Review and Photo Tour: The New Flying Fish at Disney World’s BoardWalk

We have a real treat for you as we head into the newly refurbished Flying Fish for our very first visit to this beloved spot!

More than most, Flying Fish has had a passionate fan base. And it’s funny, because at the same time, it tends to fly a bit under the radar. Even prior to its recent closure for refurbishment, you were much more likely to get a last minute advance dining reservation here than at some other signature spots, like California Grill. (Maybe that’s why the locals love it so much — they’re not fighting the tourists for a table.)

But we heard from you in large numbers during the reno. Passionate Fish fans continually asked us two questions: when will Flying Fish reopen? And will our favorite dishes (so many!) return?

Opening day turned out to be last week. As for the answer to the other question, you’ll have to read on to find out.

Join me as we have a look around the completely transformed Flying Fish, and then stick around to see all the details on the dishes that we enjoyed. Let’s go!

Atmosphere

While I love the charm and allure of the BoardWalk as night falls, we made our ADR early so that we could take full advantage of the good light for photos. And if you love the nostalgia of the super cool neon sign over the Flying Fish — good news. It remains nearly unchanged.

Flying Fish -- Outside View

Flying Fish — Outside View

Super fans will quickly note one major difference. With the refurbishment, the Flying Fish underwent a slight change to its name. Previously, it was known as Flying Fish Cafe. Now it’s just Flying Fish, and the sign has been updated to reflect that — complete with extra fish added. As you can see from the above photo, the front doors have been updated slightly as well. The window muntins are now diagonal and echo some of the same motifs that you’ll see inside.

Flying Fish Sign

Flying Fish Sign

But when you step inside, you realize immediately how vastly the space has changed. Mirrors overhead are reminiscent of a vintage carousel, and the burnished metallic tones and charcoal grey offer a much more subdued feeling than the previous carnival theme.

Check In Area

Check In Area

To the left, you have access to AbracadaBar, Disney’s newest lounge. (See our review and first look here.) No more walking through a candy store in your heels to go to the restroom!

While the two connect, they function separately. Flying Fish has its own dedicated bar, complete with seating. We’ll show you more in a minute.

The View from Flying Fish into AbracadaBar

The View from Flying Fish into AbracadaBar

To the right of the check in area, you’ll see the long, narrow dining room. And if you ever dined at Flying Fish before, then you’ll be struck immediately by the contrast between the previous decor and the current look.

Before the renovation, the space celebrated the glory days of northeastern boardwalks, like Atlantic City and Coney Island. Flying Fish was filled with murals and over the top whimsical touches. That’s all been replaced by hues of burnished gold, charcoal grey, and rich royal blue. (It all feels very “bluezoo-y” to me now…anyone else feel that way? I know one of our Instagram followers mentioned it as well.)

Long View of the Dining Room

Long View of the Dining Room

The back wall previously featured a huge Ferris wheel in silhouette, and there were flying fish literally flying all over the room. Having a hard time visualizing? Check out this previous review for an idea of what I mean.

Back Dining Area

Back Dining Area

Now, you can see that the space has a far more sophisticated grown-up feel to it. But there’s still a touch of whimsy if you know where to look.

Glass screens give the room visual interest and echo the pattern of fish fins. The patterned glass allows for plenty of light throughout the space.

Flying Fish atmosphere dining area 7

View From the Back Toward the Front

I spoke of the bar earlier, and here it is. Take a moment to take in the details. Amazing, right?

Bar -- Another View

Bar

Beautiful tilework echoes the design of fish scales around the bar itself, while other tiles mimic the movement of water. Elegant lamps offer surface light, and bar chairs are substantial and comfortable.

Bar

Bar — Another View

However, the most striking features are the many, many wine bottles that are positioned around the top of the bar. There are dozens, but the effect is multiplied by well placed mirrors, making the whole thing look even more epic.

Bar Detail

Bar Detail

It should be your first hint that Flying Fish takes wine pretty seriously. If the empty wine bottles didn’t clue you into that fact, then the wine cases holding full bottles will drive the point home.

Wine Case

Wine Case

In some places, the displays serve another function — as additional walls, dividing the space without compromising light.

Wine Case -- Up Close

Wine Case — Up Close

And this is another spot where Fish fans will see a startling difference. Toward the back of the restaurant, there’s a room to the left that opens into the main space. Previously, the area looked like the inside of a circus tent. Now, the space echoes the same sophistication as the rest of the dining area. Servers told us that the room could also be divided off for private functions.

Private Back Dining Area

Private Back Dining Area

Private Back Dining Area

Private Back Dining Area

But easily, the most stunning decor elements of the dining room redo are the bubble chandeliers and hanging glass fish.

Chandeliers and Ceiling

Chandeliers and Ceiling

Bubble Chandeliers

Bubble Chandeliers — Up Close

Indeed, the enamel ceiling and the transparent pieces give you a feeling of being immersed in water. It’s very calming, but at the same time, you have a sense of motion.

Glass Fish and Ceiling

Glass Fish and Ceiling

The overall effect is truly stunning. We couldn’t stop snapping pics!

Glass Fish and Bubbles

Glass Fish and Bubbles

While much of the space has completely transformed, the restaurant still offers an onstage kitchen.

Open Kitchen

Open Kitchen

Previously, however, guests dining at the Chef’s Counter faced the action. Now, the “counter” is more of an area. Look closely, and you see that tables and chairs in this area look different than the rest of the dining room. Tables are bare and chairs are upholstered in leather.

New Chef's Counter Seating

New Chef’s Counter Seating

Another centerpiece of the restaurant are semi-circular booths that run down the back middle. I’m pretty sure these are the same booths that were up front in the previous incarnation. I can’t wait to sit in one of these cozy spots.

Central Booths

Central Booths

Regardless of where you sit, you’ll find that seating is extremely comfortable.

Seating

Seating

Window Table

Window Table

And like I said, don’t count the whimsy out altogether. Frames and lighting that rival a museum in terms of elegance house some pretty awesome pictures. Danced with a fish lately, anyone?

Portraits Lining Walls

Portraits Lining Walls

Of course, there’s always diving into a teeny tiny tank of water. Or does the fish fly at the last minute?

Another Portrait

Another Portrait

The white tablecloths and slate blue cloth napkins contrast beautifully.

Table Setting

Table Setting

And check out the flying fish on the table candles!

Table Candle with LED Tea Light

Table Candle

With the refurb, Flying Fish also upgraded their china and flatware. It’s in the details, you guys! And this is simply gorgeous.

Flatware

Flatware

Okay — have you had your fill of the dining room? Time to move on to the main attraction!

Eats

We started by taking a look at the drink menu. Because of course we did!

Don’t you love how the specialty cocktails are divided into four categories? Choose from Bitter, Tart, Savory, and Sweet. Or don’t. Have one of each!

Menu -- Beverages -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Beverages — Click to Enlarge

We decided to try two. We started with the Maple Bacon Peach Manhattan. Could you resist? We could not. The smooth, just-sweet-enough cocktail combines Bulleit Rye Whiskey and Averna Amaro with Maple Bacon Infused Grilled Peaches and Candied Bacon.

Maple Bacon Peach Manhattan

Maple Bacon Peach Manhattan

This drink was, in a word, perfect. It was strong without being overwhelming with flavors of the headline ingredients. And before it was all over, we nibbled up the garnish as well.

Maple Bacon Peach Manhattan

Maple Bacon Peach Manhattan

We also opted for a selection from the “Sweet” menu — the Pacific Island Punch. If you’re on vacay — and you know you are — then this is the drink for you. A mixture of Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, Disaronno Originale, and Guava, Papaya, Pinepple, and Mango Juices, this one went down every bit as easy as you think it did.

Pacific Island Punch

Pacific Island Punch

And this is where I mention — these drinks, er, hit the spot. There were three of us sharing two drinks, and we could all feel the effects. :-)

With that said, it was clearly time to make a few selections, and so we did.

Menu -- Appetizers -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Click to Enlarge

After we gave our (very wonderful and capable) server our orders, she brought us a little bread to enjoy while we waited. The housemade loaf featured flavors of Nori and Sesame, and was served with a softened pat of Housemade Cultured Butter. The loaf was fresh and flavorful, and we loved hearing that the staff paid such close attention to detail.

Bread and Butter

Sesame and Nori Bread with House Made Cultured Butter

Soon, our appetizers began to arrive. We started with the Blue Crab Bisque, which featured Jumbo Lump Crab, Melted Leeks, Aged Sherry, and Tarragon Creme Fraiche.

Blue Crab Bisque

Blue Crab Bisque

We wanted to like this one more than we did. The flavors were well balanced with a pronounced flavor of Sherry, and there was a generous portion of Blue Crab in the soup. Still, we wanted it to be a little richer than it was. On the upside, this will be a hit with anyone looking for a light starter to kick off the meal.

Blue Crab Bisque -- Up Close

Blue Crab Bisque — Up Close

A Tour of the Coast features Local Middleneck Clams, Rock Shrimp, Icy Blue Mussels, and Florida Coast Grouper Cheek, all ladled over a Celeriac Puree.

A Tour of the Coast

A Tour of the Coast

This was a universal hit with all of the seafood lovers at the table. We couldn’t stop eating the creamy sauce that made up the body of the stew, and all of the seafood was perfectly prepared; nothing was overcooked.

A Tour of the Coast -- Up Close

A Tour of the Coast — Up Close

Next, we moved on to a non-seafood dish, the Korobuta Pork Belly. The slab of braised Pork Belly was served atop a Royal Gala Apple Slaw, which was a lovely foil to the richness of the meat.

Kurobuta Pork Belly

Kurobuta Pork Belly

Stacked on top of that was a Croquette with a filling of Pork Shank Meat and a Shirred Quail Egg. A Bing Cherry Gastrique provided a sweet and sour counterpoint.

Kurobuta Pork Belly -- Up Close

Kurobuta Pork Belly — Up Close

This dish was gorgeous and utterly irresistable. We finished every bite.

Kurobuta Pork Belly

Kurobuta Pork Belly — Inside the Shank Croquette and Shirred Quail Egg

Owing to the generous portions, we were already beginning to feel quite full. But there were entrees to experience still!

Because we are just as sad as you that the Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak seems to be off the menu, we decided that we had to try the Wagyu Filet Mignon.

Wagyu Filet Mignon -- Up Close

Wagyu Filet Mignon

It’s served on a bed of Okinawan Potatoes, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and Romanesco. We also noticed a generous knob of Herbed Compound Butter melting over the meat.

Wagyu Filet Mignon -- Up Close

Wagyu Filet Mignon — Up Close

As we were taking it all in, our server appeared to pour a generous portion of Bordelaise Sauce over the top.

Wagyu Filet Mignon -- Pouring the Sauce

Wagyu Filet Mignon — Pouring the Bordelaise Sauce

While the cut was a little thinner than I was expecting, the texture and flavor of the beef garnered rave reviews from my meat loving friends. This dish was a winner, and there was nothing left on the plate by the time we were finished.

Wagyu Filet Mignon -- Inside

Wagyu Filet Mignon — Inside

We also decided to check out the Ocean’s Bounty Sustainable Fish. On the evening that we dined, the selection was Alaskan Halibut, and it was served with a summer Vegetable Melange and Potato Beurre Blanc.

Oceans Bounty Sustainable Fish -- Alaskan Halibut

Oceans Bounty Sustainable Fish — Alaskan Halibut

One of my friends really prefers fish to beef, so she was in heaven with this one. To begin, the fish was fresh and perfectly cooked. But then, the Beurre Blanc! Is there anything better on the face of the earth? This creamy sauce, with just enough brightness to balance the flavors, is the perfect complement to fish.

Oceans Bounty Sustainable Fish -- Alaskan Halibut

Oceans Bounty Sustainable Fish — Alaskan Halibut

Even the vegetables won rave reviews — especially the Golden Beets. The dish felt special without being heavy.

Oceans Bounty Sustainable Fish -- Alaskan Halibut

Oceans Bounty Sustainable Fish — Alaskan Halibut

Sharing two substantial plates allowed for us to continue the exploration through the Dessert Course. A few of the Specialty Coffee and Cocktails were calling to us. But we decided to save them for another day.

Menu -- Desserts Drinks -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Desserts Drinks — Click to Enlarge

And if you were a fan of the signature Trio of Concession Sweets, I have bad news: it’s no more. BUT — we did find some things to pique our interest.

Menu -- Desserts -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Desserts — Click to Enlarge

We all enjoy a healthy appreciation for chocolate, so the Under the Sea seemed like a good place to start. It features Valrhona Manjari Chocolate Mousse with beautiful, artisan garnishes.

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert

Behold, Chocolate Coral Sponge, Pistachio Sand, Milk and Sugar Foam, and a generous sprinkle of three different Sea Salts.

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert -- Another Angle

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert — Another Angle

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert -- Close Up of Foam and Pistachio Dust

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert — Close Up of Foam and Pistachio Dust

We appreciated the obvious artistry that went into this one. I especially liked the — surprise! — Foam! Luckily, this was more of a candy sponge than a liquid-y foam (which I hate). It melted in our mouths, and was just a super fun touch.

Mousse Dome -- Inside

Mousse Dome — Inside

We also couldn’t resist trying the Florida Reef, which featured the bright citrus flavors of a Lemon Tart and Ruby Red Grapefruit Sorbet. Toasted Meringue and Florida Citrus Salad added even more to the dish.

Florida Reef

Florida Reef

Looks a bit like a Stegosaurus, yes?

Florida Reef -- Up Close

Florida Reef — Up Close

While we weren’t wowed, it was a beautiful plate, and we thought the light dessert was a good ending to our rich meal.

Florida Reef -- Cross Section

Florida Reef — Cross Section

And with that, it was time to head next door to AbracadaBar for a nightcap!

Overall

So. Flying Fish. Is it back? Well, you’ll have to be the judge of that.

I have to tell you, everything about our meal was beautiful. We enjoyed impeccable service, and our server, Osi, was incredibly attentive and knowledgeable. We also received multiple visits from Chef Timothy Majoras and from managers, who dropped by to make sure that we were pleased with everything.

Our food, every dish, was well executed and delicious. If we had to hand out a mark for the weakest link, it would probably be the Blue Crab Bisque. It wasn’t bad; it was just much lighter than we anticipated. The next time, we will probably go with another option.

As for the elephant in middle of the room: yes, beloved dishes like the Crab Cakes, the Potato Wrapped Snapper, and the Char-crusted Certified Black Angus New York Strip Steak are gone. And that’s a serious bummer for me, as those were my favorites (as I’m sure they were for many of you as well). I still have hope that they’ll bring the Strip Steak back…or at least a larger-than-filet cut…sometime soon.

And here are OUR thoughts on why the menu is what it is. When the Fish originally opened, the emphasis was on Florida seafood. But Chef Majoras explained that they really wanted the latitude to offer the best seafood out there — even if that meant going outside of Florida waters. And the emphasis on sustainability? That’s not just a buzzword here. They really do want to bring the best and most responsible options to the table, and unfortunately, Florida Red Snapper isn’t considered a sustainable option at present.

Personally, I think it feels like the kitchen is playing it a little safe to begin, and I look forward to seeing where they go from there. Still, I feel like this outing was a great first effort. And I look forward to seeing what the upcoming months bring. Look for more coverage of the Fish in the future. After all, with its primo spot and beautiful makeover, I’m pretty sure we’ll be back.

And now, I’d love to hear from you. Will you be dining at the Flying Fish on an upcoming visit to Walt Disney World? Let us know what you think of the dishes we tried in comments below!

Comments

  1. Frank says

    M,
    Wow, imho you hit the nail right on the head…
    I’ve been saying for a while now that Disney seems to be de-Walt-ing everything, and pretty soon it won’t be “Walt” Disney World, but just Disney… maintaining the corporate name “Disney,” for all things Star Wars, Marvel, etc, etc.
    They seem to have taken an “airline” mentality of grabbing for every available dollar, in every conceivable space.
    I’m sure some will reply, “then don’t go.” Well, we don’t. Cancelled a December trip w a stay at the Beach Club. In years past, that would have been unheard of. Thought about another Annual Pass, but my wife pointed out that it isn’t just the AP you’re buying, but a “commitment” to use it, stay there, eat there, buy there, with all that that entails from a dollars and cents standpoint.
    Frank

  2. says

    While our meal was enjoyable, the reason we came was to have the New York Strip. It was gone. This was our favorite restaurant for over 12 years and we came for my husband’s birthday. The booth I sat in sunk so low, my chest was at the table top. We had the bison. It was good but no where near the NY strip crusted so elegantly in their char crust. We have to wonder has Disney caved for the dining plans? At $54.00 plus per plate, considstation for previous best sellers should take presidence. Next time we are going to try Shulas.
    Andrea

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