Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom has reopened, and there are some significant changes. First, due to COVID precautions, the restaurant now serves menu options instead of a buffet meal. Also, at present, characters are not doing meet and greets or even socially distanced greetings.
The meal starts with appetizers of a seasonal salad (tomato and watermelon with blue cheese, candied walnuts, and a hot pepper jelly vinaigrette) and cheddar and bacon biscuits with honey butter, caramelized onion butter, and hot pepper jelly.
The surprise hit was the salad. It sounds like there’s a lot going on in there, but as long as you like the items individually, they go great together. Watermelon and blue cheese are surprisingly good together.
The two adult entrees ordered were the Crispy Fried Chicken (served with Honey pot Drizzle, Macaroni and Cheese and Collard Greens) and the plant-based option, Southern Fried Cauliflower (Hot Maple Drizzle, Roasted Potatoes, and Collard Greens). From the kids’ menu, our junior reviewer got the prime rib with fruit and green beans.
The pictures largely speak for themselves. The fried chicken was bland and greasy, and the mac and cheese had little flavor (which, ironically, made it perfect for our junior reviewer who found the prime rib to be overcooked, dry, and tough). Out of all the dishes, the cauliflower had the best flavor, but the presentation was a bit rough. I sincerely hope that we can chalk up the overcooked prime rib and the sub-par fried chicken to opening-day jitters.
The desserts were certainly eye-catching, but there are two primary problems. First, everything has very distinctive flavors, so if there’s an item there (say, you don’t like banana), then you’ll end up skipping 1/4 or more of the desserts. Second, and my larger problem with it, is that I don’t mind family style desserts when it is a large skillet of something to share — like a skillet of ooey gooey toffee cake from Liberty Tree Tavern where everyone serves themselves onto individual plates. But each of these desserts feels like a “single serving”, so dividing them among everyone at your table feels a bit awkward unless you’re really good friends with your dining companions. Although pretty, the Hummingbird Cake was painfully sweet. The cupcake was a decent enough vanilla cupcake with an odd honey-caramel filling and an over-the-top amount of raspberry mousse on top. The other desserts were good, if you liked the flavors, but nothing exceptional.
The price for the meal is $39 for adults and $23 for kids. Sadly, the experience this weekend made it feel like a poor value, and the food just wasn’t up to Disney standards. However, there is something we do want to mention.
Reopening a restaurant with a new menu is incredibly difficult for the kitchen staff and servers alike, and switching the format of a restaurant can be very challenging. Naturally, opening weekend was expected to have a few bumps. The cast members were wonderful, and you could tell that it was a challenging first day.
At this point, until Crystal Palace finds its new groove in these interesting times, we would suggest skipping this for a meal and going to Liberty Tree Tavern (if your focus is on food) or Cinderella’s Royal Table (if seeing characters is a must). We’ll be back to give this restaurant another review once they’ve worked out some of the hiccups and will let you know how that goes. We have faith that they can work through the challenges and make this once again a wonderful place to eat.