Tiffins surprised a lot of people when it opened back in May 2016.
Effortlessly blending style and substance along with an ever-improving menu, the restaurant quickly rose to become one of every respectable(?) blogger’s favorites at Walt Disney World. At least as long as the food is free.
And I think it’s the best theme park restaurant on property, though its only real competition might be Hollywood Brown Derby. Sorry Tony’s Town Square. “You’re so close.”
The website has published three Tiffins reviews in the last 18-or-so months. The first, which includes the most pictures inside the restaurant, is available here. That was followed up with a review of the Taste of Tiffins lunch special here and then a second followup review here.
Atmosphere-wise, Tiffins is elegant and welcoming with diverse thematic elements across the three dining rooms. I prefer lunch when the restaurant is typically less popular and “feels” a little cozier. Erin and I dined here last Friday, January 19th, with a 12:30pm reservation. There was nobody at the table on either side of us, leading to a much more intimate experience than when you know your neighbors can hear every word you say and potentially steal your hilarious tweet ideas that are destined for 20-25 likes with the potential of up to three retweets.
This particular review will comprise three different meals over the last six months, but will largely focus on our experience last week, since it features current menu items. If you’ve visited the restaurant before, cast will welcome you back when you check in and put this friendly card on your table.
At the conclusion of the meal, returning visitors will depart with a little dessert to-go.
It’s typically chocolate with an interesting accompaniment. On my last visit, we received peppermint bark, but I’ve also walked away with a creamy orange chocolate and another featuring coconut and coffee.
The menu has changed quite a bit since the restaurant opened, much like other signature restaurants see seasonal changes throughout the year. I’ve heard rumors that Disney named Anna and Elsa’s adventure “Frozen” in order to make the food at Tony’s Town Square seem more trendy.
This $49 Chef’s Tasting Menu, available from 11:30am through 3:30pm, was added last month and I’ve been eager to give it a try ever since. There’s no mention of the existence of this option online, unfortunately.
Here’s what you’ll see outside the restaurant:
Note the “Additional Lunch Offerings” at the bottom, which replace the Taste of Tiffins that we had enjoyed in the past.
Here’s the full appetizer menu:
Gone are a number of the original appetizers. We see Butternut Squash Soup instead of Lobster-Popcorn Thai Curry Soup. There’s no more Mussels, Head Cheese, or Fish Crudo. Even items that still appear on the menu see changes, like the Octopus that arrives with Salsify rather than whatever Artichoke Barigoule is.
One thing that surprises me is that the complimentary bread hasn’t been switched out. The accompanying mixture of oil, vinegar, and molasses leaves a lingering, sour taste in the mouth that I think a lot of people find unpleasant. I still slather a little on each visit because it’s something so different and if I don’t eat on the hour, every hour, I’m likely to die, but you’d think something more palatable would be in the works.
Of course, they are also trying to sell you the $10 “Tiffins Signature Bread Service with Tadka, Smoked Baba Ghanoush, and Blatjang.” I’d probably skip it at Tiffins, though it’s not the worst choice to add to your order if you’re picking up drinks at Nomad Lounge next door. It looks like the container is stuffed full of bread, but you can actually see almost all of it spilling out the top. The sauces are flavorful, but I think the complimentary bread will get you through the ordering process well enough. You can always hold your nose while you eat it.
It might also make more sense to attach the $14 “Selection of Artisanal Cheeses” to a Nomad Lounge order, though what’s delivered is serviceable, if not a bit too ordinary.
Shortly after Pandora opened, I ordered this $14 “Watermelon and Barrel-aged Feta – Citrus, Cucumber Ribbons, Toybox Tomatoes, Banyuls Vinaigrette.” It “felt” like a poor value back when it was available – about four squares of watermelon along with a couple bites of feta and a little bit of tomato. The vinaigrette overpowered everything else and the watermelon was much denser than I’m accustomed to eating. On the other hand, if you could get into the $14 watermelon bite business, you’d probably take that opportunity.
Here’s a lousy picture of the current $16 “Marinated Grilled Octopus – Salsify, Saffron Aïoli, Lemon-Caper Olive Oil.”
One tentacle of which appears with the $49 Chef’s Tasting Sampler. We also have one of the “Black-Eyed Pea Fritters – Zhough Yogurt, Peppadew Purée” and a small cup of the “Butternut Squash Soup – Coconut-Curry Poached Key West Pink Shrimp.”
I thought the fritter was on the dry side without the Yemeni chili paste, which should be a green spicy pesto sauce with some cilantro and garlic. The little bit of Peppadew added a sweet chili flavor to the couple of bites that it touched, but I would have liked to have seen some more of the accompaniments.
Here’s the full $11 portion where you’ll find larger dollops of the Zhough.
There’s a lot going on with the couple bites of octopus. The Lemon-Caper Olive Oil is smart, blending the citrus from the fruit with the intense saltiness of the capers. The octopus retains a nice chew on top of the delicate salsify root and what might be a heavy-handed sprinkle of herbs on top.
The Butternut Squash Soup was the star of the show – smooth, silky, and impossibly creamy with a robust roasted squash flavor. There’s a little tinge of red pepper in there to heat things up ever so slightly. One little bite of shrimp sat at the bottom of the cup. Unnecessary, probably, but the coconut does help cool things off. It’s a really flavorful, very heavy soup. This was just the right amount.
Draft beer may be different than your last visit. You might remember that Tiffins started with the Kungaloosh along with Safari Amber and Xingu.
The First Magnitude Wakulla hails from nearby Gainseville, which we will try not to hold against it. It’s a refreshing hefeweizen with your typical banana flavor with a little less clove and a little more sugar than most beers of this style. It’s worth trying if you’re in the mood for something light.
The Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale on the right is my pick. Officially exclusive to Walt Disney World, the cinnamon and cardamom are present, but not overpowering, and the beer works surprisingly well during the warmer months given this style is typically seen more often around the winter holidays.
This is a picture of the Old Elephant IPA from Refreshment Outpost at Epcot, where it’s also available. There’s a lot of hops, pine, and citrus here with a real bitter taste. Be ready for it.
The supplied cocktail list is much shorter than the one you’ll find at Nomad Lounge, but you’re welcome to order anything off that menu as well. I turned Erin on to the Night Monkey last month and our server was happy to put in an order for another this time around at the restaurant. My favorite is still the Tempting Tigress.
Wine by the glass.
And another lousy picture, this time with the reds.
I like the Rust en Vrede, a bottle of which I’ve taken home from Animal Kingdom a couple of times.
And an opportunity to try some flights.
With specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks now available on the Disney Dining Plan, there may be renewed interest in some of these. Nothing makes 50 cents worth of Sprite turn into a $5.75 “Specialty Drink” quite like a squirt of Monin Watermelon Syrup.
Lunch adds two smaller entree choices, both of which are also available as part of the Tasting Menu.
This is the $28 “Braised Wagyu Pozole, Black Rice, Queso Fresco, Jalapeno Cornbread.”
The Pozole is sort of like a thick beef stew with a comforting flavor of slow-cooked beef spiced up a little bit with some ancho chilies and some cumin, garlic, and cilantro with some corn added in for heft. The black rice was tender, but firm, with a hint of sweetness that contrasted nicely with the spice of the beef. The queso fresco is soft and creamy with a mild flavor that also helps cool everything down. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the cornbread, which had a natural spiciness to it from the little pieces of jalapeno mixed into the batter. Flame Tree Barbecue’s always tasted artificial with an overbearing, unnatural chili oil flavor.
Overall, the Pozole is a filling entree that probably doesn’t capture the subtly of the rest of the menu. The beef was a little one-note.
This is a past presentation of the “Grilled Swordfish – Black Rice, Fermented Black Bean Sauce, Som Tam.” But no matter how it’s plated, it tastes incredible. The sauce is so creamy and decadent with a delicious garlicky character. The firm fish holds up nicely with a mild sweetness of its own. So good and potentially a better choice if you’re not feeling particularly hungry. It’s not a huge portion.
Here’s the full list of entrees that are available at lunch and dinner:
Thinking we were particularly clever, Erin and I were planning on splitting a Tasting Menu and supplementing that with an additional entree. But that’s exactly what our server recommended we do, saying it was “usually the perfect amount of food.”
So we stuck with that plan and added the $53 “Snake River Farms Wagyu Strip Loin – Rainbow Carrots, Peruvian Purple Potatoes, Sherry-Shallot Butter, Guava Demi-glace.”
This is what the steak originally looked like when it was marketed as “Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib – Rainbow Carrot, Roasted Peruvian Potatoes, and Chimichurri.” There are two big differences – the first being that the dish now arrives with more of the steak instead of the side of short rib. The second is the Guava Demi-glace in place of the original chimichurri.
This was otherwise the best steak that I think I’ve enjoyed on property, eclipsing everything from Flying Fish to The BOATHOUSE to Yachtsman Steakhouse to California Grill to Artist Point to STK to whatever else. The beef was fork tender and incredibly flavorful on its own. The richness of the beef was somehow brought out even further by the delicate Guava Demi-glace that added a little bit of sweetness to each bite. I would have liked a little more of the Sherry-Shallot Butter, the vinegar of which helped balance the fruitiness of the sauce. Overall, it was a 10/10. I can’t remember being more satisfied with an entree. With that said, I think the Roasted Peruvian Potatoes are under-seasoned, particularly when salt is nowhere to be found on the table. The carrots were expertly prepared, retaining a nice chew and doing a good job of soaking up all of the flavors on the plate. Very good.
The $41 “Duo of Venison – Ethiopian Coffee Butter-infused Venison Loin, Boerewors, Soubise, Chakalaka, Tamarind Barbecue, Leek Ash” doesn’t appear to be a lot of food on the plate.
A similar dish used to be served with lamb as the main component, but venison was substituted beginning about eight months ago. The astringency of the soubise, which is a Béchamel sauce with onion purée, contrasts nicely with the coriander and clove of the mildly game-y, earthy South African sausage. The spiciness of the tomato bean relish is nicely tempered by the tang of the sweeter tamarind barbecue sauce. The leek ash is subtle, adding a bit of an onion flavor that’s difficult to separate from the flavors of the soubise. But everything seems to come together for the thick slices of tender venison, though I’ll admit I’m not crazy about the coarse salt topping that seems to overwhelm the subtle flavors of the meat. Overall, there’s a lot going on here and it all works well together in tandem. It is a little hard to get over paying $41 for food that fills up about a quarter of the plate, though.
I was less impressed with the $36 “Pommegranate-lacquered Chicken – Sweet Potato Pap, Thumbelina Carrots, Citrus-Fennel Salad.”
It’s a pretty chintzy portion of dry, largely flavorless chicken. I would have hoped for a sweeter glaze and some more crispiness from the skin.
With the Tasting Menu, dessert is a pre-determined trio of some of Tiffins’ best desserts. In the back is the “South American Chocolate Ganache – Caramelized Banana, Cocoa Nib Tuile” with a very bold, very rich chocolate flavor. The crispy little chocolate pieces are fun and the little bite of banana helps offset some of the richness.
Our favorite was the “Whipped Cheesecake – Amarula Panna Cotta, Sesame Crumbs, Espresso Sponge” – sweet and surprisingly light with a lot of flavor. That’s it on the left.
The “Guava Mousse – Lemon Curd, Pomegranate Sauce” was more of a take-it-or-leave-it situation, perhaps just because the other two desserts were so good. The Mousse was a little spongier than I would have liked and the flavor was just kind of blandly sweet.
Here’s the rest of the dessert menu:
Picking something up is a nice way to end a relaxing meal. I want to get my hands on a bottle of the Bain’s Cape Mountain Whiskey, which originates in South Africa.
Another of the Rohde drawings. One of these will accompany the check when your server delivers it to the table at the end of the meal.
Service is typically friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable with an authenticity that you don’t typically find at Disney restaurants. I always feel like I’m in good hands.
Tiffins is an outstanding experience with a great menu featuring diverse flavors that are probably more familiar than you might initially be expecting. The Chef’s Tasting Menu is a good opportunity to try a number of the restaurant’s specialties, though larger groups may elect to order a couple of different things during each course and do a little sharing. I liked the Pozole pretty well, but the steak was certainly the star of the show and I think some of the other main entrees demonstrate the robust, nuanced flavors that the kitchen is capable of outputting. But if you’re a solo diner or others in your group aren’t particularly adventurous, the Tasting Menu showcases much of what has catapulted Tiffins to the top of many guests’ lists for favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World. This was Erin’s first visit and she left thoroughly impressed.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.