There is a special population
obsessed enamored with all things Disney, and a completely unrelated group that wants to be a part of all things exclusive. Rarely do these two collide, except when discussing a certain door adjacent to the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square, its only marker being their address, the buzzer behind a discreet panel your only way in. Happiest place on Earth? Try toughest reservation.
You know the drill: Club 33. Only place in Disneyland proper that serves alcohol. Even if they had the space for you, it first requires a membership (which we didn't have), or a Six-Degrees-of-Someone-Who-Does to enter (we did). Inquiring about their wait list isn't even an option anymore, as there are more than enough deep pockets ready to jump at a spot in Club 33's limited membership to last years.
A certain allure is associated with this place. That bourgeois air carries guests throughout the night, explaining why you might see inexplicably high-heeled or well-suited tourists wandering Main Street. If you think this is for old stogies, guess again. The young lady awaiting her coat just got engaged, a gaggle of 20-something girls in their curvy outfits all struck a pose next to the tree, and our celebratory party of four opted to hitch a ride up the old-fashioned lift. There's no mistaking it: this is a self-contained ode to Dickensian sophistication.
Once seated, we come to the realization of something bad: it's an $80 minimum to eat here. Not that we were expecting to spend a lot less; we've been fortunate enough to know people (who know people), and most of our forays have been a very pricey, yet unlimited Sunday brunch. Being our second visit for dinner, maybe we forgot all about this prerequisite? Either way, it was like elementary school book reports–when you're forced to do something, it's never as much fun. Granted, the good in all this was our one-day, park-hopper pass included with our reservation (on a day that was otherwise a blackout for us). So we all sucked it up and scanned the selections, fifth-grade addition mentally kicking in. Coincidentally, their multi-course Vintner menu was strategically priced $10 above their great expectations, so our table goes with that.
They decide to amuse us with a golden morsel of savory goodness enveloped in phyllo dough. Included was a carefully scripted spiel of exactly why our server was starting us with a single bite, which I guess to first-timers is good. When I inquire about the individual components, a different server visits, describing our combination of goat cheese, apricot and Maui onion……with an identical spiel of the history behind amuse bouches. Ok, we GET it. I quietly hope the rest of our meal isn't narrated with such
brainwashing precision (Hey, I worked the Disneyland College Program. I know the drill.).
Course one is a fontina fondue soup. Thick for a spoon, but weird for a fork. We dig in, and it's super cheesy, figuratively and literally, with fava beans, roasted fingerlings, and cauliflower. It was neither good nor bad; something Liz Lemon would whip up on Valentine's Day. I had the urge to dip some walnut bread and try scooping it up, but resisted.
Next on the agenda was contessa shrimp cake.
On the outside, it resembled a Loft chicken katsu entree. Beyond the crunch, it could pass for a super dense
surimi Japanese fish cake. Not altogether bad, but we expected more from our 'minimum' priced meal. If not for the Swiss chard and mushroom veloute, I probably would've requested a side of white rice.
Round three is where it goes downhill. I am partially to blame, as any course was interchangeable with the rest of the menu, so naturally I decide to swap the pre-selected meal for muscovy duck. Really bad idea. The roasted bird was so dry, it was maybe the third time I've ever spat out food. Then I proceeded to shovel butternut squash, but the damage was done. I'm no expert on Donald, but it was as tasteless as my yoga mat. To have such a negative entree at a place with exceptionally high standards was deflating.
Not just because I was rebounding with winter ale braised buffalo short rib, but pretty much anything at that point was going to salvage my meal; it just helped that the buffalo was that good. Hearty and succulent, I made it through half before realizing it was time for cheese. Again. A trio of Camembert, Midnight Moon goat (on fig balsamic), and Saga blue soothed us. After rotating between the bunch, we realized the Camembert quickly lost its flavor, while Midnight pleasantly lingered on our taste buds.
I dare substitute our dessert for a French toast cake. Like having brekkie for dinner, the syrupy sweet bread was a delight. Ignoring the melty a la mode and fruit topping, it disappeared before they could ask how it was. Our dimly lit dining room was a challenge, but the staff had no problem with me seeking a better light source ; in fact, they scouted out a couple of spots. It just meant my food was a minute or two closer to room temp than the rest.
Shopping consists of a single display case with merchandise found only within the confines of the club (eBay!). The selection changes, evolving with the times and seasons. For example, one year they had polo shirts, keychains and lapel pins imprinted with the '33' logo. For the holidays, ornaments, special mouse ears, and champagne flutes adorned the shelves. Items are about double what a non-branded would run. Glasses: $30 a pop. A limited edition holiday pin: $20. Passholder discounts don't exist here *sigh*.
As we retrace our steps back to Main, it is scarce with guests at the midnight hour. We exit right before the closing spiel. Tonight, we learned to stick with brunch and remember the full bar. Oh, and while you can certainly hear Fantasmic all around you, unobstructed balcony views do not exist. Why the hell not?