While we gave full marks to the beautiful interior and excellent service, and we found some bright spots to celebrate on the revamped menu, we were frankly underwhelmed. The restaurant had abandoned long time cult favorites like their Potato Wrapped Snapper and the Char-crusted Certified Black Angus New York Strip Steak, purportedly in the name of those hot, buzzy themes of sustainability and seasonality. Fine.
But while everything was indeed fine, it was no longer special. It was no longer my favorite spot to get a last minute signature restaurant advance dining reservation and KNOW that it was going to be fabulous.
Well, we’re a year in now. And I was anxious to see what, if anything, had changed. Had they returned those amazing signature dishes to the menu? Was the menu completely different from a year ago, owing to the use of seasonal ingredients and sustainable seafood choices? Were they celebrating local?
Only one way to find out. Time to head in.
Flying Fish is located on Disney’s BoardWalk. If you travel down the steps leading from the back of the lobby, you’ll find it just to the right, as you face the water. Step inside and you’ll find a very small waiting area.
Just to the left of the hostess greeting station is the inside entrance to AbracadaBar. It’s a separate venue, but it basically functions as a bar and lounge for both Flying Fish and Trattoria al Forno on the opposite side.
By the way, the FF’s reno and the addition of AbracadaBar did not result in a change to the bathroom situation. The only restroom for FF, the Bar, and Trattoria al Forno is located in the back of AbracadaBar. I still think this is weird.
Even so, the restaurant’s makeover is stunning. This is a beautiful space, and such a completely radical departure from the previous carnival-themed decor.
The restaurant has maintained its “on stage” kitchen, and you can take full advantage of watching the action by requesting a chef’s counter seat.
The bar, tucked behind the kitchen and about halfway back and to the left, is a showpiece. Clever use of wine bottles in the lighting, and the tile work mimicking fish scales below are especially striking.
Beyond the bar, there’s also a little alcove that can serve as a private dining room. When not in use for separate functions, the room offers additional seating. (This used to be the big top tent room with the previous decor.)
While the carnival themeing of the past is completely gone, Flying Fish isn’t without a touch of whimsy as you can see from the glass bubbles and fish hanging beneath the light fixtures. This effectively places you under the sea, looking up through fish to the light beyond. There’s a fun sense of movement in the display as well.
Take a moment to notice the odd posters and photographs that hang gallery style along the walls. They’ll make you laugh.
Seating throughout the space is comfortable, with a mixture of padded chairs in various styles. The white tablecloths that are still used here on many of the tables are also a nice touch.
There are a few booths as well. Most are located in this central area, and form a serpentine pattern. It’s a nice way to break up the space.
Tables by the windows still allow for lovely views of the grassy area to the back of the BoardWalk Inn.
It’s a good spot for people watching. But beware — you also feel a bit like you’re in a fishbowl, especially to passing toddlers, who tend to peer in, their adorable faces pressed up against the glass, smiling at you.
Because this was my first time back at Flying Fish in nearly a year, I was anxious to see how this market driven menu had changed. After all — we had heard over and over again that seasonality and sustainability were the reasons our old favorites were gone.
Guess what? The menu looked remarkably similar to what it featured a year ago.
While we determined what we’d have to eat, one of my friends and I also decided to indulge in wine flights. I went for the Riesling flight, and was happy to see three pretty different styles of my favorite varietal. Note, however, that these are not all that out of the box. You’ll find these same wines on many menus in Disney World. But they did offer a nice variety of sweet-to-dry Rieslings.
My friend was more partial to a flight of Reds, while another friend opted for a single glass of Riesling to complement her meal.
All that wine made for a crowded but lovely table.
We made our selections, and soon the food started to arrive. The bread at Flying Fish features seaweed mixed right in. This doesn’t demonstrably change the flavor or texture, and I can say that the bread is delicious.
A friend decided to start with the Mesclun Salad, which was lightly dressed and featured barrel aged Feta cheese and fine herbs. She enjoyed the fresh flavors of this one, and recommended it.
One of the stand out dishes from our previous visit was the Kurobuta Pork Belly and — surprise! — it’s still here. It’s served with a croquette of shredded pork, which is topped with a quail egg.
I have to say…I was happy this one was still around. In terms of serving size, flavor, and presentation, this dish is a winner, and could easily have passed for a small entree with a salad or soup to start. Each component was well executed. We enjoyed every last bite.
We also ordered The Evolution of Cheese, which is basically a cheese plate. There was a ton of variety and each cheese was garnished and arranged thoughtfully.
Starting from the six o’clock position, the cheeses are as follows: House Made Mozzarella Curd; Crottin, a French goat’s milk cheese; Brillat-Savarin, a French triple-cream; Pleasant Ridge Reserve, made in the style of Gruyere; Fiore Sardo, a cheese that dates back to ancient times; Reypenaer V.S.O.P. Gouda from Holland; and Caveman Blue in the middle, from Colorado.
While they were all delicious and beautifully diverse, we favored the Brillat-Savarin and the Caveman Blue. Accompaniments included, among other things, honeycomb and chocolate dust. Because, sure.
It was fine. But COME ON. Seriously WHY are these pieces of cheese so tiny? This was $22!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel like the cheese plates back in the day had bigger cheese, but maybe I’m wrong. Either way, not worth $22 IMO, especially since many of these cheeses are available in your grocery store.
So time for entrees. I decided to give Flying Fish’s current steak a try, so I went for the Wagyu Filet Mignon.
In contrast with the Wagyu I had recently enjoyed at Morimoto Asia — which was totally the REAL DEAL — this…was not. It’s “American Wagyu”, which means its grandparents came from Japan or something. At any rate, it’s raised here. And it’s not the same.
It as decent, and the demi glace served alongside added extra flavor. But it wasn’t life-changing. I really enjoyed the strip that was on the prior Flying Fish menu, and this just doesn’t compare. I’d say “that’s what you get for ordering steak in a fish restaurant,” but that’s not fair. This is a high-end, signature restaurant that’s been able to do steak really well in the past.
One of my friends decided to go for variety, and opted for the Wood-Fired Spanish Octopus, Chilean Sea Bass, and Key West Pink Shrimp. The dish was served with bomba arroz, studded with sweet peppers and seasoned with house made chorizo.
She absolutely loved the sea bass and the shrimp as well as the flavorful, creamy rice that was similar to risotto. But the octopus tentacle was a little larger than she’d previously had. As a result, although it was well prepared, it wasn’t her favorite. Still, guests who love octopus will probably enjoy this.
My other friend opted for the Ocean’s Bounty Sustainable Fish. During our previous visit, the dish featured Alaskan halibut, but this visit offered up Florida grouper. The presentation was exactly the same, right down to the harvest vegetable melange and potato beurre blanc.
While my friend who ordered the dish found the sauce to be a tad salty, I was completely in love with it. The sauce, that is…not the fish. Seriously, Flying Fish — put this on the menu and let me order a bowl of it as a soup. (In fact, I did ask them to bring me out a little bowl of it so I could add it to my steak.)
After our ample apps and entrees, we didn’t really have room for dessert, but we took a look at the menu anyway. Again, we were a little underwhelmed by the options, especially since they were nearly identical to last year’s offerings.
Here are the Under the Sea and Florida Reef desserts from that visit, just so you have an idea.
Pretty, but largely forgettable. So we decided to pass in favor of a visit to Ample Hills Creamery.
Nosh or Not?
You might like Flying Fish if:
- You weren’t part of the former Flying Fish Cafe’s cult following.
- You’re looking for a romantic dining experience in a beautiful setting that doesn’t feel too “Disney.”
- You enjoy seafood and dishes that represent current trends.
You might want to skip Flying Fish if:
- If you (like me) were a huge fan of Flying Fish Cafe’s most popular dishes.
- You’re on a budget.
- You’ve eaten here in the last year and are looking to try new things.
- You don’t like seafood. I used to say it’s worth it to go even if you’re not a seafood fan, but not anymore.
My visit to Flying Fish was…Fine.
Here’s the thing. I was a fairly frequent visitor to the Fish in the days before its recent reno, and I looooooved this place. In fact, when someone asked me what my favorite restaurant in Disney World was, I could always say Flying Fish and know it would provide that person with an excellent dining experience. There were a few reasons for that. First and foremost, the food and drinks were simply incredible. Although FF touts its fish, that chargrilled strip was one of my favorite steaks anywhere, ever. And the move to combine it with FF’s other signature dish, the potato wrapped snapper, was sheer genius, because the surf and turf combo worked so incredibly well together.
And really, there was nothing wrong with this visit to the “new” Flying Fish. The food was fine, the service was good. But it wasn’t exquisite. It didn’t leave me counting the minutes until I could return. In a word, it’s no longer memorable, which is sad, because it’s definitely not cheap. And there really is a stark difference between the jovial, familial, energetic atmosphere of the old Fish (helmed by Chef Tim Keating, who’s heart, I can now confidently say, makes a restaurant) compared to the beautiful but cold, robotic feel of the current incarnation. Maybe it’s that some beloved cast members and servers have left and moved on. I’m not sure. But it’s just not home anymore.
So while I can confidently say you’ll have a decent meal at Flying Fish, I can’t think of a single reason to recommend you go here over someplace else. The only thing I can say is this: you will probably have no problem getting a last minute advance dining reservation. We were shocked and a little sad that the restaurant wasn’t full on a Saturday night in the middle of the busy summer season.
Oh, Flying Fish. Please. Just bring back your signature dishes and watch the crowds flock back.
Now, I’d really love to hear from all of you. Do you have plans to visit Flying Fish on your next Disney trip? Leave a comment and let us know below!