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Inside Club 33

07.22.09 - Even if you're looking for Club 33 at Disneyland Resort, you may walk right by it. There's little more than an aqua-colored "33" address plate — the luxury restaurant is located at 33 Royal Street in New Orleans Square — and a finely burnished gray door to hint at the world of plush comfort, nuanced hospitality and impeccable cuisine awaiting club members inside.

 

 
In the Trophy Room, oak tables, fine linens and plush leather chairs add to the incomparable culinary experience.
That's just how Walt wanted it: An exclusive, discrete, members-only dining establishment where he could entertain dignitaries and friends in a serene atmosphere recalling the finest gourmet restaurants in New Orleans and Paris. Sadly, Walt never dined in his dream palace, having passed away six months before its opening, but his formula was an instant hit. Ever since Club 33 opened on June 15, 1967, a waiting list for one of its 480 member slots has stretched from New Orleans Square to Tomorrowland and back again. Today you'll wait at least 18 years for the privilege of using your name and "Club 33 Member" in the same sentence.

When you enter Club 33's elegant foyer, with its cherry-colored wood walls, you know you've arrived somewhere special. The sound and tumult of the Park disappear as quiet elegance wraps you in its comforting embrace. You can use the grand staircase to reach the second-floor dining rooms or ascend Parisian-style, in a turn-of-the-century elevator lift Walt's Imagineers built based on an elevator he saw in the City of Light.

 

 
The main foyer in Club 33 with a turn-of-the-century-like elevator Walt's Imagineers built based on one he saw in Paris.
The pleasant sound of hushed voices and ice clinking in glasses welcomes you into the restaurant's dining areas. Waiters carrying silver trays fragrant with the delectable scents of lamb, chicken and shrimp walk with deliberate though not hurried steps, heading for one of two dining spaces — the impeccably formal Main Dining Room, furnished with Napoleonic chandeliers and artifacts Walt and Lillian bought in Paris, and the Trophy Room, a sumptuous, wood-paneled affair that evokes the whispered elegance of a British men's club. There's plenty of amazing memorabilia on display as well — the oak telephone booth from The Happiest Millionaire and a side table from Mary Poppins, for example.

As we settle into plush leather seats in the Trophy Room, our server describes today's lunch menu. It's a mouth-watering soliloquy full of high points — Seared Muscovy Duck Breast, served with Apricot Pan Jus for example, or the Norwegian Salmon, served with Pea Shoot Tendril and a Champagne Risotto. The meal begins with a trip to the appetizer bar, where salads, imported cheeses, cold cuts and paté, fresh shellfish and seasoned fingerling potatoes provide ample pre-meal temptation. We savor each mouthful while taking in our luxurious surroundings — on the Trophy Room's rich cypress-paneled walls hang Lillian's butterfly collections, paintings from key milestones in Walt's life and one of Fess Parker's rifles from Davy Crockett. Above the doorway, a leering, double-take-inducing Audio-Animatronics® vulture serves as the room's guardian.

 

 
Above the doorway in the Trophy Room, an Audio-Animatronics® vulture serve as the room's de facto guardian.
This being a work day, we refuse our wine steward's invitation to sample a MacMurray Pinot Noir, but he remains the picture of affability. "If you look up, you'll see microphones in the chandeliers," he says. "Walt's idea was to have someone in the back room listen to some of his guests talk then have the vulture squawk a joke based on something they said!" If you get the chance to dine here, don't worry� the system was never put into operation.

Lunch is nothing less than a revelation. Just one standout is the magnificently flavored London sirloin steak, generously portioned and bathed in an indescribably delicious Béarnaise sauce. Club 33 calls the accompaniment Yukon gold steak fries — but "tiny pillows of fluffly goodness" seems more appropriate! Every savory bite of this gourmet feast reminds you that no matter how spectacular the surroundings, food comes first at Club 33.

 

 
Rooms with a view.
Those that can still find room for a post-meal sweet head for the dazzling dessert bar, where we select from a mouth-watering array of perfectly pixie-sized chocolate éclairs, cheesecakes, Club 33's classic coconut macaroons and other assorted goodies. Nearby, a bubbling waterfall of sinfully delicious chocolate is the gourmet's version of an offer you can't refuse, and the warm, gooey confection gives the treats added splendor — if that's possible.

Chef Marcel St. Pierre stops by to say a gracious hello. Before he heads back to the kitchen, we ask him a quick question: What other restaurants in town are comparable to this one? He flashes a mischievous smile. "None are comparable," he says.

"Quality will out," Walt Disney used to say. As the door closes behind us and we walk out into a sunlit New Orleans Square, joining a happy band of buccaneers on their way to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, it's impossible to disagree.


 


 


 

 

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