Walt Disney left an amazing legacy to the world, more than most in history. But perhaps his lesser-known gifts are his quotes and statements made over his storied career. (More akin to “Edicts”; when Walt spoke, like EF Hutton, everybody listens!) Two of his most important quotes, ones that the company adheres to this day are… “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world” and
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. Walt was never content to rest on his laurels and he detested sequels. He never wanted his park to become a museum, it was always to change with new and better entertainment for his guests. With this, many attractions, parades, and shows have been re-imagined or replaced. This is the result of moving forward.
Case in point is the iconic Downtown Disney area. For more than thirty years, this shopping, dining and entertainment venue gave guests a place to come to enjoy some Disney magic out of the parks, and without the cost of a ticket. Previously billed as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, Walt Disney World Village, Disney Village Marketplace and Downtown Disney. Now it has been re-imagined into four distinct districts, 150 new tenants, with new upscale outlets and new eateries, and two parking garages, ending the struggle to find a parking space.
Some of the original restaurants have closed to make room for the new, or have shuttered to be renovated to blend into the new upscale landscape. One such guest favorite was the iconic Fulton’s Crab House. The eatery resided in a building replica of a riverboat Walt named after Lillian, his wife. The operators, Levy Restaurants have completed a stem to stern renovation, up and down, which now showcases a luxurious and modern sternwheel steamboat, with interior designs that Disney states reflect the “crisp luxury of modern yachting”.
Recently, the restaurant hosted a limited seating, Rooftop Wine Dinner, the only eatery in Disney Springs to offer rooftop-level waterfront seating. This culinary event was hosted by Executive Chef Steve Richard. This event gave the lucky attendees a chance to experience the world-renowned offerings of Chef Richards, and the unique wine pairing selections from some of Italy and Spain’s eclectic wineries, but before I get into the evening, I got a rare chance to interview Chef Richards and Jimmy Kraus, the General Manager. I asked Chef Richards his take on the new theming of the restaurant and he said…” You can see that Disney Springs is very different than Downtown Disney was, the entire area was upgraded, activities, retail and different food and beverage options have been added, it was time to upgrade and move forward and bring it to the next level”. I asked if he worked at Fulton’s, and he stated…” I worked at Portabella’s for five years, now under construction, soon to become Terralina’s”. “Since then, I have been the area chef for Levy Restaurants at Disney Springs, and my oversite included Fulton’s and recently been focused as the executive chef at Paddlefish”.
I then asked if the new menu would resemble the old Fulton’s, and Steve replied…” We were careful to preserve some of the favorite items from Fulton’s because it was a staple brand from Downtown Disney and we didn’t want to leave the old fans of Fulton’s behind, so there are a number of things we’ve kept, including lobster corn dogs, a terrific appetizer item, a fantastic crab cake dish with Maque choux. We still have three species of crab that we steam, Snow crab, Queen crab and King crab, which were a pillar of Fulton’s menu. In addition to steaming the crabs, we now serve them from the seafood boil kitchen, which is a new kitchen, not found at Fulton’s”
I asked Chef Richards if he could elaborate on the different species of crab, and he summed up with…” King Crab is the largest of the three, Queen Crab is also known as Beardi Crab, and two main species of Snow Crab, one called Opilio, and the larger one, more prized is the Queen Crab”. I then asked what is a guest favorite, and he replied…” The Snow crab is the most popular because people are most familiar with it” “But the best crab, if you are going to have one bite of crab; the Beardi, or Queen crab is the one I recommend. It’s not as large as the King crab, but much sweeter”
Is the seafood served local, I asked? “Some of it is local since we opened we served Mahi Mahi from the waters of Florida to Hawaiian Opah, from the Pacific,” I asked who designed the new menu, and Steve said…”I was certainly involved in the development of the new menu, and we worked with a talented group of people who worked together to get the menu where it is today” “In fact, we changed it a few times since we opened in February”. How often do you anticipate changing the menu? “Since opening, we have changed the menu approximately once a month, not fully, but a few items, we are listening to what our guests tell us, what they like and what they would like to see”. “We recently added several new sandwiches, we added a blackened catfish sandwich for the lunch menu, and for dinner a terrific buffalo chicken sandwich and a Cajun chicken sandwich and chicken Caesar wrap”
Asking about the major differences between lunch and dinner menus, Chef Richards replied…” There is a lot of overlap between the two. There are more sandwiches available for lunch, and several lighter entrée salads for the daytime” “There is a considerable part of the dinner menu for lunchtime, so no matter what time you come, there will always be something to please the guests” And what about landlubber crowd I asked…” We have two steaks on the menu, filet mignon and a prime New York strip, nicely marbled which is served with saluted mushrooms. We also offer a pork chop with applesauce, also available is a terrific burger, a proprietary blend of brisket and chop, served with pimento cheese, red onion on a brioche bun” I inquired about the wine list, and Steve said…”Jimmy (Manager Jimmy Kraus) worked very hard on the wine list, and we have a unique list of wines for our guests” Manager Jimmy chimed in and said…”Our servers are trained in making suggestions for wine choices for our guests, and we have three wine stewards in the building, all sommelier certified”
So, from my brief interview, you can see that the new Paddlefish is incapable, confident hands. So, let’s talk about the four-course tasting wine dinner that evening. Held on the restaurants’ rooftop deck, my wife and I strolled around the top deck before things began and were struck by the amazing 360deg views of Disney Springs. The Décor is modernist with a lean towards the nautical. The rooms are nicely appointed and give an airy, outdoor feeling. We started our appetizer selection with warm skewers in a small glass, of grilled shrimp and lemongrass, followed by Thai glazed Louisiana broiler claws. Both offerings were flavorful with just the right hint of spices. The vino served was Contratto extra Brut, a wonderful compliment to the food.
After the reception, the group walked forward to an interior dining room/bar, with an outside area, complete with a dozen white, high-boy tables, if you wanted to take in the view of Disney Springs while imbibing on your favorite libation. It was before the first course while at our table the group was introduced to Chef Steve Richards, Manager Jimmy Kraus, and the rest of the crew. Notable, Trey our wine sommelier was introduced, and he was on hand to explain all the wine offerings served with each course. First up, Yellow-fin tuna Crudo with avocado mousse, miso soy glaze, and Sriracha emulsion. Sommelier’ choice…Gramona Gessami Blanco, which went well with the tuna and accompaniments.
The second course was a velvety smooth Plant City cream corn bisque, King Crab toasted bread center, and chive oil. The soup had a huge depth of flavor, and the King Crab bread center melted in your mouth. The wine, Monte Carbonare Soave, was another perfect choice that Trey selected. Our Third course was my favorite, because I simply love lamb and octopus, and because my wife is not a fan either selection, I sampled two servings! The lamb was cooked to perfection and you could cut it with your fork, and the octopus, which I know from personal experience, is very hard to cook just right…Too much and it’s chewy like gum, too little, mushy and not very appetizing. However, the chef got it down perfect, it was done to perfection, and the marmalade and mint gremolata were the perfect sidekicks. Wine pairing for this course…Mocali Brunello de Montalcino. For myself, this wine was a bit bold for my palate.
The fourth course was dessert. White chocolate and Passionfruit mousse, and a Ginger Florentine cookie. This was my wife’s favorite course, dessert. This dessert was heavenly! The chocolate and Passionfruit complimented each other perfectly, the ginger cookie made a nice ending. The wine for the dessert course was Poire Prisonniere, a specialty brandy with a real pear in the bottle. The brandy was very good, as brandies go, but neither myself or Donna drink brandy, but our fellow diners said it was top notch!
There you have it. The new and improved former Fulton’s Crab House, now re-named and re-imagined as the Paddlefish Restaurant is in the very capable and competent hands of Head Chef Steve Richards and Manager Jimmy Kraus. This four-course Wine Dinner was a little tease of what to expect at the new eatery. With Chef Richards at the helm in the kitchen, offering fresh eclectic menu choices, along with some old favorites, and a rooftop scenic dining area, the only one in Disney Springs, Paddlefish will continue to be the top pick on every Guest list to dine.
Paddlefish is at 1670 Buena Vista Dr.
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 407-934-2628
Sunday -Thursday 11:30am-11:00pm
Rooftop Deck Live Music Every Friday & Saturday 9pm – Midnight