Branching out from the acclaimed Patina restaurant in Los Angeles, high-priest-of-cuisine Joachim Splichal brings us this Spanish-inspired Mediterranean concept duo at the heart of Downtown Disney. The main restaurant, Catal, features a series of intimate second-floor rooms that combine rustic Mediterranean charm with fine dining. Complemented by an international wine list, the menu is a collage of flavors that borrow from France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, and the Middle East -- all united in selections that manage to be intriguing but not overwhelming. Though the menu will vary seasonally, expect to find selections like braised lamb shoulder with spicy red lentil curry, chorizo-spiked Spanish paella, or roasted half chicken with savoy cabbage and Dijon mustard jus. The Uva Bar (uva means "grape" in Spanish) is a casual tapas bar at an outdoor courtyard in the middle of the Downtown Disney walkway. Martinis are a standout, and there are 40 different wines by the glass. The affordable menu echoes the pan-Mediterranean influence, even offering many items from the Catal menu; standouts include cabernet-braised short ribs atop horseradish mashed potatoes, marinated olives, and cured Spanish ham; and Andalusian gazpacho with rock shrimp.
Note: For an even more casual Italian experience -- and one that's considerably more kid-friendly -- try Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria (1550 Downtown Disney Dr., [714/776-6200]), also a Patina Group restaurant. There are 2-dozen thin crust pizzas, plus sandwiches and salads.