Just when it seemed like there was no more room for food at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival we found ourselves at our dinner reservation. Luckily we’d planned for this and had a few hours break between our booth bites, so we felt reasonably able to consume more, and it was worth it. We had a special treat of dinner.
We decided to make a reservation when we heard that they were offering a fixed price Annual Passholder menu filled with restaurant favorites at a bargain price. Let me be clear: Monsieur Paul is not cheap. A meal for a single person can easily start at $85 without drinks. The highest prix fixe meal is $125 per person, tacking on more if you want wine pairings throughout your meal. As Annual Passholders we were incredibly lucky to get a multi-course meal, no skimping on size or quality, for $65 per person. Still very expensive, but we wanted to see if it was worth the price while it was low for Passholders.
Monsieur Paul is the high-end Signature dining experience above the ever-popular Chefs de France. This is kind of like chowing down at Club 33 instead of the Blue Bayou, but not nearly as exclusive. Anyone can reserve a table at Monsieur Paul but many guests don’t even know it exists! The entrance is actually on the back side of the building, visible from Les Artisans des Glaces. It doesn’t look much like a restaurant entrance, but it leads to one of the best dining rooms in Epcot.
Like all the pavilions at Epcot, Monsieur Paul is staffed by French Cast Members. Some guests feel put off by their use of their native language when conversing together and by the typical French aloofness, but we found that the Cast Members went out of their way to effuse American enthusiasm and liveliness, probably as a result of such complaints. Because Busy Bumble and I understand some French (Thanks Mr. Piazza! You’re the best!) we understood that their personal conversations were a mix of actual business (“A party of 6 wants a table.”) and personal (“What time do you get off?”). It’s the same as if restaurant staff were speaking English. They’re not disparaging our very theme-park apparel or insulting our American ways; they’re just young people at work. I love the fact that Epcot brings actual native residents to the pavilions. I didn’t come to the France pavilion to have a bad French accent thrown at me by some kid from Minnesota.
The place feels high-end and the staff from the very start treat you like a VIP. After you check in you’re escorted up either the stairs or in the elevator to the dining room. If you’ve dined at the Carthay Circle in Disney California Adventure you’ll know how cool it feels to have the host walk up with you.
The restaurant isn’t very large, but there are a fair amount of tables. Perhaps because we were eating a little earlier than the typical dinner hour most of the tables were empty when we arrived. By the time we finished our meal most of the restaurant was full, but never did it feel as crowded or as noisy as Chefs des France. If you want a more peaceful meal Monsieur Paul will deliver. The décor in the dining room is also very chic and pleasing: crystal baubles on the chandeliers, a delightful mix of colors (purple! gold! green! festive but not too Mardi Gras!), and crisp linen tablecloths. If you’re lucky like us you’ll get a window table overlooking the pavilion. In the evening when IllumiNations is going on the lights dim and the music is piped in, so you can try to watch from the window seats.
The menu is authentically French with a more modern vibe than the menu at Chefs des France. You can expect familiar flavors executed in new ways. The wine list is pretty stellar, but it is also fairly pricey as far as bottles. If you would like to imbibe you can choose a nice glass and not feel the financial pinch too much.
For the Annual Passholder deal the menu is an abbreviated version of their a la carte dishes served as a prix fixe meal. You can choose your entrée (their Instagram-worthy sea bass in potato “scales” or roasted chicken in cream sauce) and eventually your dessert (more on that later) but the rest of your meal is preplanned. I had no problems with the menu, especially since the items were pretty much what I would have wanted to try off the regular menu.
We started with an unorthodox amuse bouche: a glass of champagne. Funnily enough I had already ordered a glass of Cote du Rhone, totally missing the point of an amuse bouche being the start of your meal. Both the champagne and the Cote du Rhone were excellent, although I saved more of my red for the rest of my meal. The champagne was dry, crisp, and a wonderful start of what we hoped would be a stellar meal.
You meal also comes with bread service. A server came by with some fresh baguettes to choose from: a traditional crusty loaf and a cheese and herb epi baguette (shaped like leaves that you can pull off). I was so in love with the fresh bread from Chefs des France and I was ecstatic to find it was also served at Monsieur Paul! Nothing beats a warm fresh-baked baguette. My only complaint is that you only get one! Busy Bumble and I got one of each and shared.
We also received as a customary amuse bouche from the restaurant: a profiterole du fromage, aka a cheese puff. These little beauties are like savory cream puffs without a filling. The cheese is in the dough so the flavor fills each bite. You will want more of these and be disappointed that you only get one. It’s for the best since the rest of the meal is coming and you’ll need room.
Our first course was a cold soup made with peas, shrimp mousse, lemon cream, and a little prosciutto pastry. Our server poured the soup for us into the bowl, a fun act of dining entertainment that sets apart these kinds of experiences. This was heavenly on a hot Florida day. I’m not a big fan of peas but I loved this soup for its simple sweetness and starchiness. The shrimp mousse was a surprise. It looked firm when the bowl was served but when we scooped into it we found it had a soft, custardy consistency. The flavor was amazingly full from such an unassuming accompaniment. The lemon cream and the prosciutto cut through the flavors so that we weren’t just spooning up sweet and starch, really rounding out each spoonful nicely. I’d love to make this at home both cold and hot.
Out entrees came out and these were everything we’d hoped for. They tasted as good as they looked.
I had the roast chicken in cream sauce. The meat was juicy and infused with herbs des Provence for a truly French flavor. The vegetables were cooked to perfection, especially my beloved Brussels sprouts. They were sweet and lacked that cabbage-y sulfur taste that happens when they’re cooking badly. The cream sauce wasn’t too heavy and benefited from the black truffle oil drizzled over it. The simplicity of the dish made each component shine and proved that French cooking is all it’s cracked up to be.
Busy Bumble’s sea bass was a thing of beauty. This is what you’ll find all over the Internet when you search for Monsieur Paul, and while it looks lovely it tastes even better. The kitchen knows how to cook this fish. It was soft and flakey without being overcooked (which is a pet peeve of mine). The sauce was remarkable. It was very similar to mine, but there was a savory taste I could only acquaint with brown gravy that married well with the fish and potatoes. Oh, those potatoes. So crisp, so tender. On the side was a simple ramekin of spinach. Busy Bumble was very, very happy.
For my favorite part of every meal you had a few dessert options to choose from. Busy Bumble went with a Monsieur Paul Signature macaron. This sweetie was strawberry flavored with lemon crème and fresh sliced strawberries inside, making a gorgeous sunburst shape. On the side was a scoop of fresh made strawberry ice cream. A wondrous end of an end-of-summer meal.
For me it was go big or go home. La Sphere was a bit heavier than Busy Bumble’s macaron, but boy did it deliver on showmanship. Take a look at this:
The sphere is made from solid milk chocolate that melts as you pour the fudge sauce, revealing on the inside a chocolate-hazelnut crème, chocolate ganache, and candied orange peel. This was decadent, cavity-causing, and one of the highlights of all my Disney dining experiences.
If you want a memorable meal (and that’s saying something when you’re dining at Epcot) you have to make a reservation at Monsieur Paul. Make it the one big meal of your vacation and I promise they will not disappoint you. We have plans to return again in the near future and sample more of the amazing dinner menu.