We all know Epcot is really at the center of Disney's culinary renaissance, but most of the attention tends to be paid to the signature restaurants in the World Showcase or on the food booths that are out during the varying festivals. But what most people miss is Coral Reef. Coral Reef is a great dining choice and also in Epcot. I, like so many guests, totally pass this place up because it is secluded and doesn't get the attention. But it is actually a great dining choice! Here is a review from our recent experience there.
I always like to start a dining review with a look at the location and decor of a place. To me that can play almost an equally important part in whether you enjoy your dining experience. Coral Reef is located on the backside of the large building that houses The Seas with Nemo & Friends. If you weren't looking for it, you might not ever even notice it. That seclusion leads to both it being a very quiet, peaceful restaurant but also that its off the beaten path. This is likely to be somewhere new for you just as it was for me!
Inside the restaurant is decorated in watery blues and greens. From the tiles to the carpets, every detail is provides for the guest a very tranquil and soothing experience. This is dramatically different than many of the other restaurants on Disney Property. So for this fact alone, I would definitely choose this restaurant as a place to retreat during a hot, long day in the parks. You can seriously recharge here.
However, the main focal point of Coral Reef is the panoramic windows into the The Seas' aquarium. The aquarium is the largest inland saltwater environment ever built and holds enough water to fill 54 Olympic-sized pools. So this thing is massive! It is also filled with over 4,000 sea creatures including fish, turtles, rays, and sharks! Every table in the restaurant is angled to the aquarium and it provides an entertainment while you dine. I found myself mesmerized by the sea creatures and the entire ambiance of the restaurant. Another plus to the aquarium is that the few children that were dining in the restaurant were relatively quiet as they were also entertained by the fish. This just further promotes the tranquility of the dining experience.
Ok, so yes, the ambiance is amazing, but what about the food?? Overall the menu is dedicated to very seasonal dishes with an emphasis on seafood. If a restaurant makes it clear that seafood is what they do, then I try to go with that so I can experience what they think is the best dish. For appetizers, I was truly torn. I wanted to try their Lobster Bisque with Brandy so badly! But as I was running the next morning, I was concerned about the heavy cream. So what did my amazing server do? She brought me a sample! It was the perfect amount to really get that taste but without getting too full on cream. The lobster bisque has been on their menu since they opened and is a perennial favorite. And I can see why! While yes, the cream is heavy, the lobster is very delicate and flavorful. I will be back for more of the bisque!
So onto the entrees! Here I was also torn! I wanted the Lobster Macaroni or the Beef Short Ribs, but the chef's favorite on the menu was the Seared Salmon Filet with Orzo Pasta and a Citrus-Beurre Blanc. I decided to give the Salmon a try. The Salmon itself was actually a tad boring. It didnt have a ton of flavor and it was also a bit on the rare side. Now with salmon that doesn't bother me, but it was not what I was hoping for. However, under the salmon, the Orzo was delicious. It was cheesy and creamy combined with a sweet cabbage slaw. The Beurre Blanc Sauce was good, but I could have used more and all over the fish. So while my choice was not that great, I did see those short ribs over at the next table was instantly jealous. Next time, short ribs...
Another thing Coral Reef is really known for is their dessert, The Chocolate Wave. Also having been served since they opened, this is a big favorite and it was worth that extra full feeling! The base of the wave is a chocolate sorbet that was incredibly warm, gooey, and chocolatey heaven. It was topped with a light raspberry cream. I planned on only eating half...that didn't happen. I ate the whole thing!
Overall, the food at Coral Reef was really quite good. It might not have broken my top 5 places to eat at Disney World, but its a solid choice. Also the ambiance alone makes this a great option on those long hot days. This is a place where you can come, recharge, eat a good meal, and then continue on your day. Disney World needs more of those!
For several years, I have considered the Tutto Italia Wine Cellar to be my secret gem. Great food in a secluded often uncrowded oasis in Epcot. But I had never ventured into the larger, more opulent restaurant, Tutto Italia. Because I am always up for a new dining experience at Disney, I was super excited to give this one a try. Its the food I already know I'll love with a bit more ambiance. But would could it compete for my love for the wine cellar?? Here's the spoiler: YES! This place was great. Highly recommend it for couples on a date night or even with kids in tow.
Tutto Italia is one of two table service restaurants located in the Italy Pavilion in Epcot. It shares a kitchen with the Wine Cellar, but is a more upscale dining environment with more elegant layout and booths. The chandeliers and dark wooded elements coupled with the murals of Italian scenery on the walls adds to the overall feeling that you are getting an upscale Italian meal. While the menu does veer to a bit to the American version of Italian cuisine, there are a lot of choices to choose from and something for everyone.
Normally, I am at Epcot with at least my husband allowing us to try multiple courses and a variety of things on the menu. This trip I was solo to run in the Princess Half Marathon Weekend events, but I still tried to give as much food as I could a try! But let me tell you, the portions at Tutto Italia were huge! First up: gotta have a glass of wine! Being it was Italy I decided to give the Spumanti a try. Spumanti is the Italian Sparkling Red Wine that is sweet and refreshing. I love it, but tend to only order it in true Italian restaurants. I also was served olives and olive oil. That was not enough olive oil for me, but I made do.
Another huge favorite of mine is Calamari Fritti. Well battered calamari is a perfect appetizer. Tutto Italia's was nothing less than great. It was also a huge portion. I ate more than I should and it was still not half gone. I needed some help on that one! The one thing I would say is that the accompanying marinara sauce was a bit heavy on the red pepper flakes making this too spicy for me. I scraped off as many as I could, but I think someone went a bit heavy handed on that. My husband would have liked it...Other appetizer options included Prosciutto, Caesar Salad, Insalata Di Mare, and Minestrone Soup.
The main courses are broken down into Pasta, Fish, and Meat Choices. I had just finished the 10k that morning and I was ready for some carbs. It was hard to make a choice on which pasta dish to choose! Lasagne Al Forno ended up being the winner for me. It is described on the menu as a traditional preparation with Meat Ragu, Bechamel and Parmesan Cheese.
Again, the portion was huge! I barely made it through half, but did manage to get this packed up and finished later that night! While lasagna is a fairly standard Italian dish that can be found almost anywhere, this one was pretty freakin' great.
The meat ragu was well seasoned and cooked perfectly, and the Bechamel cheese was in spot on proportion to the meat and noodles. This was a great lasagna and I would have no problems eating this again!
At this point, however, I was stuffed. I could not eat another bite of food and so I feel like I missed trying some truly excellent desserts. The options were a Tiramisu, a Cannoli (OH MAN I LOVE THESE!), Panna Cotta and a Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake. Next time I will come prepared and will definitely make it to dessert!
Overall, I left Tutto Italia very full and satisfied with the meal. While this may not be a new top favorite, it is a great choice of restaurant in Epcot's World Showcase and I would say that is especially true if you have picky eaters in tow. There is really something for everyone here and you don't have to sacrifice the flavor to make sure everyone is happy. This is an easy recommendation!
I make no secret of the fact that I do not, in general, love the food at Hollywood Studios. For the most part the whole park seems to rely completely on counter-service, mass produced "theme park" food. This has been amplified by the recent additions and attention paid to the food in the other parks, making me wonder, "Who is in charge of the food at HS??" I am not sure if my prayers have been fully answered, but there has at least been progress! And the progress' name is Baseline Tap House.
First off, what is Baseline? Well Baseline is a counter-service (no surprise) "Tap House" located near the Muppet Show in the area of Hollywood Studios known as "Grand Avenue." The atmosphere of Baseline is geared towards an industrial meets modern pub in Los Angeles. Inside, the tap house is fairly small. The central focus being a long bar with the many craft beers on tap. There are a few spots to sit down at, but by far the most seating is outside on the patio. The patio is full of bar height tables and chairs beneath wide umbrellas. On a beautiful February day, this was a great option! But I must say that the overall lack of indoor seating at HS is just a pet peeve of mine...so this doesn't exactly thrill me. Overall, the ambiance is definitely one that is trendy and current without being overly "themed" like you might think of at Santuli Canteen or some of the other newer restaurants at Disney.
OK, so onto the real reason I go to Disney World at all...the FOOD! Overall the menu at Baseline is pretty straight forward. There are 3 food choices: Bavarian Pretzel, Cheese and Charcuterie Plate, and Spiced Almonds. That's it. And that is because there does not appear to be any real "kitchen" to Baseline. Instead, when you order at the bar, the bartender goes into the back and grabs a pre-made item. And in general thats ok with me if you know this ahead of time and are good with it. I went with the California Cheese and Charcuterie Plate. A good cheese plate is like heaven to me and there is no other casual dining in Hollywood Studios that offers this kind of "snack" that can moonlight as a light but filling meal.
The Board featured three cheeses, two meats, a few other accompaniments. The cheeses were blue cheese, a goat cheese dusted with pistachios and cranberries, and a lighter mild cheese similar to a cheddar. Of the entire board, the cheese were all very good and flavorful without being too overbearing or pungent. They walked a fine line of flavor that was much appreciated!
The meats on the board were a chorizo and a calabrese salami. Both were perfectly fine meats with no complaints, but neither really had that much of a standout flavor. They worked well with the mild cheddar like cheese as well as the stone ground mustard that was also served. The remaining parts of the board included cornichons, grapes, and toasted baguettes. I could have used one or two more baguettes or another cracker type base for the cheese, but I made it just fine.
While I certainly think the small plates of food offer a great snack as lunch option for Hollywood Studios, the biggest draw to Baseline will be their craft beer selections. The offer 9 Californian beers on tap as well as a a hard cider (see left). They also offer a Create Your Own Beer Flight of four beers which sounds like a no brainer! Since I was alone on this trip and didn't think a flight of beer the day before a race was a great idea, I went with the Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider. It was deliciously smooth and fruity. I highly enjoyed it on a fairly warm February day.
Overall, I enjoyed Baseline Tap House. Its certainly not a must-do or one that I would recommend to anyone with kids as there were no truly kid-friendly options and the atmosphere was definitely more adult geared. But, the small plates look great and the beer selection was fantastic. This is a perfect snack or light lunch stop for adults. I can certainly see myself and the hubby eating here in the future!
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!