Sunday, October 17, 2010

Club 33, Disneyland (Anaheim, CA) [5]

Attn: Club 33
1313 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 90803 (unofficial)
Sun 10/17/2010, 11:10a-02:25p

An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.
- Pliny the Younger (the Roman magistrate, not the beer)

Another year, another meal at Club 33, the "secret" restaurant within Disneyland park. I'd known about the place ever since the mid 1990's, and remember being incredibly excited when I finally had the chance to dine here back in 2006. But inevitably, after five visits, the charm has largely been lost on me, my built-up anticipation and wide-eyed enthusiam replaced by humdrum and tedium, by the ills of Club 33's pedestrian, insipid food.

Nevertheless, seeing as how Club 33 is one of the hardest reservations to secure in LA, I brought along a number of local foodistas to share the experience with me: Anita of Diary of a Mad Hungry Woman, Ann "menu taster" from Yelp, Famished Foodie, Gina "jocose", Holly of Seeking Delicious (née Dine with Your Boots On née Savored Blog née The Michelin Project), and Jennifer of Epicurious Travels.

Club 33 Main Dining Room
Club 33 Trophy Room
Club 33 is horseshoe-shaped, and consists of two main rooms, the Main Dining Room (above), and the smaller, more informal Trophy Room (below). We were seated in the latter room, at the circular table on the right.

Club 33 Lunch Menu
The menu, from Executive Chef Marcel St. Pierre, is expectedly sedate. Click for a larger version.

Club 33 Lounge Alley
Each diner chooses a main course from the menu above, but arguably, the best part about brunch at Club 33 is the buffet. The spread is located in the so-called Lounge Alley, which also contains the bar and serves to link the two dining rooms.

Club 33 Buffet Club 33 Buffet
Club 33 Buffet Club 33 Buffet
The buffet spread has remained largely static across my several visits to Club 33. One can expect to find several salads, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, veggies, smoked salmon, and of course, everybody's favorite--a trio of chilled seafood: cocktail shrimp, crab claws, and lobster tails (i.e. the pricey stuff).

Buffet Plate
I showed some restraint here.

Pacific King Salmon, Bloomsdale Spinach, Carrot Mango Jus
Pacific King Salmon, Bloomsdale Spinach, Carrot Mango Jus | Wild Chinook Grilled Salmon, with Sauteed Spinach and Stewed French Lentil
For my main, I chose the salmon--a mistake to be sure. The fish was obviously overcooked, resulting in a dry, mealy consistency that made it hard to swallow (literally). It was also lacking in the flavor department, and the carrot-mango broth didn't help either, drowning the salmon in an overwhelmingly saccharine sauce that somehow made things even worse. The spinach, with its slight astringency, was a saving grace, as were the lentils, which imparted a much needed tinge of earthiness to the dish.

Certified Organic Free Range Chicken, Truffled Mac & Cheese, Apricot Glaze
Certified Organic Free Range Chicken, Truffled Mac & Cheese, Apricot Glaze | Shelton Farms Airline Chicken Breast, Marinated with Citrus and Basil
Chicken, thankfully, was an improvement over the salmon. The bird, again, was lacking in succulence and depth, but fortunately not to the degree of the fish. The flavor was there and the mac & cheese was certainly serviceable, but again, the apricot glaze took things in an overly sugary direction.

Pan Seared Chateaubriand, Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Cabernet Demi-Glace
Pan Seared Chateaubriand, Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Cabernet Demi-Glace | 8 oz. center cut of the Filet Mignon, Baby Tomato Shallot Salad & Blue Lake Beans
Clearly then, the tenderloin was the tastiest item of the meal. Done medium-rare (though we were not asked for a preferred temperature), the beef demonstrated a pleasing texture and a textbook bovine savor that was certainly enjoyable, though not astonishing. Meanwhile, the pairing of mashed potatoes was predictable, but fairly effective, as were the various vegetables. However, the kitchen was amazingly inconsistent with the steak, cooking some of our cuts to an almost inedibly well-done consistency.

Club 33 Dessert Buffet Club 33 Dessert Buffet
Time for dessert, understandably the highlight of the meal for many.

Without a doubt, the food here leans toward the tired, the banal, the undeniably institutional. Certainly then, the menu needs a serious revamp if Club 33 is to be considered a serious dining destination. But then again, I suppose that if you're concerned about the cuisine, you're sort of missing the point. Unfortunately, Club 33's not about the eats, but rather about the exclusivity, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the chance to say you've been, to be "in the know." Take away the glitz and glamour then, and you're left with a schmancier version of Blue Bayou. I'm angry at myself for coming here again and again, yet I continue to do so year after year (because I can). Fool me once shame on you, fool me five times, shame on me I guess.


Blogger Jen Ko said...

I always wanted to go to club 33. :( After what you wrote this time, I'm sort of bummed out.

Friday, February 25, 2011 1:17:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

I've had dinner there several times, the first being in *ahem* the early 80's! I don't remember ANY buffet style service... maybe just for lunch?

Friday, February 25, 2011 8:37:00 AM  
Blogger Epicuryan said...

Though the quote was from the Roman magistrate you only saw it when going to get the beer.

Friday, February 25, 2011 8:49:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Friday, February 25, 2011 9:54:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

@Jo: correct, dinner service does not have the buffet.

I had dinner at Club 33 last June with a set menu, as we had a large party. We had the Chateaubriand as our entree; the dish 8 months ago was exactly as it appears in Kevin's post. Also similar was that it was cooked without asking diners how they wanted it as well as the inconsistency of cooked steaks around the table.

I agree with Kevin's conclusion that the restaurant is more about exclusivity than the food. Since the restaurant can draw diners regardless of what is on the menu, it would be nice to see a few more risks taken with the menu in an attempt to elevate the level of the food.

Friday, February 25, 2011 2:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Ann said...

Foodistas, huh? Nice wording... haha. The food was as you described. It's truly the exclusivity and Disney nostalgia that attracts people.

Friday, February 25, 2011 3:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer @ WanderingSeoul said...

I think you just killed a bunch of your dreams with this post! Haha. It was a nice experience, though I agree the food was not up to par. I was pretty surprised at how badly the salmon was cooked. My mom cooks salmon by wrapping it up in foil and baking it. So simple, yet it always turns out tender and juicy. Maybe they should hire my mom, haha. Ah, 'twas a fun day though!

Friday, February 25, 2011 3:41:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...


No formal invitation to a certain person who follows your blog?


Friday, February 25, 2011 5:04:00 PM  
Blogger Right Way to Eat said...

I think you need to put down this puppy already. I think it is great if you have gone there for the very first time. After visit #3, I sort of don't think you would have recaptured the magic of the first time (if you were the diner).

Saturday, February 26, 2011 1:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how does one get an invitation to club 33?

Saturday, February 26, 2011 3:38:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Jen: You should still go; it's still worth trying at least once.

Jo: Yep the buffet is a lunch-only affair. So what was the food like in the 1980's? Better hopefully?

Ryan: Indeed. It was some fortuitous timing.

Kasra: My last visit here was actually for dinner, and I did find the food a touch better (though that's not saying much).

Ann: Correct on both counts. Not sure where I got "foodista" from though... ;)

Jennifer: Pretty much any preparation of salmon would've been better. That was quite possibly the worst version of the fish that I'd ever had.

Michael: This was actually from last year, so I don't think you were following regularly at that point. Also, why did you delete your first post???

Mike: Indeed. Yet I still dupe myself into going every time.

Anon: You basically need to get someone who has a membership (which is actually quite difficult to get) to make a reservation for you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011 2:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't like the food (and your photos make the joint look definitively uninviting) why bother to go back? You have a hundred plus places in California which you already like and there will be a hundred you have yet to find.
It should be all about the food - not the identity of the non-entity who knocks your food onto your lap.

Come to France and I'll show you tiny country restaurants you will want to go back to and starred places you will flee from.

Sunday, February 27, 2011 6:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jennifer @ WanderingSeoul said...

Ditto! Where do you recommend for a really good salmon dish? (Other than smoked and raw).

Sunday, February 27, 2011 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon: I know, I know. It's the exclusivity of the place that keeps bringing me back. That's why I hate myself for returning.

Jennifer: Providence and Bastide come to mind.

Monday, February 28, 2011 1:52:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Sorry for deleting my first post, Kevin.

If this is from last year, why are you posting it or reposting it?

Honestly, I do not remember if was following back at that point.

My previous comment stands however: "Inconceivable! No formal invitation to a certain person who follows your blog? Preposterous!"

Monday, February 28, 2011 9:25:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Michael, it's definitely not a repost! What happened what that it just kept getting pushed back due to a glut of higher priority posts. I have about five posts backed up in a similar manner.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011 12:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Pat Callihan said...

If someone reads this I would love to take my daughter their. Just once in our life time. Family is the most important thing in the world. thanks so much

Saturday, August 06, 2011 5:25:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would love to take my wife and daughter there as a special treat this October. If anyone has information on a possibility, please email me:

Thursday, August 30, 2012 7:46:00 AM  

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