Review: Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

You’re in for a treat today, as we visit one of my most favorite Disney World restaurants —
Sanaa.

Sanaa is truly a hidden Disney treasure, and while I hope you all have the opportunity to enjoy it, honestly, I hope the word never totally gets out!

I know that may sound selfish, but Sanaa is a favorite of mine for many, many reasons. In addition to a number of truly exquisite meals in the past, I also appreciate the quiet atmosphere. And it’s never been difficult to get an Advance Dining Reservation here — even at the last minute.

There had been some changes in the menu since I visited last, so I was anxious to book dinner at Sanaa on a recent trip to see if it’s still just as wonderful as it’s always been.

Atmosphere

Sanaa is a hidden gem in part because it’s actually somewhat hidden. To get to Sanaa, you’ll need to head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Once there, look for signs pointing you toward Kidani Village, the Disney Vacation Club portion of the resort.

Outside of Sanaa

Outside of Sanaa

As with all of the other restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Sanaa has been thoughtfully named. The word “sanaa” is Swahili for “art”. Step up to the restaurant’s entrance, and you start to see why. Hand woven trays decorate the area behind the podium and beautiful beads line the counter.

Sanaa check-in

Sanaa check-in

Be on the lookout for this guy though. (We’re talking about the Hidden Mickey…not the bird. :-) ) You’ll catch a an artistically rendered glimpse or two of him throughout the area.

hidden mickey 3 at entrance Sanaa

Hidden Mickey at Sanaa’s Entrance

One of my favorite touches are the African Proverbs that you’ll find on walls throughout Kidani Village. Think about it for a while!

decor Sanaa

African Proverb and Beads

While you wait for your table — and the wait isn’t likely to be long — you’ll get your first glimpse of Sunset Savanna. Keep your eyes peeled. The area is home to dozens of birds and animals, including gazelles, zebras, cranes, ostriches, and more. And right outside THESE windows, you my get to see a tortoise or two.

waiting area hallway Sanaa

Windows in Sanaa’s Waiting Area

En route to your table, you’ll pass the Lounge. This is one of my favorite spots to relax and unwind.

Bar area Sanaa

Bar Area

Because it’s opened continuously from 11:30 to midnight, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a meal at one of those in-between times, or you just want to meet friends for a quiet night cap.

bar area 2 Sanaa

Bar Seating

This is a detail that I love about Animal Kingdom Lodge (and most spots in Disney, actually) — no space is left untouched. Check out the rich detail on the ceiling in the bar area, which provides a subtle sense of definition…

ceiling detail Sanaa

Ceiling Detail in the Bar

…And this is what I mean. Once you enter the main restaurant, you leave the “building” of the entrance, and you’re under the canopy of a sprawling acacia tree.

overview of restaurant Sanaa

Atmosphere

It blends beautifully with the wide-arched picture windows, and melds the interior with the exterior.

Request a window-side table, and you’ll enjoy great views of the savanna as you dine.

Seating and View Sanaa

Window Seating

Chances are pretty good that you’ll even see a few of these guys.

And it’s a good time to note — the ever-changing parade of wildlife outside the windows is a great diversion for little people in your group! There are few better ways to distract a toddler than by pointing out real life zebras!

view 1 Sanaa

Sanaa’s View

Seating is broken up into small alcoves, and tables and chairs are fashioned with the same artisan detail as other surroundings. The mismatched chairs give the space an eclectic feel.

seating 2 Sanaa

Seating and Atmosphere

Padded booths also offer a cozy option, if you prefer extra comfort to views.

Seating 1 Sanaa

Seating and Rich Ceiling and Lighting Detail

hidden mickey 2 Sanaa

Another Mickey and Round Booth Seating

And remember when I said to keep an eye out for Mickey sightings? :-)

hidden mickey 1 -- on table Sanaa

Hidden Mickey on a Table

Because the restaurant is decorated to resemble an East African spice market, you’ll find some interesting elements. I always stop to take in this

Zanzibar Coffee Pot Display. It’s fascinating!

decor element -- zanzibar coffee pot Sanaa

Zanzibar Coffee Pot Display

Zanzibar Coffee and Description of Coffee Pot

Zanzibar Coffee and Description of Coffee Pot

Coffee from a street vendor in the exotic Spice Islands? Ah…to be there now! Well, we’ll just have to content ourselves with some of Sanaa’s outside-the-box offerings. Not a bad alternative in my opinion! Let’s take a look.

Eats

You’ll soon find that there’s more to the art at Sanaa than just the visual, however. The restaurant seeks to highlight “The Art of African Cooking with Indian Flavors”. To that end, what you receive on your plate will be just as much of an epicurean art form as any display you’ve seen thus far.

While I didn’t enjoy one on this visit, I usually like to start my meal with a Malawi Mango Margarita, one of my favorite Disney Margaritas. This frozen version combines Tequila with Van der Hum Tangerine Liqueur, Mango Purée, and Lime Juice for a good sweet-tart balance.

Mango Margarita

Malawi Mango Margarita

If you enjoy getting your fill of Safari Amber at Disney, be sure to order one at Sanaa, where it’s available on tap.

Safari Amber on Draft at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge's Sanaa at Kidani Village

Safari Amber on Draft

We love to start a meal here with the Indian-Style Bread Service. It is important to note that bread at Sanaa is not complimentary. But I would definitely recommend that you try it. The Naan here is to die for.

Choose three types of bread from five choices — Plain Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, or Paneer Paratha. On a previous visit, we chose Naan, Onion Kulcha, and Paneer Paratha.

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

A Few Bread Service Choices — Naan – Onion Kulcha – Paneer Paratha

You also choose three accompaniments from a list of nine — Red Chile Sambal, Cucumber Raita, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Coconut Chutney, Garlic Pickle, Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus, or Tamarind Chutney. You can see the three we tried previously in the picture below, but I’d happily try any and all of the choices! They pack an amazing amount of flavor.

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

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

This time around, I decided to try something new for a starter — the Seasonal Soup. At the time we visited, Butternut Squash Soup was the offering du jour.

Normally, I’m a big fan of Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soups, but this time, I felt the kitchen was a little heavy handed with the sweet spices. What should have been an appetizer tasted more like onion-flavored pumpkin pie. And that’s not something I enjoy. Dial back the spices a bit, and this would probably be a winner.

Butternut Squash Soup Sanaa

Butternut Squash Soup

While I wasn’t thrilled with my choice of starter, soon, my main course arrived. I know that there are tons of amazing dishes on the Sanaa menu, but I simply cannot visit here without enjoying their braised dishes, poetically termed “Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-seasoned”.

This time, I went with Butter Chicken (surprise!!) and Chicken Vindaloo. Served with your choice of Basmati Rice or Five-Grain Pilaf, I chose the latter. And as always, it was fantastic! I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before. But the Butter Chicken is rich with a stunning combo of Garam Masala, Stewed Tomatoes, and Cream. Chicken Vindaloo provides a full-flavored spiciness that I really enjoyed. The meat was tender and combined with the nutty Pilaf, the textures were awesome.

I always smoosh all of these together so the rice just becomes another texture within the chicken dishes.

Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-seasoned Butter Chicken and Chicken Vindaloo

Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-seasoned — Butter Chicken and Chicken Vindaloo

My husband opted for a new-to-us dish — the Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak.

Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak

Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak

Served with Roasted Potatoes, Braised Winter Greens, and Coriander Chutney, the presentation was neatly executed and gorgeous.

Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak

Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak — Up Close

He was really pleased with the flavors, and the meat was tender and cooked perfectly. I think we have another contender for Best Disney Steak!

Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak

Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak — Another View

If kiddos are part of your dining crew at Sanaa, you will probably be pleased to see that there are many healthier, Mickey Check menu options. The little person in our crew opted for the Grilled Chicken Breast, served with Basmati Rice and Veggies. The meal also comes with Sliced Apples and your choice of Milk or Bottled Water. It was met with general approval…the rice was a winner. :-D

Kids' Mickey Check Meal - Grilled Chicken Breast

Kids’ Mickey Check Meal – Grilled Chicken Breast

With our delicious meals consumed, we turned our attention to the dessert menu. To accompany your sweet ending at Sanaa, you can enjoy a couple of different special hot beverages. I always linger over the Loose Tea Selection. But coffee lovers can also indulge in a press pot of Kenya Coffee.

loose tea Sanaa

Loose Tea Selection

The first sweet we chose was Banana Cheesecake, which is accompanied by Chocolate Sauce and Pistachios. It was good, but be forewarned — it’s seriously banana-y. And extra yellow. Like, there’s some extract and added color goin’ on in there somewhere.

Banana Cheesecake

Banana Cheesecake

We also tried the Spice Apple Samosas, which come with two Dipping Sauces — Chocolate and Salted Caramel. These were similar to donuts and very good. I’d give the Salted Caramel Sauce a slight edge though, since I think it makes more sense with Apple.

Spice Apple Samosas

Spice Apple Samosas

There were also some GREAT kid dessert options! While the Savanna S’mores and “Cookies and Milk” (Decorate-Your-Own Sugar Cookie accompanied by Strawberry Lassi) were intriguing, we ended up choosing the Peanut Butter Turtle. And I was so glad we did! Because — well, look!

Peanut Butter Turtle

Peanut Butter Turtle

A little dome of Peanut Butter Mousse, made without Egg, sits atop a round of Banana Cake. But the Garnishes! That fun Rock Candy and Blue Gel totally made the plate.

Peanut Butter Turtle Sanaa 2

Peanut Butter Turtle — Up Close

The consistency was less like Peanut Butter Mousse (no light and airy here) and more similar to Peanut Butter Candy. Like a super light, whipped peanut butter fudge. Next time I go to Sanaa, I’m totally asking the pastry chef to make me a giant-person sized one of these.

Peanut Butter Turtle -- Cross Section

Peanut Butter Turtle — Cross Section

Overall

If you’re looking for me to change my tune about Sanaa based upon this latest trip, well, it’s just not gonna happen. It remains one of my favorite dining spots in all of Disney. The food is consistently delicious. The setting is tranquil with a well executed theme. And the service is always gracious.

Sanaa offers everything a seasoned Disney lover enjoys about dining in the ‘World. Add to it that you rarely have to wait for a table here, and it becomes a no-brainer. If you haven’t had the pleasure, you MUST try Sanaa on your very next Disney World visit.

Is Sanaa one of your favorite places to dine in Walt Disney World? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

Comments

  1. Pat says

    Probably one of the most overlooked and underrated restaurants on property. It’s never busy enough for the quality of food. The bread service (especially with all of the dipping sauces) is one of the better light meals or snack. Perfect way to end a day touring the parks enjoying the quiet laid back lounge, a few drinks and a bread service. The sustainable fish that’s always on the menu comes in a light flavorful broth with seasonal vegetables. The butter chicken with the fish stew is always the perfect size for either a lunch or dinner. Cannot say enough nice things about Sanaa and is worth the ride over for a quiet out of the way lunch or dinner. The staff is always pleasant and informative. If you are lucky enough to get seated near a window, we’ve always seen a crowned crane checking his (or her) reflection out in the glass.

  2. Mike says

    Last year we finally tried Sanaa for the first time. The bread service alone is well worth the trip. We ordered the larger serving of bread and found it a little difficult to finish our main course. The food was awesome and we can’t wait to get back this year. This could easily become a “must do” every year.

  3. says

    I love Sanaa! One of my favorites, too. Good food, unique flavors, and such a cool spot. I love the atmosphere. I’m staying at Kidani in a few weeks and we will definitely be dining at Sanaa, again.

  4. Jennifer says

    Sanaa is my #1 favorite all time restaurant at WDW. We’re on a first name basis w/a lot of the CM’s there. We’ve lost count how many times we’ve been there.
    If you have a wine drinker in your party, the wine list is outstanding.

  5. Jennifer says

    This is a family favorite for us! My picky 13 year old picked it for his birthday celebration trip this weekend! And when I say picky…he’s very very picky as is my husband and the first time we ate here their faces turned white when they looked at the menu and saw what they though was nothing they would eat the server was AMAZING! She put them at ease by going over all the details and helped them choose the perfect meals! The experience here is what makes this a favorite for us but the good is a fantastic plus! Can wait until Friday when we get to go again!

  6. Sherry says

    Sanaa really does feel like a hidden gem. Great atmosphere. Relaxing. Great food and service. Really interesting wine list. Worth going out of your way for. A good option for a long midday break while you are Animal Kingdom.

  7. Rocksmith says

    First off, as always a great review on a Disney restaurant.

    But, is it possible to also include information on Gluten Free menu options?
    It would be greatly appreciated by your readers, such as myself and my wife, so it could help us in our meal search.

    Thanks

  8. Kristen says

    Sanaa is my family’s favorite Disney restaurant. It is the best kept secret at Disney. We are DVC members and Kidani Village is our home resort. We were there the week of Christmas and ate lunch at Sanaa twice. My husband and oldest son’s favorite is the Grilled Lamb Kefta. They had is both times. We were very spoiled that week eating at both Sanaa and Jiko at Jambo House.

  9. Lyn says

    A great way to experience Sanaa is the Lunch with Animal Specialist we did last week. Four course meal – bread service shared, salad trio, Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-seasoned chicken and shrimp, and desert trio. (Priced off the menu is $45) This event was over two hours $49 include the food, tax, tip, and conversation with an animal caretaker at the table and at the savannah viewing area. We really enjoyed this experience.

  10. Mike says

    We love Sanaa, but our disappointment that the chai cream was taken off the dessert menu has not yet subsided, and we also sense that the portions with the bread service have been pared down over time. Still, wonderful flavors and a pleasant atmosphere with limited crowds make this a restaurant which I am glad has not yet been discovered by the masses.

  11. Danielle K. says

    I LOVE Sanaa!!! I was a but disappointed when I went in early to mid December with the early lunch crowd level. It is usually just myself so I do not make a reservation ever. I had to wait for the first time LOL. No big deal though the wait is always worth it. I love the marinated beef and basmati rice. Always order the bread service too. I always make it my last meal before I leave.

  12. Rachel H. says

    I ate at Sanaa for lunch a few years ago, and I am a picky eater as well. I do love tandoori chicken though, and they don’t make it too spicy but I love the seasonings on it. I got that with just the naan bread, none of the greens or other sides and it was so delicious! Don’t be afraid of the menu, anyone can find something to enjoy and the view of the animals was amazing!

  13. Sara says

    We are going to Disney for the first time as a family next week! We are staying at AKL and going to Sanaa for dinner one of our nights. I can’t wait!

  14. Shannon says

    Love, love, LOVE Sanaa! Went there for the first time with my family last October and based on the awesome food and the fantastic atmosphere am planning to make it a permanent fixture on all future trips! Can’t wait to get back there in 2016 for some Naan and Butter Chicken!!!!!

  15. Mark says

    An absolutely wonderful restaurant is a terrific setting. Great place for a lunch or special occasion. Try lunch and then walk it off at Animal Kingdom. You will have the most wonderful after tastes you’ll ever experience.

    Good spot to mention something to all you Dining Plan folks. I know a server here. Her number one complaint, which she would never tell Disney or a guest, is Dining Plan customers who stiff her on the tip. When you have a $100 meal and the service is great, don’t insult your server with a $4 tip. Seriously uncool. A full service restaurant is not a fast food joint.

  16. Galloping Gourmond says

    I’m with @ Jennifer on this one. My favorite place in all of WDW, however I never get to go to it. My friends say it’s too far off the beaten path, or the food is too strange. There are not really and “safe” options here for the picky eater. They understand that, though. My best Disney friend doesn’t go much beyond meat and potatoes. She had the NY Strip without the coriander rub, which is my suggestion.

  17. says

    Sanaa is absolutely one of my favorite WDW restaurants! My husband and I ate there recently and we recommend getting all 9 accompaniments with the bread service. Each more delicious than the next! The food, drink, atmosphere, and service are all remarkable. The only downside I see to Sanaa is that it feels a little bit inconvenient, since I never stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but I like to make an event out of it, going upstairs for cocktails and strolling along to view the animals prior to the meal.

  18. says

    Agree 100%! I ate here for the first time in December and it absolutely blew me away! I wasn’t sure if I would like such exotic food (at least for my palate) but I was pleasantly surprised! The naan is the BEST BREAD I have ever had (part of the Indian-style Bread Service). I had the sustainable fish for my entree, light and flaky perfection, and the wild rice and vegetables that came with it were a fantastic accompaniment. For dessert I had the Seasonal Kulfi, this Indian ice cream that I really didn’t know what to make of, but it was AMAZING!! Seriously, each course had me delighted and wanting more! Plus the ambiance is so authentic, many of the artifacts are made in Africa, and really transports all of your senses – a DISNEY MUST DO. I agree with you, AJ, I can’t rave about this place enough!

  19. Vanessa says

    We went to Sanaa for the first time during our last visit this past October and it is now on our list of MUST DO’s for any future visits. The food was fantastic and the setting was beautiful. We originally went for lunch but loved it so much we booked another dinner there for later in our trip. After dinner we went out on the animal lookout area and used the night goggles to check out the animals. My son is a picky eater though so I was originally afraid he wouldn’t eat anything, but they had cheese pizza made on naan bread which he loved! It was thumbs up all around! I can’t wait to go back!

  20. Annemiek den Hollander says

    What a fun blog. I’ve never been to Sanaa but I like how you describe the many Disney World Restaurants here. Sanaa seems worth a visit reading your blog.

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