Sunday Brunch: Big Blue Restaurant
10 February 2013
In the big blue world,
You're just a little fish
In the big blue world,
You'll be seen as a tasty dish.
Sorry, Nemo, your dad's right. While there aren't
too many humans exploring Nemo and Marlin's reef home, another
Disney reef is viewed by hundreds of guests every day while they
delightfully ingest the sea life they view during their meal.
Seafood restaurants around the country are popular for having a
giant lobster tank where you can pick the lobster you want for your
dinner. At Walt Disney World, The Coral Reef takes the concept to a
new level by giving you a tank full of ocean! Located at the Seas
with Nemo and Friends pavilion, the Coral Reef is one of the few
Table Service restaurants in Epcot's Future World, opening with the
Living Seas Pavilion in 1986.
In all my years of visiting Disney World, my family
had never dined in this magnificent restaurant. I've seen Danny
Tanner try to propose to his girlfriend Vicki while they dined next
to a magnificent fish tank. Topanga had dinner with the forgotten
teen star Andrew Keegan here while Cory tried to win her back
through the same tank. Alas, this mythical restaurant under the sea
was out of my family's grasp.
It wasn't until the last few months that I actually
made up for lost time and had the fortunate to dine here twice! The
first time was with friends for a Candlelight Processional dinner
package in November and recently several nights ago with my visiting
friend and her family from back home. I sat in different sections
for each dinner and had a different entree each time. Overall, I was
very satisfied with both meals and the restaurant's unique setting
makes for quite an interesting meal.
The Coral Reef's dining room is divided into three
tiered levels containing both free floating tables and booths, which
all face the aquarium or coral reef, the restaurant's namesake.
Luckily I've been seated in the middle and first sections closest to
the tank, with both offering great views and the first section being
Wave-like light projections on the ceiling simulate a sense
of being under water in the middle section
The first section offers the closest and best views
Each table is equipped with a handy guide to help
guests identify the sea life they can see in the tank. In addition
to fish, one can see manta rays, sea turtles, and sharks! Also,
scuba divers are frequently seen making their rounds and waving to
guests. During my last visit, my friend and I tried very hard to get
a good picture of the manta ray as he swam by approximately every 11
minutes, but alas he swam faster than my shutter speed.
The elusive manta ray
Two divers waving to the guests.
Divers can be either cast members or scuba certified guests
The menu seems to be designed to please every member
of the family as seafood cuisine tends to have a rather limited
audience. Entrees range from the fishiest of fish (Sustainable catch
of the day) to not fish for non-seafood eaters (Seared Chicken
Breast and NY Strip Steak). For my first meal at Coral Reef, the
Candelight Processional dinner package included an appetizer,
entree, and dessert.
First up, we chose the Appetizer for two and the
Fish Tostados. The Appetizer for two included two little teacups of
a smooth and hot creamy lobster soup, tender and perfectly seasoned
crab cakes, and crispy fried shrimp with a spiced remoulade. The
Fish Tostados were crispy tortillas topped with light and fresh fish
tossed with a little bit of cabbage, avocado, and lime. They were
very refreshing and a delightful way to start the meal.
Next, were the entrees. During my first meal, my
compadres both ordered the Coral Reef Lobster Orecchiette Pasta. It
was essentially a seafood macaroni and cheese with white cheddar and
bits of lobster. Both of my friends felt there could've been more
lobster, but they enjoyed it nonetheless.
For myself, I ordered the Orange-Ginger glazed
Scottish Salmon. Salmon is probably my favorite fish, even if it is
a fishy fish. At Coral Reef, the terrific orange-ginger glaze really
makes this salmon unique and probably my favorite of all that I've
tried throughout the Walt Disney World resort. There were quite a
lot of green beans though; it would've been nice to have a mix of
vegetables rather than just one.
My second visit to Coral Reef, I was tempted to
order my favorite Salmon, but I wanted to try something new since
this was a surprise opportunity to dine here. This time I went for a
non-seafood item: the Seared Chicken Breast. It came on a bed of
Spaetzle, an egg noodle from Germany and the surround countries, and
was encrusted with an amazing crispy topping of Applewood smoked
bacon (the final selling point in my menu decision). Though I felt
odd not eating fish, I did enjoy this dish a lot and did not feel as
bad watching the fish while I ate.
For dessert, both times I ordered the signature
Coral Reef dessert: The Chocolate Wave, a warm chocolate cake with a
soft center and crisp coating served with a perfectly tart raspberry
gelato. During my first meal, my friends ordered the Classic Vanilla
Creme brulee and Baileys and Jack Daniel's Mousse. Both were also
quite delicious, though the liquor was quite strong in the mousse
(as explained in the
Zebra Domes article). During my second meal, my fellow dining
companions also ordered the Chocolate Wave, the mousse, and the
Champagne Sabayon Tart, the latter which my friend's father dove
into too fast before I could snag a photo. My friend's brother
though did love that the Mousse had his favorite crispy chocolate
pearls he first came to love on the desserts at Be Our Guest.
The caramel crisp and chocolate pearls make this dessert appear as
though it came right off of the reef
I generally am not a seafood eater, so I don't go to
seafood restaurants often, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed
Coral Reef, and enough to want to go a second time after my friend
and her family so graciously invited me. In retrospect, Coral Reef
lacked the one thing one expects to find in a seafood restaurant:
the fishy smell. Generally a turn-off at most seafood restaurants,
Disney must've done something special in designing the restaurant
layout to prevent that odor from leaving the kitchen. Whatever the
case may be the main attraction of the Coral Reef is the floor to
ceiling aquarium and the cuisine of the sea on your plate. With much
of the undesirable aspects of seafood dining somehow reduced if not
eliminated, Disney has managed to give their guests an undersea
dining experience Nemo can be proud of, even if his friends make up