See this post for a full review of Tiffins, including pictures and thoughts on every appetizer, all-but-one entree, every dessert, and every drink.
Nomad Lounge and Tiffins signature restaurant officially open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom today, Friday May 27th. The website received an Owl stating that both would “soft open” around 11:30am on the 26th and I headed out to investigate.
Nomad Lounge is attached to Tiffins which is in turn attached to Pizzafari. Tiffins’ check-in area is separated from Pizzafari by two large wooden doors that are located straight back from the entrance should you wish to enter through the quick service pizzeria instead of the restaurant around the corner.
This walkway currently receives little foot traffic as a wall blocks the walkway that will eventually be one of the main thoroughfares into Pandora – The World of Avatar.
So few people head over here naturally that Disney has cast members stationed with signs that say “Now serving lunch/dinner” along the Discovery Island walkway.
Avatar Land mountains towering high over new signage.
Nomad Lounge is the waterside bar that takes walk-ups rather than reservations.
Comfortable sofas and plush chairs line the porch outside.
For the next 12 to 18 months, outdoor seating is perhaps marred a bit by the sounds of construction and tarps that hide scaffolding.
Those invasive sounds can be tempered a bit by sitting as far away from the construction walls in one of the tables not pictured here.
The outdoor space is otherwise a gorgeous area and I love the plush, comfy couch seating that’s perfect for lounging with a drink in the middle of the afternoon.
But it gets better perhaps as you head inside the lounge which has an expansive bar area with a variety of seating types.
Single diners in particular may enjoy bellying up to the bar, which serves its own menu of small plates, in addition to the full Tiffins menu.
More plush seating in a variety of configurations lines the exterior of the bar area.
A larger table sits in the center.
It’s an incredibly immersive environment.
Within thirty seconds of sitting down I had forgotten that I was in a theme park at all.
The Lounge’s small plate menu:
Whenever Disney opens a new restaurant, I think we all kind of brace ourselves for the pricing. Me perhaps more than you because I know I’m ordering one of everything regardless. But there was nothing shocking about these prices – $10 for chicken wings or pork ribs or $7 for the vegetarian summer roll seems perfectly reasonable. I’m not sure if “wagyu” has any meaning anymore, but if we are talking about real quality Japanese beef then $21 certainly isn’t out of order either. The last time I was at Victoria & Albert’s, there was a $115 upcharge for their Miyazaki Japanese Beef on top of the $185 7-course menu. Obviously that is not what we are talking about here at Nomad, but this sort of thing can get expensive fast. In case you are already tired of reading before I get into the drink menu, I would say that I found the portion sizes on each appetizer to be disappointingly small even for the money.
Much like Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Disney Springs and Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian, Nomad offers a colorful menu broken down by region:
You’ll have to reference the back page for pricing, but at least it’s present unlike Trader Sam’s. Fortunately, all drinks fall in the $8-$13 range, unlike Jock’s which slips in the occasional $21 cocktail.
Above is Jock’s current menu with the prices listed next to each drink. It originally opened with pricing only listed at the end. Nomad may move to that same model if enough people are annoyed with having to flip back and forth looking for their drink on the price list.
While the menu errs towards the light and refreshing, the bar is stocked with an assortment of middle- and higher-tier bottles – Blanton’s, Johnnie Blue, Macallan 18, Highland Park 18, Bushmills 16, Hayman’s, Don Julio 1942, Grey Goose, etc. are all available straight or as part of a cocktail. Disney does actually show some restraint on drink prices with those offered here in the $10-$13 range compared to the $14 a pop you’d pay at STK or Morimoto for what is arguably a lower quality cocktail.
We’ll run down the food menu starting with the Vegetarian Summer Roll with Ponzu – $7. This was a nicely put together roll cut in half and filled with crunchy vermicelli rice noodles, carrot, red pepper, cucumber, butter lettuce, and perhaps other vegetables rolled up in a rice paper wrapper. It had a nice, fresh, refreshing flavor by itself that was further enhanced by the tart, citrus-based ponzu sauce that had a nice salty component from the soy.
They reminded me a bit of these rolls that used to be offered for $2 a piece back when there was a kiosk called Bradley Falls a couple of years ago. On the value front, it’s difficult to wholeheartedly recommend a single roll for $7 – I would have rather paid $9 or $10 and received two. But the value is not going to increase as we move through these selections and vegetarians will appreciate that their choice is one of the better tasting and less expensive options..
$10 buys you these Indian Butter Chicken Wings with Pickled Vegetables and a somewhat inexplicable cup of what our server described as an “adult rice krispy treat.” Again, I found the portion disappointing. Granted, “SMALL” is literally underlined at the top of the menu, but you can’t even really share three wings among four people unless you want to get particularly friendly.
Last year, I ordered wings at Territory Lounge at the Wilderness Lodge and received 12 meaty pieces that were among the best I had ever eaten for $9.
And while the wings have changed over to a Miso-Soy Glaze with a price increase of $5 to $14, you still receive a pile.
The three offered here were a lot better than your run-of-the-mill frozen wings you might defrost and bake in the oven with tender chicken slathered in a sauce that I thought tasted more tamarind-based than anything, but it was probably more like a garam masala with cumin, cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns, etc. The butter makes for a thicker glaze than it would be if you were to just dunk them in Sanaa’s Butter Chicken Sauce. Overall, it’s again difficult to recommend this portion for this price. The bowl of rice krispy whatevers didn’t have any flavor.
$8 buys you the Seasonal Fish Balls with Shishito Peppers, which arrives with two of each alongside a cup of the same ponzu that arrived with the Summer Rolls. I will confide in you that I don’t have a lot of experience with balls, in season or not, but these were surprisingly satisfying with a crunchy exterior that gives way to a creamy, mildly fishy interior. The rich flavor contrasts nicely with the salty ponzu if you want to go in that direction, but I preferred the flavor of the balls themselves. The peppers are tender and have a mild, mellow flavor to them that’s enhanced by some salt and pepper. You know you’re at a trendy bar if a basket of these is offered alongside $23 cocktails and it would have been neat if Disney had offered a bowl of peppers as a popcorn-like snack to go along with some of the sweeter cocktails. Overall, this is the most unique dish offered outside of the head cheese (shudder) and may be worth trying if you have interest.
That brings us to the day’s most disappointing dish in the $21 Seared Wagyu Beef with Ponzu and Chili Salt. Up until now, we’ve been paying $2-3 per bite and this raises the ante considerably to $7 per bite. At that price, I think you could expect tender, well-marbled, melt-in-your-mouth beef with a unique flavor. But the beef was tougher than the Skirt Steak I had ordered at STK the night before and was almost completely devoid of flavor to the point where I’m not sure I would have even identified it as beef if I hadn’t received the bill stating it so.
Maybe if we tilt it…yeah….no…You might have better luck, but if you’re charging $20+ a plate for three bites, you probably want to be pretty sure that what you’re serving is in the vicinity of excellent and this was anything but. Would not recommend until reports come in that quality has improved.
The $10 Honey-glazed Coriander-spiced Pork Ribs on the other hand did impress and compare favorably to what Morimoto Asia is serving over in Disney Springs. I think I actually preferred the flavor here, which is equal parts sweet, salty, and savory with a lot of meat on each side of the bone.
Our server recommended squeezing the lime over the ribs, which was a good tip and added a layer of citrus-acidity that contrasted well with the honey and coriander.
Morimoto’s pork is more tender, but I’m not crazy about the overwhelmingly sweet glaze. The 3 for $10 portion there is plenty, while I could easily go to town on Nomad’s ribs into the late night.
Nomad Lounge offers an unadvertised $10 Bread Service, which your server will tell you about shortly after you’re seated. It arrives in a darling enclosed tiffin container, which your server will then dismantle and set up for you.
While it might look like the tiffin is packed with bread, that is not exactly the case as you can almost see the entire portion spilling out of the top layer. Each of the three of us got a small piece of pita and one more small section of something else and that was it. On the plus side, the breads are unique and the dipping sauces flavorful – particularly the yogurt harissa sauce. But again, this is $3 less expensive than what Sanaa charges, where you’d receive four times as much bread and three times the number of accompaniments. I would have preferred a slightly higher price point and a larger portion.
You’re on your own with the cheese and liver.
Nomad Lounge offers one dessert in the Taste of Tiffins – Bold Dark Chocolate with Passion Fruit Curd, Egyptian Sea Salt, Sri Lankan Chantilly, and Hibiscus Meringue.
Like the other appetizers, it wasn’t particularly shareable, which is what I found most disappointing about the experience. If you order the wings, ribs, summer roll, beef, and fish balls like we did, you’d spend $56 and come away with three wings, three ribs, two summer roll pieces, three bites of beef, and two fish balls, for a total of 13 things. To split that among four people means each person might get one wing, one fish ball, and one rib for a little more than $17 with tax and tip.
The dessert sampler is only mildly shareable as well. That little pink dollop on top is not exactly a garnish – it’s one of the four desserts in the Hibiscus Meringue. With that said, the cookie-bar-style chocolate did indeed have a pronounced, bold flavor that was enhanced by the variety of fruity flavors on top.
One thing I found amusing about the dessert was their canteen of lime juice, mint, and blueberries that they seemed particularly proud to show off. Our server poured some in the dish around the dessert for the sake of “aromatherapy” or some such. But unlike the fish balls, which got all up in my face, it isn’t like you’re going to bend over and sniff the bowl in between bites, so I didn’t really understand the purpose. It does probably provide some insight into what it would be like to go over to Joe Rohde’s house though.
On the food front, you may want to lower expectations on the portion sizes, though that could certainly change in the future. Just because they serve three wings for ten dollars today doesn’t mean that will always be the case. At some point, those three wings will be $12 (hehehehe). I think you’re probably going to want each small plate to yourself rather than trying to order one of each with plans to divvy up the portions appropriately. With four people, the only way for everyone to have a bite of everything would be to cut meat off the bone or just take a bite off a rib and pass left.
We had better luck with the drinks, including the $8.75 Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale Draft. I will have to inquire as to who brews it, but I thought it had a light winter warmer vibe with a complex, earthy maltiness to it. I would order another without hesitation.
The $9.50 Night Monkey with Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro Rum, Guava Purée, Mint, Coffee Simple Syrup, and Lime Juice with a hint of Cilantro is a sweet, fruity, smooth, mildly spicy cocktail that’s perfect for someone that wants a balanced cocktail without all of the fruit juice and ice. Very good and priced low enough that a second is going to be an easy decision.
The $12.75 Tempting Tigress – Russell’s Reserve 10-year Bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Tamarind Syrup, and Lime Juice is one of the more expensive cocktails on the menu, but it arrives with a healthy pour of Wild Turkey Russel’s Reserve in addition to the St. Elizabeth, which is a rum-based liqueur with flavors of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The drink is then sweetened up a bit with the tamarind syrup with the lime offering a burst of tart citrus. It was my favorite of the cocktails and a nice big drink for the money. Very good.
The $10.75 Boto-Rita – Zignum Reposado Mezcal, Combier Grapefruit Liqueur, Guava Purée, and Lime Juice is a nicely balanced, tart drink with hints of sweetness from the guava. Another winner that’s surprisingly refreshing given the flavor profile.
The $12 Snow Leopard Salvation – Snow Leopard Vodka, Belle de Brillet Pear Liqueur, Mint, and Lime Juice topped with Ginger Beer was probably the most refreshing drink of the bunch with almost all of the flavor from the alcohol masked by the mint and ginger beer. If you enjoy those two flavors then you’ll enjoy this one a lot.
The Leaping Lizard – Malibu Pineapple Rum and Augusta Cachaça with Orange, Passion Fruit, and Mango Juices is perhaps the most precious of the drinks with the lizard face made out of fruit on top. This one was a little thicker than I like with all of the juices, but it’s basically a shot of rum mixed in with Disney’s popular POG/Jungle Juice. Only more viscous.
end my suffering
The $10.25 Jenn’s Tattoo – Ketel One Vodka, Watermelon, Hibiscus, and Lime Juice is one of the more straightforward cocktails – sweet and refreshing.
The $10.75 Lamu Libation – Starr African Rum, Cruzan Banana Rum, Guava Purée, with Orange, Lime, and Pineapple Juices topped with Gosling’s 151 Rum with a sip missing is another of the thicker, juice-based cocktails. The juices do a nice job of masking the alcohol, which is still present with the float of 151-proof rum on top.
Our server was also quick to point out that their water is triple-distilled and didn’t taste anything like what comes out of the tap at All-Star Sports, which was a nice bonus.
So 64 pictures and 2,500 words later, what’s the early verdict on Nomad Lounge? Beautiful space. Very comfortable. Probably relaxing during the afternoon when it’s less crowded. Gorgeous patio seating once construction concludes in 201?. Nice spot for a drink, alcoholic or otherwise. There is potentially a bit of value in nibbling on one of the small plates, but portions are currently so meager that it would cost more to fill up here than it would to order an entree next door at Tiffins (probably). I look forward to returning for a drink and a bite to eat, but would probably order a drink, then put in the food order, and then order a second drink to go with the couple bites of food. They certainly have the underpinnings of a successful location here.
Tiffins, the signature restaurant next door, is perhaps even more aesthetically impressive. I am headed there for dinner tonight but here is a preview of what’s in store:
Updates on The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic, Tiffins, Nighttime Safari, and other enhancements incoming.