Sunday, November 2, 2008

Club 33 - 10/19/2008

1313 S Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA 90803

Club 33 is the "secret" Disneyland restaurant. Originally, the club was designed as a place where Walt Disney could entertain visiting dignitaries and VIPs. Today the restaurant serves as a private club with an initial fee of over ten thousand and annual dues of three to six thousand depending on the level of membership. Despite the exorbitant cost, prospective members can expect to spend several years on the wait list for a spot. Membership naturally confers certain benefits like free admission to the park and the ability to bring up to nine guests to dine at the club. All guests dining at the club are also given free admission to the park which costs about as much as the meal.

After hearing about the annual Boeing lunch at Club 33, I finally got an invite through a friend who works at Boeing, which apparently has a membership. Over lunch, I talked to one of the organizers of the event and asked why the event was limited to so few groups at Boeing. He explained only the successful groups get these kinds of perks, which explains my group's absence.

The restaurant is located next to the Blue Bayou Restaurant in the New Orleans Square section of the park. The entrance to the restaurant is marked with an ornate 33.

The lower level of the restaurant is paneled in dark wood with the highlight being an ornate elevator. The elevator is a replica of one found in a Parisian hotel. The story goes Walt Disney fell in love with the elevator while at the hotel but the owner refused to sell it so Walt had it replicated. The halls of the restaurant are bedecked with Disney memorabilia and antiques picked by Walt himself. There is also a case filled with souvenirs emblazoned with the Club 33 logo. I couldn't help myself and bought a $25 mug.

There are two dining rooms in the Club, the main dining room and the trophy room where we were seated. The trophy room was named for animal trophies Walt inherited from a friend although they have been removed and replaced with photos. The trophy room also was set up with microphones in the light fixtures. Walt wanted to listen in on his guest's conversations and use animatronic animals to respond. Although this system was never implemented, an animatronic vulture perched above the entrance to the room remains as evidence of this endeavor.

Appetizers - Salad, Fruit, Cheese, Cold-cuts, Grilled Vegetables, Smoked Salmon, Crab Claws, Lobster Tail, Cocktail Shrimp
The meal started with all you can eat appetizers with a veritable smorgasbord of options. First up was salad followed by fruit and cheese. Next comes cold cuts and grilled veggies. Lastly there is a seafood: smoked salmon, crab claws, lobster tail, and shrimp. "The good stuff as my friend calls it." My first plate I tried a little of everything, the salads were pretty good but the star was definitely the seafood particularly the crab claws, although the lobster was extremely tough. My second plate I focused more on the salmon, crab and shrimp.

There is a beautifully arrayed presentation of all you can eat desserts that tempts diners filling up on appetizers but alas we have to wait until the savories are done.

New York Steak - Curried Banana Ketchup, Kennebec Steak Fries
The steak came out medium, not the way I would have wanted it but I didn't get a choice. The meat itself was a bit tough and dry, not even up to the level of what I cook at home. The fries were soggy and undercooked. The ketchup tasted like a tangy banana, not a very pleasant flavor.

Alaskan Halibut - Meyer Lemon Risotto, Minted Tabbouleh
The halibut was surprisingly soft but that didn't bother me as much as it did my companion. The risotto was a bit too sour for my taste, with the lemon dominating. For me, the tabbouleh was the best part of the dish, light cool and refreshing. Another fairly weak dish.

Pan Roasted Chicken - Mac & Cheese Croquette, Pickled Sweet Carrot
Neither my friend and I ordered the chicken but we were able to get a shot of another guest's. We also each got a bite of meat to try and I found the chicken moist and tender, about what you'd expect from a decent roast chicken.

Naturally I had to try one of each of the desserts. Sadly the taste of the desserts didn't live up to their presentation. There were a few standouts, but by and large the desserts were fairly forgettable.

Supposedly the club's specialty the macaroon was quite good, very moist and flavorful, but still fairly common.

Chocolate cream on top of shortbread. Rich and not too sweet this had a pretty good balance.

I think this was some sort of banana cream cake. Like banana bread and cake. Meh.

This was a blackberry tart, and had a very intense almost shocking tartness.

The "most chocolaty dessert" according to the pastry chef. This brownie like bite definitely lived up to the billing. Simple but good.

More mouth-puckering fruit this time a lemon cream puff. I liked the textural contrasts but again the flavor was way to sour.

I had such high expectations for this strawberry panna cotta. The panna cotta was almost like a jello, far to hard for my tastes.

After filling the first plate, there were still a few desserts I missed. Since I was so full I just got a shaving of each cake.

A perfectly normal and completely unmemorable fruit cake.

A simple and rich chocolate mousse cake. A very safe well-executed dessert.

The most distinctive of the three cakes. This had a vibrant mango flavor that I really liked.

A spongy dry cake with a bit of fruit. Although to be fair at this point I was just struggling to get this down.

Apparently they don't serve this dessert regularly, basically a s'more in a cup. This seemed quite popular among our party but I thought it was fairly disappointing. It was hard to eat all the elements of this simultaneously and I ended up not really getting the whole effect.

As I mentioned, guests at the club are given complimentary tickets to enjoy both Disneyland and California Adventure. Perhaps in a sign of my unhealthy obsession with food, I came with the express purpose of trying the restaurant and did not take the time to go on a single ride while at the park.

I certainly did not walk into Club 33 expecting a 3-star Michelin experience, but even with my adjusted expectations, the restaurant disappointed. With many of the dishes the flavor is unbalanced, I noticed a number of fruit based desserts were far to tart as was the risotto. The entrees were fairly basic and I honestly felt I could do a comparable if not better job at home. For me the appeal of Club 33 is based solely on its exclusivity, and having been once I don't think I'd come back next year.


Food, she thought. said...

I am going to fall into a virtual diabetic coma. I am sad that the food was so disappointing, it certainly looks better in the photos than in description. Have you had the pleasure, food aside, of dining at the Magic Castle?

Tangbro1 said...

Yeah the food looks beautiful, I was really looking forward to the meal. Kevin said the food was upscale hotel food but I think that assessment was a bit generous.

I have not been to the magic castle. It does sound like fun, if you are a member you should arrange a foodie dinner there!

Hilary F said...

Hi, slightly random question but did you friend from Boeing have to accompany you, or were they able to make the reservation for you? I ask because I have an aquaintance who works at Boeing and am thinking of asking him about it, but don't want to impose on him to have to go to Disneyland to get us in. So, any insight you can share would be really appreciated.

Tangbro1 said...

Yes he accompanied me, but I don't think that was strictly necessary.
Additionally, not all Boeing employees are able to make the reservations.

I work at the company as well but I don't know anybody who has access to the account. My friend's group has a tradition of sponsoring a team for the CHOC Walk and going to Club 33 afterward.

Still, ask your friend. Hope everything works out for you.

Hilary said...

Interesting. I wonder if it's an executive office type of perk. I believe he's in engineering so am not sure if that bodes well, but will ask anyway. Thanks for the reply!