Dinner at Catal

While dining in the park has its perks sometimes you just want a break from the constant atmosphere music and crowd noises. Downtown Disney makes it possible for guests to have a bit of a break without venturing too far from the parks. There are a number of options as far as dining goes (with new ones on the horizon) but one we’ve learned to love is Catal.

Catal is situated in the same building as Sprinkles Cupcakes, the now-defunct Fossil store, and the soon to be gone D Street store. The new Star Wars Virtual Reality experience by The Void will be located here starting in 2018. Most people know the Uva bar, the circular outdoor bar in the center of the buildings, but many overlook Catal.

Catal is actually on the top floor, looking down on the courtyard. There are indoor seats behind large, bright windows and a pleasant set of outdoor seats as well. Catal is fine dining without the fuss so don’t be afraid to show up in shorts and flip-flops. We’ve found the staff to be friendly and engaging no matter when you’re dining.

When we stopped in for dinner we decided to show up earlier in the dinner service hour, around 4pm. Catal sometimes fully books but chances are you can snag a table by walking up most days. Because we were early we got a chance to sit on the patio on a glorious Southern California afternoon.

The food at Catal is California cuisine, skewing Mediterranean. The Patina Group manages the restaurant. Folks in Los Angeles know Patina for their collection of fine dining restaurants around the Music Center Complex and Walt Disney World Fans know them from their management of the Italy Pavilion restaurants in Epcot’s World Showcase. Needless to say they do a fine job with the food and service. The atmosphere is low-key and the menu has something for all tastes.

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Spanish paella filled with seafood and saucy goodness. Be careful, that pan is hot!

Busy Bumble decided to go for the gold with paella. We’ve had hit or miss versions of this dish at various restaurants, with the rice either too dry or the sauce too soupy. Catal does a great job with their paella. The bottom of the pan rice is crisp but the rest is evenly saturated in sauce. Bright, fresh veggies dot the rice but the real showstoppers are the seafood. Mussels, calamari, clams, and more are like wonderful hidden treasures in the dish offering a clean, marine taste that pulls the whole dish together.

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Diver scallops served with pork belly, mushrooms, pea puree, and watercress. Light and delightful.

 

For me I went with the special of the day, Diver Scallops. Seared scallops were served with tender-crisp pork belly pieces, springtime-on-a-plate pea puree, meaty mushrooms, watercress, and a light lemon foam. This was delightfully light and bright, with the flavors melding together wonderfully. The scallops were amazingly sweet and not overcooked, which is much appreciated. Each element contributed to each bite. While it may look small it was actually pretty filling!

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Chocolate ganache cake with layers of chocolate flavor on top of berry coulis. Those are cacao nibs scattered on the top.

Dessert is a must with us, so we went with two fairly safe selections. Busy Bumble had a chocolate ganache cake with berry coulis, a favorite combination of hers. She found that the chocolate wasn’t too rich or sweet, but the texture was a little heavy after her big pan of paella.

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Simplicity is best with this cheesecake: just a cream cheese filling dome, buttery sweet graham crackers, and a decorative cookie ribbon.

For me I ordered the cheesecake. As much as I loved my entrée I loved this cheesecake more. I tasted just like the cream cheese pie my grandmother used to make: creamy, not too sweet, with buttery graham cracker crumbs. The nostalgia probably contributed to my reaction but I would order this again in a heartbeat.

If you find yourself pondering where to eat in Downtown Disney give Catal a try. Prices are reasonable and you’ll find it a welcome center of good food and relaxation.

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