I decided to fly in early for the cruise, and visit Walt Disney World
Hollywood Brown Derby Bread Basket & Butter
I had a fabulous time at the theme parks–but this post is about the food at the Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney Studios. I’d heard wonderful things about their Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake, so wanted to give it a try. I was lucky enough to grab a walk-in table with about a 20min wait (I was warned it could be up to an hour).
Bread Basket: Crusty Fresh Baked mini Bollio Rolls, served with a scoop of whipped butter sprinkled with coarse ground pink Hawaiian salt & sprigs of thyme.
The bread service was wonderful. Rolls were crusty & flaky on the outside, tender on the inside. I stripped and crushed the thyme sprig leaves, then sprinkled them back onto the butter to intensify the scent and flavor. The Hawaiian pink salt was an interesting, earthy addition–it added a slight depth of flavor beyond plain sea salt that tied in nicely with the thyme & highlighted the sweetness of the butter. Unfortunately, the grind was so coarse that some bites of buttered roll tasted more like earthy brine than anything else.
Crispy Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes: English Cucumber, Plum Tomato Slaw, Sweet Chili Sauce
Hollywood Brown Derby Crab Cakes
These were not like any crab cakes I’ve ever had before. It would be more accurate to call them crab hush puppies. An order is 3 small deep-fried balls of crab ‘cakes’ served on top of slaw, with smears of ‘sweet chili sauce’. The plating was very attractive, the balls were fried a nice golden brown with a good crisp, the inside was moist and tender. However, for the price, I was expecting crab cakes–not 3 hush puppies the size of a lindor truffle. I could vaguely taste crab, but certainly couldn’t see it (except in the plated single crab claw). Slicing them in half revealed an interior with no textural or color contrasts, no ‘jumbo lumps’ of crab meat were in any of my 3 hush puppies. The sweet chili sauce tasted like sriracha-laced ketchup, and the slaw was a moist mix of thinly julienned cucumber & tomato with no discernible seasoning or dressing aside from perhaps a little salt. Not bad, but not what I was expecting or wanting, and not worth the price.
Our Famous Cobb Salad: with Finely Chopped Greens, Turkey Breast, Bacon, Egg, Tomatoes, Crumbled Blue Cheese, Avocado, Chives, and Cobb Dressing
Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad
I chose the entree size…and I have to admit, when the plate was brought out, I thought perhaps they’d sent the appetizer portion by mistake. But no; it’s simply served in a very large salad plate that makes a not very large serving size look even smaller. It’s prettily plated, but I’d only recommend this for those who like a salad that is heavy on dressing & blue cheese. When it came out, I thought for sure the salad beneath the toppings was wet & wilted–but having re-read the description back in my hotel room; I realized that finely chopped greens doesn’t have to mean standard salad greens–it could be collard greens. I don’t have enough experience with collards to say with certainty if that’s what they were–if but if wasn’t badly wilted salad greens, the collards might have been lightly blanched–that’s it, no other flavoring or treatment.
I chose to mix my salad up, which definitely had an impact on taste. As it is, my thoroughly mixed cobb salad reminded me of dip, or the filling of a turkey club salad sandwich. The faint crisp on bacon wasn’t enough of a textural contrast. I think the mixed up version would be amazing on toasted pita chips, but as a salad… not at all what I was expecting, and not worth the menu price.
Mini Dessert Trio (Select Three)
Hollywood Brown Derby Mini Dessert Trio
Beautifully plated, and individually stunning as well. I chose:
- Amaretto Flan and Opalys White Chocolate Whip with an Almond Cookie
- Brown Derby Original! Mini Grapefruit Cake
- Banana-Toffee Cake on Cocoa Crunch and Strawberry-Banana Pearls
Amaretto Flan: This was more of a mini pot de creme than flan. The white chocolate whip was substantially thicker and denser than the so-called flan. If it was intended to be flan, mine hadn’t set at all. However—it was delicious, rich, and smooth, and the yummy almond cookie had a nice crunch that perfectly complimented & accented the silkiness of the rest of the dessert.
Mini Grapefruit Cake: You can definitely taste the grapefruit; It’s a cross between a layer cake and a torte. It put me in mind of soaked ladyfingers with an odd somewhat gelatin-ish consistency. An interesting dessert, and fairly tasty—yet not one I think I’d pick again.
Banana-Toffee Cake: Not sure I ever got a toffee taste or texture, more of a faint hint of caramel. It was more like a deluxe banana pudding torte than a cake; however–this dessert was wonderful. The cocoa crunch wasn’t that crunchy—it was more of a dense, dry brownie. The Strawberry Banana Pearls were a stroke of genius, and it marks the 1st time I’ve had molecular gastronomy in a dessert. Boba tea aficionados will recognize these as so-called popping bobas; others might know them by the description of fruit caviar. They offer an explosion of strawberry banana flavor that lightens the rich banana & caramel cream, and the cocoa base ties in nicely to the symphony of flavors.
The restaurant was fairly busy, so this review should be taken with a grain of salt. My server was friendly, but inattentive. Plates were slow to be brought out, and slow to be cleared away. Although I emptied my bread basket before the appetizer was finished, it was never refilled, and never cleared until the end of the meal. My water glass was never refilled unless it was absolutely empty and moved to the far side of my table to wait for 5-10min. The food menus in the restaurant are simple printed paper, no binder, folder, or protection, and mine had clearly been used before since they had discreet food stains.
On the whole, I was disappointed with the food and the service. Doubly disappointed because I’d previously heard such good things about it, and the ticket price was comparatively high considering what was received. For me, the bread service & the dessert were the highlights of the meal. Here’s hoping I’ll have a better experience at some of the other eateries at WDW.
*Names & descriptions of Appetizer, Main Course, and Desserts were taken directly from the online official Hollywood Brown Derby menu page offered by Walt Disney World.