Citricos, one of Disney World’s signature restaurants, specializes in a fusion of Mediterranean and French cooking with a Floridian touch. Think braised short ribs with creamy polenta in a blood orange demi-glace or a a cheese trio that includes a fresh lemon ricotta from Central Florida. The food is inventive, but accessible, so even picky eaters are sure to find something on the menu. Recently, we’ve heard a lot of good reviews about Citricos, so my husband and I decided to go there for our anniversary.
Citricos, which means citrus in Spanish, located on the second floor of the Grand Floridian. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation, which was at 6:00, and were seating within a few minutes. Keep in mind this was during a slower time of the year; if you’re going during a busier season, consider showing up earlier than we did. The dining room is large but warm, decorated with shades of brown, yellow and cream and accented in bright blue. You may recognize some similarities to the décor of the California Grill and Flying Fish, as they were both designed by the same designer. In keeping with the Mediterranean theme, there are wrought iron accents and mosaic tile floors. It’s very pretty room with comfortable chairs, a view into the kitchen, and large windows that overlook one of the resort’s pools.
I’m picky about bread and I’ve had some pretty sad excuses for bread in restaurants. In fact, I feel like good bread can really set the feeling for the entire meal. Fortunately, this bread was really good. We were served two types: An kalamata olive bread and a multigrain bread. It came with a dish of butter covered in sea salt which gave the butter a nice flavor a bit of crunch. I could have easily made a meal out of the bread alone, it was that good.
For appetizers, my husband ordered the crab cake and I had the Arancini Crispy Risotto, which are fried balls of rice studded with sausage. It’s served on a bed of fresh greens dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and drizzled with a bit of white truffle aioli. I generally don’t care for crab, but I tried my husband’s crab cake and it was really extraordinary. The meat was slightly sweet and clearly fresh; it had none of the usual fishy taste that crab often has. It was fairly large and covered in an orange fennel cream sauce. My arancini was good as well, although it would have benefited from more aioli. I especially enjoyed the dressing on the salad greens, which I could tell was made with a very good balsamic vinegar, just sweet enough with a bit of a sour bite to it. That attention to detail in something that is really secondary to the main portion of the dish shows, to me, that the kitchen knows what they’re doing.
If we’d stopped at the wonderful bread and appetizers, this would be my favorite dining experience at Disney World, hands down. For our entrées, I ordered the braised short ribs and my husband had the filet Sicilian. The short ribs are advertised as fork tender, and indeed, they are very much so. Unfortunately they’re covered in a blood orange demi-glace that was so overpowering that after the first couple of bites, so I couldn’t really taste the meat. Conversely, the polenta was fairly bland. Overall, the presentation was pretty but the food itself wasn’t up to the price or the skills of the kitchen, which is generally regarded as one of the best on property.
In the case of the filet, I think the chef got a little carried away with the smoke flavoring. It was overpowering in the same way that the blood orange flavor was on the short ribs: You could not taste the meat. The meat was cooked perfectly though and very tender. The potatoes that came with the filet were good and we enjoyed those.
Finally, for dessert I had the warn chocolate cake and my husband ordered the spice cake, which spice was nearly perfect and probably the more difficult dessert to make as far as technique is concerned, but not something I would have chosen when there’s chocolate on the menu. The warm chocolate cake was excellent and presented with a pretty chocolate sculpture. The chocolate is very bittersweet and is served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you like your chocolate on the sweeter side, ask for an extra scoop to cut the dark chocolate taste.
Now, since it’s Disney World you’re probably wondering how children would do here. I generally don’t bring my kids to signature restaurants, but that’s primarily because they’re still really young and just aren’t ready for it yet. For older kids or younger kids who are used to eating in nicer restaurants, I think it would be fine, especially if they aren’t picky eaters. Unfortunately, they might also be bored as it’s a very quiet atmosphere as opposed to a place like California Grill, which has a view and a lot of energy. The night we were there, there was one child in the entire place. She was right next to us, about four-years old, and we barely noticed her she was so well-behaved except to admire the elaborate sundae she had for dessert.
I haven’t mentioned our server yet because I’m saving the best for last. Most servers in Walt Disney World are excellent. In fact, we often find ourselves talking after dinner about how good they are, so I expected good service. Our waiter that night went beyond what I would normally expect. He clearly had years of experience under his belt, so he knew when to be attentive and when to leave us alone,which is often a difficult line for a server to know how to straddle. I noticed that he was that way with the tables around us as well. He explained all the food with a little bit of humor that was just right. Whatever they’re paying him, it’s not enough. He was literally one of the best waiters I’ve ever had, anywhere, and he made up for our disappointing entrees.
Despite some missteps with the entrees, I would return to Citricos; I’m hoping this was just the type of off night that every restaurant has now and then. The appetizers and the desserts show what this restaurant can do, and it’s better than the disappointing entrees we had that night. Here’s hoping that on our next visit, they’ll live up to their full potential.
If you’re on the dining plan, Citricos costs two table-service credits and does not include appetizer or gratuity. Reservations are generally easier to get than the California Grill or Narcoossee’s, two other signature restaurants on the Magic Kingdom monorail. During slower times of the year, you should be able to get a reservation at one to two months out. To see current menus for Citricos and other Disney restaurants, we love AllEars.net and WDWInfo.