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Review: Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Found at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Sanaa is a full-service restaurant offering fantastic meals with Indian and African influences.

From the floor-to-ceiling windows of the restaurant, guests have a fantastic view of the safari animals on the Sunset Savanna, meaning you’ll have a stellar show of zebra, giraffe, African birds, and several other breathtaking animals.

And while the animal viewing is a great draw for Sanaa’s guests, the interesting menu, food quality, and great service will surely bring them back time and time again. And the new test-phase of the Dine with an Animal Specialist program is surely going to bring plenty of folks to Sanaa!

Atmosphere

Sanaa is located in Kidani Village, which is the Disney Vacation Club Villas section of Animal Kingdom Lodge. It sits next door to Jambo House, the main and original part of the Lodge.

Outside of Sanaa

A major complaint about Sanaa is its distance from the parks and other resort hotels in Disney World — you will have to use a Disney Transport bus, your own car, or a taxi to get here — but with all of the great activities at the resort, it’s well worth the trip.

Restaurant Sign

Kidani Village construction was completed in 2009, and the resort has turned into an intimate and beautiful location. Throughout the complex, guests will find inspirational quotes and sayings like this one:

One of many quotes on the walls of Kidani Village

And the design of the resort was richly researched; it now offers a glimpse into the materials and decor that might be used in a true African Lodge, like these beads used to decorate the front of the check-in podium at Sanaa.

Decor on Front of Restaurant Podium

Once inside the restaurant, guests find what looks like an outdoor seating area — almost as though you’re on a platform in the middle of the plains while on safari.

View of Sanaa Ceiling

African patterns on the booths, a “tree branch” ceiling, and colorful African lanterns adorn the restaurant. It’s worth it just to take a walk around the place, checking out the completely different patterns and textures used throughout the decor.

Sanaa Decor

Seating

Hidden Mickey and Booth

Of course, the truly desirable seats are those right next to the floor-to-ceiling picture windows. Get up close and personal with those gorgeous animals outside. (Be sure to ask for a window table when you check in at the podium.)

View of Animals from Sanaa

If you’d rather just nosh and have a drink, the Sanaa Lounge is a wonderful, quiet place to relax.

Sanaa Bar

Sanaa Lounge

Eats

Sanaa characterizes its menu as African food with Indian flavors, and that pretty much hits the mark. You’ll find things on this menu that you won’t see anywhere else in Disney World, and that’s a very good thing. There’s plenty here to challenge bored palates, but at the same time, there are lots of items that won’t take your picky eaters too far out of their comfort zones.

Drink Menu - click image for larger version

Menu - click image for larger version

Menu - click image for larger version

We began our meal with a Safari Amber and a Mango Margarita. The Amber is brewed especially for Walt Disney World and is sold at the Animal Kingdom and at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s a deep, rich color with a malty taste, and gets points for going down easy, but not for being particularly outstanding or unique in any way. Most folks like it, but could take it or leave it.

The Mango Margarita was cool, smooth, and delicious. Not too sweet at all, which is often a fear when you have a frozen margarita with such a creamy fruit as its base.

(Clearly I was doing a tilty camera thing and trying to be arty! I promise I wasn’t under the influence! ;-D)

Safari Amber on Draft

Mango Margarita

For eats, we started with the Appetizer Sampler for Two, which included Potato and Pea Samosas, Lamb Kefta, and Roasted Cauliflower.

Appetizer Sampler for Two -- Potato and Pea Samosas - Lamb Kefta - Roasted Cauliflower

The Potato and Pea Samosas were very mild in flavor, but I liked the juxtaposition between the crispy wrapper and the smooth filling. These weren’t a home run, but we’d order them again.

Potato and Pea Samosas

Potato and Pea Samosa Inside

The Lamb Kefta was my favorite of the trio. It was a great texture for what’s basically a meatball, and the savory taste was what I was looking for from this app.

Lamb Kefta

The Roasted Cauliflower was my least favorite of the three, as I’m not a huge cauliflower fan in the first place, and this didn’t have a sufficient boost of taste to help me get over my dislike of the texture. There were several other parties at the restaurant gobbling these up, though, so if you’re a cauliflower fan, you’ll probably love them!

Roasted Cauliflower

Next up, we tried a dish we had been eagerly anticipating. The Bread Service here offers multiple choices of breads and accompaniments, so we chose Naan, Onion Kulcha, and Paneer Paratha accompanied by Red Chile Sambal, Mango Chutney, and, my husband’s favorite, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus (which you can get over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s counter service location, The Mara, as well).

The breads were gorgeous, the Naan being our favorite if course. Each one had its own unique and distinct taste and texture, and we could easily have ordered another batch. If you order this, get any of the breads — they’re all delicious — but eh Naan has an incredible, buttery flavor that is simply out of this world.

Bread Service Choices -- Naan - Onion Kulcha - Paneer Paratha

We really enjoyed our accompaniments as well. Like I said, my husband adores the red pepper hummus, and the red chile sambal was my favorite, since I’m a big spicy food fan (this was spicy, but nothing too extreme). The mango chutney was our least favorite; I think I wasn’t a fan of the “herb-y” taste.

Bread Service Accompaniments -- Red Chile Sambal - Mango Chutney - Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus

For one entree, we split a trio of dishes in the “Cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-Seasoned” part of the menu. These are a mix-and-match group of dishes that allow guests to customize their plate. Served with rice, they offer a very hearty meal.

When we visited, we chose short ribs, basmati rice, and shrimp with green curry.

Cooked in Gravy - Simple and Well-Seasoned Trio

The short ribs were fork tender and delicious. I loved the amount of gravy that came with them. The rice was the perfect accompaniment to scoop up all of that sauce!

Beef Short Ribs

Basmati

The shrimp with green curry were beautiful and quite good. Not too spicy, yet still very flavorful, and the shrimp were cooked to perfection.

Shrimp with Green Curry

The other entree we ordered was the Tandoori Chicken. I hadn’t tried this on my earlier Sanaa visit, and since so many folks recommended it, we had to get it!

We ordered the cucumber yogurt raita on the side so that we could get a few bites of the real flavor of the chicken — and I’m so glad we did. I’ve probably never had such incredible chicken in a restaurant in my life. The flavor was powerful — a savory, buttery, gorgeous taste! Paired with the Naan bread, it was like a dream come true in my mouth. Seriously, I loved this.

Tandoori Chicken

Minted Greens served with Tandoori Chicken

After the loveliness of our entrees, we were excited to sample dessert.

Tea Menu

Desserts - Cocktails - Dessert Wines and Ports - click image for larger version

We took recommendations again and went with the dessert sampler and the Mango Pudding.

The sampler offered small version of the famous Chai Cream, chocolate cake, and tropical fruit kulfi.

Dessert Sampler -- chocolate cake - Tropical Fruit Kulfi - Chai Cream

The chai cream really was incredible. While I’m not a huge chai tea fan, the taste was sweet and spicy at the same time, and the depth of texture here was outstanding. We definitely fought over this one.

Chai Cream

Our second favorite on the sampler was the tropical fruit kulfi. Like a sorbet, the kulfi was light and refreshing, and the accompanying strawberry sauce was lovely.

Tropical Fruit Kulfi

The chocolate cake, though it was my least favorite, I characterize it as such not because of its own failings, but because the other two were so incredible. This cake was moist, sweet, and rich. If you’re a chocolate fan, you’ll love it.

Chocolate Cake

Finally, we tried the Mango Pudding. Not as much of a hit as the sampler, but this is the kind of dessert that you start liking more and more as you keep on eating it. Dangerous! With a slight sweet-tart flavor and creamy texture, it really will grow on you!

Mango Pudding

It’s also good to note that while we were there, a child’s birthday party was in full swing in a semi-private part of the restaurant. Seems like this could be a great place for a medium-sized event like that!

Overall

Sanaa is truly a hidden gem in Walt Disney World. While word is starting to get out about this restaurant, a reservation is still pretty easy to get. Our guess is that despite fantastic food, Sanaa has two things working against it: a difficult location and ethnic food that some guests are wary to try. As a result, many guests don’t take the risk of heading all the way out to Kidani Village to have food they might not like. Luckily, that’s to the benefit of those of us who appreciate the restaurant!

The menu has changed slightly since Sanaa first opened, but it still stays true to the Indian and African inspirations that launched it. Chef Bob Getchell is a master of the cuisine — he’s been working with Indian and African recipes for years and takes a personal interest in bringing new flavors to the guests at Walt Disney World.

Sanaa is definitely worth a visit (or two!). We recommend going for lunch so that you’re able to see the animals on the savanna — at dinner time it can get dark quickly and you won’t be able to see them.

Have you been to Sanaa? Let us know your favorite dishes in the comments section below!

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19 Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    We were really looking forward to Sanaa as my fiance is a vegetarian and loves Indian food.

    As I’m not a huge fan of spicy food I would never have LOVED the place but we had such poor service and the food was a real let down. There was a hair in the vegetarian main and the orange cake was one of the worst desserts I had of the whole trip – really dry with a very strange texture.

    On the other hand we saw an Indian couple who had the attention of our server for most of the evening and the chef popped out to see them on multiple occasions. I’m guessing they had a much nicer experience…..

    The best thing about it was that it is in such a beautiful setting and the design of the restaurant itself was glorious. However there are so many other great restaurants in WDW that after our last trip this one falls very near the bottom for ones to try again.

  2. Elisabeth says:

    Our favorite restaurant at WDW, and maybe the most vegan-friendly. My middle daughter is vegan and she loves that Sanaa has a dedicated vegan menu. All you have to do is ask for it.

  3. Allen says:

    To be honest I don’t remember the dishes as much as I remember the experience.
    Sanaa is intimate and relaxing (even romantic) and I would recommend it for those reasons alone. But our experience went beyond that since we were in the company of a soon-to-melt down two-year old.

    Our server was incredibly patient and attentive, helping with food and wine choices as my wife and I tag-teamed our little girl. His attention to not only us but our daughter’s needs saved our dining experience from being stressful and rushed. We were also lucky to have some very active giraffes and zebras within sight of our window seats.

    Even if Kidani Village wasn’t our home resort we’d definitely be going back. And when we do I’ll try to pay more attention to what I eat!

  4. Tracie says:

    Sanaa is one of our three favorite restaurants in the WDW resort — and we’ve eaten at most of them, including V&A. I echo Allen’s comment regarding the experience. It’s feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

    Sanaa’s servers are among the best in WDW. (Shoutout to Kim!) Their knowledge about the foods, wines and teas is extensive. One evening I wanted tea rather than dessert. Our server asked a few questions then suggested the Herbal Spice Chai, which was fantastic. It has become the standard by which I measure any other spice chai.

    I am a vegan, and one of the reasons I appreciate Sanaa so much is that the menu is extremely vegan-friendly, and the chef always offers to adapt anything to my needs. I highly recommend the stewed lentils: The spices offer heat as well as complex flavor. I often get the salad sampler: watermelon/lime/radish, chickpea w/ cucumber, and roasted beets (so beautiful – red and yellow beets!)

    We’ve dined there for lunch and dinner, and have had good fortune to be seated window-side often. We did have the unusual ringside seat to some frisky escapades between a male and female giraffe. Pretty funny to hear the kids at the table next to us asking their parents what was going on.

  5. JulFromMD says:

    Another huge fan shout-out for Sanaa. We went for the first time for Marathon weekend this year (my husband’s post-Half celebration lunch). The tamarind chutney we had was the best I’ve ever had….and we’ve hit quite a few Indian restaurants in our travels. The pork chop that was on the lunch menu was also exceptional. We’re headed back in October, and very excited about that meal.

    The other thing I wanted to note is that they have great options for gluten-free folks. (My MIL has a wheat allergy, so asking for the gluten-free menu is the easiest way to be safe.) Anything that is served on naan can be served on papadum (which is lentil or chickpea-flour-based), thus making a gluten-free option. We were all thrilled, and it was amazing just how close the animals get. It felt like the zebra near our window was going to take a bite off my plate sometimes! The place is just a huge winner. It was exceptional!

  6. Dare I say Sanaa is my favorite WDW restaurant currently. Really digging the options here and everything on the menu tastes so good!

  7. Jenn says:

    We just ate there in June and loved it – the food wasn’t quite what I was expecting – I was expecting stronger Indian flavors, but it was still delicious. The bread service alone makes me want to go back (instead, I booked Jiko for our next trip!). When they first showed us to a table, it was in a random corner when all the tables by the windows were empty… Luckily, I asked and we got to sit right by the windows and watch the animals the entire time! Great review, as always!

  8. Shayne says:

    We loved Sanaa when we ate there last year! I am not a cauliflower fan AT ALL, but I actually like the roasted cauliflower on the appetizer trio (we also had samosas, but had a duck in red curry in place of the lamb you got).

    I would love to go back there, but transportation was an issue for us. We were staying at Beach Club and had arrived on a bus straight from a park. By the time we finished dinner, the parks were closed, so we had to take a bus to Downtown Disney then transfer to a Beach Club bus. The journey took nearly an hour. Next time, we’ll probably just have someone at AKL call us a cab!

  9. Melissa says:

    I absolutely loved Sanaa when I ate there in May. I am still hoping to one day find the recipe for the Tandoori shrimp I got in my trio (I also got the short ribs) because it was so amazing. The mango lassi is also quite tasty there!

  10. Tuelle says:

    We had an wonderful experience for a big lunch there, and while I wished it could have been even spicier overall the flavors were incredible. We did all small plates: we had bread service (to live for), the appetizer sampler and the veg sampler. We were so full and the attention from the server was delightful. We will be back…

  11. Savorique says:

    I agree, it’s a hidden gem! I imagine the experience of eating great food in such an amazingly decorated place.

  12. Julie says:

    I love Sanaa. When I dined here for the first time we asked our server for recommendations and ordered everything he suggested. Truly delicious. A standout was a seasonal cauliflower soup.

  13. Galloping Gourmand says:

    My favorite WDW Restaurant, and not coincidentally the best coffee and tea at Disney.

    The vegetarian dishes really shine here. I’m a huge fan of the roasted cauliflower which has always been to perfectly prepared. It is slightly crispy on the outside and cooked thorough without a place burned. The tomato sauce is almost unnecessary, even though it is light, spicy (hot hot) and refreshing. There is just something about a simple dish well prepared. Another wonderful appetizer on a hot day is the watermelon salad.

  14. Grace says:

    Going for the first time in October – CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the great reviews! I suppose a window view for dinner will be useless (esp at that time of year…)

  15. Miranda says:

    I love the food at Sanaa, but of the 5+ times I have been there I have only had good service once. The other times the service was so bad that one of the times I asked to speak with a manager and told them I was so disturbed by the service all I wanted to was to leave. Another time when I was sitting in the bar area with a couple girl friends, at the big table in the middle of the room, our waitress went so far as to literally look away when she went buy our table. By no means am I a difficult guest, I do not have this problem with any of the other restaurants I attend. I am a TIW (is it because I am TIW and they know they are getting an 18% tip, if so they are crazy because for good service I still leave extra) member and visit many of the signature dining restaurants. This would be off my list, if the food wasn’t so good. The food is so good my 6 year old daughter gets the kid’s fish meal each time, last time it was salmon and she loved it. My father is Vegan and he loves it, he doesn’t need to ask for the Vegan friendly menu because it is all right there for all to eat.

  16. Bonnie says:

    We just ate at Sanaa yesterday for the second time. I wanted to point out that the tandoori chicken is no longer served on naan bread or with greens. It is served with rice and some sort of oniony relish and the sauce all in different bowls (similar to how the pick 2, slow cooked in sauce dishes are served). The dish is still good, but it was much better before.

  17. Jason says:

    Sanaa is my wife and mines favorite restaurant!! The atmosphere is wonderful. The chefs came out and took care of my gluten free wife. The food is outstanding. However, my wife’s favorite was the coffee :-)

  18. Victoria Hyde says:

    Please settle an argument. My mother insists that Sanaa’s naan is made from almond flour and therefore gluten free. I’ve looked all over for their naan bread ingredient list and can’t find one. I don’t believe their naan bread is gluten free at all. Please tell me their naan bread recipe or ingredients or if they have gluten or not. Thanks, Victoria

  19. Ed says:

    We’re supposed to eat here in May; the Friday night before we leave. I was checking the menu and noticed that they’ve made major changes. The Tandoori foods, appetizers and desserts are gone.

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