Coral Reef Restaurant
At long last, Coral Reef is finally getting its due on the Disney Food Blog! The last time I visited this restaurant was when I was much, much younger, so I knew it was time to give it a try again. It’s been through a lot of changes, but, from what I can tell, the basics are still the same…
Coral Reef is one of only a couple of table-service restaurants located in Epcot’s Future World. You’ll find it hidden in the Seas With Nemo and Friends (The Living Seas for those who used to visit in the 80s), tucked back in the right-hand corner. You really need to want to find it; you won’t just stumble over this restaurant by mistake! But after all these years, the sign is still very similar to what it was way back when, so those who have a tinge of Epcot nostalgia like me will be very pleased…
Upon entering the restaurant (using the seahorse door handle of course), you’ll find that the place is themed — as it should be — but in a very stylized manner. Walls and flooring are undulating as if you’re under water. Light fixtures resemble coral and shells. Glass fish sculptures sit inside lit alcoves behind the check-in desk.
And when they tell you to “go to the Octopus when your buzzer goes off,” they mean this guy…
But, remember, you’re just in the entrance hall! You haven’t even seen the main event, yet.
Once your buzzer goes off and you “meet at the Octopus,” you’ll be led down a hallway into the main dining room. It’s understandable that they keep this spot so far away from the actual restaurant entrance. It truly is a spectacular reveal at the end of that hallway.
Stepped, “theater-style” seating is situated around a massive wall of windows, but these windows don’t give you a gorgeous view of outdoor vistas. These windows (which happen to be highly pressurized, thank goodness) give guests a view of the massive aquarium that takes up a majority of the Seas pavilion.
I snuck in before they started seating people for lunch and caught a glimpse of this guy swimming down to greet me!
And, just so you know, this is how close he can potentially be to your dinner!
Yes, those “window” tables are extremely sought after real estate. But just remember that if you’re sitting there, everyone else’s kids will be very close to you as you dine. Many of them can’t help themselves and want to be as close to the fish as possible.
The menu here focuses on seafood, and reviews have been all over the map in recent years.
We started with some yummy complimentary bread, and I ordered the soup of the day ($6.99) — Butternut Squash of course (as it was everywhere else on that particular Disney World visit as well) — and a drink called “Into the Abyss,” which, you guys know me by now, had some sweet and sour in it.
The drink was lovely; I’m pretty sure I sucked it down in about 3 minutes flat. And the soup was actually quite good. By this time, I’d had at least four other versions of Butternut Squash soup all around Disney World property, and this was probably my favorite! It wasn’t too thick, which I liked, and it came with a swath of melty, flavored butter on top — always a winning move! The flavor was delicate, not hearty, which gave it a lighter, summery feel. Perfect as an opener for a heavy meal.
We also ordered the Appetizer for Two, which included Crab Cakes with Tropical Fruit Salsa and Tequila Aioli; Grilled Shrimp with Cucumber Salad and Barbecued Beef Tenderloin Skewer with Creamy Polenta; and Creamy Lobster Soup in the little cups ($16.99).
I really loved the presentation of this appetizer, and, truthfully, it was probably enough food for a meal! We loved the beef tenderloin and polenta; the crab cakes were quite good (didn’t compare to Narcoossee’s, though); and the shrimp was — we think — fine. Neither of us are big shrimp eaters, though. I wish I could comment on the Tequila Aioli as it sounds really cool, but we didn’t really taste much in it. The Creamy Lobster Soup? Amazing! They do soup somethin’ fierce around here.
Next up — our entrees. We ordered the house specialty — Lobster Ravioli with Bay Scallops, fresh Tarragon, and Lobster Cream ($25.99) and the Grilled New York Strip Steak with Horseradish Smashed Pootatoes and Market Fresh Vegetables ($28.99).
The Lobster Ravioli was very flavorful, creamy, and filling. Extremely rich. If you’re planning to head out of Coral Reef and do a bunch of park touring, think again. This is the type of dish that makes an impact!
The strip steak, which I was excited about as I’d heard raves, was really just “OK.” There wasn’t a lot of flavor, and there was a bit too much char, which I’m not a fan of on my steak. Perhaps I was just too filled up from the appetizers and knocked out by the richness of the Lobster Ravioli, but the steak didn’t seem all that special to me on this visit. That’s not to say it won’t be on yours, however! Plenty of patrons heartily recommend this dish.
For dessert, we ordered the house specialty Chocolate Wave and the butterscotch creme brulee (both $7.99).
I really loved the taste of the chocolate wave, but I have to admit, I wished that the “lava” on the inside was chocolate. It wasn’t a taste thing — it was a visual thing. The clear “lava” that appeared when the cake was cut was unexpected and a bit unappetizing. I know. I’m weird.
The creme brulee was great. You just can’t go wrong with butterscotch, and I love flavored creme brulees!
I spent a lot of time talking about the atmosphere here, because I think that’s really the true draw. While the food is fine, it wasn’t spectacular on my visit; and from what I’ve heard from others, it can be inconsistent — sometimes the best meal they’ve ever eaten, sometimes extremely overpriced for what you get.
That said, I think Coral Reef has definitely gotten better in recent years. Just know that you could very well hit it on an off day.
Let us know your experience with Coral Reef in the comments section below. If you agree or disagree, your comments will help others to make decisions about their Disney dining!