainly lives up to its name and provides diners with a sense of enchantment unique among the restaurants on any of the Disney ships.
The menu is another area where there is a stark contrast between Enchanted Garden and Royal Palace. Whereas Royal Palace feature many rich and heavier dishes, Enchanted Garden features a lighter fare of what Disney calls "market-inspired continental" cuisine. In this way, the menus really go hand-in-hand with the atmosphere in cementing the theme of each restaurant. Also, the vastly different menus allow for a totally different dining experience each night, not only in terms of location but also in taste.
Just as with Royal Palace, I was impressed by the wide selection of choices available starting with appetizers and continuing all the way through dessert. Appetizer selections included an Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower with crispy noodles and wasabi dressing, a Golden and Red Beet Carpaccio, North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli, and a Thyme and Garlic Brioche filled with chanterelle, hedgehog, and black trumpet mushrooms.
For soups the menu featured a Duck Consommé as well as a Curried Carrot and Apple Soup while for salads there was a Romaine Wedge topped with a creamy Romano dressing and a Baby Spinach Salad served with seasonal pears, toasted pine nuts, and crumbled gorgonzola.
There were many appealing entrée selections that made it difficult to decide which one I wanted. My server noted that his two favorites were the Pan-Seared Sea Bass served with a saffron and fennel risotto and topped with a sweet chili glaze as well as the Grilled New York Strip Steak which comes accompanied by thyme roasted vegetables and a double-baked potato. Other entrees on the menu included Caramelized Sea Scallops, Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Smoked Salt, The Enchanted Garden Tuna Salad, and Marjoram Scented Organic Chicken. Also, for vegetarians, there are the Glazed Portobello Mushrooms topped with a sundried tomato cream drizzle as well as the Peal-Barley Cakes with Shallots, Leeks, and Rosemary.
Finally, the dessert choices include a Steamed Lemon Buttermilk Pudding, a "Sacher" Chocolate Torte with apricot sauce, a Banana Foster Sundae, and Esterhazy Cake featuring almond meringue soaked in maraschino liqueur and layered pastry cream. There are also two sugar free desserts, the strawberry cheesecake and silky dark chocolate mousse. For those diners having difficulty choosing just one dessert, there is the Sweet Temptations which features a trio of Esterhazy cake, strawberry cheesecake, and silky dark chocolate mousse.
For my appetizer there was no doubt with what I wanted, the North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli. I found it interesting that this was an appetizer selection since ravioli is something you would usually have as an entrée. The ravioli came topped with some additional lobster meat, roasted garlic, and sweet basil. The garlic and the basil provided some extra flavor that complimented the lobster extremely well. What really impressed me with the appetizer was the sauce. Whenever I order lobster ravioli it usually comes in some type of cream sauce, but this was a light tomato broth that really helped to accentuate the flavor of the lobster rather than being overpowering.
Since there was really no soup or salad that appealed to me, I decided to double-up on appetizers and ordered the Thyme and Garlic Brioche. The brioche came filled with three different types of mushrooms, chanterelle, hedgehog, and black trumpet, along with leeks and a light buttermilk cream. The mushrooms themselves all had basically the same taste, but each had a slightly different texture that added some depth and complexity to the appetizer. Not only did the mixture of mushrooms have a light and refreshing taste, but the brioche itself was also light and fluffy.
For my entrée I decided to try the Caramelized Sea Scallops. I am not usually one to order scallops, but I like to try different things that I don't normally eat when I am on a cruise. The scallops themselves were large, but extremely tender, almost as if they could melt in your mouth. What truly made the scallops special was the caramelized leek and veal jus reduction that accompanied them. I was unsure of how the combination of scallops with a veal-based sauce would taste, but it turned out that their flavors actually complimented each other very well. The sauce was very light and had just the slightest hint of veal flavor that did not overwhelm the taste of the scallops at all. Another interesting part of the dish was the pearl pasta that came served along with the scallops, which had an almost Asian taste. This was another light accompaniment as opposed to something heavier like a potato.
With the menu composed of many lighter dishes, I actually found that I had room for dessert and was not overly full as I usually am when dining on a cruise. The dessert menu had many delectable choices, but the Banana Foster Sundae immediately jumped out at me. This was a light and refreshing way to end the meal. The sundae featured creamy vanilla ice cream and was topped with a very light and fluffy whipped cream as well as just enough caramel to add some sweetness to the dessert without being overpowering. What made the sundae really tasty were the rum-glazed bananas that were full of flavor and paired perfectly with the ice cream and caramel.
It should be noted that I found the presentation of the food, both at Enchanted Garden and Royal Palace, to be very impressive. Everything from appetizers to entrees and desserts looked just as good as it tasted. The presentation definitely helped to give the dining experience a more gourmet feel than the food I have had on previous Disney cruises. This is not saying that the food on the Magic and the Wonder is bad, but the Disney Dream takes it to an entirely new level.
The Overall Experience:
Enchanted Garden has everything you would expect from a Disney restaurant, from its wonderfully themed and detailed atmosphere to its high-quality food. Disney has once again delivered a dining experience that is completely unique, unlike anything you will find from any other cruise line or aboard any of the other Disney ships. It is dining experiences like Enchanted Garden that keep me coming back to Disney cruises because you know everything is going to be of the highest quality. This attention to detail and theming that is found in Enchanted Garden is carried throughout the rest of the ship and makes cruising on the Disney Dream truly an unforgettable experience.