The country pavilions have traditionally had the best theme-park food, serving authentic samplings of their national dishes. Canada?s Le Cellier has always been the least among the World Showcase restaurants -- at least among the full-service restaurants. We won?t even get into the American Experience and the fast food counter that is supposed to represent our cultural cuisine; that?s an embarrassment all its own.
SCTV show would say, "a real hoser."
It didn?t help that the restaurant was dismally dark and dank. Sure, the name means The Basement, but does it have to be so . . . sub-level? Couldn?t they make it like a rumpus room?
Then someone had a brilliant idea. He or she realized that the one thing missing from the theme parks -- all of the local theme parks -- was an inside-the-park steakhouse. And beef is as much a part of the Canadian diet as it is of the American diet.
And so, as they would say in Quebec, voila. Welcome to Le Cellier Steakhouse. Canada is finally serving good food and a cuisine that is worthy of national pride.
Unfortunately the interior hasn?t changed a whit, which still detracts from the dining experience, but at least you can get a decent steak.
A T-bone ($18) was the decent steak I had. It was grilled to the specified medium-rare and was tender and tasty. I ordered some peppercorn sauce ($2) on the side. It came in a little slipper of a gravy boat and was saltier than it was peppery. Two bucks is a lot for a sauce on the side. Twenty-five cents would have been too much for this one.
My dining companion had the maple-glazed salmon ($15.45), a baked fillet with a sweet coating. The fish was fresh-tasting, and the maple complemented the flavor nicely.
During a lunch visit I had the chopped steak burger ($9.50), a thick and juicy patty cooked to order and served with thick-cut fries. I had the burger topped with Cheddar cheese and a slice of Canadian bacon, which brought the cost to $9.95, a rather hefty sum for a burger.
My guest had the penne pasta Vancouver ($8.50), a ludicrous attempt to Canadianize an Italian dish. It featured mushrooms and onions tossed with pesto sauce. Just screams British Columbia, doesn?t it? Flavors were OK, especially when served with sliced chicken breast ($11.50). The chicken meat made it a more substantial entree.
Appetizers are minimal. There is a Nova Scotia smoked salmon ($7.50), an ample portion of thinly sliced fish served on a salad of wild greens.
Besides a boring shrimp cocktail, the only other first courses include salads and the Canadian Cheddar cheese soup ($2.95), which the servers proudly tell diners has been on the menu since the Canada pavilion first opened. (Most don?t realize that isn?t something to celebrate.) The soup was thick and had chunks of smoked bacon and a touch of ale. A bit heavy for hot summer days.
For dessert the chocolate OEOEmoose?? ($3.50) was my favorite. It featured a sweet vanilla cookie in the shape of a maple leaf with three small scoops of chocolate mousse in the center. The plate was drizzled with raspberry sauce. I was breaking off bits of the cookie to scoop up the rich mousse. Much better than the apple bread pudding ($3.75).
Beverages include Canadian beers and a small list of wines from Inniskillin, a Niagra-area winery.
As with the other pavilions, the restaurant is staffed by workers from the host country. As with other Disney restaurants, the servers are eager and efficient.
The catacomb interior remains the main drawback here, but at least park-goers now have another choice for Epcot dining. And steak-lovers finally have a place all their own