Flying Fish Cafe Review at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort

Dinner was at Flying Fish Cafe on June the 16th, 2012.  It’s located out near the end of the BoardWalk on the opposite end of ESPN Club.  The front of the BoardWalk lobby would be accessible from the stairs on the right.   From Epcot’s International Gateway entrance/exit, it’s probably a seven or eight minute walk.  From the BoardWalk lobby, it’s about two minutes.  Probably ten-ish from the Beach or Yacht Clubs depending on where exactly you’re coming from.  Not far, but not super convenient if you’re chillin’ in Future World.  You can also opt to take the friendship boat, which would pick you up from the International Gateway or the other resorts and take you about a minute walk away from here.  Last summer, I didn’t care much for the boat because circulation/ventilation/air-conditioning inside was so poor because there’s only a small doorway in the front and back. It was actually hotter and more uncomfortable than walking.

Outside on the BoardWalk, a juggler on a unicycle was performing to a large crowd.  The Hoff (via archive America’s Got Talent footage), probably wouldn’t have been impressed, but it was a nice little bit of entertainment prior to the meal.

Flying Fish is a signature restaurant, which means it’s good, expensive, costs two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan, and the menu changes seasonally.  Inside, the restaurant is unique.  Disney would tell you that it’s “an artistic and nostalgic interpretation of an Atlantic Boardwalk. Dine amidst parachuting fish, decorative roller coaster tracks, golden fish scales, fun house mirrors and a whimsically backlit Ferris wheel.”  So if you’re wondering why every blog review says Flying Fish is “full of whimsy!” you know why.

It just reminds me of the flying fish level in Super Marios Bros., speaking of Tanuki Mario from the other day.  The counter on the left overlooks the open kitchen.

Speaking of speaking of which, you should watch the Wreck-It-Ralph trailer if you haven’t already.  Coming out November 2, 2012, it’s Disney’s next big budget animated film.  Looks a lot better than I was expecting.

Flying Fish Cafe is also home to a Chef’s Tasting Wine Dinner as discussed via Disney’s official site here.  There’s also a sample menu from May 31st linked off to the right.  Disney has been better about updating the menus on their site recently.  The best list is found over at TouringPlans.com.  It’s updated much more often than the similar AllEars version.

And an extensive bar area.  I only saw two people sitting there over the course of our meal.  If you’re dining solo or reservations are full, it seems like that would be an option.

As well as a bit of an alcove in the back left corner of the restaurant.

Flying Fish offers Dine With An Imagineer, as discussed here.  I believe it is more expensive and offered less frequently than the version over at Hollywood Brown Derby.  Dine with an Imagineer is recommended and really not much more money than you’d pay for the same meal a la carte.  The “Imagineer” moniker is a little misleading, as it probably isn’t going to be a major player in the Walt Disney Company.  It could be an accountant or librarian, for example.  But rest assured these people are well vetted and I’ve never heard of anyone that came away disappointed.  Certainly an interesting meal and certainly not a bad value if you’re considering dining here or at Brown Derby.

Flying via parachutes connected to the ceiling.

The mural.

Which may or may not be offensive.

One more.

The “whimsically backlit Ferris wheel.”

Okay, we’ve seen it.

The dinner menu.  A larger image is linked below:

The item in the upper right hand corner is the:

“Crispy Maine Coast Jonah Crab Cake”
Savory Vegetable Slaw, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis,
and Ancho Chile Rémoulade 16.00

Bigger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports4/flyingfish.jpg.

Dessert.

What to expect from the Kids Menu.

Cheese:


Drinks and wine, some better than others.  Sorry:







I’m interested in the wine list not because I have any interest in paying 1.5x the cost of the bottle at the restaurant, but because I look out for them at the area Total Wine store.  If they’re good enough for a signature restaurant, they’re good enough for an afternoon on the balcony!  The upcharges here are pretty hefty.  I bought a bottle of the Coppola Claret for $18 at Publix last week ($49 here).  It’s $14.97 at Total Wine right now.  I’ve purchased the Domaine Serene Evanstad Reserve, which runs $49.99 at Total Wine ($110 at Flying Fish).  Beringer Knights Valley runs $25 – $30 ($67 at Flying Fish).  Anyway, that’s the reality of the “high end restaurant.”

Onto the food.  I’ll try to make this as unpunchable as possible.  Whenever I see people gushing about their high end meals on Twitter/The Internet, I make a fist and dream of punching them.  I don’t know if this is just because I’m otherwise a violent person.  This had me shaking my fist for three days.

In the name of research, I went ahead and ordered the prix fixe menu.  Want to punch me yet?  Just wait.

Although it says “flight” on the menu, I guess I was expecting more of a “pairing.”  These three wines don’t necessarily go with the items on the prix fixe menu.  It’s just the most expensive flight.

I’ve been trying to “get into” wine, but haven’t had much success.  Next time we’ll review some mixed drinks instead as my opinion of the wine is meaningless.  They all tasted like wine, I can assure you of that.

Complimentary bread service consisting of soft butter and sourdough-ish bread.  The butter wasn’t quite as interesting as the salted version at California Grill, but still very good.  Hard to go wrong with fresh bread and butter.  BUT!!!!!!!  Disney can and does screw it up, so we’ll give Flying Fish credit where it’s due.  And thanks for not serving wheat.

First up is the Duo of “Crispy Maine Coast Jonah Crab Cake” and “Our Very Own Caesar Salad.”

This is one of the best things I’ve ever had in my life.  Absolutely divine.  Creamy.  Crab-y (in a good way).  Crispy.  The roulade,  Oh my gosh.  I don’t have the vocabulary.  I inquired as to the size of this crab cake compared to the usual appetizer size portion and was told this one was a little larger than half of what you’d receive if you purchased the $16 version.  The Caesar Salad was fine and the addition of the cheddar (insert fancy name for cracker) was a nice addition.  Compared to the other appetizers, it was entirely forgettable.  But I’m not sure how a Caesar Salad could really be wow-y.  Certainly good.  Fresh.  But there are certainly more interesting items.

I was again dining avec my girl zzgator.  You may remember her as my partner in crime at the California Grill.  She ordered the:

Chardonnay-steamed Maine Acadian Farms Dutch Mussels -Fennel, Chiles, Pesto Crèma and Ciabatta Crostini – 18.00.

Mussels are a favorite of mine because they ordinarily come with so many and there’s no way I could prepare this at home.  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but there must have been more than 30 mussels here.  The bread seemed to be dry on its own, but was amazing dipped into the accompanying pesto sauce.  Recommended, though a bit messy.

Onto the entree.  Have that fist made yet?  A duo of the:

Signature Flying Fish Café “Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak”
Pan-roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Haricot Vert, Young Carrots, and Bermuda Onions with Classic Sauce Foyot – Ordinarily $42 for the full portion.

I can’t imagine the steak portion being much larger.  The whole “charred crust” thing doesn’t normally appeal to me.  And while it had that char-y taste when eaten sans sauce, it was perfect dipped in the foyot (bernaise).  Not as tender as the Filet over at California Grill, but there is more of it and it was almost as tender.  Very enjoyable.  The potatoes and vegetables underneath didn’t seem to be too special.  Since I’m a peasant in real life, I prefer mashed =X

And the:

Signature Flying Fish Café “Potato-wrapped Red Snapper”
Leek Fondue with a Veal Glaze and Red Wine and Cassis Butter Reduction – Ordinarily $36 for the full portion.

I must be in the (vocal) minority on the Snapper.  It really didn’t do much for me and I was happy I didn’t commit to the full size version, which was the original plan.  Everyone raves about it.  The fish was indeed moist and had that *shudder* melt in your mouth texture, but something about the potato wrapper seemed to have a “harsh” flavor, like it had been potentially overcooked.  I’m not sure what it was, but both zz and I agreed that the small-ish portion was enough of that.  Please tell me I’m wrong in the comments section!  You know I love that!

zzgatez (as she doesn’t like to be called) opted for the Chef’s Special Thunder Entrée: Oak-grilled Herb-roasted Swordfish and Local Port Canaveral Rock Shrimp Scampi – Wilted Greens, and a Fricassee of Roasted Thunder Vegetables, with a Nicoise Olive, Caper, and Meyer Lemon Meuniere – $37.  Don’t count on this being on the menu past something like August, but it will be replaced with something that is just as good I’m sure.  It’s difficult to pass up anything called a “Thunder Entree.”

B-Roll Footage.  I managed to snag a bite or two of the good stuff.  Luckily I missed the “Wilted greens.”  Obviously overcooking is the problem with fish and a restaurant like Flying Fish has cooking times down to a science (as long as it’s not Snapper?).  The swordfish was moist, flavorful, tender.  The dozen-or-so rock shrimp were also a nice addition as were the crispy pea pods and other assorted vegetables.  Even at the $37 price point, we felt it was a good value and a unique interpretation.

Ariel (get it) view before we move to dessert.

For Dessert, the:

Signature Flying Fish Café “Caramelized Banana Napoleon” – Crisp Phyllo, Banana Mousse, Crème Caramel, Exotic Fruit Coulis, and Bitter Chocolate – 8.00

While I went ahead with the Napoleon, I could have substituted something else if I had the desire, since it’s the full portion and other dessert prices are within a dollar.

People often tell you Napoleon was on the short side, but he was actually 5’7″ tall.  That and the fact that the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims actually wore all sorts of zany colors are two of the reasons why I wish I never went to college.  The things you learn can truly destroy a sound mind.  Back to the dessert, I’m certain that it was on point.

But I was still wearing my rage face from the thought of, “having to share food at Carthay Circle Restaurant because you had lunch at Club 33 a few hours earlier,” that I just Hulk Smashed it.  Actually, this is the reality of the first bite.  The server told an amusing story of how he asked the pastry chef to split one once and the pastry chef gave him that, “Are you serious?” look.  It ain’t happenin’.  This doesn’t have a ton of flavor.  I feel like it would have been better with a more sizable dribble of chocolate, but that probably wouldn’t be much of a traditional interpretation.  My McDonalds palette just wants you to punch me in the face with a sugar fist and this really wasn’t that.  If you like Napoleons, I’m sure that this one is very good.  For me, I would have preferred something with a little more oomph

zz opted for the “Chef’s No Sugar Added Specialty”-  Walnut-crusted Citrus-laced Cheesecake with fresh Whipped Cream, crisp Sesame Tuile, and a local Citrus Supreme Compote – 8.00.

zz, no sugar added!  Can we still be friends!  I feel like I need a sugar drip.  I copped a bite of this and it was very citrus-y.  Very citrus-y.  Lighter than what I usually associate with cheesecake, which was nice after such a large meal.  It was much more refreshing than my Napoleon, but it really could have used some sugar.

Since the per-ounce price is cheaper, zz and I shared the two-ounce pour of the Louis XIII.  Just kidding.  I hope you don’t require a new computer monitor now.  You’d probably never know that I was really kidding!

This is the view from our table of the BoardWalk outside.  In some ways, it was actually more fun to watch the people walk by than it was to look down at (the parking lot leading to the) Magic Kingdom at the California Grill.  I told you this website was creepy.

Otherwise, the ambiance inside the restaurant was very pleasant.  Dare I say, whimsical.  This is a little more serious and out of the way than the California Grill, so you ordinarily see fewer children.  It wasn’t at all busy, considering our reservation was at 8:40pm on a Saturday.  Maybe half full at best.

People often wonder about the dress code and what other people are wearing.  Like all signature restaurants, the policy is:

Dress Code Guidelines:
Men: Khakis, slacks, jeans, dress shorts, collared shirts.  Sport coats are optional.
Ladies: Capris, skirts, dresses, jeans, dress shorts.

Not permitted in dining room: Tank tops, swimwear, hats for gentleman, cut offs, or torn clothing. While T-shirts are now allowed, the policy remains that T-shirts with offensive language or graphics are not acceptable.

But also like all signature restaurants, reality runs the gamut.  We saw everything from people in suits and cocktail dresses to the guy eating behind us, who was in a graphic t-shirt and floral-print shorts.  Unless you really look terrible and break one (and probably more) of the “not permitted” rules, you’re not going to be turned away.  Personally, I like to dress it up as much as possible, which for me really just means changing into a button down shirt.  Florida is so hot that it’s virtually impossible for me to step out in slacks and a tie.  You may have more luck with that.  You don’t necessarily have to fret about looking as nice at a Walt Disney World restaurant as you would at a comparable restaurant back home.  Or should I say, you won’t stand out as much at a nice Disney World restaurant as you would at home in similarly sketchy clothes.

Service was excellent.  And not in that creepy, “we have eyes on you…always” way over at Tutto Italia.  Tim took great care of us.  Really couldn’t have asked for anything else.  He seemed to be the kind of guy that could take everything very seriously if that’s what the guests wanted or could have a little more fun with it, which is what I prefer.  Poor service at any of Disney’s signature restaurants would be uncommon at best, though reports do occasionally surface.

Comparing Flying Fish to California Grill, I felt like there was more attention paid to the food here.  Flying Fish can’t rely on its location like the California can and ingredients, presentation, and attention to detail seemed to be higher.  That’s not to say the California was bad by any means, but the food there wasn’t quite on the same level.  But then the sushi was amazing and the Filet was also excellent.  There’s a reason choosing between signature restaurants is tough.  The good news is that it’s tough to go wrong.  And if you do somehow go wrong, it’s just as likely to happen at any of them.  Does that instill confidence?  I’d certainly return to either.  Probably the California Grill before Flying Fish for the sushi and a more diverse menu.  Since a rehash of the prix fixe menu wouldn’t be particularly bloggable, we’d have to order different entrees.  And the others don’t sound particularly appealing.

If you have your eye on Flying Fish, I have good news for you.  You’re in for a treat.

Comments

  1. keri says

    I want to go there so bad now except that I don’t eat anything seafoody (except Asian Seaweed Salad) :( :( :( Your review makes it look really good, and worth trying the next time I’m staying on site, if I can get a special menu.

    BUT OH EM GEE. “Dine with an Imagineer” means I might be able to eat dinner with an actual WDW Librarian?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    i may have just spilled my drink in excitement. i want to be an archivist down at WDW sooooo bad i even started to go to grad school for the opportunity (but then grad school kicked my butt with being really difficult to do online, because i grew up using the internet to goof off and haven’t been able to switch modes and use it for work/school)

    I need to look into this and find out if it’s possible to request certain types of Imagineers… I’ve been hoping to meet someone, but so far the only contacts I’ve managed are the ones that go on stage and have direct interaction with guests, or else they work for the ESPN branch of the company.

  2. RebeccaMcK says

    Hubby would probably get the steak but he doesn’t like “charred” things and hates to have to dip it into any sauce. I’m glad the crab cake was good, since that’s most likely what I would get (I love most crab cakes). Thanks for posting pics of this place because I’d always heard about it but have never seen pics of it before now.

  3. BrandyBo says

    Upcharge on the wines gets even worse than what you found with your wines. I can get my favorite La Crema Pinot Noir at Total Wine for $18. It’s $67 there at Flying Fish! That would be an upcharge of 372.222222222%! That thought just made me punch Disney a little :)

  4. Sean says

    I expect any reputable restuarant to have a good beer selection. This is a very poor beer selection. I would go to Yachtsman for the Dogfish Head alone.

  5. Britkate says

    Food looks lovely but carpet looks like a 1960s bingo hall. Just why? And I still don’t know what a sport coat is.

  6. Janice says

    If you ask about vegetarian choices they do offer a ‘bento box’ style meal with a little bit of all the veggie things on offer. Delicious!

    Hated the cherry limeade popsicle though

    Try the Sauvignon Blanc wine flight including Cloudy Bay – just awsome!

  7. cupcake says

    “Napoleon wasn’t on the short side, he was 5’7″!” may be the best joke this entire whimsical review! 😀

    Flying Fish looks amazing, but I have such simple taste-buds I honestly think the decor is more enticing to me than the food. I think I’m going to make an ADR for our BC stay in September. If we don’t go then, I doubt we ever will. I have an issue with driving to the Epcot resorts…the layout and the parking lots confuses me, and they seem a lot stricter at the gates about parking than even the Contemporary.

    And good luck with the getting into wine thing, Josh! I tried for five years but still couldn’t tolerate anything that wasn’t as sweet as a moscato or rosa regale. I’d rather have five shots of Bacardi 151 than a 4 oz glass of merlot.

  8. Websteroni says

    FF is one of my favorite restaurants at Disney!! I’ve been many,many times and have always been very pleased with both the food and service. Thanks for the review and for finally posting it! Worth the wait!

  9. Tricia says

    The mussels in the pesto cream broth are fabulous!!! I also love the charred steak. Can’t wait to go back in October!

  10. Betty says

    For the prices they charge at a “signature” restaurant, I would think they could invest a bit more for tables. The tables look like they belong at 24 hour pancake house.

  11. Gorsh says

    Wrong, wrong, wrong!!! My mouth waters at just the thought of the red snapper! I agree with your thoughts on the crab cake…we’ve ordered crab cakes at various WDW restaurants (OK, now I am punchable!) and the crab cake from Flying Fish tastes like something you would get in Maryland. I also agree that it is very difficult to compare FF and Cali Grill. The menus are very different as is the atmosphere. We enjoyed both restaurants tremendously, but for different reasons; you really can’t go wrong with either!

  12. Ayla says

    I’ve been to Flying Fish and thought the whole thing was “meh”. The food wasn’t that good, the decor was garishly horrifying and the best way to describe the service was “hovering”. Every time we took a drink of water, our glass was refilled. Leave us the #$*! alone already!

    So no, we didn’t enjoy Flying Fish. But others do, since it’s busy all the time.

    Glad you had a good experience there, Josh. We won’t be back to that particular restaurant. We enjoyed Kouzzina a lot better.

  13. tanya says

    Thanks for the review! And hey, don’t force yourself into a wine person, Josh. It’s not for everyone. It’s certainly not for me. Stick with what you know – beer and bourbon. Not necessarily together though….

  14. RebeccaMcK says

    @Britkate
    A sportscoat here mostly means a suit-type jacket for men, not necessarily matching whatever pants and shirt they’re wearing (some wear it with a button-down shirt or a polo with jeans even)….just something suit-like to make him appear somewhat formal/dressy. With or without a tie. Many sportscoats I see are tweed or some other material/pattern, or it could be pretty plain.

  15. RebeccaMcK says

    I’m not a wine person either. Can’t stand red wine. I can stand a rose, but my favorite has always been white zinfandel (Beringer being the best) – and once I discovered muscato (I love fruity sparkling wines but hate champagne) I went away from white zin altogether. I don’t think anywhere at Disney (sit-down restaurants) have any wine I like, lol.

  16. Miami says

    Publix and Total Wine price comparisons! I love you man!!!

    I will drink tonight in honor of all the folks having their vacations ruined by Debby.

  17. Dan Young says

    I so enjoy your fine dining reviews. It’s great to find another person like me with a McDonald’s palate who enjoys some seriously high-brow food. Since I’ve said for years that the California Grill is my favorite restaurant on the planet, comparing the Flying Fish to CG is high praise indeed. I may need to try it some day, although as you said it’s really hard to beat the fine sushi and that tamarind bbq marinated filet at the CG!

  18. Ondina says

    Flying Fish is one of my fave restaurants and I’m excited to go back this August (haven’t been to WDW since 2004.) Did you feel the prix fixe was worth it? We are not on the dining plan (paying OOP) and it looks like a real value. Also, do you think it would be worthwhile to request a window table? TIA!

  19. josh says

    It isn’t that I don’t like wine, it’s just that I can’t pick out the flavors/whatevers that would make a bottle of wine $50 instead of $5. In the grand scheme of things that isn’t such a bad thing since I’m just as happy with a $5 bottle, but it would be nice to be able to differentiate flavors if pressured.

    I felt like the prix fixe menu was a good value. If you ordered the Crab Cake, Steak, and Napoleon, the price comes out to $66. With the Snapper, it’s $60. Whether you decide to go appetizer, entree, dessert or the prix fixe you’re going to come out very full and very satisfied. If you’re looking for a variety of their signature items, the prix fixe is the way to go. It was nice to be able to try both their signature entrees along with the crab cake and Napoleon.

  20. Mark says

    Speaking of punchable, I wonder why all the high end restaurants now serve ‘haricot vert’, but none of them serve ‘carottes’. They’re green beans, people. Get over yourselves.

  21. Psac says

    I can’t wait for my FF dinner on Wednesday for my 40th Birthday. Great place, the steak is one of the best in WDW. Maybe the smaller portion doesn’t cook as well as the full-sized. We’re also not fans of the potato-wrapped snapped, other options are much better.

  22. Jeff W says

    We had an incredible (punchable) meal there last October. Our server was fantastic, and the food was outstanding. I agree with Josh that the Napoleon isn’t overly flavorful, but that’s the point, I think. The banana was the most flavorful portion of that desert. I had the Surf & Surf, my wife had the steak, and we both had completely empty plates at the end.

    Like Josh said, you can’t go wrong with most Signatures (I still think Brown Derby is a bit over-hyped, but that’s just my opinion). We’ve got California Grill ADR for Sept, so it will be interesting to see if we come to the same conclusions as our whimsical celebrity blogger did 😉

  23. Mike D says

    Cali Grill for July 12 (birthday & fireworks) and Chef’s counter at FF for July 15, we can’t wait. Your reviews of both were extremly helpful as always!
    Mike

  24. Phyllis C says

    Have to disagree with you there, Mark. Haricot verts are the thin, oh-so-tender cousins of your regular, ol’ green beans (or string beans, as we yanks call them). They are so much more delicious and less stringy…YUM.

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