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Review: Todd English’s bluezoo

We were very excited on a recent trip to see what was new at one of the chicest spots at Disney, Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

Located in the Dolphin, the restaurant will trick you into thinking that you have strayed away from Theme Park Land and entered the glitzy glam of a sleek Las Vegas hotspot.

But the real story is the impeccable attention to detail that Chef Chris Windus shows at every turn.

We have a TON of food to cover, so let’s get right to it!

Atmosphere

As I mentioned above, you’ll find a sophisticated and upscale vibe at bluezoo, which calls to mind a more grown up feeling. However, even though it may not seem super kid-friendly at first glance, this is still Walt Disney World and there will be kids there (yours are welcome, too!). bluezoo would also be a terrific spot for date night, if you decide to leave the kids at a kids’ club or with an in-room sitter while you strike out on your own.

bluezoo entry

As you enter, you’re immediately greeted by a fluid, aquatic feel. The effect goes beyond the visual — you hear the running water as well — but you are surrounded by a palette of vibrant blue, with accents of bright orange and flashes of silver.

bluezoo bar

Even when things aren’t moving, they may seem to be (especially after you start indulging in some of the unique bar drinks…haha!). For instance, when you enter through the bar, there is a stylized presentation of a school of silver-colored fish, seemingly alive with synchronized movement.

bluezoo bar table

The glossy, natural woods and comfortable booths complement the rest of the look of the bluezoo bar. And the touchscreen order system is a fun addition. You’ll feel like you’ve strayed into the future while choosing what to eat!

bluezoo interactive bar menu

bluezoo interactive bar menu

We reported this detail in 2011, and on this visit we were told that the touch-screen menus will be getting an upgraded look and feel very soon.

Beyond the bar, we made our way into the huge, airy main dining room. The soaring ceilings and beautiful bubbly lights are combined artfully with comfortable seating, and you continue to be surrounded by blue with pops of orange for accent.

bluezoo seating

The feeling is refined, but it doesn’t stray into feeling stiff. It’s fun, and still carries the theme you expect in a Disney World restaurant. This is a very comfortable place to settle in for a special meal.

Seating

En route to our seats, however, we did pass the immaculately clean open kitchen. This is where the focal point of the restaurant — the rotisserie where the “Dancing Fish” entree can be seen. A fish selection, which changes daily, is available spit-roasted in this manner.

To be honest, this visual isn’t my cup of tea; but I’ll admit it does make for quite a spectacle. If you order the Dancing Fish, it will come whole to your table…

Dancing Fish and Open Kitchen

Eats

We started our meal with several — and I mean several — cocktails from bluezoo’s extensive bar menu.

The bar menu here is truly one-of-a-kind and offers a blend of updated twists inspired by familiar classics as well as a selection of contemporary and signature drinks — libations that are the original creation of bluezoo mixologists. Either way you go, I promise you are in for a treat.

We started with what was by far my favorite cocktail of the evening: the Back Porch Lemonade. This drink represented the perfect Yin and Yang of sweet and sour, with just a little ginger thrown in for complexity and zing. Definitely the perfect firefly watching drink. (By the way, by “firefly” I mean the summertime light-up bug and not “Firefly” the short-lived television show. Though there’s certainly nothing wrong with drinking this while watching the latter. ;-) )

Back Porch Lemonade: Lady and Sons Moonshine, House Made Sour, and Ginger Syrup

The Barrel Aged Manhattan was a classic. The skewer of cherries was such a nice finishing touch. How can you possibly go wrong with Maker’s Mark? :-) And it was fun to have a drink with bitters in it (I’d learned all about bitters at the Mixology Seminar during the previous Epcot Food and Wine Festival!).

Barrel Aged Manhattan: Makers Mark, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, and Orange Bitters

The Smoking Sangria was SUCH a fun drink — theater and libation rolled into one! The server brings the snifter to the table with a glorious assortment of fresh fruit — nectarines, berries, oranges, lemons, limes — that have been frozen with liquid nitrogen.

Smoking Sangria

When the Sangria is poured over the fruit, you have a wonderful presentation that looks a little like the BEST science experiment EVER! You know I’m not big into red wine, but I really liked this. Sangria may be my new favorite summer drink.

Smoking Sangria

Sangria Close-Up

Next we tried a pretty cocktail that staff are tentatively calling the Summer Night. Topped with moscato, this slightly effervescent, pineapply refresher was probably our second favorite overall.

You should note that it’s definitely what I like to call a “sucker punch” drink: so sweet and unassuming that it will sneak up and wallop you! And since the restaurant is looking to rename this one, we’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

Summer Night: Hendricks Gin, Pineapple, Tarragon Syrup, and Moscato

We followed with the Serenity. The manager actually sent this one to our table because he knew of my love for sour drinks, and he said this one tasted a lot like Sour Patch Kids. Fun!

I would have been all for this drink, except the very grown-up flavor of basil leaves was a bit strong for me on this one. However, give it a try if you like sweet-sour drinks. It’s very good, and completely unique.

Serenity: Square One Cucumber Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Muddled Fresh Strawberries, Basil, Rosemary, Fresh Lime Juice, Pineapple Juice, and Rock Candy Syrup

The Blood and Sand is a classic cocktail inspired by the film of the same name. Another sophisticated drink that we very much enjoyed.

Blood and Sand: Chivas Regal 12 Year, Vermouth, Cherry Herring, and Orange Juice

After this dizzying array of cocktails (whew!!) it was time to move on to the eats! First up, we enjoyed two of the entrees you can order in the bar area: the Togarashi Hot Dog and the Fried Bologna Sandwich.

The Togarashi Dog is AMAZING. A housemade mangalitea pork and beef sausage is paired with collard green kimchi, pickled mustard seeds, and spicy ketchup. I don’t even like mustard but this just worked!

The mustard seed did exactly what it was supposed to do: it meshed together with the other ingredients to bring out something completely different and unique. Nothing stood out sharply or exerted itself. This dish is pure yum.

Smoked Togarashi Dog

The Fried Bologna Sandwich was incredible as well, but I barely got a bite as it was my dining companion’s favorite! Really, we loved these fun gourmet twists on classic comfort foods, and what better place to showcase dishes like this than Disney?

Fried Bologna Sandwich

In this case, the housemade fried bologna was thick-cut in two slices, and layered with slabs of tomato, creamy mayo, and golden griddle-toasted rounds of bread in a fun stack.

Bologna sandwich cross-section

The bread and butter almost got lost in the shuffle of all of the amazing dished that we tried, but it offered lots of variety…and salted butter — yum!

Bread and Butter

Next, we sampled the Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare (thanks to the facebook fans who suggested this!). Once again, there were some great flavors and textures at play here.

The Nitro Siracha Aioli, which is frozen with liquid nitrogen, is the crumbly white garnish, and was added to the dish tableside and smoking for an awesome presentation. (I promise the photo isn’t blurry…that’s the smoke from the frozen aioli!)

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Miso Caviar, Cucumber, Scallion Cream, Nitro Siracha Aioli

The Miso “caviar” was formed from a miso gelee. It wasn’t actually roe, but isn’t it pretty? It has a similar mouth feel to caviar, with the salty flavor, and was a lovely garnish.

Finally — my favorite part of the dish: CRACKLINS!!!!! These fried bits of yum framed the tartare, and for me, served as a cracker of sorts as I piled all the flavors up for a taste of everything. Perfecto.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare

Our next plate was another take on a comfort food favorite: shrimp and grits. It was GORGEOUS.

Low Country Jumbo Shrimp

The shrimp featured in the Low Country Jumbo Shrimp dish were enormous! The seasoning was reminiscent of a dry barbecue rub — a perfect foil for the white cheddar hominy. The piquant tomato and okra salad gave a clean finish.

As if this dish weren’t perfect enough, it was topped with smoked bacon butter. I will give that a moment to soak in. Smoked. Bacon. Butter.

Next time, I’m totally getting extra. You could really taste this as a flavor enhancer.

Low country Jumbo Shrimp: white cheddar hominy, okra, and smoked bacon butter

Before we knew it, we’d moved on to our entrees. A fun fact about the way the menu works at bluezoo: the uber-talented Chef Chris Windus always has a special chef preparation on the menu, using the very best seasonal ingredients he can lay his hands on.

For part of the year, that means a Chef’s Tasting Menu, a multi-course meal created just for that day. At other times, Chef Windus prepares his Chef’s Creation, a special entree which also uses only the best of what is available.

We were fortunate to try the Chef’s Creation during our visit, which incorporated Wagyu beef and the day’s market fish over a bed of white asparagus and beets. The plate was garnished with arugula and finished with a butter sauce and a red wine reduction. This was definitely the best dish of the night. I heartily recommend that you try the chef’s selection when you visit bluezoo.

Chef's Creation

Although normally served with The Evening’s Dancing Fish, we also snagged a sample of the Truffle Macaire Potato. (We lurve potatoes!! ;-) )

Truffle Macaire Potato

This thing is crazy, and has about 50 steps involved in the recipe. Here’s the short version: potatoes laminated together and roasted until golden, garnished with slices of truffle and roasted cauliflower, and topped with a crown of arugula.

Truffle Macaire Potato Close-Up

Our other entree, the Pasture Prime Pork Trifecta, featured three cuts of heirloom pork: Pork belly, pork loin, and a brisket of pork — all cooked to perfection, with smoky black eyed peas and collards as sides.

And while this dish didn’t hold a candle to the Chef’s Creation, it was delicious as well. Come on. Pork belly? You know how I feel about pork belly. (It was very clearly my favorite on the plate.)

Pasture Prime Pork Trifecta with speck braised black eyed peas, collard greens

Obviously those drinks had opened up our “pizza stomachs,” and we knew we had to get some dessert! The manager graciously asked the kitchen staff to prepare a sampler featuring all of the restaurant’s desserts. Even though this platter isn’t available, we were super glad to bring you the pics of everything in such a handy way!

Dessert Sampler

The Warm Chocolate Raspberry Cake with its nest of chocolate cream pudding is definitely a winner. The Banoffee Pie, which resembles a napoleon, features the flavors of bananas and caramel and was delicious as well.

Warm Chocolate Raspberry Molten Cake

Banana Creme Dessert

The Gourmandise Platter, to the right of the sampler, is the special signature selection of award-winning pastry chef, Laurent Branlard. My favorite selection of this decadent spread was the bluezoo Candy Bar.

Gourmandise Platter

bluezoo candy bar

Inside of Candy Bar

To the left of the platter, the chef has prepared the American Classics trio, featuring a House-Made S’more, a beautiful Chocolate Cream Donut, and a Strawberry Sundae. The S’more was especially good, with its rich topping of chocolate mousse.

House-made Smore

Chocolate Cream Donut

Strawberry Sundae

Another standout was the Lemon Meringue Pavlova. Are you at all shocked that the dessert with the pile of lemon curd was my favorite? Of course you’re not. ;-)

While pavlovas normally aren’t my thing (I don’t consider whipped air and egg whites alone to be dessert), within the pavlova was an incredible lemon curd, which is, bar none, one of my favorite foods on this earth. And the tiny cassis agar and mini lemon macaroons were enchanting.

Lemon Meringue Pavlova

OK, now you can roll me home.

Overall

Todd English’s bluezoo at the Dolphin is more than just a meal; it’s an experience for the senses.

While some folks don’t find this spot to be as “Disney” as they’d like, I like to think of it as a grown-up escape from time to time. You have the sense that the staff pours over every single sip and morsel that goes out of the bar and kitchen, always looking for ways to push the envelope when it comes to flavor and unique presentation.

Plus, I’m a huge fan of the market-fresh additions to the menu here. Follow Chef Windus on twitter to see pics of the latest veggie and seafood finds he’s incorporating into the menu.

If you are looking for a dining experience that truly celebrates the full potential of creative food craft, or if you’re looking for a sexy date night hot spot for a special occasion, bluezoo is for you.

Have you had the pleasure of dining at Todd English’s bluezoo? Do you have a great suggestion for the re-christening of the Summer Night cocktail? We would LOVE to here your point of view in the comments below!

Thanks to Todd English’s bluezoo for inviting us to experience the restaurant. As always, Disney Food Blog was under no obligation to write about the experience, much less give the food a positive review — although I will take this opportunity to remind you of the smoked bacon butter! For more information, please view our disclosure policy.

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19 Comments

  1. Marc says:

    AJ, thanks for the review. We’ve booked a reservation in July, using also a discount coupon from Restaurant.com. I was a bit uncertain about this reservation as, over the years, we’ve never eaten at either the Swan or Dolphin. Your review makes me much more comfortable now. Thanks!

  2. How could you make a Firefly reference early in the review, and not make a Serenity reference when the perfect opportunity arises!?! :P

  3. Eric says:

    This looks like an incredible meal, AJ. I particularly love that after your Firefly reference you then have a drink called the “Serenity.” ;)

  4. Paula B. says:

    (Eric, I chuckled at that too!) This restaurant looks fabulous, my husband and I have eaten at the Swan and Dolphin various restaurants over the years so this definitely looks intriguing. And those drinks, takes the cocktail to a whole new level. Thanks for the review.

  5. AJ says:

    Marc — I’m so glad this helped! I think you’ll have a great time. There are lots of great restaurants at the Swan and Dolphin. (If you have time, stop into the Fountain for one of their famous milkshakes or an Apple Pie Sundae!!)

    DisneyandBeyond — Ha ha! I DID have the Serenity reference in there, but took it out for fear it would be overkill. ;-)

    Eric — It was a great meal! :-) I felt even better about making that Firefly reference when I realized that Serenity came up right after it!

    Paula B. — They really are taking the cocktail to a whole new level here; I think that’s one of the things that sets the Swan and Dolphin restaurants apart from standard Disney restaurants. Both are great, but I do like the addition of some serious innovation in the alcohol department.

  6. Alan says:

    I’ll have one of everything especially the drinks. There’s nothing that goes so well with good food than a great sangria and it looks like the bluezoo seems to have both.

    The crazy thing about this piece is the idea that you are at WDW and then go over to the bluezoo to experience something really special. It speaks to what a special place it is.

  7. Marie says:

    In regards to renaming the Summer Night drink, I vote for Hospitality or Liquid Hospitality since pineapples are the symbol of hospitality and the flavor is included in the drink. It looks wonderful!

  8. AJ says:

    Alan — Ha ha! That’s how I felt! It was all so exceptional.

    Marie — Love that idea! Thanks!

  9. Lisa says:

    How on EARTH were you able to eat all that?! Did you just take a couple of bites of each thing?! This is definitely a place I want to try soon! :)

  10. AJ says:

    Lisa — You have to go into training. ;-)

  11. Libby says:

    Smoked bacon butter!?!? I’m there! The shrimp and the bologna sandwich look like they’d be my two favourites :) Thanks for the review!

  12. John says:

    Darn this review ! I’ve never eaten at Blue Zoo, even though we’ve been to Disney a LOT the last 8 years, and stayed at the Dolphin a couple of times. I seem to always end up at Il Mulino, or in Epcot dining. This review really makes me want to give it whirl … but which favorite could I bump from our trip in late June ? Hmmmm …..

  13. Brooke says:

    AJ – This is phenomenal. I loved your pics, and I really can’t wait to try bluezoo now. I want to book it for our very next special occasion! We had always been curious. Thanks so much for bringing us more about this cool spot.

  14. JJ says:

    Any sign of Todd English?
    I heard he was there over the weekend, none the less everything sounds scrumptious!

  15. Bluezoo is one of our all-time favorites (not just at Disney, but anywhere!), so I was drooling over your review.

    It looks like they have a lot of new menu items since I visited last year. A good reason to return soon, right? :-)

    I agree with your comments about the cocktails, and I’ll also add that the bartenders there are good to the non-drinkers too. When I visited while pregnant, I had the most wonderful “faux-jito” with fresh, hand-muddled mint and fruit. It was better than most of the real mojitos I’ve had.

  16. Cynthia Kinsey says:

    We dined at BlueZoo during a recent trip to Disney World. Our daughter bought us a gift certificate so we went all out on our dining experience. It was, absolutely, the best meal my husband or I have ever had!! The service was impeccable and the food was well beyond our expectations. We will definitely be dining here again and we are and will continue to recommend BlueZoo to all our friends! Being a chef, I am usually a very hard to please consumer. I was not disappointed. Thank you BlueZoo!

  17. Heather says:

    I did not find bluezoo on restaurant.com — does that mean they’re sold out this month? Or that they’re no longer in partnership? I’d LOVE to go on our first Disney trip in June!!

  18. AJ says:

    Heather, bluezoo is no longer on the program, unfortunately

  19. AnnMarie Cardin says:

    This review was spot on! I was hoping it would be a rave as Todd English’s bluezoo is my all time FAVORITE restaurant! I have spent many special occasions there (birthdays, anniversaries) and have NEVER been anything but enchanted and delighted with my experience. I have recommended this restaurant to so many people I have lost count. And it isn’t just the fabulous and inventive food. It’s the friendly professionalism if the staff; they are in love with the creations they serve! The atmosphere is so unique and beautiful. It’s as if you are a sea creature luxuriating in the sea looking up through the bubbles to the blue sky. Stunning! And the food! Oh! The food! So fresh and delicious and full if exciting combinations if flavors. The chef is a mastermind and you can tell how much he loves what he does. My husband hasn’t stopped talking about and craving the shrimp and grits with the famous smoked bacon butter! Everything I’ve ever had there has been scrumptious. The crab sauce/topping for any if the fresh fish dishes is also crave-worthy! The fresh shell fish are amazing. Sweet, clean oysters from all over served on a beautiful multileveled platter, ice cold on a bed of crushed ice. Delish. Like tasting the sea. And as far as the desserts; wow! The last time we were there our waiter delighted us with a variety of different items and also a complimentary after-dinner cocktail to sip on. So fantastic! I cannot recommend bluezoo enough. In a place where the word “magic” is thrown around like confetti, this place lives up to that word! And a suggestion for the drink name would be something that evokes a feeling or an experience such as Summer BLAST! Summer SMASH! Or something that’s associated with Disney: FIREWORK! or SUMMER EXPLOSION! xo AMC

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