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Coral Reef Review

Coral Reef Review

Like a pearl in an oyster, Coral Reef restaurant is a hidden gem at Epcot.  Located next to the Seas with Nemo and Friends, walking into the restaurant is like wading into the ocean.  As we stepped inside the doors, we were enveloped in warm, sandy colors and soft lighting from the conch-shaped lamps that line the seashell encrusted walls.   The patterns in the mosaic on the floor echoed the flow of the tide gathering along the shore.   As we descended the into the dining area, the sandy beiges gave way to swirls of deeper blue.  At the end of the hallway, the walls opened up into the dining area revealing the restaurant’s namesake.  What a stunning view!  The far wall of the restaurant has large windows into the aquarium of the adjoining Seas.  The fish were colorful and mesmerizing as they darted through the reefs or glided lazily through the water, providing a serene backdrop to our dining experience.

We had reservations for lunchtime, so the restaurant was not too busy.  We were seated soon after our arrival at a table near the aquarium next to another couple celebrating their anniversary.  As our menus were brought out, the server noticed the couple had finished and offered us the table next to the aquarium once it had been cleared.  We were ecstatic to have an up close and personal view of the sea life.  The turquoise lighting rippling on the ceiling gave us the feeling that we were truly underwater.   Everything in the décor was reminiscent of the sea, organic and flowing.  My companion and I decided that the restaurant had a spa –like quality, with tranquil blue tones, dim lighting, and soft music playing in the background.  A place to find some serenity in the middle of a busy day in the park.

As we settled into our aquarium-side table, our server brought a basket of bread and took our drink orders.  He, much like some of the fish, darted through the restaurant from table to table, and seemed a bit overwhelmed.  After a bit of a wait, he returned with our drinks, then was off once again.  While we waited for our server, we had a chance to nibble on the basket of bread.  The rolls were pretty standard.  Crusty on the outside and airy in the middle.  The rolls were a bit too hard for my taste, but nothing a pat of butter couldn’t remedy.

As an appetizer, we chose the Appetizer for Two, consisting of two portions each of fried shrimp, crab cakes, and lobster bisque. The presentation was beautiful and the serving size appropriate to its name, the perfect portion for two people to start a meal.  The batter on the shrimp was crispy, and the spicy, citrus slaw was a cool and crunchy compliment to the shrimp, keeping it light and satisfying.  The crab cakes, accompanied by a sweet and savory mango salsa, were flavorful, but a little greasier than I would have liked.  The lobster bisque had a smoky flavor that was a bit overpowering for my palate, but the soup was creamy and just chunky enough to get a good bite of lobster meat in each spoonful.

Our drinks arrived as we were diving into our appetizer.  My companion ordered a

(one of our favorites at the Disney resort) and I ordered a Coral Reef specialty, the Abyss.  The Piña CoLava has all of the best parts of a creamy Piña Colada, but with the added zing of a tart raspberry swirl.  The drink is delicious, but very sweet for accompanying a meal.  I usually order it as a liquid dessert.  The Abyss was a much better mealtime pairing for me; it had sweet and sour flavors and didn’t fill me up like some libations do.  Overall, the drinks were delightful and refreshing.

As we finished our appetizer and sipped on our beverages, our server returned to take our food orders.  My companion ordered the Grilled Mahi-Mahi, and our server had praised the Lobster Orecchiette, so I decided to trust his recommendation.  The Mahi-Mahi was good, but nothing exceptional.  It was a nice piece of fish, cooked well and served over jasmine rice with some plain shrimp and a brothy sauce.  We cleaned the plate, but probably will order something different next time.
The Lobster Orecchiette, however, was phenomenal.  It took everything I love about macaroni and cheese and dressed it up with lobster, breadcrumbs, and a basil aioli.  The lobster meat was tender, succulent, and plentiful; the pasta was cooked just beyond al dente (the way I like it), and the cheese sauce was flavorful and creamy without being too heavy.  It also made great leftovers.

With so many tempting choices like Orange Cheesecake, Bailey’s and Jack Daniel’s Mousse, or Crème Brûlée, dessert proved to be a difficult decision. We finally chose the Coral Reef specialty, the Chocolate Wave, a warm and dense chocolate cake accompanied by raspberry gelato, fresh raspberries, and a dusting of powdered sugar.  I loved the hot and cold sensation of the warm cake with the chill of the gelato.

Somehow after an appetizer, drinks, lunch, and dessert, my dining partner still had room for more, so he ordered a cappuccino.  The drink was warm and creamy, just like cappuccino should be, with a piece of raisin biscotti for dipping.

Throughout our meal, we were entranced and entertained by the sea life.  In addition to the fish, there were sea turtles, sharks, and sting rays to observe as well as scuba divers and snorkelers. During our meal, a friendly sting ray settled next to us and one of the sea turtles made several appearances on our side of the tank.  Toward the end of our lunch, a scuba diver swam over to pose for a few photographs.

With good food and an aquatic spectacle, Coral Reef restaurant was the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon meal.

 

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Food – Consistently good with a few extraordinary dishes.  My favorites were the Lobster Orecchiette and the Chocolate Wave.

Atmosphere – Serene, with soft music and an aquatic color scheme featuring swirls of blues, teals, and greens.  The major attraction for the restaurant is the aquarium, filled with a variety of sea life: sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and scuba divers dropping by to wave hello and pose for photographs.

Service – Friendly but sparse.  We spent a good deal of time waiting for our sever to take our orders, but he was pleasant and accommodating.

Tips – Plan on spending a little longer than normal here; allow time to relax and enjoy watching the sea life.  Request a table near the aquarium. It never hurts to ask and is well worth the inquiry.

About David

David Killingsworth is the son of the founder of DisneyDining.com. As such, he might know more about Disney World Parks and Games than any other 17 year old. David is a technical genius and when he is not writing for our Disney sites he is a video game designer and avid gamer.