If you’re a foodie like me, you’re always looking for the next hidden gem, a refreshing take on basic ingredients, or a unique dining experience. Wrap all of that up with world-class Disney service and you’ll find yourself in an exclusive seat at the Napa Rose Chef’s Counter. Never heard of it? Well, that may be because you have to make a little extra effort to score a reservation.
First, reservations cannot be made online. The official resort website barely touches on the existence of this experience. If you’re not a local—or prefer picking up a phone, you’ll need to call the Grand Californian Hotel directly for the most efficient service. You will then be forwarded to the Napa Rose restaurant where you’ll be able to make the reservation, or leave a message for them to call you back. Reservations can also be made in person at the restaurant itself. I was a little alarmed that all they took to hold my space was my name and phone number; this alone told me that it’s still one of Disney’s best kept secrets.
There are two dining times: 5:30pm & 8pm, and a total of 12 available seats that are split between the main preparation area (8) and the dessert station of the kitchen (4). The cost of sitting at the Chef’s Counter varies based on the experience you choose. You are able to order from the regular menu, the seasonal 4-course vintner’s menu, or you can have a completely custom 6-course “tasting menu” created just for you. Let’s be real, this is the main reason to dine at the Chef’s Counter. This dining option will set you back $100 a person. You can also add a custom wine pairing (with generous pours) created to match seamlessly with your meal.
I chose to tackle this experience at the first seating, hoping to watch the kitchen ‘wake up’ for the evening’s meal service. My server, Mickey (yes, really—the man, not the mouse), escorted me over to the prep and approval side of the kitchen and I couldn’t have been happier with my view.
Unlike most Chef’s Counters, Napa Rose tailors your meal to your likes and dislikes. The Chef and Sous Chef came over to make a complete list of things I absolutely wouldn’t eat, along with a list of things that make me drool, and Mickey convinced me that I needed to partake in a wine pairing. They also checked in regularly and lovingly shared details on the dishes I received.
Aside from the meal itself, the best part of this dining experience was watching the kitchen come alive. Do not be afraid to ask questions and chat with the kitchen staff. The seating was designed for it and they enjoy sharing their knowledge while talking about the dishes they are making.
It’s clear they are passionate about their craft and place their focus on producing quality over quantity (no leftovers here!) If you’re lucky, you’ll even get an extra taste or two.
Don’t be disappointed by my lack of detail on the food itself—you probably won’t be served the same creations as I had.
There’s also the possibility that everyone in your party will have different dishes given to them for the entirety of the tasting. Let’s hope you don’t mind sharing! I’m guilty of invading my fiancé’s plate a few times.
Some of the items served are playful takes on regular menu offerings, while others are made exclusively for each diner.
They liked to push their given boundaries and I can honestly say I’ve never had such an incredible, thoughtfully-made meal. It’s the ultimate foodie ‘blind date’ with food itself!
If you have the opportunity to dine at this exclusive fine dining experience, I highly recommend fitting it in to your schedule. It’s away from the crowds in the park, removed from the over-hyped restaurants, and you can really immerse yourself in the moment.
Whether you’re adventurous or the pickiest of the bunch, Napa Rose will ensure your Tasting Menu at the Chef’s Counter is one you won’t soon forget.