May 30, 2011
This was one of the dinners we were looking most forward to as it was a new restaurant in Epcot, World Showcase and we were going to be in the restaurant during the Illuminations show.
We arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes early for our 8:00 pm advanced dining reservations (ADR). There was a Margarita stand across the walkway so the adults stopped for a cold beverage as it was 90 degrees and 90% humidity. They allowed us to bring our beverages in with us to the table as we had not quite finished when our buzzer went off.
My 93-year-old mother-in-law on her first trip to Walt Disney World with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law all enjoying a Margarita in front of the Mexican Pavilion.
The pictures of the restaurant and Cantina are taken from the lake so that you can see the limited viewing area that is available during Illuminations.
We were seated at a table in the first section of restaurant as you enter. There was only one other party seated in this area so we felt we were able to really enjoy our meal and not feel crowded or rushed.
Our meal started with a bit of an issue as we went to order as my dear son was the only child in our party as his 11 year-old sister is considered an adult on the meal plan. He wanted authentic Mexican food and was disappointed that his choices were beef tacos, chicken tacos or chicken tenders. Our waiter, Sixto, tried to help but it was actually the wonderful woman who brought out our plates who told him this is what Mexican children eat everyday. He was finally able to be okay with his meal.
Our meal started with two large basket of colorful tortilla chips with a red spicy salsa and a green milder salsa. The chips are larger and thicker than usual but we still liked the taste and crispness. As it was already 8:15 pm and we were hungry both baskets were almost completely gone by the time our entrees arrived at our table.
First to arrive were three bowls of rice and three bowls of black beans to serve the table. Although I do not have pictures of them they were all very good. The black beans were especially flavorful. The rice needed to be added to the beans as this dish as it really did not stand up well on its own. It had very little flavor.
I ordered the Arrachera, Flank Steak. I thought this was one of the best dishes that I had ever eaten at Walt Disney World. The steak was crusted and charred on the outside but most and rare (but not raw) inside. It was laying on a bed of summer squash, zuchini, onions and beans with a tamal with rajas laid over the top. I had to ask about the sauce because it was amazing. It is a sour cream based sauce that I had never tried before.
Two members of our party ordered the Tacos de Camerones, Shrimp Tacos. When they first arrived all you can see is shredded cabbage and tortillas. Not a shrimp could be seen. At first there was some skeptisism as to whether this was going to be enough food or not but both commented on how delicious it was and that there was more than enough food.
As I mentioned earlier my son was not thrilled with his dinner choices but once it arrived and the server was able to assure him that this was real Mexican food he was much better. He is also gluten-free so he had the tacos made with corn tortillas, a side of green beans and rice. He happily cleaned up the entire plate and waited for his authentic Mexican dessert.
Two members of our party ordered the Pollo el Pastor, chicken with roasted vegetables, beans and pineapple relish. Neither my mother-in-law nor my daughter were able to finish the entire dish. Both commented on how it was flavorful and moist it was but needed a little something extra for a kick. That it seemed fairly sweet.
My sister-in-law ordered the Puerco en Salsa de Mole Negro, pork loin with mole negro sauce served on sweet mashed potatoes with corn and roasted vegetables on the side. She was the one who finally summed up the meal to this point the best, “Although everything tastes absolutely delicious I wish the food was served warmer.” She was absolutely right. Everything on all the plates we were served was served at almost room temperature. Nothing was really warm at all. It all tasted good together but it would have been a good deal better if it had been at least warmed.
But, we ate happily and just as we were three-quarters of the way through our entrees Illuminations started. There were no guests left in our little room off to the side so my children went to the small window to watch the fireworks from there. The manager actually brought a chair for my mother-in-law so that she could sit in the back of the next section and watch Illuminations while I narrated the story to her. It was difficult to see what was on the earth/ball at times from where we were but you could get a good idea if you knew the show well. We were just pleased that my mother-in-law did not have to stand and was easily able to see most of the show. Two-thirds of this room was empty as the show began so the rest of our party stood in the back and watched and listened to the show.
During this time we talked to the manager about the restaurant and he mentioned that almost 90% of the people that have reservations after 7:00 pm ask for seating to see Illuminations. The room is not that large and they cannot possibly accomodate all that would like to be there. We told him how we were just appreciative that they allowed us to move a chair over for our mother-in-law and that it was still a beautiful show.
As Illuminations ended we finished our meals and ordered desserts.
Two of us ordered the “Abuelita”, a delicious little creamy pot of dark chocolate custard with crunch topping and a carmelized topping. It was amazing. I thought it was going to be far too sweet for me but one bite and of the dark chocolate custard made me realize I would be returning to La Hacienda if only for this dessert.
Three at our table enjoyed the Empanada de Manzana, an apple turnover with Vanilla Ice Cream. They were all expecting more of an empanada shape and pie type crust rather than the puff pastry even though it clearly says puff pastry in the description on the menu. But, they all enjoyed it and said it was very good and very satisfying.
The last members of our party had the trio of sorbets to finish their meal. A vanilla bean, mango and strawberry sorbet were served with a crunch cinnamon tortilla on top. The mango stood out among the others who felt the other two were good but ordinary.
We finished eating about 10:15 pm and slowly made our way out of Epcot. By the time we were finished eating there were very few people left in the park and it was a nice slow walk to the entrance.
We have already decided we will book this restaurant again for our next trip. Even though our Illuminations view was limited we have seen it so many times that it was okay for us. Also being able to sit and not have to wait for an hour or more ahead of time to reserve a space to see Illuminations was more than worth it to us. The walk out was pleasant and not crowded so for us this has become a new favorite.