Trip Report: Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

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Napa Rose is Disneyland Resort’s “fancy” restaurant. It’s fancy because the food portions are small, which in my mind is a sign that a place is fancy. Luckily, the food is spectacular overall, but I’ll get in to that later. TChef’s Counter isn’t cheap: the current price is $100 per a person. That price may scare most people away, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it’s completely worth it. I’ve done the Chef’s Counter twice now, and I’m not exaggerating when I say both times have been the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. $100 gets you a six course meal that is tailored to your tastes.

DSC04344This was our view for the night. We were located at the dessert section of the kitchen, which gave us a direct view of the dessert chefs at work. I quickly bonded with chef Janae after I explained to her that I love desserts and view regular food as a hurdle I must get past to obtain them. Anyway, there are two Chef’s Counter times each night, 5:30 PM and 8:30 PM. We opted for the 5:30 service because we knew from experience that the entire dinner would take over 2 and a half hours. The service started with sous chef Gloria explaining how the Chef’s Counter works and asking for our likes and dislikes. This is one of my favorite things about Chef’s Counter: if you don’t like something they will do their best to tailor the food to your taste. I told chef Gloria that I hated eggplants, and luckily there are none on the menu. For the rest of the meal she would check back with us randomly to see how things were going.

DSC04350Even though we were in the dessert section of the kitchen, we still had a good view of the other chefs at work. It’s fascinating watching a busy kitchen at work: everything is fast paced but orderly, like controlled chaos. The first thing that hit me when sitting at the Chef’s Counter was the incredible smell emanating from the kitchen. That’s a detail I don’t notice when sitting in the regular seating area.

 

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To start things off each member of our party was given these little pieces of bacon. This was the only part of the meal where we all received the same item. Each of the remaining courses featured a different dish. I should also mention that each guest is given three menu choices at the Chef’s Counter. You can order any items off the regular menu (but why would you do that?), “The Vintner’s Table” which the menu describes as “A Chef’s Four Course Tasting Menu Inspired by the Flavors of Season in the Wine Country.” Or you can go for the full Chef’s Counter experience and order the “Tasting Menu” and be at the whim of the chefs. Even if you’re not an adventurous eater, the Tasting Menu is the way to go.

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For an appetizer I received the the Smiling Tiger Salad (Tempura Fried Lobster, Spicy Beef, Asian Greens and Coconut-Lime Vinaigrette), which is an appetizer on the main Napa Rose menu. I really lucked out here because lobster is one of my favorite food items on the planet. Don’t be fooled by that salad sitting on the left. There’s a small pile of delicious spicy beef under there.

DSC04343My wife’s appetizer was this plate of sushi, and that brings me to my tip of the day. If you’re a theme park blogger who is planning on writing a blog post about your Chef’s Counter experience, be sure to bring a pen and paper so you can write down the names of these dishes, because you will forget. I’m sure that tip is useful information that you will use in your day-to-day lives. Anyway, this dish was very good, especially the spicy tuna on the far right.

DSC043492Up next I got the trout (pictures on the left), which was great; it tasted good and was perfectly seasoned. But my wife got one of Napa Rose’s excellent Pan Roasted Diver Scallops. I’m not going to lie: I was a bit jealous of her as those scallops are painfully good. That cream underneath it is lobster sauce. Thankfully my wife traded me a bite of trout for a bite of scallop. Jealousy is one thing you need to prepare yourself for when you visit Napa Rose. The food item you get is going to be good, but someone else’s may be even better.

DSC04354At this point of the meal we had received several excellent appetizers, but now it was time to get in to the main courses. This bad boy right here is the Wine Country Pheasant Meat Loaf (Warm Chanterelle Mushrooms, Bacon Salad and Persimmons), and it was insanely good. It was full of flavor and had an intoxicating smell. I didn’t know I was a fan of pheasants until I ate this.

DSC04353My wife got “Maple Leaf Farms Breast of Duck,” which was also very good. Duck is one of those foods that is very exotic to me, like maybe it’s something that rich people would eat regularly. When eating this dish you’ll have to force yourself to forget that one of Disney’s biggest stars is Donald Duck and that there are hundreds of adorable ducks that inhabit Disneyland.

DSC04364My main course was “Grilled Eye of the Rib Eye and Cabernet Braised Top Cap,” and it blew me away. The meat was so tender that I took one bite and looked up to the heavens and closed my eyes so just soak up the moment. It’s one of those rare times where the food is so good that I stopped and whispered to myself, “Yessss.”

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My wife received the beef dish on the left, a “Grilled Prime New York Steak with Sweet Onion Carbonara and English Peas,” while my friend Tom got the “Herb Roasted Colorado Lamb Chop” on the right. I tried some of my wife’s dish and thought it wasn’t as flavorful or tender as the rib eye that I got, but it was still good. Tom loved his lamb chop, and we had to stop him from eating it off of the bone like a savage. Okay, he didn’t really do that, but he did say it was excellent.

DSC04370After about 2 hours of eating the fantastic entrees and appetizers it was finally time for dessert. Chef Janae and I had been chatting throughout the meal, and she really came through in the end with some perfect desserts for me. The two items on the left are “Peanut Butter Croquantine,” which consists of silky smooth peanut butter and chocolate ganache. I could have eaten a dozen of those, they were so good. The Peanut Butter Croquantine was fantastic, but the knockout punch was the item on the right. I had told the chef that my favorite dessert was a simple brownie with ice cream on top, so she busts out this brownie sundae topped with sea salt caramel ice cream (made in-house). It was phenomenal and a perfect way to end the meal.

DSC04373For her dessert my wife received the “Scharffen Berger Chocolate Pate.” This was perfect for her because she loves chocolate. The included Creme Anglaise sauce made this dish extra good.

DSC04372One more look at my dessert plate. Wow. Anyway, Napa Rose’s Chef’s Counter is an expensive but worthwhile premium dining experience. The staff, service, and food at Napa Rose are all top notch. Napa Rose is also a good place to go if you and your party are looking to try something a bit different. Disney and its chefs do a good job at keeping this restaurant’s menu different, but not too exotic, so I don’t think most people will not have to worry about being afraid to try the dishes. I recommend you call ahead at least 6 weeks in advance to make a reservation (Disney does not take Chef’s Counter reservations on its website). There’s no formal dress code, but you will undoubtedly see people dressed in suits or nice dresses, especially if you go on Friday and Saturday nights. But if you are in vacation mode you won’t feel out of place as there are usually multiple families dining in typical vacation attire like t-shirts and shorts.

Have you ever been to the Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below.

Guy Selga Jr.

Hi, I'm Guy Selga. Researcher and blogger for TouringPlans.com. Disneyland local and appreciator of Disney theme park history. I proudly represent TouringPlans on the west coast. Twitter: @guyselga

13 thoughts on “Trip Report: Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

  • April 20, 2015 at 7:27 am
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    I must do this!

    Couple of questions: 1)How much interaction did you have with the staff as they worked? and 2) $100 did not include wine pairings, did it?

    Looks like a fantastic birthday…

    Reply
    • April 20, 2015 at 1:28 pm
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      We had a good amount of interaction especially with the two dessert chefs. At one point we saw them making a dessert dish with some kind of gelatin and asked about it because it looked unusual. They told us all about it and were very friendly. Other than that multiple other chefs would come by every once in a while and chat with us for a bit. On top of all that the wait staff is excellent and very friendly. The wine pairing is an extra $90.

      Reply
  • April 20, 2015 at 9:56 am
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    I posted this comment on Facebook as well, but this is a good review of one of our favorite restaurants, not just at Disneyland, but anywhere. Although I have to say I started reading with a chip on my shoulder, because of the up-front “fancy because the portions are small” comment. The portions at Napa Rose and other fine-dining restaurants aren’t small; portions at lesser restaurants are too big. Quantity over quality works fine for places like the Olive Garden, but if I’m paying over $100 for a multi-course meal, I want to be able to eat and enjoy every course. I don’t want to feel stuffed halfway through, and I don’t want to feel compelled to leave food on the plate to “save room for dessert.” Places like Napa Rose know how much food make an appropriate portion in the context of the entire meal; it’s everyone else that overdoes it.

    Stepping off the soapbox, we love Napa Rose for its sophisticated menu, the quality of the food, and the service. The servers and kitchen staff are very professional and attentive while still being down to earth and approachable. And because the Grand Californian has Storytellers for families who may not feel that Napa Rose’s prices or sophisticated menu or more subdued atmosphere are a good fit with feeding a larger number of people, including youngsters who may not appreciate most of the menu items and would rather make their own pizzas and a little more noise. Consequently, even when we haven’t eaten at the Chef’s Counter, we haven’t felt like we’re eating in a theme park restaurant.

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    • April 20, 2015 at 1:33 pm
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      It’s hard for me to convey the tone in writing but I meant that in a tongue-in-cheek way. I’m a simple man so Napa Rose is about as fancy as it gets to me, even though it’s probably not fancy to anyone else 🙂

      Reply
  • April 20, 2015 at 11:54 am
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    I’m happy to see such a positive review of Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose. My wife considers our March dinner there to be the best meal of her life!

    Scott,
    You will find that the staff interacts with you as much as or as little as you like. We asked about a cooking technique we had never seen and were treated to a full explanation that allows us to copy the technique at our own home kitchen. The couple dining next to us asked questions about several dishes and got all four of us tastes! The wine pairing costs $45 per person and included 5 different wines apiece chosen based on our stated preferences before the meal and comments about the wines and pairing during the meal. Not only were the wines selected spot on, but they were a better deal than if we had ordered the wines individually!

    Reply
  • April 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm
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    I am so glad you decided to indulge for your birthday, Guy. The Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose is something I’ve been fortunate enough to experience multiple times. It has become more of an emotional experience for us and in fact is where my husband proposed to me. Many of the chefs and wonderful wait staff remember us each time we visit.

    Nice review…. and now I am sad that my next trip isn’t until November.

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    • April 20, 2015 at 1:24 pm
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      Thanks! That is so cool that your husband proposed there. The chefs and staff at Napa Rose are really amazing.

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  • April 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm
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    I saw that I could make reservations for Napa Rose on Disneyland’s website, but I didn’t see anywhere to request the chef’s counter. Is it better just to call to make a reservation?

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    • April 20, 2015 at 3:34 pm
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      You have to call Napa Rose directly to be seated at the chef’s counter. Their number is 714-300-7170.

      Reply
  • April 21, 2015 at 3:20 pm
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    been there 3 times. 2 in 2012 and once last year. amazing all three times with different foods each time. plan on going back this year 2x. :p

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  • April 22, 2015 at 10:47 am
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    Last year my husband and I ate at the Napa Rose Chef’s Counter with our 14 year old daughter. I was worried that it would be money wasted with her, as she’s a picky eater who rarely eats much at any one time. The food was so good that she ate everything of every course! It was the highlight of our 5 days at Disneyland.

    Reply
  • April 30, 2015 at 9:43 pm
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    Thank you for a great review and pictures. The Chef’s Counter was one of my favorite meals. Whenever I sit in the regular dining room, I look at the people enjoying the counter longingly.

    Reply

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