REVIEW - Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs

Jan 30, 2017 in "Planet Hollywood Observatory"

Planet Hollywood Observatory opening day

Planet Hollywood is back open at Disney Springs following a year of renovations to reinvent the venue as the Planet Hollywood Observatory.

The restaurant has a brand new look inside and out, and has brought in celebrity Chef Guy Fieri to bring some new dishes to the menu.

The Exterior Re-design

Following the look of Disney Springs, the Planet Hollywood Observatory takes on a feel of a victorian era observatory. Gone is the bright blue dome, and in its place, a low-key grey dome, with an imposing brickwork entrance.

During the evening hours, the lighting scheme brings the building to life, and is much more in keeping with the more upscale look of Disney Spring than then old Downtown Disney look.

Perhaps the biggest addition is the new outdoor terraces overlooking the Springs. Two expansive outdoor decks provide an outdoor dining room and lounge.

On the ground level is the 5000 sq. ft. Stargazers Lounge. Offering cocktails and other drinks, the lounge has its own entrance on the side of the building, and will be offering nightly live entertainment.

The upper level terrace is an outdoor dining space for the restaurant. It has a large capacity and offers great views of the Town Center and water.

Inside Planet Hollywood Observatory

The main entrance is made up of a large lobby building, with a central stairway up to the restaurant. The lobby features stroller parking, and the obligatory Planet Hollywood photo spot. It is a somewhat sparse space, but has an impressive ceiling and lighting scheme.

Planet Hollywood was always known for its celebrity endorsements and movie props. The later is still true of the redesign. Heading up the entrance staircase, guests are greeted by costumes from Star Wars and Superman.

The hallway at the top of the stairs is reminiscent of a movie theater with posters along the walls. Here you check-in at the podium, and are directed to one of three dining levels.  Each level then has its own check-in podium from where guests are directed to their seats. It certainly isn’t the smoothest of arrival processes, although perhaps its three level layout makes this a necessity.

Like before, the three levels are split, providing a dramatic view of the dining rooms, especially from the ground floor.

One side of the dome features large projections of music videos. It is here where the story of the Observatory seems to fall apart. Once inside, you don’t feel as though you are in anything really related to movies or an observatory, but instead in a loud sports bar playing music. 

The 4500 sq. ft. video wall apparently makes use of trompe l’oeil 3D technology, but in person it doesn’t appear very effective. We were not aware it was supposed to be 3D.  The music videos are mainly top 40 songs from recent years.

Around the dining rooms there are display cases with movie artifacts. The axe from The Shining, and props from Terminator 2 are among the collection. 

The ambiance is loud and flashy, kids will no doubt be entertained by the large video wall.

There are two bars inside the restaurant, one on each level. Both offer counter seating.

The lower level dining room is also home to perhaps the best of the new additions, outdoor dining. 

The large terrace offers a lot of seating, with views of The Landing, Town Center and the Springs below.

Screens playing music views are also on the outside, but the ambiance here is much calmer and relaxed.

The second level dining room seems a little calmer than the lower, and offers  a slightly more upscale feel.

There are more nooks and booths, making for a more intimate experience rather than the dining hall feel of the lower level.

The video screen wall can be seen from the second level.

A central spiral staircase joins the three levels, although the upper level was not open during our visit. 

The Food

Favorites from the old Planet Hollywood can still be found, but the biggest changes come with the introduction of a burger and sandwich line-up from celebrity Chef Guy Fieri. You can view the new Planet Hollywood Observatory menu here.

The menu certainly tries to hit all the areas for this type of restaurant. Lots of fried food, pastas, steak and of course the new burgers and sandwiches.

The food certainly isn’t cheap, with burgers priced between $16 and $20, sandwiches around $18, and most other entries between $20 and $30.

The presentation of the dishes is somewhat unsual. The $30 BBQ Ribs are served on a wooden mini picnic bench. The $30 Cosmic Sampler plate is served on a rotating steel ferris wheel.

We started out with the Potato Wedge Dippers. Costing $12, you get around 10 wedges, along with cheese sauce, crispy bacon bits, buttermilk ranch dressing, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

The wedges were well cooked, but the ratio of dippers to potato was way off. The dish needs more potato to make use of the dips, especially the soup bowl size cheese sauce.

Part of the new Big Bite Burger menu from Fieri, we went with the Prime Time American Kobe burger. Costing $20, it features American-style kobe beef, smoked gouda, cheddar, caramelized onion jam, LTOP and donkey sauce on a garlic-buttered brioche bun.

We asked for it to be cooked medium, and it was. The burger was very good, with great flavor from both the beef and the toppings. The bun was nicely toasted, and the burger was sized just about right.

It is one expensive burger, but it is up there with one of the best at Walt Disney World. $20 still seems an awful lot for a burger and fries.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we tried out the Grouper in parchment Paper. For $29 you get a Grouper filet, sliced citrus, red potatoes and green beans cooked in sealed parchment paper.

The dish had a good flavor, and it was nice to get some vegetables and something wholesome in a restaurant dominated by fried and fatty foods. If you are looking for something healthy, this is a good choice at Planet Hollywood. Again though, $29 is a lot to ask for a filet of fish in this type of restaurant.

Following the recent trend of over-the-top milkshakes, we tried the $14 Chocolate Comet milkshake.

The idea here is a milkshake with pieces of cake, candy and chocolate plastered over the outside. The version we received didn’t look anywhere near as good as the promo shots, and was a disappointing milkshake. The ice cream used did not seem very high quality which left a watery thin chocolate milk type drink. The outside of the glass just looked a mess, and was very difficult to handle. This might be one that varies with whoever makes it, but it just isn’t worth $14.

Sadly our second dessert choice was also a miss. The homemade Sticky Toffee Pudding at $10 was let down by low quality ice cream, and a dry cake. The ice cream had no flavor, and had chunks of ice, adding to its watery consistency. The jug of toffee sauce was a nice touch, but didn’t save the dish.

Overall, we felt the food was certainly improved from the old Planet Hollywood, particularly the new burger and sandwich line-up. Surprisingly the desserts did not measure up, something that really should be a strong point at this type of restaurant.

The Shop

Like the old Planet Hollywood, a gift shop is part of the restaurant, offering a variety of apparel and gifts.

The shop is small, and guests were being directed to exit via the shop, rather than via the main lobby entrance.

Summary

Planet Hollywood had to up its game with the excellent additions that have come from the Disney Springs redevelopment.

There is no doubt it is improved from before. The exterior looks better than it did, but the end result has not lived up to its original concept art design that we saw when the project was announced.

The theme of the restaurant seems confused at best. The Observatory theme doesn’t seem to have been realized, and the movie theme is only represented by display cases with movie props. Most people will come away from the restaurant thinking it is a music video showcase.

The inside is fresh and improved, but seems to be a missed opportunity to do something great with a very unique building. Ultimately it hasn’t changed that much from before.

The new burger and sandwich menu looks to be the restaurant’s biggest selling point, and if you are looking for this type of food, it is worth a visit.

Better dining options are in plentiful supply at Disney Springs, with similarly priced restaurants such as Homecoming and Frontera offering far better food. Planet Hollywood does fill a niche for this type of food, and many guests will be pleased to see what is on offer.

You can check out more photos from Planet Hollywood Observatory in our opening day tour.

Planet Hollywood Observatory is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11am to 1am and is located in the West Side, next door to the Coca-Cola Store. View the full Planet Hollywood Observatory menu.

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Article Posted: Jan 30, 2017 / 11:25am EST