We head out to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to visit Boma, the resort’s popular buffet that serves both breakfast and dinner (not at the same time). Boma is located on the ground floor across from Jiko, the resort’s signature restaurant. From the main entrance, you’ll want to take a right after passing Zawadi Marketplace, the resort store. Take the elevator down to the ground floor or enjoy the walk down the stairs, passing Victoria Falls Lounge on the way.
Themed to a vibrant, bustling African marketplace, diners have the opportunity to “savor vibrant flavors from over 50 African countries—along with favorite American classics.”
At $43/adult and $24/child ages 3-9, dinner is not an inexpensive proposition. For adults, it’s $3 more than Cape May Cafe, $6 more than Biergarten, $10 more than Trail’s End, and equal in price to ‘Ohana. Compared to character meals, Boma is $2 less expensive than Tusker House or Crystal Palace, $4 less than 1900 Park Fare, and $7 less expensive than Chef Mickey’s, just to offer some perspective. No “official” Disney characters appears, though it’s rare that you won’t run into at least 25 bloggers.
With a buffet that spans about 75 different options, there’s far more variety here than you’ll find at any other Walt Disney World buffet. And considering it basically includes unlimited appetizers, entrees, desserts, and non-alcoholic beverages, you could rationalize that Boma is less expensive than a full meal at standard table service restaurants. Kona Cafe is a pretty good baseline for where Disney pricing is at any given time. Over there (where I reviewed the new lunch/dinner menu here), the average appetizer price is $10.17, with an average entree price of $22.50, dessert at $7.57, and the non-alcoholic beverage worth $4. Combined, that puts a 3-course meal with Diet Coke at $44.24, or just about a dollar more than the price of Boma. At $24, the child price is rougher, as a complete meal at Kona with an appetizer would cost around $14 for the kids, versus the $24 Boma price.
Let’s take a look at what Boma offers:
As always, an apology for the quality of the buffet-pictures-at-the-buffet. Boma is particularly difficult due to the low lighting and the fact that none of the buffet items repeat themselves.
Here we have Red Onion, Tomato, Cucumber, Lentils, Pepper, Mango Vinaigrette with Fresh Ginger and Orange, Feta Cheese, Sambal Buttermilk Dressing with Sun-Dried Tomato and Chipotle Pepper, and Mixed Salad Greens with Shredded Carrots.
Ordinarily, I would make a big scene out of anyone filling a plate full of basic greens and Ken’s Ranch, but the salad dressings here stand out. The Sambal dressing is impressively nuanced and full of flavor – spicy at the start, but with a creaminess that tempers each bite. The Mango Vinaigrette has a ginger dressing vibe made fruitier with the citrus. I’d buy bottles of either at the store if I could, and the greens are reliably crunchy with the fresh carrot shavings providing another burst of color.
Even the accompaniments here stand out with the thick, salty chunks of feta cheese alongside the spicy pickled peppers, earthy lentils, and crisp vegetables. You will never see me write this many words about buffet garden salad again. It’s that good.
Here is a Chicken Salad with Cilantro Dressing; Spinach and Quinoa Salad with a Honey Mustard Dressing; Chickpea and Edamame Salad; Chermoula-chilled Shrimp; Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese; and Ghana Tomato Salad.
As with most Disney buffets over the last couple of years, the peel-and-eat shrimp disappoint. Granted, it might not be fair to come down on something called “shrimp” for their small size, but after trying to peel these, you’re not going to come away with much to eat and the spices will be all over the shells and your hands.
The Roasted Egg Plant Salad is something that I wouldn’t ordinarily get within fifteen feet of (not due to court order this time), but while it might be simplistic in its preparation, it’s packed with flavors that you would ordinarily attribute to something like grilled steak. The little bit of salty feta and cool tomato make for a really flavorful, refreshing couple of bites. Grab a spoonful even if it’s not the most appetizing bucket on the buffet.
If you’re a cucumber fan…
While straightforward, the honey mustard dressing gives the crunchy spinach some tang with the quinoa providing additional heft.
One of the reasons why just about everything at Boma tastes so fresh is that the majority of the items are made and prepared immediately behind the buffet line. It’s also another reason why taking buffet pictures is so awkward. There’s almost always a cast member refreshing each station or tidying up.
Strawberries, Grapes, Yogurt with Fresh Fruit, Applesauce, and Assorted Fruit.
A lousy picture of Avocado, Papaya, and Grapefruit Salad; Watermelon Rind Salad; Tri-Colored Pasta Salad in a Curried Mayonnaise; and Kool Slaw – Mayonnaise-based Cabbage Salad.
I’m a sucker for pasta salad and I love Boma’s creamy, mildly spicy version.
A better look at the Kool Slaw.
If you were to ask me if I was interested in your pocketful of watermelon rinds, I would probably say that I was not, though that might be a mistake if I had the recipe to Boma’s Watermelon Rind Salad. The salad has a really pleasant sweet ginger flavor tempered by a little bit of vinegar. The Avocado, Papaya, and Grapefruit Salad is another healthy way to get going before we get into the meat.
And get to the meat we will. You’ll also find around 25 hot items on the buffet, beginning from the opposite end. Here we have Senegalese Yassa-style Fish with Tandoori Mustard Sauce; Mashed Potatoes; Fufu – Western and Central African Sweet and White Potato Mash; Chakalaka – South African Spicy Tomato Stew; and Pap – Creamy White Cornmeal.
The fish is a real standout with a mild flavor that’s enhanced by the tangy, spicy mustard sauce. A pepper and onion topping spices things up further before the light tomato sauce on top helps cool everything down. There’s a lot of different flavors as each bite progresses. Very good.
The Fufu is another surprising standout. “Mashed Potatoes” are usually either sweet potatoes or “regular” potatoes, but the combination works really well with the russet potatoes adding some backbone and the sweet potatoes adding a little bit of sugar. Definitely grab a scoop to start because you’re probably going to want to return.
The Crispy Pork Shoulder is another highlight – lean and tender.
You’ll want to pair it with some of the sauces available, including this Masai Mara and Boma Mustard. The pork tasted incredible with the chipotle and teriyaki mustard sauce.
The Spice-crusted Beef Sirloin is in the back. I haven’t been impressed with a lot of the “main” dishes at buffets in recent memory, including my most recent visit to Tusker House, which I review here along with the benefits of the Rivers of Light Dining Package. But the sirloin here was table service quality – seasoned nicely, tender, flavorful, and cooked to a perfect medium rare.
Anybody “just looking for steak” should be impressed and there’s no limit to how many slices you can pick up.
A couple of spicy accompaniments with the horseradish and sambal chili sauce.
“Bobotie – South African Dish with Ground Beef, Lamb, Mushrooms, and Egg” along with “Durban-style Roasted Chicken – Durban is the largest city in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal.”
This is sort of like an African quiche with a fluffy egg base that’s packed full of meat and spices. Very good.
The Rotisserie Chicken is yet another highlight. The spinning chicken is visible roasting behind the buffet and is served flavorful with paprika, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, and garlic notes. I wish I could pick up two pieces along with a side at The Mara next door. I would be there every day.
One of the worst pictures yet with the Couscous with Spinach, “Geel Rys – Tumeric and Cinnamon-spiced Basmati Rice with Golden Raisins from South Africa,” “Zulu Cabbage – A Zulu chef came up with this Curried Spice Recipe in Kwa-Zulu Natel,” and Asparagus with Paprika Oil.
Like most of the other items on the buffet, each of these freshly-prepared dishes offers some unique flavors.
These crispy samosas with a side of sweet, chunky mango chutney were surprisingly light and crispy. You might be picking up on the fact that Boma is an excellent choice for vegetarians with the number of different items available.
Just one of Boma’s soups would destroy the overall offerings at any of Disney’s other buffets and you’ll usually find a collection of six here, none of which photograph particularly well.
From left to right: Curried Coconut Seafood Stew; Sambal Cream-based Chicken Corn Chowder; Butternut Squash Soup; Ghanaian Oxtail Stew – Western African-inspired Tomato-based Stew with Tamarind; and Basmati Rice.
You might remember my $29 cup of oxtail soup over at Monsieur Paul…
Make sure you dig deep into the pot to scoop up all of the good stuff – the seafood stew was packed with scallops, mussels, white fish, and more in a surprisingly light, creamy coconut broth with some hints of jalapeno, pepper, onion, and cumin. I would happily have paid $10 for a bowl of this at any restaurant. The only other time I’ve seen this much seafood in a soup on property is Jiko.
Kids enjoy a separate station with Carrots, Peas, and Corn; Marinara and Meatballs; Penne Pasta; Macaroni and Cheese; and “Mealie Dogs – Deep-fried Corn-breaded Turkey Dogs.”
Add some ketchup and don’t let the kids see “mealie” and you should be doing pretty well for yourself.
A lot of the other items are probably going to be a hard sell for the kids, but this station should do enough to get them to dessert.
Behind the two, unappetizing-looking flavors of hummus, you’ll find Lavash – Thin Flatbread, Mealie Bread – Sweet Corn Muffins, and Pita Bread.
Spitzweck Rolls and Butter.
I usually fill up elsewhere, but the hummus is quite good as a side and the bread works well alongside the various hot soups.
Oreo Cheesecake Tarts, Kenyan Coffee Tarts, Zebra Domes, Guava Panna Cotta.
Boma is known, in part, for its Zebra Domes, which are also available to-go in the cooler over at The Mara. These little domes of sponge cake topped with white chocolate ganache and a mixture of cream, Kahlua, espresso coffee, and milk chocolate and then drizzled with chocolate ganache are among my favorite things on property and perhaps my favorite overall dessert. The light sponge cake makes it easy to eat a handful without thinking much about it and the flavor is surprisingly intense given the thin layer of chocolate ladled over each dome.
The other desserts might be worth a look too.
They look good.
But I don’t think anybody knows how they taste.
Actually, I liked the subtle coffee flavor in the Kenyan Tart, but thought the Oreo Cheesecake Tart and Panna Cotta were both dry and relatively bland.
The chocolate and vanilla cupcakes are pretty basic, but either would do the job if you don’t want to mess with the other stuff.
Chocolate Chip or Sugar Cookies.
Two items that you’ve probably overlooked and should try are the Cape Dutch Malva Pudding and Ghanaian Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding. With the accompanying warm vanilla sauce, the bread pudding is sweet and decadent. The Malva Pudding is like a fruity spongecake naturally sweetened with apricot and caramel. Both very good.
Overall, Boma has a lot going for it. It destroys any other buffet in the literal number of items offered and in the variety of flavors. Virtually nothing you see here is going to be replicated elsewhere. Quality is also typically higher than other buffets as just about everything is prepared fresh immediately behind the buffet line and plated as soon as it’s ready.
However, most items are probably slightly lower quality than most table service counterparts. Item for item, a restaurant like Kona Cafe is probably going to plate something that tastes better than a similar item offered at Boma, but there is something to say for variety. At Kona or The Wave or another standard Disney restaurant, you might have the opportunity to try four things that average out to an A- on flavor. At Boma, you can try 65 things that average out to a B+.
But the hustle and bustle of a buffet might not be what you’re looking to experience on a particular night. And that’s okay. But if you’re objectively looking for Disney’s best buffet option, then Boma is it. At $43/adult and $24/child, you’re paying for the privilege, but it really does add up to an excellent multi-course meal with drink and dessert included.
There’s a reason why it remains so popular.