James returns to make our readers drool as he breaksdown our delicious meal at Palo, aboard the Disney Magic, on our recent cruise out of Manhattan.
On our honeymoon cruise on the Magic last year, Estelle and I decided not to make reservations at Palo, the upscale, additional-charge restaurant aboard the ship. When we did a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the ship, however, we realized we were missing out on something potentially wonderful and resolved to try it on our next trip. Fast forward one year and three months, and we finally made it to Palo for dinner. The verdict can be summed up in three words: worth the wait. Or, best meal ever?
Palo, named for the Italian word for “pole” and subtly meant to evoke Venetian art and design, is located on deck 10 aft, meaning it is all the way at the back and top of the Magic. It is adults only, requires formal wear (for men, dress pants and shirt are required but a jacket is optional), and carries a $20 charge per diner added to your room bill. While formalwear may sound stuffy, the atmosphere was very relaxed and sophisticated yet casual. Our host and hostess were extremely pleasant and our waitress was incredible; she took plenty of time to explain everything on the menu to us, to find out what we liked and disliked, and to chitchat about her experiences working for Disney Cruise Line. Also, we were seated in a small table away from other diners so it always felt like she was there just to serve us.
The additional charge is basically only an entrance fee; once seated, you are free to try as many of the menu offerings as you want, just like at your regular rotational dinner table.
Our server quickly brought out a basket of warm bread and crispy, artistic breadsticks, as well as a cold antipasto platter with parmiggiano-reggiano cheese drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, marinated peppers, olives, an olive spread, and two different varieties of prosciutto. The cheese was intensely flavorful and the olive spread was delectable.
For starters, I ordered a tomato and mozzarella “salad” which was refreshing and went well with the antipasto plate we were still working on. For the pasta course, Estelle ordered the lobster and mascarpone ravioli which she found to be delicious and not too fishy. I ordered the chianti-braised beef ravioli with a red wine reduction, which was absolutely heavenly. Without a doubt, it was the best ravioli I had ever had in my life; the pasta was incredibly fresh (we were told later that all the pasta is handmade every single day) and the beef was perfectly done and didn’t overpower the rich wine sauce. Estelle and I also shared the wild mushroom risotto with fresh parmesan, which we both thoroughly enjoyed but was unfortunately overshadowed by the greatness of our other dishes.
For the main course, Estelle ordered the lobster special of the day, served on a bed of seafood risotto and cleaned from the shell with a decorative fantail. She loved it, as it was very soft and again, not too fishy. I went with the beef tenderloin “Palo,” a thick cut of meat topped with melted gorgonzola cheese and a red wine sauce. I’ll admit that I scraped the cheese off the top, but only because I prefer the flavor the cheese imparts onto the meat rather than feeling like I’m eating a fancy cheeseburger without the bun. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender, and juicy, and the flavor combination from the cheese and the reduction perfectly complemented the steak.
We ordered dessert as the sun was setting.
After nearly two hours of eating we were amazed that we even considered dessert, and we wound up ordering four of them anyway. We each ordered Palo’s signature chocolate souffle during our main course, as our server told us it needed quite a bit of prep time.
It was absolutely amazing. Our server dug a little hole in the middle with a spoon and encouraged us to liberally pour in either the dark or white chocolate sauces served on the side. The cake was moist, sweet, and very flavorful, and the sauces simply put the dish over the top. The vanilla bean ice cream was a perfect complement.
We also wound up ordering a warm orange almond cake which was very delicious. Estelle found it refreshing, and loved the citrus pop in her mouth.
I also ordered the chocolate amaretto indulgence, which was soft and silky dark chocolate mousse with hints of orange. It was out of this world. I don’t even think I can find any words descriptive enough to give it even a modicum of justice. Unfortunately, the cannoli it came with (and which was the reason I had ordered the dish in the first place) was the sole disappointment of the evening. It was somewhat limp and the filling had what I believe were pistachios in it, which did nothing for me. I would have preferred a plain, old fashioned cannoli (like plain old vanilla bean ice cream with the souffle) to let the main dish do the talking.
Of course we had to have some delicious coffee with our dessert, but the highlight of the evening might have been finding Steamboat Willie hiding underneath the china!
At the end of the meal, we realized we had spent approximately two and a half hours consuming a ridiculous amount of food that was so good it seemed unreal. We both even conceded that the meal as a whole may have been the best one we ever had in our lives. With two adult reservations at $20 a piece and two glasses of wine each at $10 per glass, it only cost us $80 to have a meal for the ages. I simply don’t think I could say enough wonderful things about our Palo experience, other than that it will definitely be a “must-do” on every future Disney Cruise!