Small Wonders

Capa at the Four Seasons grasps the true meaning of tapas with flavorful aplomb. But Chef Tim Dacey can also cook up a mean Porterhouse.

The dining world has been overrun by small plates, with restaurants serving everything from minuscule hamburgers to tiny bits of sushi and calling them “tapas,” relegating the term from a description of a specific food to generic status. But in the land of small plate servings, the Spanish ideal remains the only true king. 

Call them pintxos, raciones or banderillas, the bite-sized shares of ham, seafood and vegetables native to Spain and Portugal are mini works of edible art perfected by centuries of bar owners using bits of food to encourage drinkers. While Capa, the new restaurant atop the posh Four Seasons hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort, might add modern culinary touches to ancient tradition, the spirit of true Andalusian tapas is alive and deliciously well there. 

The rooftop deck offers remarkable views.

Chef Tim Dacey practiced the art of the small plate during his days working under famed Chef Jose Garces at Chicago’s resplendent Catalan restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa. Tours at Spiaggia in Chicago, and Michelin-starred The NoMad in New York prepared him for the high-end cuisine at Capa. His cool control is evidenced by the smoothly run exposed kitchen, with the energy of a blazing oak-fired grill contrasting the remarkable calm of those working there. 

The soaring dining space filled with ceiling-high windows showcases several Disney properties from its 17th floor perch (including spectacular fireworks if you time your visit right), with walls of burnished gold, charcoal gray and black where the dark-clad servers seem to disappear until needed. A mural made of Spanish coins and a display of glimmering torero jackets sparkle in alcoves. Above the main dining room, a ruffled river of red fabric by Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar blazes across the ceiling like the flames from the grill, the swirl of the namesake cape (capa) of a matador or the flounce of a Flamenco dancer’s skirt.

The Porterhouse is an enormous offering. 

Chef Dacey’s goal is to combine the joys of a true tapas bar with the depth of a premium steak house, and while the menu isn’t as large as some in town, each dish is prepared with attention and flair. Even a simple item such as a Hamachi crudo ($12) has an exacting style, translucent slivers of amberjack alternating with tiny wedges of clementine orange, the tart sweetness offset by the heat of grated horseradish. 

A colorful plate of ternera beef cheeks ($14) offers tender thin strips of veal draped over roasted bits of rutabaga for a plate that you’ll want to both share and covet. Dacey finds little reason to waste anything; the rich aioli served alongside the veal is made from beef fat trimmed from the cheek. Likewise, the thick whey foam atop the roasted remolacha (Spanish for beet; $12) is a byproduct of the house-made buttermilk cream below it. Grilled cauliflower ($11) is dressed with a rich, smoky olive oil infused with ashes from the wood grill for an interesting depth of flavor. 

The pulpo (octopus) is a small-plate standout.

Other mini-plates include a semi-traditional patatas bravas ($6), small potato columns in a spicy paprika sauce, served with black garlic and squid ink powder; and pulpo, tender octopus from Spain ($14), accompanied by celery root discs and an atypical green pepper and pistachio romesco sauce.

For a more substantial entrée, try the house-made butifarra ($27), pork sausage spiced with garlic and cumin and served with saffron-touched lentils.

Dacey tells me that the beef served at Capa is Florida born and Kansas raised on organic feed, and there’s none better than the 32-ounce Porterhouse for two ($100). Grilled over the oak charcoal, it presents the robust flavor of strip steak and the remarkable tenderness of filet in one rather enormous package. It would be hard to find a better steak in town.

10100 Dream Tree Blvd., Lake Buena Vista 
Menu items: $5-$100

The Four Seasons is reached by driving through the gates of the Golden Oak residential community, on the back end of Disney property and along a drive lined with huge luxury homes. Yes, the guard at the gate will ask where you’re headed; just announce proudly that you are dining at the Four Seasons, and prepare for a unique evening. 

Pig Out

An entire leg of jamon de Bellota, a specialty of the best tapas restaurants, sits at the side of the kitchen. Carved with razor-sharp knives, the ruby red and paper thin ham comes from free-range Iberian pigs fed on acorns, and is cured and air-aged for three years. At $35 a plate it may seem like an extravagance, and it is—but a delightful one. 

Categories: Reviews