Welcome to Tiffins!
We were so excited that this highly anticipated restaurant was finally open on Friday that we gave you a first look immediately! But today, we are back with our full review and tour!!
There is sooo much to share with you. And after a few days to process it all, we’re eager to share with you our experience at Disney World’s newest signature restaurant — right in Animal Kingdom!
You may still be trying to get your bearings where Tiffins is concerned. After all, this is the first time that Animal Kingdom has ventured into signature dining. So what’s it all about, anyway? I mean, how do they translate Animal Kingdom into fine dining?
In a nutshell, the restaurant celebrates the global inspiration and artwork behind the design of the park. And we loved how they incorporated actual ride concept art as well as mementos of the imagineers’ time in Africa while planning Animal Kingdom.
However, that’s not all that’s happening here. In order to give this celebration a home, Imagineers came up with a seriously detailed space. And in true Disney fashion, the details begin before you ever enter the restaurant. Check out the tiffins that nest on top of the restaurant’s sign above. “Tiffin” is an English-Indian word that refers to a portable midday meal. But it also refers to the containers used for the meal. Think of them as super cool nesting lunch boxes. 🙂 If you’ve ever been on Animal Kingdom’s Wild Africa Trek you may have used one like it!
As you make your way toward the entrance, be sure to take in the details around you — including the pavement.
As we have seen in other Disney spots, you’ll notice details here — namely, animal tracks! See how many you can identify!
To me, the jumble of tracks represents the spirit of this restaurant. It’s a crossroads, where all kinds of flavors come together to meet, mingle, and form something entirely new.
Look down — and then look up! The meticulous details on the carved figures marking the roofline are enchanting.
As you enter, you come upon the check-in desk, where warm woods with rustic finishes behind the desk welcome you.
The map behind the check-in area is carved not only with topography, but with some of the animals that you encounter in Animal Kingdom. You’ll catch a glimpse of a few familiar buildings as well.
To the left and right of the map, you can read more about the works of art that are displayed throughout Tiffins.
And this would be a great time to mention the staff. Our server was absolutely wonderful, as were all the Cast Members we spoke with. They were excited to take guests on brief tours and explain different things about the rooms. We were encouraged to look around, just like at an art gallery.
The Orientation of Tiffins and the Galleries
While we are excited to share the food of Tiffins with you, I think that we need to spend a little time getting you acquainted with how the restaurant is laid out, and what the general “feel” is like.
There are three “Galleries,” or dining rooms. The Grand Gallery and the Safari Gallery are to the right of the check-in desk. You’ll find Nomad Lounge and Trek Gallery to the left. It might be interesting to note that you actually have to walk through Nomad Lounge to get to the Trek Gallery. (While we have already given you a First Look of Nomad Lounge as well, we’ll have plenty of details about it later this week in a separate full review.)
We also noticed that it’s not just the visual details, or even the food, that take you on a journey. Throughout the whole restaurant, the background music takes you on an adventure as well, switching from African to Indian, and South American music and beats.
Next, we’ll take a few moments to explore each Gallery.
The Grand Gallery
The Grand Gallery is the largest of the three, functioning as the main dining room for Tiffins. The theme here is a celebration of the animals themselves as well as folk art.
There are two main exhibits in the Grand Gallery. And they’re both pretty amazing!
First, you may notice five large pole-shaped sculptures.
The pole sculptures are over 20 years old. And if they look familiar to you, it’s because they once resided in the now-closed Camp Minnie-Mickey section of the park!
When that land was closed to make way for expansion in Animal Kingdom, the poles were removed and saved. Thank goodness; because they are original carvings from Bali artisans.
When it was decided that they would find a second life at Tiffins, they were refurbished (stripped of previous colored paint).
Ultimately, the poles served another important function, however. The style of carving here inspired the Tree of Life.
The other notable feature here is The Lantern Wall.
Located to the left side of the room, this display was inspired by the upcoming Rivers of Light show.
Also, the cloth backdrop behind the lanterns is from Animal Kingdom cast member costumes; the mix of red and blue represents fire and water, elements supporting life.
The Safari Gallery celebrates Eastern and Southern Africa. This is the dining room where we were seated.
Much of the artwork you see displayed here are artist renderings and design elements of Animal Kingdom — especially Africa and Harambe.
The most striking exhibit in the room is a piece called “Electrified”.
From what our Cast Member Tour Guides shared with us, this piece is a favorite of Joe Rohde, Executive Designer and Vice President, Creative — the driving, creative force behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
A Baobob Tree sculpture is another of the gallery’s striking features. It’s a miniature version of the tree that serves as a hallmark on the Kilamanjaro Safaris attraction.
Large Shadowboxes contain artwork displaying various things the Imagineers saw and experienced as they were traveling and conducting research for Animal Kingdom. The renderings in the shadowboxes predate the park itself.
We found the seating in this area to be quite comfortable. We especially liked the seclusion of corner booths, like this one.
Next up — Trek Gallery.
The Trek Gallery represents the corners of the park dedicated to exploring Asia. In order to get to the Trek Gallery, you’ll actually travel through Nomad Lounge.
It’s kind of fitting, I think. The Trek Gallery is a bit of a trek. 🙂
This is the smallest dining room, but guests will recognize lots of touches from the Asia section of the park.
Tibetan Prayer Flags seem to flutter over a corner booth. The sculpture is still, but it’s made to look like the flags are in motion, inspired by all the prayer flags the Imagineers saw blowing in the breeze.
Here’s another guy you may recognize — check out this bronze depiction of Expedition Everest’s Yeti!
He’s completely still, but terrifying nevertheless! 🙂
We’ve reached the end of our gallery tour. And so it’s time to check out the other notable detail of Tiffins…
…The exotic menu.
Even when we come to the details surrounding the dining experience, it’s clear the chefs have been imagineering a bit themselves.
Menus are encased in these cool, leather-bound soft books.
There are several menus and menu pages to share with you. We’ll break them up into the appropriate sections so you don’t have to scroll back and forth between the menu pages and the food photos.
We’ll kick off the exploration with Beverage options. They are extensive, and include Cocktails, Beer, Wine, and crafted Non-Alcoholic beverages, in addition to soft drinks, coffee, and tea.
The wines available at Tiffins are more than just a list — they’re a philosophy! If you prize a wine pairing experience when it comes to fine dining, please take a few minutes to give this menu its due.
Likewise, the Wine Flights offer you a chance to explore different flavors, and possibly regions that are new to you.
Wine Lovers, please take note: there is a whole book of wines in addition to the Wine Flights and By the Glass pages I included from the main menu. So be an explorer, by all means. 🙂
As for our selections, we tried both non-alcoholic options this first time. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, we knew we were stopping by Nomad Lounge as well, and in this business, it pays to pace oneself!
But also, it was clear that the non-alcoholic cocktails were crafted with the same care as the drinks that contain alcohol. And because this is an emerging hot trend — delicious, unique “mocktails” that don’t contain alcohol — we’re definitely up for exploring it and sharing it with all of you.
Never fear though — if you prefer alcoholic versions of these coolers, they are available as well.
But enough talk! Here they are: the Zingiber Fizzie and the Hibiscus Henna.
In the Zingiber Fizzie, you’ll find Passion Fruit Puree, Mint, Ginger Beer (which is non-alcoholic), and Lime Juice. With a pronounced pop of ginger flavor, there’s lots of zing to enjoy here. If you’re a fan of a Dark and Stormy or a Moscow Mule — or just ginger in general — then I have a feeling you’ll enjoy this one.
But we also sampled the Hibiscus Henna, which combines Watermelon, Hibiscus, Soda Water, and Lime Juice. This is Florida in a glass! — full of fruity and ever so slightly floral flavor.
As we enjoyed our drinks, our server brought Tiffins Complimentary Bread Service. There is a distinction to make here: much like Sanaa, Tiffins also offers Signature Bread Service. You’ll find it detailed at the bottom of the Appetizer Menu in just a moment, and we’ll also share a reader photo as well.
But back to the Complimentary Service, which is actually pretty lovely. The bread consists of Pomegranate Focaccia bread with a mix of Pomegranate, Molasses, and Olive Oil on the side.
The sweetness of the pomegranate comes through more in the fragrance than the flavor, which is more savory than sweet, owing to the Olive Oil. The oil blend is good, but potent — a little goes a VERY long way.
While we enjoyed our bread (and tried not to fill up on it!) we looked over the Appetizer Menu to make a few selections.
By contrast with the Pomegranate Focaccia, here is a photo of Tiffins Signature Bread Service. It includes Naan, Lavash, and another Bread, in addition to three toppings: Harrisa Yogurt, Lime Chutney, and Black-Eyed Pea Hummus. Thanks to reader AM Appleby for the photo!
Of course, we had to try something as intriguing as Lobster Popcorn Thai Curry Soup. And I’m so glad we did — because it is truly delicious!
There is so much flavor here. Each bite starts out sweet with autumnal spices (similar to what you might find in pumpkin soup, but with the added tang of complex, salty seafood). After that first note, a warmer spice kicks in at the end and lingers. It’s not overwhelming to the delicate flavors; there’s just enough heat to make it interesting and an authentic curry experience. The popcorn brings a tiny bit to the table in terms of texture.
Next, we decided to try the Marinated Grilled Octopus.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about octopus, and personally don’t care for the chewy consistency; however, the marinade and char on this was really very nice. It almost tasted like it had just been freshly grilled outside. It was nice and smokey. Ultimately, though, the dish didn’t appeal to us visually. (I’m still squeamish around tentacles and suckers.) For those of you who enjoy octopus, I’d say give it a go.
It was time to explore the Entree Menu next.
Now, let me give you a little of our philosophy here at DFB when we review a new restaurant. Once in a while, we’ll order the whole menu. But usually we try to make choices based on 1) What’s going to be most popular, and 2) What do we think our readers would really like to see/visualize before heading to the restaurant. So, I hope our choices help you out when you’re headed to Tiffins!
For our first entree, we chose the Roasted Market Vegetable Curry.
What you have here are pure Veggies. There’s no tofu or other meat substitute. And the serving is enormous and very filling.
Again, you have those wonderful autumnal spices that are the hallmark of a creamy curry. Among the vegetables, we spied Zucchini, Mushroom, Cauliflower, and Squash. But, since this is market-inspired, these will likely change with the seasons.
The Millet on the side has a strong hint of citrus flavor from the Lime Chutney on top.
And actually, this Millet looks more like Quinoa to me. Maybe it’s a mixture. Either way, it was tasty.
Our whole party agreed — this is an excellent vegetarian dish.
But next up was probably our favorite dish of the day, and what we expect to be the most popular dish on the menu — the Wagyu Striploin and Braised Short Rib.
The sweet root Vegetables and Chimichurri were the perfect accompaniments.
Even with all of the food we had, we could not stop eating this dish! Cutting through the meat was like slicing through a pat of butter, it was so tender.
Finally, we had to share one of the more exotic dishes with you — the Whole Fried Sustainable Fish.
During our visit, the selection was Yellowtail Snapper. But you can expect this to change due to availability and sustainability.
Time for a little honesty. I am completely aware that this is probably some sort of culinary masterpiece, but I personally couldn’t get past the appearance. Just WOW. Eyeballs, teeth, and everything. I remember when Cat Cora’s Kouzzina brought the whole fish to the menu on their opening day, and I honestly thought it would be gone within a week due to disinterested guests. But it stuck around for years, so what do I know? 😉
We did discuss the dish with staff, who said that adventurous eaters were giving big props, and have been duly impressed. And I’ll say this — I can’t imagine this being served in any other U.S. theme park! Kudos to Animal Kingdom for offering this relatively unique dish.
Overall, the snapper was nice and flaky — almost meaty in flavor over “fishy,” which was good.
Still, I couldn’t separate it from the appearance and ate very little.
At the end of the day, though, we are glad to share it with you, and we can’t wait to hear if you love this option.
But we are also thrilled to share a couple more photos from reader AM Appleby! Her party, who also dined on opening day, enjoyed a couple of entrees in addition to the ones we have shared. First up, here’s a view of the Berkshire Pork Tenderloin. The pork is served with a Pork and Masa Tamale, Hominy Succotash, and Red Mole Sauce.
The group also enjoyed Hoisin-Glazed Halibut, which is finished with Forbidden Rice, Swiss Chard, and Turmeric Sauce.
Having wrapped up the entrees, we were ready to indulge in a few sweet endings.
First, we tried the Calamansi Mousse.
Calamansi is fruit that is a cross between a citrus fruit (probably a mandarin orange) and a kumquat. Cut into the mousse, and you discover a soft center of Mango Jelly.
The dessert offered lovely tropical flavors in an incredibly light texture. The edible Viola on top was a beautiful touch, and the butter-rich Crust complemented the light texture nicely.
We enjoyed the Lime Cheesecake as well.
This dessert is so light and creamy. Vanilla Cheesecake is the primary flavor over the lime, but that’s also present. The thin layer of lime spongecake on bottom serves as a crust. While I’d rather have graham cracker, the lime sponge carried the flavor through nicely.
We did find a bit of crumble as a garnish to the top. It looked like Matcha, but had the consistency of a Streusel.
Finally, we decided to sample the South American Chocolate Ganache.
Don’t let the demure size of this one fool you. I know; it looks like a very teeny serving. But we are talking the best dark, rich Chocolate. It’s the same high-quality ganache experience that you’ll find at The Ganachery. This is meant to be slowly savored in tiny quantities. Much more would be overwhelming, I promise you.
It was excellent. And we loved the addition of another edible Viola on one, and Caramelized Bananas with the other. They tasted like candy!
Now, you guys know me by now, and you know that I’m a curd girl. Does that make sense? I love me some curd of any sort. So when I noticed there was Passion Fruit Curd as part of the Sorbet Tasting, I had to try it. (Yes, I AM that high maintenance when I’m in restaurants that if I see a garnish on another dish that I want to try, I’ll ask if they’ll bring me a taste. ;-D)
This one BURSTS with passion fruit flavor — far more decadent than any other sorbet I’ve ever tasted! BUT — note that this is a sorbet — it’s not straight curd. If you’re a curd fan like me, that could make or break your choice to order it.
That said, I think this would be an amazing ending to a meal here.
As we wrapped up our meal, our server brought us an unexpected surprise: Joe Rohde print! Every guest receives a miniature print at the end of his or her meal to take home.
While these prints will change, I expect that they will always be a fitting tribute to the experience that we had as we dined at Tiffins.
It is fitting that Tiffins is styled as a gallery, because our initial impressions are that a meal here is more than a dinner. It’s a masterpiece.
Honestly, Tiffins exceeded expectations, both in terms of atmosphere and food. While I wasn’t thrilled about the menu when I first read it, it turned out to be some of the best food I’ve experienced at Disney in terms of quality, care in preparation and sourcing, and imagination. (Whole-head fish and octopus sucker feelings aside.)
This is a lovely restaurant for just about anyone (especially more adventurous eaters), but an extra special treat for fans of Animal Kingdom park.
That said — this is probably not going to be the place for your ultra picky eaters (beef and veggies is a great option, but if you’re a chicken nugget and fries ONLY kind of person, it might not be worth the price). And the atmosphere is, indeed, signature — as in high end. There will be plenty of kiddos, of course (this is a theme park), but with the food offerings and general feel of the place, you can tell they’ve tried to set this location apart from other dining options in Animal Kingdom as a fancier option.
For now, the menu is the same for both lunch and dinner. We’re not sure if that will change, but we’ll keep you updated.
As for logistics, do keep in mind that a meal here will cost you two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan. And while they do not currently accept Tables in Wonderland, they may accept it eventually since this is a Disney-owned restaurant.
Pin the full Tiffins review for later!
But I’d love to hear from all of you now. What are your initial thoughts about Tiffins? Leave a comment and let me know if you plan to book a table during your next Disney World visit!