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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
If you’d rather just nosh and have a drink, the Sanaa Lounge is a wonderful, quiet place to relax.
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.
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)
For eats, we started with the Appetizer Sampler for Two, which included Potato and Pea Samosas, Lamb Kefta, and 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
The shrimp with green curry were beautiful and quite good. Not too spicy, yet still very flavorful, and the shrimp were cooked to perfection.
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.
After the loveliness of our entrees, we were excited to sample dessert.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!