Category: WDW Restaurants

Friday Feast: Coral Reef Restaurant

001 Coral Reef_SignIf you remember from my New to You series, Coral Reef was on my list of places to try.  Well on a recent trip, I made it a priority and my partner in crime Amanda and I headed there for lunch!

The restaurant is tucked away on the right side of The Seas pavilion.  I had actually never even been over in this area and it was pretty deserted.  Aside from the sign WAY off to the side, you wouldn’t know anything was even over here.

002 Coral Reef_Entrance

003 Coral Reef_Entrance Menu

004 Coral Reef_Entrance Menu2Once you enter the restaurant, the lobby is very impressive!  You are immediately transported to an undersea environment.  I absolutely LOVE all of the light fixtures and the giant octopus at the check-in desk.

005 Coral Reef_Entrance Hallway

006 Coral Reef_CheckIn

Because no one was in the waiting area and it was very quiet, I expected the restaurant to be empty but it was completely full!  My immediate reaction when we walked in the dining area was that it was much smaller than I had imagined.  It is also very dark and the ceilings are VERY low.  I had always imagined that the dining room was large with high ceilings and a larger viewing area of the aquarium.  I have to say, I was underwhelmed and a little disappointed…

007 Coral Reef_Interior1 010 Coral Reef_Interior4 009 Coral Reef_Interior3 008 Coral Reef_Interior2

I do LOVE the little details in the restaurant though.  Look at these lights!

011 Coral Reef_Detail

Since the restaurant was so full, we were seated all the way in the back of the room.  The dining room is tiered, so we still had a view of the aquarium, but we also had this table in the way…  Honestly, I felt like a creepster every time I looked toward the aquarium because it was like I was just staring at this family!

012 Coral Reef_TableWe had a big breakfast at Kouzzina that morning, so I knew I was going light for lunch.  But honestly, there were a lot of things on the menu I wanted to try!

013 Coral Reef_Menu

Click for a larger image

I ordered a Reef Amber while we were looking over the menu.  The waiter told us this was actually the same as the Safari Amber available over in Animal Kingdom…I thought it was just ok.  We were also brought some bread, which was not very good.  Actually, it was so dry that it was kind of inedible…

014 Coral Reef_Reef Amber

015 Coral Reef_Bread

For my meal, I ordered two appetizers…the Creamy Lobster Soup made with Tarragon & Brandy and the Fish Tostadas with Napa Cabbage, Avocado Cilantro Cream & fresh Lime.  YUM!  The soup was very good (not Yachtsman Steakhouse good, but good).  It actually had a a great depth of flavor and I would return just to eat this soup.

016 Coral Reef_Lobster Bisque

The tostadas were also very good.  It’s no secret I love any type of Mexican inspired food, so this was right up my alley.  However, some of the fish, which I can’t recall what it was, was a little too “fishy” and not very appetizing.  But overall, I really enjoyed this dish.

017 Coral Reef_Tostadas

When Amanda decided to go with the Grilled Mahi Mahi with Laughing Bird Shrimp, Hearts of Palm, Jasmine Rice, Cilantro and a Coconut-Lime Sauce, I was super excited!  This is what I would’ve ordered if I didn’t have my heart set on tostadas, and let me tell you…this is a GREAT dish.  The flavors were wonderful and the fish was perfectly cooked.  I think this will be my go to dish if I return to Coral Reef.

018 Coral Reef_MahiAfter we finished our meal, we were too full for dessert, so we decided to study our fish guide.  But then started feeling kind of guilty for all the fish we just ate, so we just took off to ride Living with the Land next door to get our veggie on.

019 Coral Reef_Fish Guide1020 Coral Reef_Fish Guide2

Overall, I have mixed feelings about Coral Reef.  The food was actually quite good, but the atmosphere didn’t live up to my expectations.  I’m glad we went for lunch since the prices are a bit more reasonable and that I didn’t waste a good signature dinner meal here.  I might return, but it’s definitely not at the top of my list.

Have you been to Coral Reef Restaurant?  What do you think? 

Friday Feast: Pre-Race Fuel at WDW

One of the questions I get asked most often is “Where is the best place to eat before a runDisney race at Walt Disney World?”  This is such a difficult question and something I struggle with before every race.  Luckily, WDW has a TON of dining options, so there is generally something for everyone.

Here are a few of the places I have dined at before runDisney events…the good, bad and meh.

Via Napoli

Chicken Parmesan at Via Napoli

Chicken Parmesan at Via Napoli

Italian food always seems to be the go to meal before races, probably because of the abundance of pasta for carb-loading.  So before my first half marathon (Princess 2012), that’s exactly what I decided on and headed to Via Napoli.  I really wanted Chicken Parmesan (one of my favorite pre-race meals anywhere!) which is what I ordered.  At Via Napoli, this comes with roasted potatoes, but I wanted some pasta.  The waiter would not make the substitution, saying that the chef absolutely refuses.  Really?  In Disney?  Interesting…

So I settled for the potatoes, which were good but just didn’t hit the spot.  Also, the restaurant is very loud and busy so I didn’t enjoy the overall experience for before a race.  You can read my full review here.

San Angel Inn

Enchiladas Verde De Pollo at San Angel Inn

Enchiladas Verde De Pollo at San Angel Inn

I had a late lunch here before the 2013 WDW Marathon to fuel up for those long 26.2 miles.  I LOVE Mexican food and while it might not be good for some before a race, it’s perfect for me.  Well as long as it’s something mild and not too acidic.  The enchiladas at San Angel Inn are just perfect.  Corn tortillas, rice and beans for carbs and tons of chicken for protein.  Unfortunately, I had to pass on having a yummy margarita, but there’s always next time…

Maya Grill

Grande Taco Platter at Maya Grill

Grande Taco Platter at Maya Grill

Oh look…more Mexican food!  Maya Grill is an absolute hidden gem at WDW.  Fantastic food, fun entertainment and it’s pretty easy to get a reservation.  Before the 2013 Princess Half Marathon, my fellow Mexican food lover Amanda and I headed to Maya Grill to fuel up with some of our friends.  We shared a giant bowl of guacamole to start, which was some of the best guac I’ve ever had, and I ordered the Grande Taco Platter for my entree.  I got a combination of beef, shrimp and chicken tacos, and the beef tacos were by far the best.  The shrimp and chicken were just meh.  It came with a generous portion of rice, beans and corn pudding.  Overall, it was amazing and great fuel for the race!

Kouzzina

Turkey-Sweet Potato Hash at Kouzzina

Turkey-Sweet Potato Hash at Kouzzina

It’s no secret that I LOVE Kouzzina breakfast, so it probably comes as no surprise that this is my go to place for meals before any of the night races at WDW.  Before both the 2012 Tower of Terror 10-Miler and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I had a late breakfast (around 10:00 am) at Kouzzina.  Before I found out about my egg sensitivity, my favorite dish was the Turkey-Sweet Potato Hash, which is topped with a perfectly poached egg and arugula.  Drooooooolllll.  Perfect fuel for a night race!!

Since both those races, I have taken tests that have shown that I have a severe sensitivity to eggs.  Booooooo!!!  But guess what??  I found out from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free in WDW that Kouzzina has some of the best allergen free waffles around.  And YES they do!!  Get these bad boys with a side of that delicious sweet potato hash and you are good to go.  You know where I’ll be for all the WDW races this fall.  You can read my full review of all the allergen free options here.

Allergen Free Waffles & Chicken Sausage at Kouzzina

Allergen Free Waffles & Chicken Sausage at Kouzzina

Landscape of Flavors

Mango, Blueberry, Banana Smoothie at Landscape of Flavors

Mango, Blueberry, Banana Smoothie at Landscape of Flavors

There are so many options at Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, but my favorite pre-race option is their smoothie bar.  I drink a smoothie everyday for breakfast to get me going, so this was a seriously awesome find for me in WDW.  The only bad thing is that they wouldn’t add any spinach from the salad bar in the next station…come on!!  But even without the spinach, the mango, blueberry and banana smoothie I had was delicious and a wonderful snack before the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.

ESPN Zone

Championship Chicken Sandwich at ESPN Zone

Championship Chicken Sandwich at ESPN Zone

If you’re staying at the Boardwalk, this is an easy option to get a good meal.  Before the 2012 Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I ate here and ordered the Champion Chicken Sandwich without the bun.  I also got the sun-dried tomato pesto and goat cheese on the side so I could limit my intake of that.  The chicken was very good and the dish was a nice combination of protein and carbs for the race.  I just wish they had sweet potato fries!

I would also recommend getting your food to go if you plan on dining here before a race.  The restaurant is very loud with all of the games going on, so it’s not the best place to relax and get your head together.

In-Room Food

Whole Wheat Bagel Thin, Almond Butter & Banana

Whole Wheat Bagel Thin, Almond Butter & Banana

This combo is my must do meal prior to any race.  Whenever I’m in WDW for a race, I make a point to stop for some bagels, almond butter and bananas.  For me, this is the ideal race fuel…carbs, protein, sugars…perfect.  This combo is also great for staying in a hotel room because nothing needs to be refrigerated.  Trust me on this one…you’ll love it!

Well those are the restaurants I’ve visited so far prior to runDisney events.  What is you’re go to meal before a race?  What is your favorite WDW dining location before a race?

Friday Feast: Todd English’s Bluezoo

01 Bluezoo_Dolphin

Todd English’s Bluezoo is located in the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort and often overlooked by the everyday Walt Disney World guest.  I always feel like if you’re not staying at the Swan or Dolphin, it’s rarely visited.  Well on a recent visit while staying that the Boardwalk, B and I decided to take a stroll over and check it out.

We had an early reservation and my initial thought when entering the restaurant was that it was dark, despite the large windows surrounding the dining room.  The atmosphere is also much more modern than most of the restaurants you will find at Walt Disney World, more along the lines of an NYC restaurant.  The show kitchen is massive and very impressive to see all of the chefs working.  The coolest feature of the kitchen was the “Dancing Fish” which is a signature dish at the restaurant.  The fish spin around an open flame grill…super cool!

Dancing Fish

Dancing Fish

We were seated at a great table with a view of most of the dining room.  I was immediately impressed by the ceiling.  Yes, the ceiling…the light fixtures are so interesting!

Bluezoo Dining Room

Bluezoo Dining Room

Look at that ceiling!

Look at that ceiling!

Obviously, our first priority was cocktails and they certainly have an interesting and extensive list.  I love creative cocktails (as long as they’re not too sweet!) so I had a hard time choosing from this list.

05 Bluezoo_Drink Menu

Bluezoo Cocktail Menu
click for larger image

I knew I wasn’t going for the Bazooka Joe, which is bubblegum infused vodka (blech!), so we both settled on the Zooberry instead.  This was deliciously dangerous!  This is house-infused blueberry vodka with lemon juice and rock candy syrup to add a touch of sweetness.  Oh my.

Zooberry

Zooberry

With the cocktails, we were also given a delicious bread basket full of rosemary parmesan crisps, onion rolls and baguettes…mmm.

07 Bluezoo_Bread

We ate a ton of bread while we looked over the menu.  Bluezoo is renowned for it’s seafood, but there were a few other things on the menu that were drawing me away from the recommended dishes.  However, we did decide to go the seafood route for our appetizers.

08 Bluezoo_Menu

I’m a sucker for shrimp & grits, so the Low Country Jumbo Shrimp over Cheddar Hominy and Bacon Butter (Bacon Butter!!!!!!!!) was right up my alley.  And yes, it was a whole lot of deliciousness.

09 Bluezoo_Shrimp App

 

B loves New England Clam Chowder so of course he ordered it here.  But sadly, he was a bit disappointed.  The chowder was more like a light broth instead of the thick creamy “chowda” that we’re used to up in the Northeast.  The flavor was great, but just not what we were expecting…

010 Bluezoo_Chowder App

For our entrees, I went with the 15 Hour Pork Collar.  Like the shrimp and grits, I’m also a sucker pork.  Pork chops, pork belly, pork shoulder, you name it…I’ll order it!  So this slow cooked pork over rye spaetzle and bacon cabbage sounded like heaven.  Oh and it was…

012 Bluezoo_Pork

B ordered the Mesquite Rubbed Beef Tenderloin, which also came with a BBQ Short Rib Raqout.  Whoa…everything about this dish was deliciou

011 Bluezoo_Beef

Now I didn’t have room for dessert, but B is always up for chocolate so we ordred the Warm Chocolate Raspberry Chocolate Cake.  Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this.  This cake was very light and the fresh raspberries added a nice crispness to the dish.

013 Bluezoo_Cake

Overall this was a great meal.  The only negative thing I could say about it is that it was too rich and heavy.  The flavors were phenomenal  but the sauces were a bit rich.  Granted this meal was at the end of a week of indulgence, but I think I would still go lighter on the appetizers next time because of the heavy (yet delicious) main courses.

I would definitley recommed taking a trip over to the Dolphin to check out Bluezoo.  The restaurant on is on the Disney Dining Plan and they accept Tables in Wonderland so you really have no reason not too 🙂

Have you ever eaten at Bluezoo?  What do you think?

Friday Feast: Landscape of Flavors

Walt Disney World’s newest resort, Art of Animation, has received a lot of praise for it’s affordable family suites, detailed theming and giant pools, all of which are amazing.  But today, I want to focus on the food there.  It’s no secret that I prefer table service meals to giant food courts, but the unique offerings at Landscape of Flavors sucked me in!

LoF_Entrance

B and I went for lunch one afternoon and as is typical for a value resort food court, it was crowded and loud!  I thought B was going to turn around and run from the restaurant.  But since he’s such an awesome husband, he stayed so I could take all of these awesome photos for you 🙂

The dining room is vast and has 4 different themed areas based on the 4 areas featured at the resort: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.  The space is quite beautiful, so make sure to take some time to look around…especially check out the light fixtures!

Finding Nemo Dining Area

Finding Nemo Dining Area

There are four main food stations set up for lunch and dinner and the choices are quite overwhelming.  I have to say that it took us a while to finally decide what we were getting…everything looked so good!

Salads & Sandwiches

LoF_Sandwich1LoF_Sandwich2

Compared to other WDW sandwich offerings, these looked to be a step above the rest.  I think this mainly had to do with the bread.  The ciabatta for the caprese looked delicious!  The salad bar is huge and gives a TON of ingredients to choose from.

Create-Your-Own-Salad Bar

Create-Your-Own Salad Bar

And don’t forget the homemade kettle chips.  Oh man do I love me some kettle chips!

Mmmmmm...Kettle Chips!

Mmmmmm…Kettle Chips!

Pizza & Pasta

LoF_Pizza1LoF_Pizza2

Being from the Northeast, I tend to skip over all WDW pizza, but the Create-Your-Own Pasta bar looked intriguing.  Here you choose your pasta, add other ingredients like shrimp, chicken sausage, or veggies, and then you have it mixed all together with either pesto, tomato or Alfredo sauce (or all three!).

The Disney Food Blog has been raving about the Cheesy Pesto Bread at this station lately.  This is more of that yummy ciabatta bread simply topped with pesto and mozzarella.  You really can’t go wrong with that!  And it’s a great value at $4.99 or for 1 snack credit if you’re on the dining plan.  I’m going to have to try this next time.

Cheesy Pesto Bread Photo Source: Disney Food Blog

Cheesy Pesto Bread
Photo Source: Disney Food Blog

Burgers

LoF_Burger1LoF_Burger2

I love that you can customize your burgers here!  Avocado on a burger…where else can you get that on WDW property?!  There are also come interesting options here including the Surf and Surf Burger, which is a crab cake topped with popcorn shrimp.  That’s a whole bunch of fried deliciousness.  Or you can try the pastrami cheeseburger, but make sure to schedule an angioplasty for the following week 😉

Oh so many burgers...

Oh so many burgers…

B ordered just a basic cheeseburger topped with tomato.  He said the burger was nice and charred, but I’m more impressed with that bun.  Seriously, I think I have a bread obsession…

Burger & Fries

Burger & Fries

And if the fries weren’t enough, B also got an order of kettle chips…I mean really, how could you pass those up?!

YUM, YUM, YUM!

YUM, YUM, YUM!

Tandoori & Mongolian Grill

LoF_Grill1LoF_Grill Menu2

Now this is the station I was looking forward to!!  I was just having a serious problem deciding what to get.  I originally ordered the chicken thighs, but then switched to the fish.  I don’t recall what the actual fish was, but it was a light, white fish with a butter sauce.  This comes with a choice of rice, I went with the multigrain, naan bread and a choice of one side.  I chose lentils for my side and also got an extra dish of spinach paneer (indian cheese), which is one of my favorite dishes.  Some other options are cauliflower, steamed veggies or acorn squash.

Mongolian Fish and Sides

Mongolian Fish and Sides

Spinach Paneer

Spinach Paneer

As with everything here, this was made fresh to order so I had to wait around 10 minutes for everything to be complete.  So worth the wait!  This was seriously one of the best meals that I have had on property, signature dining included!  Now I just wish the dining room wasn’t so loud so I could’ve savored it.

Desserts & Beverages

There are TONS of grab-and-go desserts here.  Cupcakes, pastries, mini-cheesecakses…you name it!

Pastries

Pastries and Cookies

Wall O Cupcakes!!

Wall O Cupcakes!!

Assorted Cheesecake Bites

Assorted Cheesecake Bites

There is also a gelato bar here…that’s right, a gelato bar!!  This seriously kicks this counter service us a notch.

Gelato Bar!

Gelato Bar!

On top of the usual fountain beverage station, there are also many unique beers and wines you can choose from.  A great option if you’re looking to relax by the pool.

Beer & Wine Selection

Beer & Wine Selection

Smoothie Bar

And now my favorite thing about Landscape of Flavors…the smoothie bar.  I love smoothies!  I have one everyday for breakfast, so you can just imagine how excited I was when I discovered this.  This was the perfect fuel when I ran the Wine & Dine Half Marathon last year.  You can be sure I will be back for another one this year!

Smoothie Bar!

Smoothie Bar!

Smoothie Ingredients

Smoothie Ingredients

Mango, Blueberry, Banana Deliciousness!

Mango, Blueberry, Banana Deliciousness!

And lastly, I don’t want to forget the staff.  They were all very helpful in answering questions about the dishes (particularly at the Tandoori station) and I just love the colorful costumes 🙂

LoF_Staff

I know I will definitely be back for more Mongolian fish and spinach paneer, but it will be hard to convince B to go with me.  The place is VERY chaotic, so just be prepared for that.

Have you been to Landscape of Flavors?  What’s your favorite dish?

Friday Feast: Sanaa

Sanaa Sign

This meal has been a long time in the making.  After reading numerous stellar reviews and given my love of “exotic” foods, Sanaa always sounded right up my alley.  My only barrier was B who HATES anything flavored with cumin (and I mean hates!) and isn’t a fan of Indian spiced food.  So I figured my girls only trip over Princess weekend would be  the perfect time to check it out.  Oh yeah!

After the runDisney meet up and picking all of our things up at the Expo, my partner in crime Amanda and I headed over to Sanaa for a late lunch.  This was my first time at Kidani Village and I was taken aback by how small it was.  After coming over from Jambo House, the lobby seemed tiny but eerily familiar.  We headed downstairs to check in for our 2:50 reservation.  Did you know there is a hidden Mickey  in the woven baskets on the wall next to the check-in desk??

Hidden Mickey next to the check-in desk

Hidden Mickey next to the check-in desk

The restaurant is small, but incredibly detailed to look like an outdoor African marketplace.  There are beads, artifacts and other various artwork scattered throughout the restaurant.  I love the lanterns and really wanted to steal them for my patio set at home!

Sanaa Quote

Sanaa Entrance

Sanaa_Lights

To the left when you enter is a really nice lounge area that I didn’t even know was there.  I will definitely be returning here for drinks and appetizers on a future trip.  I think I can probably get B to agree to that!

Sanaa_Bar

We were seated at a table right nice to one of the giant windows overlooking the savanna…how lucky were we?!  The restaurant was actually pretty dead at this time, which is really good to know because I’m sure you could easily get a walk up.  We were greeted by a few zebra who hung out with us the entire meal!  Our server was even taking pictures of them because she said it was very rare that they would come this close.  They must have known we were animal lovers 🙂

Zebra_1

Whatcha eatin??

Whatcha eatin??

I told the server that I have an egg allergy and was brought a separate egg allergy specific menu.  This was the first time I’ve seen this at a Disney restaurant…super cool!!  I think I was so excited about the menu that I completely forgot to take a photo of it…total fail on my part, but here’s the link to the menu so you can see all of the fun offerings!  The chef came out as usual to consult with me on what I can and can’t eat.  I also can’t have cucumbers or squash, so she pointed out those items I should avoid.

We were there on National Margarita Day (February 22nd), so obviously we both started out with the Malawi Mango Margarita.  This is a frozen margarita with tequila, tangerine liqueur, mango puree and lime juice.  It was tasty, but a bit too sweet for my taste overall.

Malawi Mango Margarita

Malawi Mango Margarita

Margarita with a side of zebra butt??

Margarita with a side of zebra butt??

Earlier that day we gorged ourselves with delicious Kouzzina breakfast, so we weren’t going to order too much food.  I was having a really hard time deciding what to have, but we finally settled on sharing the Indian-Style Bread Service and the Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs.

When you order the bread service, you have a choice of 3 breads and 3 accompaniments.  Let’s start with the breads.  We chose naan, garlic ginger naan and papadum.

Indian-Style Bread Service

Indian-Style Bread Service

I LOVE naan.  The texture, the flavor…everything!  This was great naan, but I couldn’t really tell the difference with the garlic ginger naan.  Usually garlic naan is incredibly strong, but I could hardly taste it here which was a tad disappointing.  I’m sure Amanda was happy about that though so she didn’t have to smell my garlic breath for the rest of the day.  The papadum was the surprise hit of the group.  It is crisp, cracker-like bread made from lentils and rice flour (gluten-free!) and has caraway seeds throughout.

For our accompaniments, we went with the mango chutney, red bell pepper hummus and tamarind chutney.  Our selection was more limited since neither one of us eat cucumbers and 3 out of the 9 choices have cucumbers, but we were very happy with what we got.

Clockwise from the top: Red Bell Pepper Hummus, Tamarind Chutney, Mango Chutney

Clockwise from the top: Red Bell Pepper Hummus, Tamarind Chutney, Mango Chutney

All 3 choices were on the sweet side, but went nicely with our bread selection.  There are some very spicy choices on the menu, but we decided to steer clear of those.  The hummus and mango chutney went really well with the naan since they were thicker.  The tamarind chutney was more like a thin sauce and was great for dipping the papadum in.  Overall, this was a hit!

As an entree, Sanaa offers a choice of two proteins that are simply slow-cooked in gravy and served with basmati rice or a five-grain pilaf.  Instead of getting two different proteins, we ordered 2 short ribs so we could each have our own little dish…genius!

Short Ribs in Gravy & Basmati Rice

Short Ribs in Gravy & Basmati Rice

Oh. My.  This was INSANELY DELICIOUS!  The short ribs were incredibly tender and just fell apart when you cut them with a fork.  And the gravy…whoa.  This was intensely flavorful with both Indian and African spices incorporated.  At the suggestion of our server, I poured the rice out on to my larger plate and then poured the short ribs and gravy all over it so it would soak up all the goodness.  This is one of the best things I’ve had on Disney property…hands down.

Gravy Goodness

Gravy Goodness

We were pretty full after all of this, so we sat and enjoyed the view while sipping the rest of our margaritas for dessert.  I’m glad we came for lunch so we could see all of the animals out on the savanna.  I would think that the experience wouldn’t be as good for dinner when it is dark out.

I really loved my meal here and can’t wait to go back and try some of the other menu items.  I think the Tandoori Chicken and the Shrimp with Green Curry are next on my list to try!

Have you been to Sanaa?  What is your favorite meal there?

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