On Sunday, August 16, 2009, my husband and I tried out the latest offering of the Walt Disney World restaurant family, Kouzzina by Cat Cora. We had eaten at Spoodles for breakfast on previous visits, and to compare apples to apples, we decided to have a brunch at Kouzzina. This was the second day that the restaurant was open, and we had secured advance dining reservations (ADRs) before we left, however when we got to the Boardwalk from Pop Century that morning, it was well before our ADR time. Seeing no line out the door, we asked if we could change our reservation to a walk-up and were seated immediately.
When the announcement of the transition from Spoodles to Kouzzina by Cat Cora was made, I had written some thoughts in a blog. You can read that original blog here:
How does my experience play out against my predictions?
As I had mentioned, crowds were a little higher than they had been during the Spoodles day (about six tables full), however it was still profoundly empty and easy for a walk-up. This is a great opportunity for people planning to make a mid-day start at either Epcot or the Studios who want a decent sit-down meal no matter what resort you are staying at. Simply take a bus to the Studios and hop the Friendship to the Boardwalk (or, if you’re feeling health-conscious, you can walk the distance). Then, when you are done with breakfast, both parks are easily accessible by Friendship or by walking paths.
Another prediction I made was that prices would go up and portion sizes would go down. Both of these are true, however to varying degrees. The price increase is very modest, more in line with a “cost of living” increase than an actual price hike. The portion sizes, on the other hand, are considerably smaller than they were at Spoodles. For someone like me who doesn’t eat a lot, this was not a problem. For those with hearty appetites, Kouzzina would be a choice for breakfast but not for a brunch intended to hold you until dinner time.
For the breakfast offering, the menu focused strongly on home-cooked-type meals, but not really all that much emphasis on Mediterranean cuisine. The extent of “Mediterranean” flavors was feta in a couple of the dishes and olive toast with another one. Looking at the dinner menu, that seems to be where more of the influence comes in.
That covers all the predictions I made in my blog. Now for the review itself.
We were seated right away even though we were about an hour ahead of our 9:45 reservation time. The lobby is very inviting, with family photographs and casual décor. Our hostess took us to a table on the far side of the restaurant with a view through lace curtains out of the windows of the boardwalk foot traffic.
During the brief time between placing our drink orders and placing our food orders, we found four main impressions. First, the lighting is much brighter than it was for Spoodles. We both liked that and found that it gave the restaurant a very pleasing vibe to it. For the furnishings, we both came to the same thought—the décor reminds us of a plussed Cracker Barrel. It isn’t bad décor, although I was a bit off-put at first by the chairs at the main large tables that had obviously been moved around and were mismatched. My husband didn’t notice it, but for whatever reason, it looked sloppy to me. This may be intentional to give more of a home kitchen feel at the holidays where you go scrounging for chairs everywhere. It just didn’t work for me.
On the other hand, I loved the attire of the servers. They wore black pants with blue chef-style jackets similar to what Cat Cora wears when she is competing on Iron Chef. I thought it was a nice touch. Also, the kitchen has been opened up considerably from the Spoodles day. For those who enjoy watching a live kitchen, even a table on the far side of the restaurant offers a good view.
Our server, Shaun, was an absolute delight. He, like the hostess who seated us, mentioned that this was only their second breakfast serving and hoped that it would be free of bumps. Overall, it was. I’ve had far worse experiences at well-established restaurants. The only items that were negative for me were little nit-picking things (like the chairs).
The flatware at our table was wonderful. I liked it so much I had my husband take a picture of it so that we could try and locate some when we got home. It’s lightweight, but sturdy. I was less pleased with the sugar bowl on the table (the rest of the china was okay). The sugar bowl was filled very full with packets of sweetner, however this made the lid not fully fit on it. As it is a small lid, I forsee many broken or lost lids as time goes by. It was difficult to get the packets out of the sugar bowl because the opening is fairly narrow and has an inside lip. Again, before I’ve had my morning tea, my coordination isn’t the best. Yes, I dropped the lid on the table (and thankfully it didn’t break).
At the recommendation of our server, Shaun, my husband ordered the signature dish at breakfast—the sweet potato and turkey hash with eggs scrambled (they usually come poached) with arugula on top. I ordered the blueberry orange granola pancakes with bacon (in lieu of chicken sausage). My husband ordered coffee and I ordered hot tea.
The coffee was good, and thankfully not Nescafe. My tea selection was wonderful. There was an offering from Twinnings—chamomile, mint, English breakfast (regular and decaf), and green tea.
When the meal came out, it looked wonderful, although a normal breakfast-size portion and not your typical Disney food-size offering. For me, this was a plus. For once, I was able to pretty much finish my meal.
According to my husband, the sweet potato hash had a very good flavor and texture. The turkey was the most seasoned part of the dish, as if it had been brined before roasting. The vegetables (sweet potato, onion, and red bell pepper) were nicely flavored as well. The whole dish was not overly salty like corned beef hash can be. In addition, the arugula salad on the hash was a fantastic addition. It added a nice bite without being fiery like black pepper or hot peppers.
I was also pleased with the blueberry orange granola pancakes with a few caveats. If you are expecting blueberry pancakes, this dish will disappoint. Overall, there were less than a dozen blueberries in each of the two large pancakes. Also, the orange flavor was extremely subtle. If you use all of the syrup provided on your pancakes, you will lose the orange flavor altogether. What I felt made this dish a success was the granola. It added a lot of body and flavor to the pancakes and made them a unique offering with a slightly sweet and nutty taste. I plan to add granola to pancakes at home from this point onward. It was a refreshing surprise.
After dinner, the manager came over to ask us for our opinion, and we gave a favorable review. Ironically, we had been tapped the day before by Disney Research asking our views about breakfast and I had bemoaned the lack of sit-down non-buffet breakfast options. I certainly think that this restaurant is an example of what I feel is lacking at Disney for the breakfast hour—an easy-to-get-into breakfast that isn’t overrun with screaming kids and standard hotel buffet foods. The only issue that I feel may be problematic at other times is that the restaurant is noisy. Even with less than 30 people eating, it was not a quiet meal. If you are looking for quiet at this restaurant, my advice is to eat early. Once more than a handful of people are sitting down and the kitchen is hopping, it will become quite noisy.
So, now that I’ve eaten at Kouzzina by Cat Cora, would I return? Absolutely. The food was reasonably priced (with our Tables in Wonderland discount and a 20% tip, the meal for two came to around $30). Everything was a delight to eat and I would enjoy sampling some of the other options or ordering my dish again, and my husband feels the same. Even on day 2 of their opening, there were no major disasters or glitches to overcome. I feel it was a very successful soft opening and wish the staff of Kouzzina by Cat Cora all the best in their future services.
And, most importantly, here are the pictures:
The new sign (and if you ask any of the servers, the name is Kouzzina by Cat Cora… they don’t leave off the Iron Chef’s name!)
The open kitchen:
The chairs and tables:
Blueberry Orange Granola Pancakes:
Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash:
A Beautiful Day at Kouzzina by Cat Cora:
Review and photos by JulFromMD and ErwinM of various Disney boards.