Carthay Circle is a table-service restaurant in Disney California Adventure. Acting as the park’s icon, Carthay Circle Restaurant is on Buena Vista Street right near California Adventure’s entrance. This restaurant is the park’s fanciest restaurant and, while there’s no dress code (aside from having to wear clothes), Carthay Circle does feel more upscale than most theme park restaurants. My wife and I spent an evening here recently (Fall 2015) and this review will cover that experience.
There’s something alluring about being inside a park icon. Eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table or riding Spaceship Earth is just a little more special because of where you are, regardless of the quality. The same was true for Carthay Circle. Once we stepped inside, there was no denying that there was a little something extra to the environment. Sure, the excellent theming helps.
As you enter Carthay Circle, there’s a beautiful lounge area in the lobby. Almost as if you’d stepped back in time to the 1930’s, Carthay Circle is filled with nostalgic colors that remind guests of that time period. But, those colors are subtle and they aren’t overbearing. The chandeliers throughout the restaurant are elegant and beautiful. The downstairs lounge has a bar area and also has tables stretched around the room for more seating options.
The upstairs area is the actual restaurant. Either entering from the stairs or an elevator, guests find themselves in a hallway that is adorned with photos of Walt Disney and the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (which was shown at Carthay Circle Theatre in 1937). After the leaving the hallway, there is a main dining room and then 4 smaller dining rooms (a few of which are private, having only one table in it). We were in the main dining room and that was just beautiful. The chandeliers were gorgeous, as was the mural painted above them. There were flowers throughout the room, making it feel lively. While I’ll get to the food, Carthay Circle absolutely nails the environment aspect of the restaurant.
We sat down and quickly surveyed the menu. Carthay Circle is run by the same chef as the beloved Napa Rose, Andrew Sutton. The menu’s had similarities, as they featured fresh, Southern California fare. We were brought fresh bread and butter to start. The sourdough bread is baked daily at the Boudin Bakery and brought over to serve here. It was delicious.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Carthay Signature Fried Biscuits. These biscuits were filled with white cheddar, bacon and jalapeños and served with an apricot honey jam. They were freshly baked and a wonderful dish. The cheese was the overriding taste when biting into the biscuit. The jalapeños added some flavor but did not make them spicy and the bacon wasn’t as evident but did make for a great surprise whenever we got a mouthful. I’d heard great reviews of the biscuits before coming to eat here and they were absolutely true. While a little heavy for an appetizer, they were probably the best item I tasted that night.
After the biscuits came our entrée. Melissa ordered the Parmigiano Reggiano Gnocchi. She liked the thick pasta and the cheese that is served on it. The fresh vegetables were sautéed nicely and the dish was, overall, very good.
I ordered the Skuna Bay Salmon, which was light and delicious. The sesame seeds on top and the black rice below gave the dish a nice texture. There was also a red curry sauce on the dish that gave the dish some extra flavor. The sauce wasn’t spicy but did make the salmon feel even more fresh. I would highly recommend the salmon.
Carthay Circle, like Napa Rose, does change their menu out seasonally so be sure to check out what is currently listed.
No meal is complete without dessert so we ordered the lemon cake with ice cream. I’m sure it had a fancier name than that but I can’t recall. The ice cream was homemade and surprisingly light. The cake had a great flavor, as well. My favorite part of the dish though is that sauce underneath the cake. Just a little tart, the sauce added an extra flavor to the dish that was missing without it.
While Carthay Circle is no Napa Rose, it is one of the better restaurants I’ve tried inside a theme park. The theming is top-notch and the food isn’t far behind. The prices are quite high but you’re paying for the experience as well as the food. I do like that the menu changes regularly and would be interested in trying a few other dishes. Still, there are enough diverse options for everyone in your family to find something that appeals to them. If you’re a Disney nut, seeing the memorabilia that’s inside is worth the price alone. I would highly recommend this place if you want an upscale dining experience but want to stay inside the theme park. Carthay Circle knocks its counterpart, the Blue Bayou in Disneyland, out of the ring but doesn’t quite measure up to Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel.
Overall Rating – 9/10