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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
I spoke of the bar earlier, and here it is. Take a moment to take in the details. Amazing, right?
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.
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.
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.
In some places, the displays serve another function — as additional walls, dividing the space without compromising light.
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.
But easily, the most stunning decor elements of the dining room redo are the bubble chandeliers and hanging glass fish.
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.
The overall effect is truly stunning. We couldn’t stop snapping pics!
While much of the space has completely transformed, the restaurant still offers an onstage 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.
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.
Regardless of where you sit, you’ll find that seating is extremely comfortable.
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?
Of course, there’s always diving into a teeny tiny tank of water. Or does the fish fly at the last minute?
The white tablecloths and slate blue cloth napkins contrast beautifully.
And check out the flying fish on the table candles!
With the refurb, Flying Fish also upgraded their china and flatware. It’s in the details, you guys! And this is simply gorgeous.
Okay — have you had your fill of the dining room? Time to move on to the main attraction!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This dish was gorgeous and utterly irresistable. We finished every bite.
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.
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.
As we were taking it all in, our server appeared to pour a generous portion of Bordelaise Sauce over the top.
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.
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.
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.
Even the vegetables won rave reviews — especially the Golden Beets. The dish felt special without being heavy.
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.
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.
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.
Behold, Chocolate Coral Sponge, Pistachio Sand, Milk and Sugar Foam, and a generous sprinkle of three different Sea Salts.
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.
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.
Looks a bit like a Stegosaurus, yes?
While we weren’t wowed, it was a beautiful plate, and we thought the light dessert was a good ending to our rich meal.
And with that, it was time to head next door to AbracadaBar for a nightcap!
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!