Artist Point, Disney Wilderness Lodge, Orlando

Artist Point is one of those restaurants I’ve almost visited many times, but never actually been to for a meal. I’m sure I canceled and booked something else on Disney property once and possibly twice before. I was a bit ambivalent when I showed up tonight. The prices can be steep–the cedar plank roasted king salmon entree was about $42, a price I consider somewhat acceptable in NYC but not so much in Florida. And the Wilderness Lodge, where the restaurant is located, is not the most scintillating setting for this pricey restaurant. Its decor recalls a hunting lodge in the National Parks of the Pacific Northwest, and that lashed-together-timbers effect carries over into the dining room.

Well, Artist Point didn’t exceed my expectations by much, but at least I left feeling I hadn’t been roasted on a cedar plank myself. The duck confit starter rang pretty much every bell on my list: the world’s best preparation of duck accompanied by pears, a cherry compote, a salad of frisee and mache, and a few wisps of duck proscuitto. Usually my husband and I order different appetizers so we can share and sample, but we were both so wedded to the duck that neither of us was willing to give up more than a single bite. So I ordered it as a starter, and my husband ordered a double portion as his entree. (A single portion was $12 and included one full leg of confit on the bone, crisped perfectly. I think $24 for two legs of this confit is one of the better deals on the Artist Point menu.)

My husband’s venison spring rolls were all right but not especially exciting to me. The use of venison instead of shrimp or pork is novel, but it’s not the best showcase of a venison flavor. I did like the lacy skin of the roll, which crunched nicely when I bit into it. A dipping sauce that tasted of apricot and mustard neither enhanced nor detracted from the rolls. I liked the pickly tangle of carrots, cabbage and red onion that served as a bed underneath the spring rolls.

For my entree, I ordered the only vegetarian entree on the menu (and the cheapest at $20): potato-chive potstickers on a bed of edamame, spinach and hijiki with a soy vinaigrette. This was an interesting meld of Asian and Eastern European foods, with a creamy potato filling encased by a potsticker wrapper and deep-fried. I liked the huge pile of greens in the center of the plate, but I got tired of the flavors and only managed to finish off about half the vegetables. (And I normally have a second stomach for good vegetables.) Two lotus chips provided textural contrast, and a few flecks of spicy red pepper provided some much-needed sparkle to the melange.

The service was pretty good, with our server talking with us often about the duck since we obviously were so enthusiastic about the dish.

The restaurant was only about 20% full when we left (around 6:30pm). I can’t help but wonder if it’s the pricing, the location or something else keeping people away. I thought the food was pretty good, but I definitely limited myself in what I ordered because the price range for entrees was so great. It’s not a bad choice, but you can do much better on property–I don’t think Artist Point is worth a special detour unless you really, really love the atmosphere and ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. (And if you do, I can’t help but wonder if you shouldn’t get your butt there pronto–because this was the only place we visited that wasn’t mostly or completely full, and I can’t imagine Disney will prop up an underperforming restaurant like this forever.)

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