Review: Flying Fish at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

Nearly a year ago, Flying Fish reopened after a lengthy refurbishment closure. Disney Food Blog visited on the very first day that it reopened (here’s that review for reference).

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?

Flying Fish Entrance

Flying Fish Entrance

Only one way to find out. Time to head in.

Atmosphere

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.

Check In Area

Check In 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.

The View from Flying Fish into AbracadaBar

The View from Flying Fish into AbracadaBar

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.

Flying Fish Main Dining Room

Flying Fish Main Dining Room

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.

New Chef's Counter Seating

New Chef’s Counter Seating

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.

Bar -- Another View

Bar

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.)

Private Back Dining Area

Private Back Dining Area

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.

Celing -- Another View

Chandeliers

Take a moment to notice the odd posters and photographs that hang gallery style along the walls. They’ll make you laugh.

Portraits Lining Walls

Portraits Lining Walls

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.

Seating

Seating

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.

Central Booths

Central Booths

Tables by the windows still allow for lovely views of the grassy area to the back of the BoardWalk Inn.

Window Table

Window Table

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. :-)

Eats

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.

Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Click to Enlarge

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.

Riesling Flight Descriptions

Riesling Flight Descriptions

My friend was more partial to a flight of Reds, while another friend opted for a single glass of Riesling to complement her meal.

Two Wine Flights

Chris, Bringer of the Two Wine Flights

All that wine made for a crowded but lovely table. :-)

Riesling Flight

Riesling Flight

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.

Bread Service and Butter

Bread Service and Butter

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.

Salad

Salad

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.

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

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.

Pork Belly -- Up Close

Pork Belly — Up Close

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.

Cheese Selection

Cheese Selection

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.

Wagyu Filet Mignon

Wagyu Filet Mignon

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.

Wagyu Filet Mignon -- Up Close

Wagyu Filet Mignon — Up Close

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.

Seafood Trio -- Spanish Octopus, Chilean Sea Bass, and Key West Shrimp

Seafood Trio — Spanish Octopus, Chilean Sea Bass, and Key West Shrimp

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.

Seafood Trio -- Up Close

Seafood Trio — Up Close

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.)

Sustainable Fish -- Florida Grouper

Sustainable Fish — Florida Grouper

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.

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Dessert Menu — Click to Enlarge

Here are the Under the Sea and Florida Reef desserts from that visit, just so you have an idea.

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert

Under the Sea Chocolate Dessert

Florida Reef

Florida Reef

Pretty, but largely forgettable. So we decided to pass in favor of a visit to Ample Hills Creamery. :-D

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.

Overall

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!

Comments

  1. Christine says

    My husband and I have a dinner reservation there for our October trip. We were looking for a romantic experience with great food – both of us have never been to Flying Fish before. Thank you for the honest and thoughtful review! with your recent review of FF, how would you say it compares to Yachtmans Steakhouse? That was our other choice…

  2. Gigi says

    I think that “cheese plate” is just the scraps they had leftover from something else. I would be surprised if there was a total of an ounce of cheese here. Seriously, the price-to-value ratio one that has to be the worst of almost anything in any Disney restaurant. I definitely would have made a snarky comment to the waiter about it. Have you ever had the Parmigiano Reggiano for two at Il Mulino? It’s $10 and probably has 10x the amount of cheese.

    Sorry…but I take my cheese very seriously.

  3. Clark says

    AJ, spot on with every word. Nice job. It too was our favorite restaurant on property and most properties beyond.
    Sad indeed the FF continues to distance itself from who and what it once was. The word “compromise” comes to mind and would be happy this long into it to settle for that.

  4. Mark says

    This review is dead on right. Flying Fish used to be our favorite restaurant but after our first post-renovation visit in March, we were very disappointed. Menu was uninspiring and service was mediocre as well. We don’t plan to return for a while.

    To Christine who is wondering whether to go to the Yachtsman Steakhouse instead: I would (and we plan to do so ourselves in November). There are more romantic restaurants but we have had consistently good food and service there during several visits.

  5. Fred says

    Your ultimate observation regarding attendance, a Saturday night, certainly explain why Flying Fish is on a short list of restaurants where Disney pass holders and TIW card holders can now have a discount of 30% until late September. Long time favorites are gone, and the prices have increased.

  6. says

    Christine — I double checked with AJ, and, as Mark mentions, she’d choose Yachtsman over Flying Fish. However, Jiko would probably ultimately win out for her. :-)

  7. says

    We’d been to FF in the “old days” and then again last September. I totally missed the Potato wrapped snapper, as I know many others do.
    We enjoyed the meal, but aren’t rushing back (we’re going again to DW this September). We *loved* Abracadabar next door!
    Thanks for the updated review!

  8. Mike V says

    For years I have read people write how the dining plan has been the harbinger of the downfall of Disney dining. I never really agreed. Your review and my recent experience finally has made me a believer.
    We got back from our vacation just recently and I can say besides THE WAVE we were not “WOWed” by any meal while we were there. This includes our anniversary dinner at California Grill.
    Some dinners once just made us say “incredible.” This visit we left saying “EHHH.”
    It’s ashamed that so many of these places have taken a hit.

  9. Brian says

    We were there in April and really enjoyed ourselves, but maybe not as much as we did a couple years ago. The food was still great, I got the duck and it was divine, and the service was top notch. Our waiter was incredibly efficient and attentive but EXTREMELY fussy. He came by with a crumb sweeper between courses and cleaned up around us, which was kind of amusing. Our dining at home tends to skew proletariat, so we joked about him judging our messy eating habits. Later, I found out this is one of the “features” of a fine dining experience so I appreciate his efforts a little more. It probably didn’t help that we were seated at the first table in front of door so it kind of felt like we were the featured patrons for the evening. We’ll probably go back in 2018, especially if the in-laws come with us again.

  10. Mary says

    Your review is spot on! I was a Potato enrusted snapper fan, ordered it for years. I was so disappointed it was not on the new menu. This WAS one of top 3 restaurants but we won’t be going any more until the menu features something fantastic. I can say because of your review, we will not be ordering the cheese plate.

  11. Jacqui says

    I am slightly confused by the difference in this review to the video of your visit when The Flying Fish had just re-opened. The food was highly praised and called excellent and outstanding. I booked this restaurant because of this review so it is confusing to now be told that the menu has remained the same but is now mediocre and you would not recommend it. I have also booked the Yachtsman and Tiffins, so I will be very interested to see how they compare. In your 1st review the wagyu was compared to the the $145 one at the yachtsman and was found in favour of the one at the Flying Fishso why is it now not the real deal? Hope you can help.

  12. Michele says

    I couldn’t agree with you more! We would start every single trip (over 12 that I can remember) with dinner at the Flying Fish – usually lucky enough to grab seats at the Chef’s table.
    We would always take our parents there when we treated them to a trip – my FIL once called their steak the best he’d had in 10 years!
    Sadly, we saw the new menu and were disappointed. Change is good but sometimes stick with what you got when it’s already outstanding!
    Instead we drowned our sorrows next door with abracadabra drinks and hoped they would bring back some of the classics.
    Couldn’t agree with your review more…..

  13. says

    Jacqui — We did think the food was excellent at that first visit, and the food is still good now. It’s just that Flying Fish went from a beloved spot to a place that, while perfectly adequate, doesn’t really “wow” us anymore. When the menu changed, the chef stated that it was to introduce more sustainability and attention to seasonal items, but there was very little change to the menu from our visit a year ago. Regarding the Wagyu, the reason we said that it wasn’t the “real deal” is that we were comparing it to the certified Wagyu that you can order at Morimoto. Also, I took a look at that previous review, and I’m not seeing the comparison between the Wagyu and Yachtsman steak. Please forgive me if I’m overlooking it.

    As AJ said, we don’t really find anything wrong with Flying Fish per se. It’s just that we can’t see our way forward to recommend it over other spots. Our recommendations for Yachtsman and Tiffins stand. Most of the people who are disappointed in the new Flying Fish, are, like us, fans of some of the old dishes as well as the atmosphere of the previous restaurant. Determining if a restaurant is still as good as it has been in the past is also a reason that we visit the same spots over and over again. Hope this helps to clarify.

  14. Tere says

    I agree with your review of Flying Fish. We used to love the old Flying Fish. The scallops with the pea rissotto was my favorite. Its just does not have the same feeling. I think the restaurant renovation is beautiful, but it feels slightly unwelcoming. Everything was okay when we went it was just not great. I prefer other restaurants in the boardwalk area like il Mulino.

  15. Lori says

    Sadly, it looks like Flying Fish will never recover from losing Chef Keating.

    I know they had to 86 the snapper for environmental reasons and I respect and support that but they could’ve made a more sustainable variety of fish with the potato-wrapped preparation and it would be very similar. Why drop such a popular preparation entirely just because snapper is no longer a viable option? Why remove the incredibly popular strip steak? There’s no shortage on that.

    I agree, Mike V. It’s getting really hard to find anything noteworthy or special to eat at Disney anymore and I do blame the DDP. It gives people the illusion of getting a deal but it’s decreased variety, uniqueness, and quality. Scoring “free dining” has become so big that in order to subsidize it, Disney has to cut their menus to the bone and all use the same pool of mass-purchased-at-a-discount ingredients. Dishes are the same everywhere now, with a few rare and very expensive exceptions.

  16. Brandon Thompson says

    You nailed it. My favorite steak in all of Disney was the strip. My wife’s favorite dish of all time was the snapper. Now we have neither. I hope they listen to you because they haven’t to us. We used to go frequently, now 1-2 times a year, mainly to request they add those dishes. I do love the new decor.

  17. Jen says

    I completely agree with this review. My husband and I used to take our friends to the old flying fish and enjoyed the wine, nice martinis, and the snapper. Last year we were not impressed with the new menu and prices. Always hoping for the old menu to come back!

  18. Barb says

    Maybe the seasonal menu didn’t change because you went in the exact same season? Just a thought. I’d be interested to see if there would be any changes to the menu 3-6 months from now or if they’ve changed it at all over the past year.

  19. says

    Barb — Since Flying Fish was always such a DFB favorite, we’ve actually been monitoring it throughout the year, and haven’t noticed much change, unfortunately.

  20. Heidi says

    Thanks for the helpful review – was looking for new places to try on my next trip and had thought of this one…until I read the review – i know about Disney’s “changes” and they usually do not end up for the best – will avoid FF when making dining decisions – thanks for being candid!

  21. Wendy says

    Thanks for the honest review. Unfortunately, we never made to the original Flying Fish, and I think we will skip the new Flying Fish. We are looking for a dinner for 2, and are considering Yachtsman or Narcossee. Any thoughts?

  22. Frank says

    So sad. FF was our “go to” restaurant. We could always find something great, and the staff was so fun.
    We’ve been to the “new” FF once and were disappointed.
    As for Yachtsman v FF, if you want a steak in the Epcot area, I’d give Shula’s in the Dolphin serious consideration. It would be my choice. Great staff, attentive, with excellent food. Last time at Yachtsman, our CM hardly said 2 words to any of the tables assigned. It was like, here’s the menu, what do you want?? Plus the food was only so so.
    It is very interesting that so many of the comments here have a similar take on Disney Dining in general.
    When I saw FF was on the list of restaurants offering the special discounts, etc, I knew something was amiss. The days of the FF with Chef Jens Dahlmann and Chef Tim Keating are obviously over.

  23. Frank says

    AJ,
    Do you ever share your reviews and guest comments with the restaurant??
    It does no good for you and us to comment where we are basically preaching to the choir.
    I would LOVE to see what new Chef Tim and other management think of your review and our comments.
    I personally believe your review is spot on.

  24. says

    Wendy — I’ve had really beautiful meals when I’ve visited Narcoosee’s and the restaurant features lovely views as well. I prefer fish to steak though, so you might want to factor that in. :-)

  25. says

    I also used to go to the FF and loved the red snapper. Seeing the great reviews it got after it opened, we went there in September 2016 and loved the sustainable fish (tile) and the salmon that we ordered. We missed the red snapper and understand the reason it is off the menu. We go to DW once a month in winter, Dec-April (We’re from Wisconsin) and ate at the FF every time. The menu did change. We have tried the tile, monk, black grouper for the sustainable fish and all were excellent. Also we had the scallops and grits (one of my favorites), the trio you mentioned (except it had crawfish, not octopus), the Wagyu beef, bison, sole, and duck. We loved them all and would order them again. We invited people to join us and all raved about the place and have gone back. We have recommended the place to many people, and they have all loved the offerings, with the exception of family that only likes basic meat and potato meals. Other than someone looking for a strip steak I would highly recommend the new Flying Fish.

  26. says

    Sandie — Thanks for sharing your opinions with us! Regarding the changes, yes, we’re happy to see changes to the actual sustainable fish offering (we mention that the actual fish did change from our last visit.) However, the presentation was exactly the same. But I’m really thrilled to hear that you and your friends have enjoyed it. As we’ve said, it’s good. We just weren’t blown away by it. Still, I think your experience definitely helps readers who might be on the fence to go ahead and give it a try.

  27. Frank says

    I apologize for reposting, but I’d love to know if the authors actually take the review and comments to the restaurants???
    In particular, FF?????
    Thx.

  28. says

    Frank — I’m checking on the answer to that for you. Personally, I do not share my comments with the staff, but we have heard over and over, especially at media events, that some Disney chefs and other Disney leaders do read Disney Food Blog.

  29. Vinny says

    I went last year , the remodel was very nice,Char-crusted Certified Black Angus New York Strip Steak,was not on the menu and I was very disappointed. We just went to Disney first week of August. I had made a reservation at Flying Fish because it was always my favorite Restaurant and now I could get 30% off with my Tables in wonderland. card! Well a few days later I looked at the menu on line and still no Potato Wrapped Snapper and the Char-crusted Certified Black Angus New York Strip Steak. I CANCELLED my Reservation! .Its to bad the Chief is so Proud that he cannot give us what we went there for.Potato Wrapped Snapper and the Char-crusted Certified Black Angus New York Strip Steak! He could still make all his other dishes that He likes!

  30. Samantha says

    Hi! While I haven’t gotten a chance to eat there yet, I wanted to add (because it should be shared with your readers!) that there is a beautiful vegetarian menu available here that is not published on the Disney website. It includes 4 apps and 4 entrees and half appear to be vegan. I wish all the signatures were so good at that. To my knowledge only Jiko has something comparable. That is a huge improvement in my opinion!

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