Review: Lunch at Epcot’s Coral Reef Restaurant

We’re dining “Under the Sea” today at Epcot’s Coral Reef Restaurant!

And if you’re wondering if it was all part of my plan to insert that song in your head for the rest of the day, the answer is “Yes.”

(Insert evil laugh here. ;) )

Coral Reef is one of only two Table Service Restaurants in Epcot’s Future World (the other being Garden Grill), and the only one open for lunch, which is the meal we’re having today. But first things first: in order to eat at Coral Reef, you’ve got to find it. Just head to “The Living Seas…” whoops! I mean, “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” Pavilion.

And once you get your fill of the birds chanting “Mine, Mine, Mine,” just hang a right…

The Seas Pavilion

The Seas Pavilion

… and head as far as you can towards the back. (The outdoor sign will help, too.)

Heading to Coral Reef

Heading to Coral Reef

Coral Reef sign

Coral Reef sign

So, now we’ve found it! Let’s head in…

Atmosphere

As per usual with Disney dining, there are some fun details to take in here, starting right at the entrance.

Entrance

Entrance

Seahorse door handle

Seahorse door handle

The dining room is well-concealed for the “big reveal” to come, but touches in the check-in area (which expands into a fairly large hallway) give several indications as to what awaits you once you dine.

Octopus at Check in

Octopus at Check in

Octopus at check-in counter

Octopus at check-in counter

What are those lights, anyway? Jellyfish?

Check-in area hallway

Check-in area hallway

Glass fish behind check-in counter

Glass fish behind check-in counter

But as fun as it always is to check out the little things, the truth of the matter is that everyone is here to see one, single, MAJOR “detail.” The aquarium!

Coral Reef Dining Room

Coral Reef Dining Room

Yep — the dining room has giant picture windows that look right into the massive Living Seas aquarium. It’s like you’re dining in a submarine.

Coral Reef Dining Room

Coral Reef Dining Room

And here’s an interesting thing about Coral Reef: in most restaurants, several of the tables for two are often tucked on the outer perimeters, and sometimes that can lend to a feeling of being a little removed from the atmosphere. At Coral Reef, many of the tables for two receive “front rows seats” for the big show. Our table for two was right next to this table for four.

Coral Reef Seating in front of aquarium

Coral Reef Seating in front of aquarium

Our server presented Fish Guides to us, so we could identify some of the marine life swimming by.

Fish Guide

Fish Guide

Fish Guide

Fish Guide

Being that close contributed just a little extra to an already unique experience. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

Aquarium views

Aquarium views

Aquarium views

Aquarium views

Aquarium views

Aquarium views

Though I gotta say, this felt [Read more…]

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: Japan Food and Beverage Pairing

We are ramping up for another fantastic Epcot Food and Wine Festival! Today, we’re reviewing a fun Special Event from the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

We are heading over to Tokyo Dining in the Japan Pavilion for the Food and Beverage Pairing experience. The light meals feature beverages paired with tasting-sized portions of the restaurant’s cuisine.

I’ve enjoyed dinner at Tokyo Dining as well as lots of fun meals at Teppan Edo, so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat! While we’d done the Morocco food and beverage pairing event, we’d not yet experienced the Japan version. Here we go!

Atmosphere

When I arrived for the Food and Beverage Pairing, I checked in at the stand that serves both Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining. The cool, sleek waiting area features simple, modern decor and comfortable low lighting.

Waiting Area Serves Both Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo

This area is also shared by the two restaurants.

Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo Waiting Area from Another Angle

Step into the Tokyo Dining seating area, and the same modern Japanese vibe is prevalent throughout. A sushi show kitchen takes up space along one wall.

Tokyo Dining Seating and Open Sushi Kitchen

The other side of the restaurant is dominated by [Read more…]

First Look! Trattoria al Forno to Replace Kouzzina by Cat Cora on Disney World’s BoardWalk

We are getting our first details today about the restaurant that will replace Kouzzina at Disney’s BoardWalk when it closes later this year.

Trattoria al Forno will join other eateries at the deluxe hotel and entertainment district. The restaurant is slated to open this December.

Trattoria al Forno Logo

The menu will feature Italian fare with an emphasis on regional specialities and classic preparations. Many ingredients will actually be made from scratch, in-house. We can’t wait to try the freshly handcrafted Mozzarella and the house-made Cavatelli!

The restaurant will also have wood-burning ovens, and they’ll put them to good use making — you guessed it! — Neapolitan-style Pizza! Will it be like Via Napoli meets the BoardWalk? Sounds good to me!

Quattro Fromaggi Pizza from Via Napoli

I’m Hoping for Pizzas Like the Quattro Fromaggi from Via Napoli!

But they aren’t stopping there. Eating through Trattoria al Forno’s menu will be like [Read more…]

News! Shades of Green Resort April Food Events

Shades of Green located at Walt Disney World is an Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) for United States Military Members and their families!

This month, Shades of Green is offering a Food, Wine, and Music event along with discounted meals, and an Easter Basket delivery service. Check out these great happenings at Shades of Green!

Shades of Music: A Food, Wine, and Music Experience

Enjoy the second annual Shades of Music on April 4 and 5th featuring a World Cuisine Buffet with live music.

Shades of Music

Shades of Music

Time: 5PM-10PM
Cost: $16.95 adults; $7.95 kids

Reserve your spot now by calling 407-824-6466.

Discounted Meals

Kids 6 and under eat eat free at Mangino’s and The Garden Gallery with a paying adult!

Steak and Seafood Specials

Mangino’s is open 5PM-9:30PM and offering Steak and Seafood Specials on Monday nights in April. Enjoy Surf and Turf or Prime Rib!

Enjoy April specials on steak and seafood!

Enjoy April specials on steak and seafood!

No landlubbers? Fridays in April feature [Read more…]

Guest Review: ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Join us in welcoming guest author Kevin Carpenter with a dinner review of ‘Ohana. This Polynesian Resort restaurant at Walt Disney World is popular for its all-you-care-to-eat fare served family-style. Aloha!

Dining at ‘Ohana is not an experience entered into without expectation. The restaurant regularly claims a spot among the best table-service venues on Disney property and it enjoys word of mouth that is nothing short of exemplary. As such, reservations go quickly.

After years of close calls and near misses, I finally secured a dinner reservation – for a party of nineteen, no less – and my hopes were sky high for my first visit to ‘Ohana.

The Entrance to ‘Ohana

As we arrived at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a large crowd already milled about outside ‘Ohana’s entrance. Seeing this, I feared our large group would be in for quite a wait. After all, our party – extended family members enjoying a Disney vacation together for the first time in many years – was well used to lengthy waits for tables. And this night looked to be no different.

We checked in and, much to my surprise, were immediately whisked to our table. I should have known that there is very little the Cast Members of Walt Disney World are not prepared to handle.

Atmosphere

From my very first steps past the Tiki idols guarding the entranceway, I was impressed by ‘Ohana’s ambiance. In true Disney style, the interior theming strikes a fine balance between subtlety and traditional Hawaiian decor.

Tiki idols stand watch as you enter ‘Ohana

As we reached our long table, one thing became abundantly clear – we had made the perfect choice for our trip’s centerpiece meal. The word ‘Ohana, meaning family, would prove to be more than simply the name of the restaurant. Everything – from the unending salads and appetizers to the main course and dessert – would be served family style. Even the servers are considered honorary “cousins”. What place could be better for a large family meal?!

While we had many cousins gathered around our table, it was our server, “Cousin” Candy, who stood out the most. She may have been a member of the family for just this one evening, but she fit right in with remarkable warmth and attentiveness.

Where all the magic happens – ‘Ohana’s grilling area

Eats

We had scarcely taken our seats before the table was filled with the incredibly tasty Welcome Bread and bowls of salad with passion fruit dressing. I could have been quite content to savor the bread’s rich tones of pineapple and coconut all night, but the few ‘Ohana veterans among us had warned not to fill up on the bread.

Welcome Bread

Salad with Passion Fruit Dressing

Next came plates of honey-coriander chicken wings and pork dumplings. These were labeled appetizers, but they could have sufficed as meals unto themselves. Especially as everything was all-you-can-eat!

Tangy and delicious, the trays of wings and dumplings demanded refilling several times. Thankfully, my seat at the end of the table afforded an excellent view of the grilling area, where skewers upon skewers of meat and shrimp delivered a firm reminder that the best was yet to come.

Chicken Wings & Pork Dumplings

Several of us requested drinks from the bar, including one who chose to fully immerse himself in the evening’s Hawaiian spirit by ordering the Lapu Lapu. This blend of rum and fruit juices comes in extravagant style – served inside a hollowed-out pineapple.

Much to the chagrin of the one who ordered it, the Lapu Lapu made its way around the table as everyone wanted a taste. It received high marks from all who sampled it. And, honestly, our meal just felt that much more traditionally Hawaiian for having the Lapu Lapu on the table!

Lapu Lapu

One important consideration to note is that it was not only the size of our party that posed a challenge, but that we were a motley crew of adventurous and picky eaters, with a dietary restriction thrown into the mix as well. One family member suffers from gluten intolerance and required special dietary accommodation. The chef came out to speak with her before any food arrived on the table, and he promised to keep her well-stocked with an assortment of gluten-free alternatives (including gluten-free bread, noodles, and dessert).

The ‘Ohana chefs worked hard to ensure that she did not miss out on any aspect of the meal and she could not have been happier with the results.

Gluten-Free Bread

Gluten-Free Dessert

“Cousin” Candy soon delivered [Read more…]

Review and Preview: The Causeway at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

In just a few short days, we will be headed to the The Fourth Annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic!

This event, which coincides with the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, is a food and wine lover’s dream.

This year’s Food and Wine Classic will take place on Friday, October 18 and Saturday, October 19. The two-day event consists of food and wine tasting booths set up on the resort’s beautiful causeway each evening.

Guests can also take part in a number of special food and beverage seminars for an additional fee. Seminars take place at 4:30PM both days, and the Causeway booths are open from 5:30 until 9:00PM on Friday and Saturday.

In addition, guests can enjoy a complimentary Cocktail 101 seminar three times during each evening on the Causeway as well as live musical entertainment.

Tasting Plate from Shula's Steakhouse

We’ve had the opportunity to attend the event for the last three years, and we’re looking forward to what 2013 holds! To give you an idea of what lies in store for guests of the Food and Wine Classic, let’s take a look at the 2012 event!

Atmosphere

When you first arrive, you’ll most likely need to pick up your tickets at the Check-In Table.

Check In for the Causeway

Here, staff will check for your reservation, and you’ll receive either your tickets or a wristband, as well as a palate plate and a wine glass.

We had wristbands for the event, which meant that we were free to enjoy unlimited trips to each of the tasting stations. If you prefer a ticketed approach, however, you can purchase books of 25 tickets (most of the booth items require between 2 and 6 tickets).

Food and Wine Classic Wristbands and My Seminar Ticket

For this event, tents are lined up the length of the walkway between the Swan and Dolphin Resorts as well as along the walkway behind the Swan. The resorts are located within walking distance of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Causeway Setup

Tables of all sizes are covered with brightly colored tablecloths, and offer guests a place to sit and relax while enjoying their food and drink.

Tables and Booths Ready for Guests

In addition to tables with chairs, guests can also take advantage of high tops if they prefer to stand.

Individual Tables

It wasn’t too long before the crowd began to swell as guests looked forward to tasting a myriad of dishes.

Causeway is Getting Busy

On Crescent Terrace, guests could also take advantage of [Read more…]

Guest Review: Dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot

Guest Author Katie Roth returns this week with a review of La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion. Go ahead and grab a margarita!

La Hacienda de San Angel is special to both my husband and I for sentimental reasons, because this was one of the first restaurants we dined in for our honeymoon. While I wasn’t too impressed with this restaurant during that reservation, I was willing to give it another shot.

The views out of the windows are breathtaking, and if nothing else, I could get a great margarita.

Orange Mango Fire Margarita at Epcot's La Hacienda de San Angel

Atmosphere

La Hacienda is located directly across from the temple pyramid that is the focal point of the Mexican pavilion. The entryway can be somewhat hard to miss, especially if you are in the throngs of a major crowd with strollers!

Just look for the sign in the picture below. There is a hostess stand underneath the sign where check-in is required to gain access to the restaurant.

The check-in podium is underneath this sign!

We arrived at the restaurant over 30 minutes before our reservation time just to check in, and to our wonderful surprise they seated us early! We were directed to the foyer/lobby area that contains beautiful blue lanterns. Another hostess in the foyer directed us to our seats.

Lobby area.

The restaurant atmosphere is relaxed with an afternoon siesta feeling and is elegant without being stuffy. The decorations are subtle – at least much less subtle than stereotypical Mexican restaurants – with patterned ceilings, clean walls, star lanterns dangling from the ceiling, and wrought-iron accents.

Booth and Artwork

While it’s not as scenic as a volcano or Mayan river with a Mariachi band playing in the background (San Angel Inn) – it did set a pleasant atmosphere for a meal.

Dining Room at La Hacienda.

The wall of windows overlooks the lagoon and the rest of World Showcase. If you’re able to get a window seat during IllumiNations, it is a great place to watch the show!

A wall of windows provides a great IllumiNations Fireworks view

When we arrived at 5:30 PM, there were hardly any other diners there; but by 6:00 PM the restaurant was packed. After our meal, my husband said “They don’t need a volcano here! The food is the main attraction!” Needless to say, our meal this time around was OUTSTANDING!

Eats

I’m not a margarita person (tequila – bad experiences – won’t go there), but I made a promise to myself to be adventurous on this trip, so I went with [Read more…]

Review: Teppan Edo in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion

It’s time to go back to a restaurant we haven’t been to in AGES, my friends!!

Teppan Edo, in Epcot’s World Showcase, is often considered a guest favorite. The upscale Japanese show + cuisine is a must-do for many Disney fans.

So why hadn’t we been back in years? Well, due to the pretty consistent menu and often similar Hibachi grill dining experience, it simply made more sense for us to spend our time and money reviewing other restaurants for you. But seeing as how we hadn’t reviewed this place in for-ev-er, it was time to take a look and see if it still held up to the hype.

Hoping that it would still be a fun and delicious experience, we arrived at the check-in booth in front of Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Guest Check In for Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining

Soon, we were headed up the wide staircase for what we hoped would be another fantastic experience and meal.

Atmosphere

Teppan Edo is a teppanyaki-style restaurant. More commonly called a “Japanese steakhouse,” the experience combines cooking and service into one fun performance, I was looking forward to a hearty meal of traditional Japanese favorites.

Once you’re upstairs in the restaurant, you enter the waiting area that’s shared by Teppan Edo and its neighbor —  Tokyo Dining.

Teppan Edo Sign

After you receive  your pager (which you’ll get from the cast members at the top of the stairs once you’re inside the restaurant), it’s time to sit a spell until they’re ready for you in the restaurant.

The decor here is sleek and unfussy. It immediately puts me at ease; there’s just something so peaceful about the uncluttered space, and I love these lights! The indirect lighting behind the benches is warm without being too bright or glaring.

Here, you also catch a glimpse into the other Japanese table service restaurant, Tokyo Dining. For more about their options, check out our recent Tokyo Dining review.

Waiting Area for Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining

Your pager will go off eventually (it didn’t take long for ours), but because Teppan Edo seats guests at communal tables,  you’ll have to wait until all of the guests sharing your table (even if you don’t know them) have presented at the podium. More on the communal eating later!

The eating area at Teppan Edo is comprised of many small dining rooms, joined together by this long hallway. I can’t get enough of this austere set up! It’s so unlike any other restaurant that you visit here.

Hallway Leading to the Dining Rooms

A peek inside one of the rooms [Read more…]

Review: Shula’s Steak House at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

If you love steak like I love steak, then you are going to enjoy today’s review, my friend.

Today we’re FINALLY headed back for a classic meat-stravaganza at Shula’s Steak House! Seriously, it’s been way too long since I’ve reviewed this place.

Located steps away from the International Gateway entrance to Epcot, Shula’s is one of the superb restaurants that call the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort home. To be more specific, you’ll find this fine dining spot in — you guessed it — the Dolphin. (Get it? Don Shula? At the Dolphin? I knew you would.)

Let’s head inside the wood-paneled walls to see if the steaks and sides here are just as good as I remember!

Atmosphere

Step into Shula’s and you’ve entered a decidedly masculine domain. With dark wood walls, rich colors, and very low lighting (no joke; the servers have flashlights for you to read the menu sometimes), you feel as though you’re in an exclusive club dining here.

And just like many other Disney restaurants, Shula’s is “themed!”

Seating Along the Back Wall and Giant Picture of Coach Shula

This place is all about The Miami Dolphins’ 1972 “Perfect Season!” Now those of us who are true Buffalo Bills fans and still, in our (utterly broken) heart of hearts, despise the Dolphins…well, we have to come to a decision on how much we love steak to eat here. Me? I really love steak. I love the Bills. But I love steak.

Anyway, large photos from the 1972 team are lavishly framed throughout the comfortable dining room, so you can’t really escape them.

Two Top Seating

And speaking of steak, another prime decor element in the restaurant is the plaque displaying the proud members of Shula’s 48-Ounce Club. To have your name engraved on the plaque, just finish a 48-Ounce Porterhouse. Are you up for the challenge?

Seating with Steak Club Plaque

While I wasn’t quite sure we were up for making ourselves famous, we were quite hungry… Let’s get to the menu!

Eats

OK, so this kind of cracks me up, but it shows that the restaurant — though very high end — doesn’t take itself too seriously.

While you’ll get an actual menu, too, the main Shula’s cut steaks are hand painted on an official NFL game football. So while it might seem a little, well, odd to be handed a football when you’re preparing to order dinner, it all sort of makes sense. ;-)

Football Menu

Soon after you start looking at your football, it’s time of a bit of Shula’s education. In addition to [Read more…]

Guest Review: Wild Africa Trek (Plus Eats!) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Please welcome back guest author Alex Freeman, who’s brought us a review of the Wild Africa Trek featured at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. After getting an awesome view of the animals on the savanna, trekkers are treated to some wild eats! Jambo, Alex!

On December 27, my sisters and I took part in the Wild Africa Trek offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some of you are probably wondering why I am writing this review for a food blog, but this Disney tour includes a wonderful treat at the end.

Great views await from The Boma!

Checking In

At least 15 minutes before your scheduled tour time, you check-in at the Wild Africa Trek desk located to the left of Tusker House Restaurant. Even though I have been to Animal Kingdom many times, I did not know the area where the desk is located even exists.

There are outside tables for people who want to bring food from other quick service places and eat in a relatively quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

Outdoor Seating

Once you check-in, you are reminded of the Trek conditions (you must be over the age of 8 and you must be between 45 and 310 lbs).

Also, you are given a waiver to sign, which not only covers a variety of medical situations, but also permission for Disney to use any pictures they take of you in their promotional materials.

Trek Logo.

After everyone is checked-in (which was 11 people for our tour), you are greeted by your two Trek guides. Our Trek guides were named Lonnie and Paul and they were absolutely fantastic — hilarious, informative, and very friendly.

We followed both of our guides through a gate that led us to uncharted territory for the general public.

Trek Guides!

Gearing Up

In this area, you are given a locker to hold any of your personal belongings. You are not allowed to bring anything besides a camera (as long as it has a wrist strap that can be attached to your harness). Everything else, including your phone, must be stored in the locker.

You are then weighed and given a suitable harness, which they help attach to you. This harness includes a gear loop (which will attach you to the bridges), a souvenir water bottle (which you get to keep), and a headset so that you can hear both of the guides even when they are not right beside you. This headset was an absolute necessity when we were in the middle of a crowd.

Get your Trek gear!

Once you are strapped to your harness, you are asked to practice walking across a suspension bridge. This bridge is much [Read more…]