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Review: Disney World’s Flying Fish Cafe

Ah, yes — I get to write about one of my very favorite restaurants in Disney World today!! Flying Fish Cafe is located on Disney’s Boardwalk in Walt Disney World, right next to the back entrance of the Boardwalk Inn.

The entrance is adorned with a giant neon sign complete with flying fish! You can’t miss it. ;-) And once inside, you’ll be treated to whimsical decor, an incredible seasonal menu, and an awesome view of Chef Tim Keating’s open kitchen.

Atmosphere

I think this restaurant is the perfect mix of Disney magic and star-quality food. Plus, the place is just fun to look at. There are shiny things and smooth things and fun things and colorful things all around you when you walk in. Don’t miss the jumping fire at the grills in the open kitchen!

Flying Fish Chef's Counter

From the parachuting fish on the ceiling to the colorful circus-themed mural on the walls there’s always something you missed the last time you were there. And let’s not even start talking about the draped “circus-tent” room in the back of the restaurant where you get to eat if you’re really, really lucky!

Flying Fish Cafe Tables and Murals

Parachutes and Flying Fish

Can you see the hidden Mickey in this mural? I know, I know — I point it out all the time, but I love this one!

Flying Fish Mural

Now, once you’re settled and done looking around, it’s time to be wowed by the menu… . We were visiting the restaurant with a couple of friends, so you may see a bit more food (**cough**DESSERTS**cough**) than you’re used to in my posts! Hope you don’t mind… ;-)

Eats

As you can probably tell based on the name, Flying Fish is known for seafood dishes. Its potato-wrapped red snapper is the restaurant’s specialty, and the menu holds an ever-changing variety of options. From calamari to sushi to scallops and more, all will take their turn on the menu here.

But for those of us who are land-lubbers, menu delights abound. This is decidedly not one of those spots that throws a token piece of chicken or a steak on the menu just to pacify the non-fish-eaters.

The meat- and vegetable-based dishes here are just as phenomenal as the seafood dishes. In fact, the blackened steak is another of the restaurant’s specialties!

Appetizer Menu - click image for larger version

Dinner Menu - click image for larger menu

We started out the meal with the cheese plate (of course). This included five cheeses — Brillat Savarin, Plesant Ridge Reserve, Fiore Sardo, Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. “Bijou”, and Fourme d’Ambert. Accompaniments included raisins on the vine, fig and almond torta, Savannah Bee Company honeycomb, and a spiced California peach, golden raisin, burnt orange, andn white balsamico compote “agrodolce.”

Cheese Plate Menu - click image for larger version

As you know, any cheese with a hearty helping of honey is good with me, but I again really enjoyed the Brillat Savarin (so creamy!) and the Fiore Sardo (sharp and strong).

Cheese Plate

We also dove into the bread basket when we ran out of the little crispies to eat with our cheese.

Bread

The gentlemen at the table ordered this spiky-looking Yellowfin Tuna appetizer — Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and Crispy Tempura Tuna-Vegetable Sushi Roll — which they thoroughly enjoyed!

In fact, I kept hearing about this app for the rest of the week! It made a serious impression with juxtaposed textures and more flavor than expected.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and Crispy Tempura Tuna-Vegetable Sushi Roll

I indulged in this gorgeous, silky Sherry-laced Sweet Onion Crema with Mushroom Beignets accompanied by basil creme fraiche, young arugula, and garlic-chive-infused oil.

Just writing that relaxes me and makes my blood pressure drop about 50 points. Seriously — think of your favorite relaxing activity. Eating this is like that. It’s sweet, savory, warm, smooth… exactly what you’re looking for when you want to start out a meal strong, but have room left over for the main event.

Sadly, this is a seasonal soup, so we might not be able to get it next time.

Sherry-laced Sweet Onion Crema with Mushroom Beignets

The Caesar was flavorful and crunchy; and the ample, giant, cheesy crouton got a thumbs up!

Caesar Salad

Another artisanal salad, the Fresh Mozzarella di Bufalo with yellow beefsteak, “ugli ripe” and tiny heirloom tomatoes, balsamic glaze, exotic peppercorns, and petite basil with Sicilian Olio Verde, also got high marks. The pleasingly bright colors and display set the stage for the light, fresh taste of the mozzarella. A great starter!

Fresh Mozzarella di Bufala

We moved on to entrees next, and several folks at the table ordered my favorite — the char-crusted Certified Black Angus New York Strip Steak! This comes with pan-roasted fingerling potatoes, pole beans, young carrots, and Bermuda onions with an applewood-smoked bacon and mustard seed vinaigrette and classic sauce foyot. (FYI — foyot is like a classic bernaise sauce with a meat glaze…mmmmmmmmmm…meat!!!!)

This was simply phenomenal as always. The steak has so much flavor, and the accompanying sauces and sturdy veggies are the perfect dressing. Seriously, I’ve had this three times now and have never been disappointed!

And don’t let the “char crust” scare you. It doesn’t taste burnt. I promise.

Char-crusted Certified Black Angus New York Strip Steak

Also at the table was the Rainforest Pepperberry-grilled Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin with leek, fontina, and truffle-laced Trofie “mac n cheese,” grilled asparagus, and a black mission fig, port wine, balsamico, caramelized onion, and trumpet mushroom compote.

As we know, pork is very difficult to present well — it’s so easy to over-do this dish! However, this turned out great. Pink in the middle with a ton of flavor on the crust and in the sauce. I’m also a sucker for grilled asparagus and mac and cheese, so this dish clearly won me over from the start.

Front View of Pork

Rainforest Pepperberry Grilled Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin with Truffle-laced Mac and Cheese

And, yes, I ordered an extra side dish of the mac n cheese.

:)

Leek, Fontina and Truffle Laced Trofie Mac and Cheese

On to desserts! I know — those dishes seemed rich and incredible enough, right? But we simply had to do the place justice and jump into the next menu…

Dessert Menu - click image for larger version

Drink Menu - click image for larger version

First up, the Marcona Almond Laced Chocolate Mousse and Sinful Triple Rich Brownie Creation. (“Creation,” no less. I love that restaurants are starting to use this as the noun in their dish descriptions.)

While this looks gorgeous (and it WAS), it was just one of the outstanding desserts on the table and, frankly, this one was a bit boring compared to the others (can you believe it??). That said, if you’re a true chocoholic, this one’s for YOU! (Hmm…maybe I’d just had too much chocolate that day? This sure looks good right now…)

Marcona Almond laced Chocolate Mousse and Sinful Triple Rich Brownie Creation

Chocolate Mousse from back

The next dessert — a golden apple, pecan, and blondie tart with toffee ice cream and apple cider syrup was the winner of the evening. We all fought over this like little kids! The toffee ice cream was perfection, and…um…hello? it has a blondie crust!! Attention Disney restaurants — please make more things with blondie crusts.

Golden Apple, Pecan and Blondie Tart with toffee ice cream and apple cider syrup

And then came the winner of the “that’s-so-weird-but-I-love-it” dessert award for the night! You saw this highlighted in our “Disney Food Trends: Popcorn!” post, but there’s even more to discuss!

Along with the yummy, buttery, caramel-y popcorn mousse came two other items: the cherry limeade popsicle and the crunchy peanut butter whoopie pie with pound cake fries!

The cherry limeade popsicle was quite possibly the most sour thing I have ever tasted at a Disney table-service restaurant! Biting into it, I was expecting a sweet-sour punch of flavor, but nothing like this! I wish I had video of my face when I tasted it for the first time! The whole table agreed that it was mighty sour, and we should have sprinkled a bit of sugar on it before eating… That said, there was certainly a punch of flavor!

Trio of Concession Sweets: Popcorn Mousse, Cherry Limeade Popsicle, Crunchy Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie with Pound Cake Fries

The popcorn mousse offered the sweetness we needed after the popsicle — it was a great balance! And while it did taste buttery, you didn’t get an overwhelmingly rich buttered popcorn flavor. The feel was more caramel-y than stick-o-butter.

Popcorn Mousse

Here’s a close up of the peanut butter chocolate whoopie pie. It was very good, but didn’t make as much of an impression as that cherry limeade popsicle! Still, had this been the only thing on the plate, it would have gotten props. ;-) Also, while I’m not a huge fan of the “make stuff to look like other stuff” trend, I did like the little poundcake fries with strawberry “ketchup.” Clever and yummy.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Whoopie Pie with Pound Cake Fries

Finally, we tried the signature dessert — a caramelized banana napoleon. This included crisp phyllo, banana mousse, creme caramel, exotic fruit coulis, and bitter chocolate.

While it was very good, this was the most like a “frou frou Disney signature restaurant dessert” to me, so it didn’t appeal as much as the comfort food feel of the apple tart or the exotic and interesting presentation of the trio of concession sweets. Would love to hear feedback on this dessert from others who’ve tried it!

Caramelized Banana Napoleon

Overall

Whew! Just thinking about all of this food again has me ready to make a beeline back to Flying Fish! And although it has the same pros/cons as other Disney signature restaurants — what you loved probably won’t be on the menu anymore, but what you weren’t interested in will probably be gone as well — it just always seems to be good when I go there!

This spot is great for a date night, a family celebration, or just to indulge when you want excellent food in a fun and inviting atmosphere. Kids will do just fine here; the acoustics make it a bit loud, though, so if junior is down for a nap, this might not be the best spot to enjoy a quiet night.

And if you’re not with the kids, as always, I recommend heading over to Jellyrolls on the Boardwalk for some dueling piano action after your meal — request some Journey for me!!! :-)

I continue to hear great reviews of Flying Fish from readers, so I’d like to hear what you think. Am I being too enthusiastic about this place, or is it actually as good as my experiences suggest?

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29 Comments

  1. marcellina says:

    and THIS is why I read this blog! Another awesome review of a place I have yet to go to but will definitely visit in the future! There’s too much to say really about everything so I won’t.. but I have to say all those appetizers look A-MAZ-ING! I could go just for those! Those sushi rolls?!? Good Lord in Heaven! I was hoping someone ordered the scallops because they are my favorite but I guess that means I’ll have to go myself sometime and get them! Thanks again for such a great review!

  2. I’ve had the scallops. Loved them.
    Amazing place. They have one of the best steaks on property too.
    Great service, friendly staff.
    Wife has allergies. Chef always comes out to discuss.
    On occasion, we’ll go for dessert and sit at the bar. Great people there too.
    Can’t wait to go back.
    Frank

  3. Matt Holley says:

    Visited Flying Fish for the first time this past October, and WOW!!! Loved the atmosphere of not just the restaurant, but the whole Boardwalk at night. The food was awesome, I just wish now I could remember what we had. The only issue we had was the actual desserts. Some of the “extras” just didn’t go with the rest of the dish, or maybe my taste just isn’t educated enough…haha. I am pretty sure my wife had the Mousse, and the salt that topped the mousse really turned her off. I don’t remember what I had, but I do remember the balsamic vinager used to dress the plate…..that was enough to almost make me stop eating. But don’t get me wrong, we loved this place!! Would go back, and suggest anyone that is looking for a great dinning experience to give Flying Fish a try!

  4. Alan says:

    A great review of a great restaurant! The photos of the desserts are some of the best pics I’ve seen on the DFB. For someone who is not big on desserts, I find myself drooling over my keyboard.

  5. I love that you highlighted non-seafood dishes. I dined at Flying Fish on my first visit to WDW…and wasn’t impressed. This is making me want to RUN back there. That soup sounds amazing…and don’t even get me started on the desserts. I think I may need to go change my reservations for my upcoming trip. Seriously!

  6. NotChris says:

    Thanks (I think) for this great review! I like this place OK and you’re not making it easy ;)
    I must be slow and totally missed the circus theme of the back room.

  7. NotChris says:

    Also, I love the napoleon, but I have a weakness for anything banana.

  8. Minniemoo says:

    I love the Flying Fish. The potato wrapped red snapper is just divine. It would have to be my last supper. There is nothing better than an early evening meal here, a stroll along the Boardwalk and then stopping off to watch Illuminations.

  9. Kendra says:

    I just tried Flying Fish this past Saturday night, and was absolutely blown away. I’m not a seafood eater, so I was reluctant to stray from my normal standby Signatures, but after a wonderful dinner (the “mac and cheese” alone was superb) and this review, I can’t wait to go back!

    Just a note on a new menu feature: this Saturday they were pushing the new $60.00 prix fixe menu featuring smaller portions of their signature dishes. For the appetizer, you get a duo of the crab cake and caesar salad apps (on the same plate, just half portions); entree had a duo of the strip steak and the red snapper (again, smaller portions, presented on the same plate); and finally, for dessert, the napoleon. Pretty smart idea to catch those tempted by more than one dish on the menu. My dining partner chose this and loved it. The portion sizes looked right on – enough to taste both dishes, and still just as filling as a full entree, without going overboard, and a great price, to boot!

  10. Aydin says:

    The Jonah Crab Cake they serve just MIGHT be my single favorite dish in all of Walt Disney World!!! A must-try.

  11. This post makes me angry.

    Not because of anything you said. But because we passed on the Flying Fish last time we stayed at the Swan and Dolphin. What a mistake.

    Aside from that this was another fantastic review and the pics are great. The meal looks like a winner from start to finish (the mac and cheese looks ridiculous). Also, I am a closet wannabe pastry chef so the Napoleon sent me over the edge.

    Anyway, great job, A.J. Can’t wait to put this on my list for October.

  12. Frank Stefanec says:

    Corey, if it’s any consolation, I hope you got to Blue Zoo at the Dolphin.
    Frank

  13. Frank, we didn’t. We had never stayed in that area and my wife really wanted to try Il Mulino (which was really good) on the day we didn’t have reservations in the parks. I have a conference at the Swan and Dolphin every October (rough, I know) so we planned to try Bluezoo next time around. But now, I have to put Flying Fish on the list.

    Too many Disney restaurants. Not enough time. This is the problem with living in Texas.

  14. Frank Stefanec says:

    October is a great time to visit. Not only is Epcot’s Food and Wine festival on, but if your conference hits on the right weekend, Swan/Dolphin has one too. Theirs is only one weekend. Usually a Friday and Saturday evening. One price for all food and “beverages.” around $75/person in 2011.
    Imagine both sides of the walkway between the resorts AND extending up towards the pool jammed w vendors. All of the resorts restaurants are represented. Todd English, owner of Blue Zoo was at their booth handing out food and taking photos w guests. Outrageously fun event. We’ve gone both years now.
    Anyway, il mulino is a great restaurant too. For us, it’s a coin flip between Flying Fish and Blue Zoo. Swan/Dolphin big restaurants, including the ones above, Shula’s and Kimonos participate in the Tables in Wonderland program.
    Frank

  15. Carrie says:

    ARGH!!! If only this review had been available 3 days ago! We ate at Flying Fish on Friday night and, except for the lobster bisque amuse bouche, were mightily underwhelmed by everything we got. We could have listened to you instead of our server!

  16. AJ says:

    Marci — So glad you liked it!! Can’t wait to hear your review of the scallops!

    Frank — Thanks for your reviews! I only wish I could get back to FF more often — such a great restaurant, and somewhat under the radar!

    Matt — Great feedback on the desserts. I’ll be sure to read the whole description the next time I’m there :-)

    Alan — Thank you!! I had to work hard on editing those pics because the restaurant is so dark! :-)

    Tracy — Would love to hear what you had that didn’t impress you. That would be good info for all of us to hear for the next visit.

    NotChris — Yeah, you should really head over to Flying Fish once in a while! The circus tent back room is all the way to the back of the restaurant and to the left. Let me know if you get to sit there!

    Minniemoo — And to think — all of that with no park ticket!! :-)

    Kendra — Gasp!!! They’ve introduced duos?!??! Please tell me you have a pic! :-)

    Aydin — Thanks for the review!!

    Corey and Frank — I think there are so many great restaurants concentrated in that little area. bluezoo and il mulino are great, and I love shula’s (where I can get a hash brown as big as my head) and kimonos as well! And we cover the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic pretty solidly, so stay tuned for details about it coming up in the Spring. Dates aren’t finalized for 2012 yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as they are! :-)

    Carrie — Oh no! You weren’t impressed? Would love to hear what you ordered.

  17. Ivis says:

    Just wondering when this visit took place? On the monorail as I type and I’d like to know if this same menu might still be available since they change some of the menu items season to season. Everything looks amazing and we might go tonight based in this review. Thanks!! :)

  18. AJ says:

    Ivis — Looks like everything we ate is still on the menu over there. Not sure about desserts, though!

  19. Barb says:

    WOW!! Everything looks amazing, I cannot wait to go back to Disneyworld and try some of these. The sweet onion crema looks to die for! YUMMM

  20. Jackie says:

    A Flying Fish review with not one fish entree ordered??? That’s just not right.

  21. AJ says:

    Barb — I think so, too! Let me know how you like the restaurant!

    Jackie — Ha ha! That’s what I was thinking!! That’s just the way the cards fell that night, though. We’ll do better next time. ;-)

  22. Dave A. says:

    In October I had the crisy rice/ lobster, porky itch mac and cheese, and banana Napoleon. Remains a top 5 WDW meal for me.

  23. Sandy B says:

    We were there in December and it was our favourite meal in ten days. Bufala mozz salad was fresh and lovely. I ordered the scallops which I thought were great until I tasted my husband’s steak. It was so flavorful, I hadn’t thought of ordering meat in a ” fish” restaurant, but wish I had. The pork you had looks like another reason to go back, yum. Had the trio for dessert and LOVED it. The best part for us was that they had real food options on the kids menu. Even the fish fingers were made of snapper in house, really good. My children usually prefer the food on the adults menu but being little they want the perks of the kids menu (Mickey straws!) so this was perfect. The chocolate fondue with fruit and pound cake meant I didn’t have to share my dessert :)
    Other faves were Sanna, and Boatwrights.

  24. Mark D. says:

    I have heard about the char crusted strip a million times, but that was the first I have seen a picture of it and my jaw dropped. That looks so fantastic.

  25. Laura B. says:

    I agree with Jackie, would love to see fish from Flying Fish as thats why I would head there!

  26. Robin S says:

    we haver a trip planned in April, & our no-kids-allowed date night is going to be at Flying Fish!! Cannot wait, just hoping they keep a great scallop dish & creme brûlée offering on the menu in the spring… they sound amazing! & my husband would looove the mousse/ brownie desert dish… ah, wish we were there now!!!

  27. AJ says:

    Robin — I wish I was there now, too!

  28. Ashley says:

    Thank you sooo very much for featuring the Yellowfin tuna tartare. I had this app a few years back on a trip to Disney, and I still consider it to be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I couldn’t remember what it was called and could never explain it to my family. Now I have a picture! Your review has me eager to make the trip back and explore the menu further!

  29. Glenn Drury says:

    Many tout California Grill as the number 1 restaurant at WDW, but Flying Fish Cafe gets my vote. It’s unique (you won’t find another place like it anywhere) and there aren’t enough superlatives to describe the food. The tempura sushi roll with the tuna tartar is a must, and the potato wrapped red snapper is perfection on a plate. Forget about WDW, this is my favorite restaurant anywhere.

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