On my recent trip to Disney World I was invited for a complimentary dine-around at Gaylord Palms Resort, which is a massive complex just outside of the “gates to the World.”
I’ll say in advance that I’m not usually one to leave Disney property all that much when I’m on a Disney trip. There are just too many things (including restaurants!) that keep my attention Disney-focused to spend precious vacation time elsewhere in Orlando. But visiting the Gaylord Palms was pretty eye-opening regarding what else is out there! Clearly, the chefs at Gaylord have been able to carve out a distinctive dining niche for the resort that includes interesting themed surroundings coupled with Really. Good. Food. While there, I visited four different restaurants; today’s review is of Sora, Gaylord Palms’ sushi bar and lounge. I hope you enjoy this first trip outside the gates!
Now, when I heard Sushi Bar and Lounge, I immediately thought, “Hmm…not really my speed;” even when I lived in New York City I wasn’t a “Bar and Lounge” person. But I can honestly say that this place is not at all intimidating. The restaurant has a relatively open floor plan, lined with comfy booths and offering views into the resort’s atrium and lobby (appropriate, as “Sora” means “blue sky” in Japanese). Walking into Sora doesn’t give the feel of a big city nightspot with blaring music and lights so dim you can’t see where you’re walking — it feels like a hip, but accessible place to pick up some appetizers, light dinner, and cocktails.
While Sora is known for its innovative sushi menu, I was glad to discover that both the adventurous and the picky will find things to try here. And it’s a fun selection. If you take a look at the menu, you’ll see what I mean. You can even order a drink based on how you want to feel — Balance, Nirvana, Opulent, Divine, Distinct… .
We started with “Zen,” a delicious drink made with Zen green tea liqueur, Peach Schnapps, and Sauvignon Blanc. The presentation was stunning and the flavor was like nothing I’d ever tasted. I really enjoyed it and wished I could see how all of the drinks looked and tasted (maybe next time!).
If you move on in the menu, you’ll see a thorough sushi and sashimi menu that includes BBQ eel and octopus along with standards like tuna and salmon. You can also choose from soups, salads, starters, or dinners, such as sea bass and duck. Try the “omakase” — the chefs will prepare something just for you based on the catches of the day and what’s fresh from the farmer’s market!
We sampled the Bao Bun Sandwiches, which offered a choice of barbeque pulled pork, vegetable and tofu stir fry, or miso glazed fresh fish of the day, served with Asian slaw, sriracha mayonnaise, and lemon chili sauce. We were served the pork sandwiches, which were “Do-It-Yourself” — fun to put together and sample with the different sauces.
Another interesting twist Sora has introduced is offering “tapas”-style dishes like Lobster Fritters or Spicy Tuna Nachos in two sizes — “nosh” and “share.”
We were impressed with Sora. It’s difficult to make the “bar in a resort” into a destination, but the interesting drink menu and fun-to-eat dishes — along with the easygoing atmosphere — make it a great place to stop for pre-dinner cocktails or even a light dinner. If you’re a sushi-lover or a cocktail connoisseur, definitely give it a go.
Sora is open daily, serving food from 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. The bar is open daily from 4:00 p.m. until midnight.