Whenever my lovely girlfriend Erin visits, we have a list of things that we want to see and do around property. Back in December, scallops were on the list. And for a variety of reasons, like California Grill brunch getting in the way, it didn’t happen. So for Valentine’s Day, I set out to get this girl some marine bivalve mollusks.
Flying Fish Cafe, as it was previously known, closed at the end of January of last year for a lengthy refurbishment, ultimately reopening in August. Upon considering the restaurant one last time in this review, I said, “Flying Fish has never generated much buzz as a signature restaurant, despite Executive Chef Tim Keating and his team executing what is probably Walt Disney World’s most consistently stellar, ever-changing menu.”
Disney used this concept art and promised that diners would be “welcomed to a sophisticated interior that still pays homage to the golden era of seaside boardwalks.”
After seeing what Universal released as the final Volcano Bay concept art, I’ve been a little skeptical about artist renderings. You never know when there’s actually going to be a freeway running through something. But Disney’s representation mirrors reality quite well, though the Parks Blog did originally swear up and down that the potato-wrapped snapper would remain on the menu. (It didn’t.)
I love the playful chandeliers that look like a school of fish are swimming among bubbles. All of the whites and blues continue the theme of the ocean. It’s prettier than it looks in this smartphone picture. I’ll miss the whimsical 90’s vibe of the Cafe, but I think the elegant atmosphere is an improvement at a signature restaurant of this caliber. The linen tablecloths and stone tables are a nice touch.
The onstage kitchen remains out of frame on the left with a sizable bar for whoever elects to walk up and sit down. I’ve dined there in the past and it’s always been a pleasant experience with friendly, knowledgeable bartenders.
While our meal was from back in February, the menu that’s current as of the first week of April is below. It’s also more up to date than Disney’s own site, which you can pull up here:
Even for a Disney signature, pricing is on the high side with only the salmon coming in under $40. There is a separate vegetarian menu, but pricing is pretty absurd, including a dish with four small pieces of fried feta cheese as the main component of the entree for $32.
Before closing, the average entree price was $39 with the Potato-wrapped Red Snapper and Char-crusted New York Angus Strip Steak Duo being a popular menu item. Now, the average menu price is $51.56 or an increase of 32.2%. Even after eliminating the $79 sea snail and prawn entree, the average is still $48.13. So be prepared for that.
We started with the $15 “Yellowfin Tuna – Compressed Watermelon, Citrus Espelette, Black Cyprus Sea Salt, and Avocado.” The same tuna is now served with “Crispy Noodles, Black Cyprus Sea Salt, Citrus Gels, and Avocado” for $17. This offered a medley of textures and flavors that all came together wonderfully. The tuna was firm, yet tender with a really pretty, deep magenta color to it and a thin seared crust that was spiced really nicely with the mixture of pepper and lime in the Tahitian oil. Underneath the tuna is the compressed watermelon, which creates a really concentrated, yet refreshing burst of flavor inside of its crisp pink exterior. A couple of slices of crunchy pickled daikon radish are underneath the thin creamy slices of avocado. And all of that is surrounded by blood orange oil with an even bigger kick of citrus. It was a fantastic, filling dish that blew me away on quality and flavor. One of the best appetizers I’ve enjoyed on property.
I’ve always been impressed by Flying Fish’s drink lineup that’s packed with unique cocktails. None of the other Disney-operated restaurants in the area do anything close to this, including Yachtsman, which just serves the standard lounge menu.
Erin ordered the $11.50 “Pink Grapefruit & Lychee Martini – Grey Goose Vodka, Lychee Reduction, Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, Lychee Sorbet.” The lychee reduction basically makes the sweet fruit flavor all the more intense and it contrasts really nicely with the tart citrus flavors in the grapefruit, which is then mellowed out by the scoop of sorbet. Really well thought out and executed.
Being able to enjoy a meal out of bloggability-mode is a rare luxury for the website and I chose to return to a favorite in the $10.75 “Blood Orange Margarita (I know, I know) with Patrón Silver Tequila, Solerno Liqueur, Blood Orange Juice, fresh Sweetened Lime Juice.” I love the fresh, fruity flavors against the smooth tequila. Always freshly shaken and a real treat.
I’ll level with you. I was prepared to be mad over the “Maine Lobster Nero Pasta – Golden Tomato Sauce, Young Artichokes, Fennel Pollen” given the $64 price point.
But the menu really undersells this thing and I’m not sure the size of the 8-ounce Maine lobster tail is evident from the smartphone picture. I should have brought a banana. But after seeing the bowl presented and taking a bite, I was the exact opposite of mad, which I’m not really sure how to describe. Happy…? It was a very unfamiliar and slightly unsettling experience.
“Pasta Nero” translates to “black pasta,” which is what we obviously see here underneath the lobster. Here, the pasta is roasted much like coffee, giving it a slight bitterness. It’s then cooked to what many of us would consider a bit “less than al dente,” giving it a really nice chewiness against the tender lobster. The beautiful golden tomato sauce was impossibly rich with delicious garlic and olive oil notes that contrasted so elegantly with the sharp pasta. Fennel pollen is almost as trendy as Pasta Nero, which only started making a comeback a couple of years ago. Traditionally, the pasta was black because the owner of the field would burn it after the wheat harvest and poorer people would then head in to try and pick out whatever was salvageable. But the fennel is really intense here, offering an equal amount of citrus and anise that really livens up the flavor of the lobster, which would otherwise rely largely on the sauce for flavor. The artichoke underneath did a nice job of soaking up all of the other flavors, while providing a delicate earthiness by itself. A really fantastic dish and I’m having trouble coming up with any other food item that I’ve enjoyed more on property.
SUCCESS!!!! in every way other than the quality of the picture of the “Plancha-seared Hokkaido Scallops Antebellum Grits, Peppadew Emulsion.” Scallops are a mainstay at Flying Fish and at least historically, my favorite place to order them on property. A scallop-off may be due with so many more choices in Disney Springs. A plancha is a type of thick, flat, cast iron griddle designed for searing smaller foods. The searing method gives the scallops a really crispy crust on the outside, while still imparting the smokiness from the grill. That crispiness contrasts really nicely with the creamy, course grits from Anson Mills in South Carolina. The grits have a really pronounced corn flavor that helps balance out the sweet and spicy flavors from the pepper sauce that surrounds the dish. The flavors are really bold given the delicate nature of scallops, which hold up really nicely given the sear. Excellent.
With so many rich entrees, the dessert menu focuses on lighter, fruitier flavors.
But I love the $10.25 “Peanut Butter Freeze – Kahlúa, Baileys Irish Cream, Crème de Banana, dark Crème de Cacao, Peanut Butter, garnished with Candied Bacon.” It’s so cold and so refreshing and the flavor profile is so addicting with the sweet and salt flavors combining so nicely. Very rich and very shareable.
On food quality and date-night potential, Flying Fish is one of the best choices if you’re looking for a Disney-operated restaurant. I think the new interior elevates the restaurant’s appeal and makes the experience “feel” all the more glamorous. The location is more convenient than you might expect from Epcot or Hollywood Studios. And with a variety of bars and other lounge opportunities, you can really make a fun night out of visiting the Crescent Lake area.
Erin and I will be doing the Highway in the Sky dinner thing, Jiko Wine Tasting, and Grand Floridian tea, among other things, at the end of the month. So there should be some more interesting(?) reviews on the horizon.