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Review: Boma- Flavors of Africa

Ladha

In any language and no matter how you say it, the food served at Boma, an African-inspired buffet restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, is undeniably delicious.  Just as the beating of traditional tribal drums welcomed our arrival so did the wafting, mouth-watering aromas which greeted us from several yards away as we approached the inviting dining room.

First impressions are so hard to establish as the senses at once become almost overwhelmed by a sudden and almost majestic tapestry of sight, sound and scent.  The large, open dining room is decorated tastefully in earth tones, rich wood carvings and tan canopies.  The volume ceilings are draped in muted shingles.  The buffet is not one continuous line but composed of different “pods”, each boasting a different course:  soups, salads, main courses, desserts.  Chefs at certain stations prepare food on open rotisseries warmed by wood-burning fires.  So that’s where those wonderfully exotic aromas originated!!!

We were led to a heavy wooden table, again adorned in rich, earth tones conducive to a relaxing state of mind despite the hurried activity encompassing us.

Our waiter, Jamal, welcomed us and inquired if this was our first visit to Boma.  Indeed it was, and his subtle subsequent grin seemed to hint at his foresight that we would not be disappointed.  He seemed to harbor a secret knowledge that we were in store for a wondrous delight.

From fire-grilled meats to organic-laden soups, the menu at Boma is varied and exotic. Unique flavor combinations enhance the dining experience. The offerings seem to lean heavily on curry, cinnamon and coriander as their accents since most can be delicately discerned in many of the dishes.  The food is a fusion of African influences from many different nations.

Our first trip to the buffet was to sample some of the signature soups. The multicultural influence is evident.  Jamal had recommended the Coconut Curried Seafood Stew.  The name and list of components honestly did not thrill me, but I am always open to new flavors.  And Boma is certainly the place to experiment and broaden one’s horizons. We also chose the lentil and sausage soup and the butternut squash soup, carefully ladling only small amounts into our bowls as we saw the yards of buffet and numerous pods still looming before us.

The Coconut Curried Seafood Stew was divine.  A home run to start the meal.  What a winning combination of sweet and spicy.  While I am not a huge fan of curry (I would venture to say I have always tried to avoid it), and my dining companion claims to like neither coconut nor curry, our spoons battled for dominance of this culinary masterpiece.  While the curry and coconut could each be tasted, neither triumphed in hijacking the flavor.  Instead, they skillfully were melded into a delicious combo.  The very colorful broth was home to large, chunky pieces of tender seafood.  Amazing.  The lentil and sausage soup was flavorful and had a nice peppery kick.  The butternut squash soup, the one I had anticipated liking best, was my least favorite.  While creamy, the yellow opaque broth was so thick it tasted like pudding.  And quite a sweet pudding at that.   If I hadn’t been told it was soup, someone could have fooled me into thinking it was a dessert.  Unusually sweet for this type of soup and having a very unusual consistency, it literally was as thick as pudding.

Our second course consisted of salads and sides.  Some standout dishes follow:  The artichoke and lemon salad.  The marinade this dish had been soaked in is one of the best I have ever tasted.  Zesty with just the right amount of tang from a vinegar-base, this dish was a hidden treasure.  Also, the zaalouk (a Moroccan-inspired eggplant and tomato salad) with finely diced pieces of both ingredients, was fresh and organic.  The curry pasta salad was great in that the pasta was cooked to a perfect consistency and the addition of the curry spice gave it a beautiful color as well as a delightfully spicy accent. Both the white bean and black olive hummus are creamy and dressed with a hint of olive oil and pine nuts.  Perfectly pureed and not a bit grainy, served on pita, they were absolutely divine.

Mealie is the signature bread at Boma.  It tastes very much like a moist corn muffin.  Not as dry as corn bread with a slightly sweeter taste, this is yet another “must try”.

What can one do but indulge when confronted with such a marvelous array of exotic flavors and splurge we did.

Next up: the main course.  This night the main course offerings were a braised pork shoulder, barbecued chicken and African cut top sirloin.  While the sirloin was standard and a decent cut of beef (although the Boma mustard sauce was incredible and brought the full flavor to life), the star of this trio was the pork.  The meat was lightly glazed and so tender it fell off the bone into a pile of tasty, smoky forkfuls of braised perfection.  Some unique yet incredibly yummy sides to accompany the meat were fufu, a cinnamon-laced mash of candied sweet potatoes, the sweet corn and potato pudding, a hearty dish that seems to be a creamed corn flavored potato mix and bobotie, a  robust lamb and beef quiche with onions, raisins and bread.

At this point, I was enthusiastically compiling in my head a list (which rapidly and repeatedly grew) of the dates and occasions I would return to this buffet and the people I would want to bring here to share my newfound restaurant of choice.

We had to rest a while before tackling the massive dessert pod, perhaps the incarnation of heaven.  We were told by hostess and server alike that we could not miss out on the Zebra Domes, the restaurant’s iconic dessert.  Zebra domes are petite bites of sponge cake soaked in espresso and Kahlua, filled with a delicate layer of chocolate mousse and covered in white chocolate.  Decadent for sure.  A little overly richly sweet for me, my companion couldn’t stop raving about them.  I preferred the warm banana and butterscotch bread pudding with a light vanilla bean sauce drizzle.  Scrumptious and moist, the blending of banana with butterscotch was comforting and cozy.  Most of the desserts are bite-size pastries, and one of the best was the Passion Fruit Panna Cotta, a creamy, citrusy concoction, it was light and refreshing yet still bursting with flavor.  The one letdown was the apple cobbler.  While the apples were crispy and bathed in a cinnamon swirl, the crumble tasted like stale, hard, dusty granola.  The only disappointment at the dessert bar.  Other notable mentions are the peanut butter mousse and the Kenyan coffee tarts.

Dining at Boma is like embarking on a culinary safari to a world of unexplored flavors.   You might not want to venture back once this new doorway has been thrust open.  Enjoy the journey!

FOOD:  Rich and organic, the spices and marinades may be a bit different from the norm, but they are well worth trying.  You will be pleasantly surprised.  Freshness and  originality are the key components here.  Don’t let the unique flavors or unfamiliar names intimidate or discourage you, or you will sadly miss out on a wondrous opportunity to sample some amazing cuisine. For picky eaters and children who may not be too adventurous, the buffet also offers some familiar standards:  mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, etc.

ATMOSPHERE:  Reminiscent of an African marketplace, although busy, the room seems to buzz with excitement and a sense of discovery.

SERVICE:  Our server was busy but made a special effort to pay careful attention to what we had piled onto our plates and made suggestions concerning items we “had to go back for”, ensuring we didn’t leave without sampling some standout, exemplary dishes.  The chefs monitoring each pod were enthusiastic and more than happy to answer any questions.

TIPS:  Plan to dine, not merely eat.  There is so much to sample, that the food should be savored. Plan on spending enough time to experience many unique and varied  flavor combinations.    Bring a healthy appetite and take small portions.  You will want to taste a little of everything. Indulge in the African flavors.   The dining room seemed busiest upon its initial opening hours (from 4:30pm to 6:30pm) and then there seemed to be a lull when buffet lines were not nearly as long.    Live the adventure!!!

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About ChristineD

Christine is a former Magic Kingdom entertainment cast member. Hailing originally from New Jersey, she has called Florida home since college graduation. Her passions are animals (especially dolphins, horses and dogs) cinema and the performing arts. Currently working as an Orlando real estate agent, she devotes much of her time to raising funds/awareness for Children's Hospice.