Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Restaurant Review: Citricos

I figured I'd start my restaurant reviews with my favorite restaurant in Walt Disney World-Citricos. We have eaten at this restaurant many times and really enjoy it.

Since this is my first review, I think I should set myself up with a format or framework to do all of them by. I will review on 5 major points: decor, service, menu selections/approachability, execution/food quality, and value. I will also give it a transportation rating (from 1-being the easiest to 5-being a complete pain in the knickers) based on ease of getting to & from the restaurant. So let's begin.

Brief Description: Citricos cuisine is Mediterranean, drawing it's influences from countries such as Italy, France and Spain. Fresh seafood, oak-fired meats, pasta, risotto and creative desserts can be found on this wonderful menu.

Decor: One of my favorite things about Citricos is it's decor. The colors are warm yellows and oranges with splashes of greens that can be found in the lush carpeting and padded dining chairs. Wrought iron railings and fixtures accent the decor. Floor to ceiling windows give the restaurant an open airy feeling, without being too bright or harsh. Lighting is ample but not overbearing or annoying. Although seating is fairly close, the carpeting, padded seats and drapery really do a great job at keeping noise levels low and making a conversation with your companions possible without having to raise your voice. This is one of my favorite things about Citricos. I am one of those people who will actually get ill if the dining environment is to loud or crazy. Citricos is a completely relaxing place to enjoy your meal.

Service: Like many of the Signature dining restaurants in Walt Disney World, Citricos has a very professional staff. I can honestly say that every time we have dined at Citricos, we have gotten a wonderful server. In fact from one year to the next, we have actually gotten the same server, who actually remembered us. Now, in full disclosure, I work in the restaurant industry and am not only a good tipper, but very interactive with my servers because I'm a nerd and love to talk food & trade. This might have left an impression-or maybe they are just that good. But it does take more than remembering me (and my money) to earn my adoration. I have found that the servers are quite knowledgeable in the menu, including ingredients and how the foods are prepared. They are pros at pacing out the meal, so you never feel rushed. Their wine & spirit knowledge is also extensive. I often ask for wine suggestions to compliment my meal and have always been pleased with the selections suggested. There is one other thing that I have only experienced at Citricos-amuse bouche. No-it's not some craft beer. Amuse bouche translates as "mouth amuser" (told you I was a food nerd) and it is a small bite-sized appetizer sent out by the chef. Now whether the server or the chef prompted these wonderful little tidbits to arrive at my table, I do not know. But I can tell you that this have never happened at any other WDW restaurant and I think it's a nice touch. As soon as you recognize who your diners (not eaters) are and do a little something to acknowledge them and entertain them, you have a fan in me. It's classy, it's fun and most of all it's part of the culture and lets foodies know that you know what you're doing. Overall I have always had a very positive service experience at Citricos.

Menu Selections/ Approachability: This one is tricky. This is a menu that samples in a variety of cuisines, so while you might be polished in your Italian, some French style might have you a bit unsure. But in spite of this, the menu offers something for everyone. Light & tasty vegetarian options, hearty meat dishes, and interesting takes on good old stand-bys like chicken. But I can see where some folks my feel overwhelmed by the menu choices and find it unapproachable. My advise-ask questions. A lot of times people are afraid to ask for an explanation of a dish, for fear of looking unsophisticated, when in a fancy restaurant. Don't be. You are giving them your hard earned money and in return it is their job to make sure you leave happy. People also fear it will insult the chef, and while I have known my share of uppity chefs who stroke out if you ask for a salt shaker, again-your money and they are working for it. Of course be polite & reasonable always, but if modifying a dish means you'll be willing to try it-please do so. So if preserved lemons sounds like something that you might want to request on the side-do so. Not sure what a gremoloda is-ask. You might find that you don't know how you ever lived without preserved tomatoes and dropping the word gremoloda to your friends like a Food network host. Incidentally a gremoloda is a garnish in Italian cooking made of lemon zest, parsley, garlic and olive oil. ;)

Execution/ Food Quality: *(So as not to make this the War & Peace version of a restaurant review, I will do mini reviews on individual dishes at a later time and give an overall review of the food & execution here.)
Here is where I feel Citricos really shines. It's not just about what they choose to put together-it's how they do it. I am a big fan of anyone who has mastered a variety of cooking skills. Anyone can apply heat to food and call themselves a cook, but to execute a cooking style and do it well-THAT is what separates the pros from the amateurs. The chefs execute a variety of complex cooking styles and manage to do it all in a timely manner and very well. They are consistent and the food is always prepared to perfection. Fresh ingredients are the rule and it shows. Nothing tastes of prepackaging or having been sitting around waiting (hoping) for you to order it. Dishes arrive at the table a picture of perfection. Plated and garnished perfectly, your eyes are fed first and your mouth can't wait for it's turn. The flavors range from simple & delicious to complex & heavenly. The chefs are Citricos are true professionals in every sense of the word and I highly recommend you allow them to cook for you during your next visit to Walt Disney World.

Value: With an average appetizer price of $12, entree price of $35 and average dessert price of $8, Citricos is not a cheap date. But in my opinion, it is worth it. Like all upscale dining restaurants, Citricos goes for quality over quantity. Do not expect to get gobs of food-the emphasis is on pleasing your palette not stuffing you like a holiday turkey. The portions are not overabundant, but they are not miniscule either, and if you are having a 3 course meal-they are perfectly portioned. In the end if you are someone who appreciates the experience of dining & can see the value in fresh food prepared to perfection, Citricos is a wonderful choice.

Finally I give Citricos a transportation/ease rating of 2. Although there isn't a direct resort-to-resort means of transportation, you can easily get to Citricos by taking your resort bus to Magic Kingdom and the either taking the monorail or a Friendship boat to the Grand Floridian. We are big fans of the Friendship boats, we find them relaxing and actually enjoy the ride, especially after a nice meal. The return is just as easy. Take the monorail or Friendship boat to Magic Kingdom & a return bus back to your resort from Magic.

My final word on Citricos is that it really is a great restaurant and definitely worth making a reservation to try. It's combination of warm decor, excellent service & most of all, outstanding food makes it a wonderful addition to your vacation.

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