The Coral Reef Restaurant brings new meaning to the term “swimming with the fishes.” Although generally associated with an untimely demise, at the Coral Reef Restaurant it will feel like you’re swimming with the fishes as you eat since one entire wall of the restaurant gives you a spectacular view of the world’s largest inland saltwater environment ever built. It is an incredible sight and could easily be the highlight of your meal if not for the fantastic food. Although seafood is featured on the menu, fear not those who are not enamored by things that swim in the ocean. There are also incredible options for those who like food from the land as well.
Location: Future World, The Seas With Nemo and Friends Pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World
Type: Table service
Specialty: Seafood – but they have something for everyone
Cost: $15-20 for kids and about $30-50 for adults
Craig’s Favorite: The Chocolate Wave – although the Crispy Rhode Island Calamari was the bomb
Located around the corner from The Seas With Nemo and Friends, this inconspicuous dining establishment is often filled with people so it would be wise to make advance reservations. Once inside, the tables are arranged in rows that are stacked progressively higher like stadium seats. That way, anyone can see the tank with an unobstructed view and are able to watch the huge variety of fish and other sea life (including sharks) as they “just keep swimming.” It is really beautiful to watch and fascinating all by itself. But the menu will really catch your eye.
To be fair, the prices are on the high side of Disney dining. For sure, you can find many good options that won’t cost you as much, but the quality of the food is truly worth the higher price. It really is comparable to a fine dining restaurant outside of the parks and the service as you can always expect at a Disney establishment is beyond anything else. My daughter wasn’t enamored with her drink and immediately our server got her something she liked much better. They even allowed her to have the soup from the adult menu even though she was ordering from the kids’ menu and offered it to her without any upcharge.
The food itself was impressive. To start, Cassie and Emma both had the creamy lobster soup which was pure heaven. So creamy and delicious. But I liked my calamari even better. Made with a roasted corn salsa with a hint of citrus, it was crispy without feeling oily, and the flavors exploded in your mouth. For an entree, I had the Pan-seared Velasso Salmon with mushroom risotto and a pinot noir reduction while my wife had the Pan-seared Mahi Mahi with laughing bird shrimp, jasmine rice, and a coconut lime sauce. Our daughter had grilled chicken fingers and fries with broccoli (and she even ate the broccoli). All of it was delicious. In mine, I was especially impressed with the quality of mushrooms in the mushroom risotto and the fresh and vibrant flavor each one had. The salmon was also cooked to perfection (when many times I order it in other places and is often overcooked). The coconut lime sauce in Cassie’s dish really complemented the Mahi Mahi and the rice so well. But the highlight for me was the Chocolate Wave which can be described as maybe the best chocolate lava cake you’ll ever eat. I don’t know exactly how to describe the seriously luscious wave of chocolate that came pouring out from the cake but it was so good. It came on top of a slight raspberry reduction and then paired with a raspberry sorbet which had chocolate shavings with it. And for a kids’ dessert, they had this awesomely huge cupcake with a cute candy starfish on top and real buttercream frosting. Yum.
For my wife who is gluten sensitive, this was an amazing place to eat. While there were some dishes not gluten-free, we were surprised at the MANY options she had. Some things we wouldn’t have even guessed. The Chocolate Wave was gluten-free. The creamy lobster soup was gluten-free. Even the crispy calamari was gluten-free! And our server just did a great job making sure all of our needs were taken care of. Overall, you really can’t go wrong at the Coral Reef Restaurant. It is on the high end, but if you’re looking for something delicious and with a fun atmosphere, this is the place to be. But like I said earlier, make sure to have reservations!