The Wave, Disney Contemporary Resort, Orlando

Right now, I’m with my family at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, and we’re doing the tour of fine-dining spots for our dinners each night. We have a 2-year-old son and don’t normally take him to fine dining restaurants, but at Disney children are welcome at most tables. (Victoria and Albert’s in the Grand Floridian is the exception to this policy, and we’re not hiring a sitter so we can go there on this trip.) We believe this gives him a chance to cut his teeth on some better dining options than the usual sandwich shop we frequent with him, but it also means that we don’t stick around for a thorough dining experience like we might if we were dining a deux.

The Wave is one of the newest restaurants on property, in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Walking into The Wave is like walking down a space tunnel, decorated with curved silver fixtures fitted with blue neon lights. The interior is calming: wave-shaped ceiling panels, pearlescent fixtures, a big wavy sculpted glass wall behind the host stand. We were seated in a booth designed for a much larger party (they asked if it was ok with us), with comfortable light brown banquettes and a warm wooden table. The lighting was dim, almost too dim for me, and I wish the children’s menu wasn’t so saturated with pink color because it made it hard for my son to color on the thing with the crayons he was given.

The menu at The Wave is definitely California-contemporary in focus, and like most of Disney’s fine-dining spots it’s rather limited in scope. I was hoping for more focus on local ingredients, but my friends who cook in Florida tell me that there isn’t much local food to be had. Not a single one of the starters appealed to us–a salad with citrus and avocado, a minestrone-like summer squash soup of the day, lettuce wraps with both lamb and sea scallops (one or the other would have been far more appealing). I ordered the flank steak, capped with creamy guacamole and nestled on a bed of carrots, peppers and onions. I liked the broken vinaigrette scattered around the plate. The steak was properly grilled medium-rare and had a nice wood fire flavor. I also ordered a side of roasted fingerling potatoes, which were bizarrely roasted whole. (Aren’t the cut edges the best part of roasted potatoes?) I did like their flavor–these were great potatoes–but there were no crisp edges, and the browned parts of the skin weren’t really any more flavorful than the rest of the tubers.

My husband selected an outstanding chicken pot pie with a thyme pastry crust. This was a generous portion of chicken (on the bone) with carrots, mushrooms and peas in what seemed like a chicken veloute sauce. I tasted strong bay and thyme flavors in the sauce. A round of puff pastry scented with thyme rested atop the chicken. We really enjoyed this dish and found ourselves dunking the fingerling potatoes into the sauce to get as much of it as possible.

I did enjoy the whole-grain bread we were served before dinner, which included some decent butter sprinkled with crunchy red salt. And my son’s kids-menu pizza was actually capped with real cheese instead of industrial rubbery mozzarella. He got involved pretty seriously with the gelato dessert, which was soft and infused with plenty of vanilla flavor. It came with small dishes of Mickey Mouse sprinkles, chocolate sauce and chocolate chips for building your own sundae. He was so happy by the end of dinner that he fed my husband and I almost as much ice cream as he fed himself. (You know your kid is a budding foodie when he takes so much pleasure from feeding other people…)

From this experience, I’d say The Wave is a decent addition to the options on-property, but it has the potential to be much better. (This has been my experience with most Disney fine dining restaurants, actually. They do a good job, but they aren’t especially likely to blow you away.)

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