Disney Springs is the main shopping, dining and entertainment area of Walt Disney World in Orlando. While Disney has featured restaurants from celebrity chefs in the past, they’ve recruited several high-profile names to open locations at Disney Springs over the past decade. Morimoto has a restaurant there, as well as Rick Bayless and Guy Fieri.
When the Wolfgang Puck Cafe and Dining Room, one of the original flagship restaurants, announced it was closing, there was much speculation about what would be replacing it. I was thrilled to hear that the new restaurant would be Jaleo by José Andrés. The fifth outpost of Jaleo was a welcome addition to the area but it took a while to open because the entire outside of the building was demolished and rebuilt. This is now the largest of the Jaleo locations.
The new facade is visually stunning. With the curve of the building, it’s tough to get a good look at the entire place.
Once entering the doors, you can see that they kept some of the design from the old Wolfgang Puck layout, such as the stairs leading to the second floor.
While the inside dining area is beautiful, we opted to dine outside. There’s a large covered back terrace with tables facing the lake. It was a wonderful evening, one of those central Florida nights that’s not too hot and not chilly.
Here’s how the restaurant describes its cuisine:
The menu features an extensive variety of tapas reflecting the rich regional diversity of traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine in addition to a variety of authentic paellas cooked over a wood fire in the restaurant.
To start the evening, we ordered the Sangria de Cava (cava, gin, vermouth, seasonal fruit, citrus)
Then the food started to arrive. We ordered in waves, as tapas lends itself to do. I liked how the staff regularly returned to see if we wanted anything else. I find some supposed tapas places that take your orders and your servers are never seen again until clearing plates and bringing the check.
We started with the Endives with goat cheese, oranges and almonds, which were light and flavorful.
We also ordered the Pan de cristal con tomate (Toasted slices of uniquely crispy and ethereal bread brushed with fresh tomato.)
We then ordered some heavier dishes. The Croquetas de Pollo had the best presentation of the dishes.
To get some more vegetables on the table, we ordered Setas al ajillo (Sautéed button mushrooms in a garlic and white wine sauce.) There was sure plenty of garlic. If you’re ordering, make sure the whole table wants to share 🙂
Then came the meats. I tried the Chorizo casero con puré de patatas al aceite de oliva (House-made traditional chorizo with olive oil mashed potatoes.) It was not too spicy like some chorizo can be.
Sharon ordered the Josper roasted marinated chicken served with a garlic sauce and black garlic purée. It wasn’t the most visually appealing dish but it was delicious.
And finally, we ordered the Carne Asada. This was one of the best plates of the night.
We wanted to check out some of the other places at Disney Springs for dessert, so we settled up our tab. Eating here isn’t cheap. You’re paying the Celebrity Chef upcharge on top of the Disney premium. For dinner and drinks, our bill came to $120 before tip.
Jaleo does give an annual passholder discount of 10%, which is nice. I also found an AMEX offer for $25 back when spending $100 or more. Those discounts brought the price down to what this meal would have cost if we had eaten it at one of the local Orlando restaurants.
Every dish we tried was good. Some, like the Endive salad and Carne Asada, were really great. The service was attentive and timely. It was a solid meal. I do have to say that if I had paid full price, I might have been a bit disappointed. When paying $145 for dinner for two, I should come away feeling it was a great meal. Not just a good meal with some great parts.
I’d be interested to see, if I tried one of the other Jaleo locations, if the experience would be the same, or have they “simplified” the food at Disney to satisfy the masses.
This is the same as I feel about most restaurants at Walt Disney World. They’re good and might be better than what you eat at home but very few of them deliver the quality of meal for what they charge. Fortunately, there’s plenty of ways to find discounts at the non-Disney-owned locations that make them worth a visit.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary