Review: Palo on the Disney Fantasy is a delicious departure from the rotational dining routine

in Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Food

By far, the best meals for the best prices available on the new Disney Fantasy cruise ship can be found at Palo. Though the Italian restaurant may not be unique to the Fantasy, also appearing on all three other Disney Cruise Line ships, its cuisine is nothing short of spectacular, far superior to anything found in the rotational dining options on board.

Palo on the Disney Fantasy

After a lackluster meal at Animator’s Palate the night prior during the recent Inaugural cruise, I was certainly ready for some great food. The rotational dining on the Disney Fantasy includes stops in Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and Royal Court, placing diners at assigned tables with the same servers and shipmates each night. Those experiences are included in the cost of a Disney cruise. But for an extra $20 per head, adults (18+) willing to dress up a little bit can dine comfortably and quietly at Palo, well worth the extra cost.

Palo on the Disney Fantasy

Palo is not overtly Italian in its dimly-lit decor, but its food speaks volumes beyond its understated appearance, beginning with the fresh bread and crispy breadsticks awaiting patrons at each table.

Bread and breadsticks - Palo

From there, the Italian culinary adventure begins with a delicious assortment of antipasti, wheeled table side by servers, with each plate individually and carefully prepared.

Antipasti - Palo

Offerings include fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese, prosciutto di Parma and other sliced cold cuts, marinated olives and artichokes, roasted peppers, and an assortment of flavored oils. I could have eaten just these finger foods all night and left happy, but there was much more to come.

Antipasti - Palo

Palo’s menu isn’t a typical Americanized Italian menu with over-sauced, over-stuffed lasagna and manicotti. Its Northern Italian cuisine features dishes prepared with finesse, each offering complex flavors, beginning with the appetizers.

I ordered the Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta, with a Roasted Shallot Sauce and Parmesan Crisp. Though I wouldn’t give it the highest points for presentation, nearly unrecognizable on the plate, its taste far made up for it with the rich sauce equally as good as the perfectly prepared polenta and savory mushroom. My only complaint is that the parmesan crisp wasn’t quite crispy, though still enjoyable.

Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta - Palo

My wife Michelle ordered Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes with Balsamic Dressing, a variation of a Caprese salad. I tried it and found the fresh, ripe tomato’s natural sweetness beautifully enhanced by the bright dressing.

Tomato and Basil Salad - Palo

Onto the soup and salad course, my Tuscan White Bean Soup with Prosciutto and Parmesan Cheese lacked enough beans in it for me to be completely satisfied, though the few beans I did have were wonderful in texture and bold flavor. Prosciutto really dominated this soup, with salty, crispy bites found throughout. Overall, it was an excellent soup that fell just short of perfect.

White Bean Soup - Palo

Michelle’s Fresh Arugula Salad wasn’t what I was in the mood for but she enjoyed it.

Arugula Salad - Palo

Before entrees are served, Palo’s friendly staff offers a small iced, lemon-flavored palate cleanser topped with a fresh blueberry. I’m not a big fan of lemon flavor, so one tiny sip was enough to prepare my taste buds for the main course. But Michelle, a lemon lover, gladly washed her salads down with not only her “drink” but also the rest of mine.

Lemon palate cleanser - Palo

It’s worth noting that despite its appearance, this mid-meal offering is not an alcoholic beverage. But servers do provide the ship’s signature Taittinger champagne during the meal at no extra charge.

On to the entrees, I devoured my expertly cooked Osso Buco di Vitello, a slow-roasted veal shank over a hearty tomato-based sauce and perfectly al dente Risotto Milanese. The risotto alone could have been a main course, but the veal was the star of this dish, down to the tiny spoon used for the delicious marrow in the bone. If I have any complaints about this dish, it’s that it’s a bit too rustic, with too many stringy greens placed on top. But there’s more than enough veal on this shank to satisfy even the biggest appetite. I couldn’t finish it all and was entirely satisfied when I stopped early.

Osso Bucco - Palo

Michelle had Palo’s signature Beef Tenderloin, topped with Gorgonzola cheese. I am a cheese lover, but the bleu family doesn’t sit well with my taste buds, so in trying her meal I found the meat to be perfectly cooked to medium rare and well seasoned, but the Gorgonzola topping was too much for me personally. For Michelle, however, who regularly enjoys a good bleu cheese-crowned steak, it was a perfect entree, served over a bed of delicious garlic mashed potatoes.

Beef Tenderloin - Palo

Because we had essentially gone hungry the night before with our poor meal at Animator’s Palate, we jointly ordered a third entree just in case one of us didn’t like our first choices. Fortunately, those turned out to be fantastic, as did the Chianti Braised Beef Ravioli, which we each nibbled on. I think we both preferred our primary meals, but the shredded beef inside the ravioli was definitely moist and full of hearty, juicy flavor.

Beef Ravioli - Palo

We still managed to save room for dessert, again ordering quite a few items from the menu. The Chocolate Soufflé with Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Sauce is a must-have for anyone dining at Palo, arriving to the table in separate components waiting to be combined.

Chocolate Souffle - Palo

As if the souffle unto itself isn’t enough, servers pour the two sauces together inside, adding even more moisture to an already fluffy, sweet dessert.

Chocolate Souffle - Palo

But as good as the souffle is, my other dessert was beyond delicious, arriving to the table in a gorgeous presentation. The extraordinarily decadent dark chocolate ganache melted in my mouth, enhanced by the fruity drizzles and sauces used to garnish the plate. The chocolate had a texture close to pudding, though thicker and very dark, which I love.

Chocolate Ganache - Palo

Unfortunately the cannoli that topped it all was soggy and tasted more like an eclair, with its fluffy filling not as welcome as the thick, sugar-rich ricotta that I was hoping for. But overall, the combination of this and the souffle was more than enough for me to leave my sweet tooth completely satisfied.

Michelle had the Panna Cotta with Strawberry-Basil Sorbet, both of which were far less intense in flavor than the chocolate offerings, but no less enjoyable. Arriving in a slightly less ornate presentation, the panna cotta custard sat alone, not needing any assistance to shine on the plate. But the sorbet is what stood out for both of us, a crisp alternative to ice cream, with infused basil offering an extra fresh punch that perfectly tied it to the rest of the meal.

Panna Cotta - Palo

With an extraordinarily friendly staff, comfortable atmosphere, and superior food available at a reasonable up charge, Palo is the best place to eat on the Disney Fantasy. Some may argue that the nearby Remy restaurant is a better choice, but at $75 per head, that fine dining offering is only for those who are looking for the most complete chef’s table experience. At a fraction of the price, Palo offers near perfection in its food and service and I would have happily eaten there instead of any of the rotational dining restaurants, as there were plenty of other menu options I’d like to have tried.

Reservations are required to dine at Palo and it is recommended to book them as soon as they’re available online, as the restaurant can quickly become fully booked for each voyage. Brunch service is also available at Palo during the Disney Fantasy’s 7-day cruises.

More photos from Palo on the Disney Fantasy:

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