We return to Walt Disney World’s highest-rated theme park restaurant to check in on the value of the various Lion King Dining Packages. While this review will focus primarily on the components that make up those two packages, the review remains relevant to anyone considering a meal at Tiffins and particularly for those deciding whether or not the Rivers of Light Dining Package makes economical sense.
Our last visit was back in May for the Tiffins Talk with Executive Designer and Vice President, Creative, Joe Rohde. It was an experience that was even more fascinating than it was delicious and I’ve attempted to pass on a few of the most interesting details in this review. My original review with a number of pictures from around the restaurant is available here. For even more pictures, see this review or this review or this review or this review.
Through November 21st, Disney is offering two “Festival of the Lion King Dining Packages.” Here’s Disney’s take on Tier 1, which is the more expensive option:
The Tier 1 cost is $99 for adults and $49 for kids. Tier 2 runs $74 per adult and $29 per child. There are two main differences – Tier 1 includes absolutely-front-row seats to the show along with the third part of the package, which is the private-ish safari ride through the savanna after the Lion King show with narration that emphasizes some of the backstage elements that aren’t discussed during the regular ride. On a regular safari, you’re not going to hear that the baobab tree that you see about half way through the ride is actually made of concrete for example. Both Tiers include the same meal components – choice of any appetizer, entree, and dessert along with a welcoming glass of sparkling wine upon arrival and then a choice of beer, wine, or non-alcoholic beverage with the meal.
If you’re interested in the Rivers of Light Dining Package, which can be booked online here, your meal includes choice of any appetizer, entree, and dessert along with a non-alcoholic beverage and a seat in the reserved section for the show. The cost of that package is currently $67 for adults and $26 for kids, which is less expensive than either of the Lion King packages, but the wine isn’t included. With interest in Rivers of Light waning more every day, the Dining Package isn’t necessary to see the show, but there can be quite a bit of value in booking it if you’re planning on ordering the more expensive items at the restaurant. As we’ll see momentarily, there’s a $62 Steak & Lobster entree, which is almost equal to the price of the Dining Package before we even start talking about $15+ appetizers, $10+ desserts, and the $5 non-alcoholic specialty beverages. Using the Dining Package also frees up a FastPass+ experience to be used elsewhere.
There’s still a considerable amount of availability for both Tiers of the Lion King Dining Package. You can pull up the Tier 1 calendar here and the Tier 2 calendar here. There’s typically more availability for lunch than dinner. Our reservation was for 12:15pm, which gave us plenty of time to run around the Park experiencing attractions before sitting down to the relaxing lunch. We were then scheduled for the 3pm Lion King show.
In addition to a fantastic signature menu with rotating seasonal flourishes, Tiffins offers one of Disney’s most relaxing, atmospheric restaurants on property.
Eight selections comprise the current list of appetizers.
You can always pull up the current version of the menu here. Since our meal is fixed at $99/adult, it makes some amount of sense to key in on the more expensive options.
Of these, the Charred Octopus is one of my favorites with a wonderful depth of flavor – garlic, paprika, almonds, and pepper that create a sauce that’s so much more than “just spicy.”
This time around, I went with the $14 “Fig and Burrata – Pistachio-Cilantro Chutney, Heirloom Tomatoes, Brioche Toast, Lemon Vincotto, Smoked Olive Oil.”
As is typical of Tiffins, there’s a lot going on here with several layers of flavors and textures, in addition to the thoughtful plating. The soft, fragile figs are intensely sweet, fragrant with a bit of spice on the nose that’s cooled with an accompanying bite of the impossibly-creamy, rich burrata cheese. The Pistachio-Cilantro Chutney carries just a little bit of that spice over to something that resembles a bit of a paste with some earthy tones that cling to the other ingredients. The crispy Brioche Toast was a surprise hit, adding a little bit of a crunchy textural contrast to the softer elements with the acid from the silky Lemon Vincotto helping to cut a little bit of the sugar from the fruit along with a little bit of smoke from the Olive Oil. We’ve also got a couple bites of Heirloom Tomato in there, juicy and fresh with a firmer character than the cheese and fig. Overall, I’d have trouble naming a smarter vegetarian appetizer that I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Truly excellent.
In a cheesy mood, Erin started with the $16 “Selection of Artisanal Cheeses with the Chef’s Selection of Accompaniments.”
The cheeses are relatively standard these days, but the accompaniments are really what elevate it. There’s some fresh, crispy Pâte Sucrée joining the selections along with some marcona almonds and fruity quince paste. The honey that topped the Point Reyes Blue was divine and we enjoyed the truffle goat cheese more than we would have expected, smooth and creamy with a pungent earthy flavor that was cut a bit by the fruity, jelly-like paste and crunchy bread.
The cheese was made all the more delicious with the welcoming glass of sparkling wine. This is about two-thirds of a normal pour of Pascual Toso Brut from Argentina, which is on the menu for $10 a glass.
Somewhat to my surprise, the complimentary focaccia bread served with meals is pretty similar to the original offering, though I found the current version to be far less bitter than the first, particularly after adding some of the sour pomegranate oil and molasses.
Perhaps if it was a more straightforward offering, fewer people would spring for the $11 Bread Service or another appetizer.
Here’s the cocktail menu that Tiffins offers in its three dining rooms.
The full Nomad Lounge drink menu is available, so don’t be shy about ordering another Night Monkey, which is a smooth, sweet and spicy drink with Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro Rum, Guava Purée, Mint, Coffee Simple Syrup, and Lime Juice with a hint of Cilantro. Don’t let its vibrant pink color scare you away.
Here’s your Craft and Draft Beer selections, my favorite of which is the Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale. For a short while, it was exclusive to Tiffins and Nomad Lounge, but you’ll now find it at the Thirsty River Bar next to Expedition Everest and over at Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom as well.
Our Lion King lunch includes a choice of any of those beers and any of the wines from the main menu, which include the above.
A look at the reds.
A few flights. There’s also an extensive reserve list that will be brought to the table.
In my experience, most wine tastes like wine, so I went with the $21 glass of De Toren Z Bordeaux Blend. It’s a $40 bottle, which is higher than the $35 bottle price of the other wine that costs $21 per glass. It tasted like wine.
Erin continued on theme with a $12 glass of the Graham Beck Brut Rose, which is a bottle that you can find in the Animal Kingdom Lodge stores. It’s about what you would expect, crisp and sweet with raspberries and apples.
Here’s the current crop of main courses:
For those paying a fixed price as part of one of the Dining Packages, it’s difficult to look past that $62 Surf and Turf, though the $49 Char-crusted Rib-Eye is also attractive. If you’re paying out of pocket, the Shrimp and Grits is one of the best that I’ve ever had and just about everything else on the menu should impress. That Chicken & Waffle was just added as well.
As if I had a choice, I went with the $62 “Surf and Turf – Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Butter-poached lobster Tail, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Charred Broccolini, Cape Mountain Whisky Butter.”
It was fantastic from top to the bottom. The Lobster Tail must have come in over six ounces, perfectly firm and incredibly tender with a lush butter flavor – probably the best I’ve enjoyed on property, which puts it over The Boathouse, STK, Shula’s, Paddlefish, and more.
The steak might not look like much either, but it was easily around eight ounces, tender, and seasoned nicely with just a little bit of the Bain’s Whiskey Butter to help bring out the natural flavors of the beef. One amusing thing that I noticed is that Tiffins knives are incredibly dull. It was actually a bit of a challenge to cut the steak, which you would think meant that the meat would be tough, but it wasn’t like that at all.
The Yukon Gold Potatoes were whipped to a perfect consistency, buttery and smooth with a comforting flavor while the broccolini was appropriately bitter and cooked to a nice al dente. It wouldn’t be my first choice of vegetable, but its crunchy quality did contrast nicely with everything else on the plate. A home run overall and if you’re on the Rivers of Light Dining Package, it covers 92.5% of the cost in one swoop.
With bloggability always in mind, Erin went with something different in the $49 “Fort McCoy Rib-Eye – Char-crusted Rib-Eye, Loaded Crushed Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon-Sherry Vinaigrette, Crispy Shallots.”
Disney seemed to be going all in on Snake River Farms brand beef, but my last couple of experiences with it here and at Flying Fish left me a bit wanting. I was happy to see things had improved again with the local Fort McCoy Rib Eye, which was thick, tender, and beefy, cooked to a perfect medium-rare with a firm, silky texture. Really delicious.
The classic accompaniments were equally delicious. I also appreciated the fact that neither cut of beef was slathered in sauce as is the case more often than not with Disney’s steaks. Everything about the dish was perfect.
While not included on the Dining Plan or these Dining Packages, I would call your attention to the $11 “Gobi Manchurian – Crispy-fried Cauliflower, Manchurian Sauce, Green Onion.”
It’s also available at Nomad Lounge next door, along with Nomad’s full menu of small plates and any of Tiffins’ appetizers. The addicting cauliflower is deliciously crispy with a sauce that’s much more flavorful than your typical buffalo with ginger, soy, and chili notes. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, it’s surprisingly satisfying. I recommend it to anyone enjoying drinks at Nomad – it’s (arguably) the best thing available there.
All of the Dining Packages continue with a choice of dessert. If you’re really trying to “maximize” your value then you’ll want to note that the $16 Selection of Artisanal Cheeses appears on the dessert menu as well, potentially opening up your appetizer selection depending on your propensity to go cheese towards the end of the meal. Also of some note is the fact that the $18 Remy Martin VSOP is an eligible choice on the Disney Dining Plan under cognac.
While a number of other, less expensive options are not eligible. The Crown Royal Special Reserve isn’t eligible at $16 while the Crown Royal XO at $16.25 is eligible. I suppose that Disney is trying to make a variety of options available on the Dining Plan, but it seems like if one $16 selection is eligible then another selection at the same or lower price point should also be made available.
My favorite of the desserts is the $13 Tiffins Trio, which is now served in this precious tiffin-esque stack with South African Chocolate Ganache, Whipped Cheesecake, and Passion Fruit Tapioca Creme.
The “Chocolate Ganache with Caramelized Banana and Cocoa Nib Tuile” carries a very bold, very rich chocolate flavor and the crispy little chocolate pieces are fun with the little bite of banana helping to offset some of the richness.
The “Whipped Cheesecake – Amarula Panna Cotta, Sesame Crumbs, Espresso Sponge” was sweet and surprisingly light with a lot of fruity flavors. Also very good and last time around, we deemed it our favorite.
This time around, we preferred the “Passion Fruit Tapioca Créme with Chocolate Crumble Citrus Fruits,” which wasn’t offered with the previous trio. It’s also light and fruity with layers of different flavors and textures.
I tried the $9 “Halo-Halo – Sweet Potato Ice cream, Jack Fruit, Raspberry-ginger beer Sorbet, Condensed Milk Ice cream, Coconut Crumble, Lime Pate de Fruit,” which arrived with three very small scoops of frozen treats with a variety of accompaniments.
Each of the flavors were intensely compact and the trio ended up being a refreshingly satisfying, light way to end a big meal.
Coffee is available
Along with tea.
As always, service was friendly, professional, and knowledgeable. Our server seemed to know just about everything about every item that the restaurant had ever served, noting differences and nuances since our last visit along with what was worth revisiting and when we might like to try something new.
Here’s what I received as part of the Dining Package:
- Pascual Toso Sparkling Wine – $7
- De Toren Z Bordeaux Blend – $21
- Fig and Burrata – $14
- Steak and Lobster $62
- Halo-Halo – $9
That comes out to $113, or $14 more than the Dining Package cost.
- Pascual Toso Sparkling Wine – $7
- Graham Beck Rose – $12
- Selection of Cheeses: $16
- Rib-Eye: $49
- Dessert Trio: $13
That totals $97 or $2 less than the Dining Package price, though I doubt she enjoyed her meal any less than I did. It may be worth noting that we probably would have ordered cocktails instead of wine if we were paying out of pocket. So even before considering the VIP reserved seating at Festival of the Lion King and the private ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris, we’ve already spent more than the Dining Package price just on lunch – $198 for the package and $210 for what we ordered.
For the Rivers of Light Dining Package, the most expensive meal you could put together would be:
- $17 Charcuterie Board
- $62 Steak & Lobster
- $16 Selection of Cheeses
- $6 Non-alcoholic Specialty Drink
That comes out to $101 on a Dining Package that “only” costs $67. You might consider the Dining Package if you’re planning a big meal at Tiffins without any plans to see Rivers of Light. One other thing to note is that no discounts are accepted with the package. I would have ordinarily saved 20% on the food and drink with my Tables in Wonderland card.
We’ll see what we can expect from the Lion King and Safari experience in Part 2.