Dinner: Chefs de France

Regularly cited as the best dining in Epcot, the France Pavilion does not disappoint. Between pain de glacé, crepes, pastries, and wine tasting you could easily gain 20 pounds here. Perhaps the most sought after reservation in Epcot is a table at Chefs de France and it is totally worth it.

The Restaurant

The building is styled after a Parisian eatery, with tables inside and outside under a covered patio. If you snag an outside table you might catch the acrobats performing or see Belle greeting guests.

Inside is pretty cramped. It adds to the bustling atmosphere, but if you suffer from agoraphobia or are sensitive to loud noise ask for an outside table.

The Food

The menu is classic French comfort food: boeuf bourginon, cassoulet, steak frites, and more. It veers more towards what an American would recognize, but that doesn’t make it taste anything less than divine.

The menu has an excellent selection of alcoholic beverages including fine French wines and champagnes. For our meal we opted for mixed drinks: a Pimm’s with grenadine for Busy Bumble and champagne and Chambord (raspberry liqueur) for me. These were sweet and refreshing. Also dangerous: I could have gladly had two more glasses. If alcohol is not your thing they do offer the standard soft drinks found at all Disney eateries.

Every meal also gets a freshly baked baguette. It was so hard leaving some to eat with our appetizers. This bread was crisp on the outside, spongy soft in the middle, and wonderfully warm. I’m not sure if we could have asked for more, but I wasn’t taking my chances on them saying so, so we paced ourselves.

For our dinner we dove into some of our favorites. Busy Bumble and I have a favorite French spot back home so we were ready to compare. We started with escargots.

Yummy snails. These guys were covered in a parsley and garlic butter blend then topped with the most adorable croutons ever. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people gag at the thought of escargots but claim to love clams and mussels. They’re related and taste pretty similar. Snails really take on the taste of whatever they’ve been fed so a good snail should be very tasty. Chefs de France served theirs in the traditional manner: parsley, garlic, butter, and a petit crouton.

These little beauties were sweet and tender, without the chewiness that sometimes plagues mollusks. I could have eaten these all night. Alas, I did order an entrée.

Under all that Gruyère is a slice of baguette. That cheese was so thick Busy Bumble needed to cut it into pieces to get to the soup. So cheesy delicious.

Busy Bumble had to try the Soup a l’onion. The melted Gruyère was so decadent and melty. The soup itself was a great balance of  sweet and savory. Sometimes this soup can get too salty but this one was on point.

Our appetizers and drinks. By the way, you can see that our table is pretty small. That’s the norm here, so expect to shuffle glasses and plates around as necessary.

I went for classic boeuf bourginon. This was cooked to perfection: so tender I could have eaten it with a spoon. It was served with roasted carrots, pearl onions, and a mound of buttery polenta. I’m not one to eat onions but these were amazing: sweet and savory without the skin getting between my teeth. The polenta was so good it triggered a couple of weeks worth of polenta dinners once we got home, all a desperate attempt to replica the delicious simplicity of this side dish. Creamy, wholesome, with flavor to complement the beef yet stand on its own: so fantastic.

Underneath all that gravy and veggies are two pieces of perfectly tender beef short rib. The veggies were so good I forgot that I usually don’t eat onions. That polenta is amazing and inspiring. 

For dessert we went with two classics: chocolate mousse in a chou pate swan and tarte aux pommes (not quite tarte tatin but close enough).

In case you doubted that there was chocolate in this dessert. Some chou pate pastries can be stale tasting, but not this one. The pastry is light and airy, working well with the sweet mousse and the rich chocolate sauce.

The chocolate mousse was decadent, made with whole cream and very thick. This was not just flavored Cool Whip. The chou pate pastry was impeccable: perfectly baked with a buttery flavor. The swan shape is familiar to anyone who has eaten at the Grand Floridian but the fanciful shape is still a delight. This was all plated with an enormous pool of chocolate sauce. This wasn’t Hershey’s. It was definitely dark chocolate and it was pleasingly not too sweet. It was a nice bolder flavor to contrast with the light mousse and pastry. For the American palate there was a scoop of chocolate ice cream. While it was nice it was a bit unnecessary.

That perfectly sliced apple was what caught my eye first. The pastry is dusted with a little sugar for a sweet crunch as you bite in. The caramel sauce is divine. 

The apple tart was a half apple sliced and baked in a perfect little pastry basket. It was lightly spiced, so there was a touch of cinnamon but nothing too overwhelming. The apple was wonderfully sweet and juicy and it took center stage. As a surprise, underneath the apple was a layer of almond filling. Not as thick as marzipan, this is the same stuff inside bear claws and the croissants you can purchase at the Brasserie at the back of the pavilion. This was amazing with apple: a little tart, a little sweet, a little creamy, and a little nutty. Much like the mousse this was plated with a delicious puddle of caramel sauce. This was a great way for diners to decide how sweet they wanted the tart. I preferred my tart a little less sweet, but that didn’t stop me from eating up the caramel afterward. I ate it with the vanilla ice cream. I like my apple desserts a la mode in general, but this was so good it didn’t need it.

In the end I could understand what all the fuss was about. The price point wasn’t too steep, and those with the Disney Dining Plan can certainly get their money’s worth here. For families this is a great way to introduce children to French cuisine. For adults this is a great way to enjoy superb fine dining in a theme park. Now the question for us is to we come back here or take the next step and eat at Chez Paul upstairs?

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