While we didn't go very often, we were fans of Ariel's Grotto restaurant. So we were intrigued when Disney announced that they were re-theming the restaurant to Pixar. Lamplight Lounge - oh, how cute. I'll admit I was baffled when I heard some people say they didn't understand why it was called that. Ummm, hello, what's one of the iconic symbols of Pixar? The lamp!
We were lucky enough to get a reservation for the downstairs dining area the Monday after opening weekend. We know that normally, there are some growing pains when a new restaurant opens, but we were excited to try it.
|The outside marquee for Lamplight Lounge, which is still unfinished.|
|This is my favorite picture, on the side of the restaurant. Gorgeous.|
|This is the logo on the floor after you walk in to check in.|
We checked in and then waited for our name to be called to be shown to our table. The waiting area has beautiful concept drawings from various Pixar films.
|Slinky Dog from Toy Story.|
|Merida from Brave.|
|Wall-E and Eve.|
Hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the circular staircase is a gorgeous paper chandelier with lots of cool drawings.
Even the normal restaurant signs had a Pixar touch.
|The exit sign includes a reference to Up.|
|The maximum occupancy sign is watched over by Wall-E and Eve.|
After a while, we were called to our table and descended the stairs to the downstairs dining room. It was fun to see the ball wall. We'd seen a version of it at the D23 Expo but I don't think that version was illuminated.
After we were seated, we perused the menu. One section had "bites", smaller items, and the other section had more entree-type selections. There was also a separate extensive list of alcoholic beverages available.
After we ordered, we were brought coasters for our drinks. They all had the same picture on one side, with the Lamplight Lounge name and logo, but there were different pictures on the other side.
|One side of all of the coasters is the same.|
|One of the coasters we got happened to have Mr. Incredible on the other side.|
The husband and I each ordered an entree and we also ordered a smaller plate to share.
For our shared plate, we ordered the crab and tuna roll. We both enjoyed this, though I mostly avoided the sauce on the bottom since I don't generally care for sauce on my sushi rolls.
|Crab and tuna roll.|
The husband ordered the salmon plt - a salmon sandwich with pancetta, lettuce and tomato, which comes with a side of fries. He liked the sandwich.
|Salmon plt - salmon with pancetta, lettuce and tomato.|
I have in recent years become a huge fan of ratatouille, so I was excited to see it on the menu, so I did not hesitate to order that. I was a little surprised at the presentation of the dish as I had come to expect ratatouille with sliced vegetables, so clearly, I didn't read the menu well enough to see that it was a ragout, but no matter, the ingredients are the same. I was not, however, expecting the large hunk of cheese in the dish. I've only had ratatouille on several occasions, but it's always just been the zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes and maybe a few other vegetables/squash, and after our dinner and I was doing a search for recipes, all the ones I found only included those ingredients and not cheese. Again, I probably didn't read the menu very closely because I knew I wanted the ratatouille, but even if I'd paid attention that the dish included warm burrata cheese, it would not have occurred to me that it would be such a large portion of it, almost as if you were getting a protein-size portion of cheese. One of the things I particularly like about ratatouille is that it's generally a very clean and light dish, since it's all vegetables and squash. The burrata cheese, especially in such a huge portion, made the dish incredibly heavy, and I ended up leaving much of the cheese on the plate and trying to eat the vegetables around it. I do have to say that I was pretty disappointed with this dish.
|Ratatouille ragout with warm burrata cheese,|
On a completely different note, because of the Pixarfest celebration at the Disneyland Resort this summer, there were many other Pixar-related food items available around the resort. Cafe Orleans at Disneyland was offering a three-course prix fixe that included a cheese plate, ratatouille with shrimp, and dessert, so we had the chance to try that in July. The ratatouille was so good in that instance, and even with the added protein of shrimp, it wasn't heavy, which it might have been if they'd added some other protein instead. I was told that after Pixarfest, the prix fixe menu would be taken off but that the ratatouille would stay on the menu. I'm really hoping that's true. Here's a link to my Twitter post with pictures of the ratatouille at Cafe Orleans.
So being less than satisfied with my dinner was not the only negative experience I had at Lamplight Lounge. When we were taken to our seats, we were actually taken to the extensive bar area that was added to the downstairs dining room. I often like to sit at the bar in restaurants, and it's not what I had in mind in this case, but ok, no problem. Except that for the seats they took us to, one of the seats was actually behind a pillar. Ummm, really? I told the hostess that those seats weren't going to work for us, and she suggested that we could move over if we wanted to. It's not like the bar was packed that night - there were plenty of seats, and yet they felt the need to take us to seats where one was behind a pillar? And really, who designs a bar so that two of the seats are facing a pillar? I guess I could understand if the bar was totally packed and someone really wanted to eat there and was told that the seat was in front of a pillar and they wanted to sit there anyway, kind of like a "blocked view" seat at a stage show.
|They originally told us to sit in the two seats next to where the husband is sitting. We moved over one so that I wasn't sitting in front of a pillar. You can clearly see that no one else was seated at the bar on that side at the time.|
After we had ordered and were waiting for our food, we were looking around at the restaurant, and really, all of the seating was weird. This is the outdoor section to the right of where I was sitting.
One of the other problems with the new ginormous bar is that it's open to the outside - one side of patrons at the bar are sitting inside while the other side of patrons (like the husband and me) were sitting outside). That also means that during a certain portion of the day, the bartender who is serving us and anyone else sitting on that side is staring directly into the blinding sun. Who thought this was a good idea to do to the bartenders?
|The sun had gone down a little at this point but was still blinding for our bartender.|
This was the rest of the bar to the left of us, and you can get an idea of how huge the bar area is. The little outcropping "table" jutting out from the bar is not nearly long enough to make seating comfortable. Let's say a group of 3 is sitting there, with one on the end and one on each side. That's great - until you realize that it means the next seat at the bar is unusable because you can't possibly have someone sitting there because there's not enough room. Again, design considerations that make no sense.
|The side chairs on the outcropping block anyone from sitting at the bar at that spot.|
I get that with the whole Pixar Pier reboot (which will presumably remain even after the end of the official Pixarfest after Labor Day), it made sense to re-theme the restaurant. But the concept they came up with completely does not fit the area. Even with the bar upstairs, the restaurant downstairs has had a family feel to it. You know what would go with the family-themed Pixar Pier concept? A hip and trendy gastropub! Really? Really. In other reviews and things I've read, Lamplight Lounge has been referred to as a gastropub, which makes the limited menu and heavy alcoholic offerings and weird seating groupings make much more sense, but it's completely out of place in that setting. Guests with children aren't going to be able to sit at the bar area, and some adults can't manage to sit at bar seating either. Many of the tables are set up in a way that limits the amount of seating, which again makes no sense in that environment. And none of these are a matter of "opening weekend" bugs. The design of the restaurant isn't going to change. The ginormous bar isn't going to magically get smaller. I suppose the menu can change - I haven't paid attention to whether any changes have been made since our visit (as I'm writing this in mid-August).
I can tell you that while I'm very interested in the restaurants and other food offerings at the Disneyland Resort, I was decidedly not happy with our experience at Lamplight Lounge. It's not a place I'd recommend to my friends or anyone asking for dining advice. The menu (and the ratatouille) could be fixed, to some degree. The design and seating issues cannot.
That being said, while there were clearly things I was not happy about, there were some non-design decor elements that I really liked - the whimsy that I'd have expected from a Pixar-themed restaurant. Let's end on a happy note, shall we?
|In the outdoor seating area, I love that the "don't feed the birds" sign is accompanied by a seagull from Finding Nemo.|
The walkway area to the restrooms had some great designs and well-known phrases.
|Beautiful "chalk" drawing of the restaurant logo.|
|This was my favorite bit since my favorite Pixar film is Monsters, Inc.|
|And this was one of the funniest things from Up.|