Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fulton's Crab House

It was just beginning to rain when Mom, Dad, Aaron, Elizabeth, and myself all left the house.  By the time we hit the edge of Disney property, the slight drizzle had turned into a hard rain, and by the time we drove into the Downtown Disney parking lot, it had gone back to constant drizzle.

A short walk in the rain, with the wind off the lake pulling at our umbrellas, and we had reached our destination:  Fulton's Crab House.
Fulton's Crab House


As with Raglan Road and T-Rex, Fulton's is not officially a Disney restaurant at all.  It is an independently owned and operated business legally considered a "licensed third-party partner" with the Walt Disney Company.  But as it is operating on Disney property, and you can get reservations through Disney Dining Reservations, we're going to give it honorary "Disney restaurant" status for the purposes of the tour.

To get to Fulton's, park in Downtown Disney's Lot E, as if you were going to T-Rex, but keep doing past the dinosaur festooned restaurant until you see the big paddlewheel boat.  That boat is Fulton's Crab House.

I wasn't kidding about the boat part.
It was still raining when we arrived at Lot E, so I pulled up to the curb, let Mom and Dad out, and then parked the car.  By the time Elizabeth, Aaron, and I reached the restaurant proper, Mom and Dad had us checked in, and all we had to do was wait to be called for our table.

The wait was literally about thirty seconds.


The young man escorting us to our table (I did not get his name) mentioned that we were going to be seated on the second floor, and as neither Mom nor Dad can really do stairs anymore, we were led to a very small (and I suspect only very rarely used) elevator.



Waiting for the elevator.



As expected for a seafood restaurant located in a big boat, the decor is all about fish, fishing, ships, and so on.  It was pretty neat, though I have to tell you the dining spaces felt slightly odd-shaped to me.  The center of the boat was where the kitchens and utility spaces were kept, so the outside and the bow and stern sections (the front and the back sections, that is) were set for dining... which meant some of the dining rooms (this restaurant is divided into smaller rooms rather than being one large dining space) were... a little different, shall we say.

One of the long, skinny dining rooms.
You can easily see the fish motif in this shot, but...



here...

are...

some...
closeups.
From the elevator, we were led into the Constellation Room, one of the big, semi-circular rooms that you can find at the bow (the front end, that is) and the stern (the back end) of the boat. Its called the Constellation Room because the ceiling is decorated with the constellations visible from the Northern hemisphere.

I have to tell you, the Constellation Room has a pretty good view of the surrounding countryside.

Our table in the Constellation Room.
Only part of the view.
I told you it was raining...
Another part of the view.
There was a lot more to it than these two shots.



Our seater (whose name I never did get, unfortunately), brought us to our table and waited for us to get seated.  I immediately noticed that the table was wrapped in thick butcher's paper.  Normally, a paper-covered table in a full-service restaurant is only found in places that get a lot of kids or is basing their theme on "let's be goofy and random".

Once the meal started, I swiftly discovered that the table is covered in paper because we were going to get messy while eating, and paper is easier to clean up than shellfish-stained cloth tablecloths.  All you have to do with the paper is ball it up and toss it.  No laundry required.

So once we were sat down, the young man said, "And here is your server, Rhonda."

That caused me to blink.  Just a bit.  That's how much of a surprise this was.  There was absolutely no waiting between our sitting down and the server getting to the table, because she had been waiting by our table the whole time.

Rhonda.
As for her by name.

Rhonda handed out menus as she welcomed us in, and was quick to answer all of our questions as we perused them.  We talked with Rhonda about where she's worked, about where we worked (Mom and I, at least... the fact that I cook at the Grand made an impression), about the restaurant, and about the food.  She was very helpful and offered some good suggestions.

Drink orders were taken and while Rhonda went off to take care of those, we made some preliminary decisions.  Mom decided to get a bowl of the lobster bisque and Elizabeth joined her, I decided on a cup of the New England clam chowder, and two orders of the portobello mushroom mushroom fries for the entire table to split.


Portobello mushroom fries.
The portobello mushroom fries, it turns out, are full-sized portobello mushrooms that have been cut into strips, beer-battered, and then deep fried.  They're served with a honey mustard.  These are an interesting take on the standard fried mushroom, and have a pretty good flavor, but in the end they're basically just fried mushrooms.  The honey mustard they are served with was dijon, with a touch of mayonnaise, and honey.  Again, not bad, but pretty standard.

(Dad did, however, mention wanting to try them at home.)


The lobster bisque actually involved a bit of performance.  The bowls were set in front of Mom and Elizabeth, and then Rhonda brought forward these copper pots, each with a long handle.  She proceeded to pour the soup into the bowl from the pots.


Pouring lobster bisque for Mom.
Pouring lobster bisque for Elizabeth.
The bisque.  Its color was perfect.
The lobster bisque had a great flavor, slightly smokey with a hint of cayenne in the background.  Mom tasted it and immediately made the "oh that's good" face.  Elizabeth was grooving on hers as well.  The rest of us got tastes of it, and it was, indeed, pretty good.  But it wasn't the highlight of the appetizer round.  No, that award goes to this:

The New England clam chowder.
Remember the Soul Soup from the Raglan Road review?  Yeah, the clam chowder was that level of fantastic.  I took a bite of it and was immediately in heaven.  The clam chowder was rich, creamy, and was absolutely loaded with clam pieces.  I could tell it was made with a really good white wine, and the emulsion was just amazing.

Mom, seeing the look on my face as she ate her bisque, asked me what was up.  So I told her.  The clam chowder was eye-wideningly amazing.  So she asked for a bite.

One thing you need to know about my mother:  she's picky.  Don't get me wrong, I love her to death, but she frustrates the hell out of the chef in me because basically she likes about a half-dozen things, and that is it.  She hates going out of her comfort zone, foodwise, and sometimes it takes me always twisting her arm off to get her to try anything she hasn't tried yet.  If she's tried it, and decided she doesn't like it, you can't get her to try it again even if you held a gun up to her head.  She's just that stubborn when it comes to food.

She likes clam chowder... as long as its the Manhattan kind.  You know, the kind made with tomato broth?  The kind that doesn't have cream in it.  The kind that's thin, and runny, and red?  Yeah.  If its not Manhattan clam chowder, she doesn't want it.  So, as I said, she took a spoonful of the clam chowder.  And then said, "I ordered the wrong soup... I should have got the clam chowder." Don't get me wrong... the bisque was fine.  Nothing wrong with the bisque.  But by comparison, it was a bit weak.


Sooner than I thought, my soup was gone, and I honestly lamented it out loud.  I looked at the cup, sighed a bit, and said "My soup is gone.  Why is my soup gone?" in precisely the same confused voice Jack Sparrow used when he asked what happened to the rum. 

Eventually, some entree choices were made.  I had watched this lobster-bedecked something waltz by just a moment before, so I ordered one.  Its formal name is the Fulton's Seafood Tower, and believe it or not, its an appetizer intended for two people.

The Fulton's Seafood Tower
My staring contest with a fully cooked lobster.
I'm wondering where the hell to begin with this thing.
The Seafood tower is a bi-level construct featuring a whole steamed lobster, four raw oysters, six absolutely huge shrimp, and some Alaskan king crab legs.  The lobster has been cleaned for you, so you don't have to go mucking about with the poor bug's internal organs before eating it, and the crab legs and claws have been split to make extracting the meat much, much easier.  Remember, folks, this is listed under the appetizers.

Mom and Aaron ordered the Chilled Seafood Trio.  From what I understand, this entree is essentially the same as the Fulton's Seafood Tower, without the tower and the pan of whole lobster.  Both Mom and Aaron elected to have their oysters fried, while I took mine raw.


The chilled seafood trio.
The chilled seafood trio consists of Alaskan king crab legs, oysters (in this case fried ones), and peel-and-eat shrimp (eight of them... visibly smaller than the monster shrimp I had on my plate).

Dad, on the other hand, ordered the Hook and Sinker.  This is a "create your own combo" with half of one of the sandwiches (you have a choice between their chicken sandwich, the oyster po'boy, and the shrimp po'boy) and a cup of one of their soups, or (if you choose) a table salad.  Dad went with the lobster bisque.


The Hook and Sinker.
Everybody enjoyed their lunch, and we all had a really good time with each other.  But the honest truth is this:  while everything tasted good, it wasn't all that special.  What I mean is that we could have had the same meal at pretty much any Red Lobster.  Granted, the ambiance was nice, and the extra touches were cool, and Rhonda was just super... but still, with the single exception of the New England clam chowder, the food itself was good but not exceptional.

There was a small list of defects with the meal:
  • Some of the lobster meat was a bit overcooked, and thus was rubbery.
  • Everyone who ate crab (me, Aaron, and Mom) each encountered one jointful of crabmeat that seemed to have been soaked in saltwater overnight after it had been cooked.
  • The peel-and-eat shrimp on the chilled seafood trio were very bland, and didn't seem to have been seasoned when they were cooked.
  • The bread on the top of Dad's sandwich was hard and crusty while the bottom piece was soft and pliable...
  • We had to ask for drawn butter.  In pretty much every other seafood place I've ever been to, you get that as a matter of course.
You get the idea.  None of these problems were "fatal".  We all thought it was a good meal and had a good time eating it, but as I've already said, we could have gone to Red Lobster and had about the same meal.

Of course, we wouldn't have had the fantastic service provided by Rhonda, nor the great view, nor the fantastic surroundings.  And those factors made what would have been a pretty standard meal a bit special.  So... would I recommend Fulton's to friends?  Yeah, I would.  I'd warn them not to expect miracles, but yeah, I'd recommend it.  Let's call it three-and-three-quarters stars out of five.

The accumulated bill (we were all going dutch today) was a little over $150 for five people.  My own part of that damage, for the Fulton's Seafood Tower, a drink, and some soup, was $54.  And just to note... I'm writing this some six hours after we got done eating, and am still not that hungry, so the money is well worth it.

And if you go, ask for Rhonda by name.




Next up:  Bongo's Cuban Cafe, at Downtown Disney.

2 comments:

  1. Stumbled on your blog from Disneyfoodblog.com, and I love it, you're hilarious! I've been going back and reading all of them. Hope you can do a couple about Food & Wine before I head over there :-)

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    Replies
    1. We're hitting Food and Wine probably on the 20th, and I'm thinking that column is going to be in multiple parts, because I'm trying EVERYTHING.

      The Bongo's expedition is up next on the 14th.

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