People will occasionally ask me, “Josh, what is your favorite _____________?” It’s particularly common on the food front, which I don’t want to say is unfortunate, but my food reviews are easily the least reliable thing I do. Not because I’m purposefully trying to mislead you, dear reader, but the fact is that your tastes are different than mine and everything about your experience will be different. Even if you were to serve the same steak to 50 different people, you’d get 50 different responses that would probably all vary somewhere between “shoe leather” and “best thing I ever ate.” But if you were to ask me what my favorite Walt Disney World restaurant is, I would say it’s Sanaa.
There are a number of reasons for that. The first is the setting right on the Sunset Savanna where you can watch the various animals while you dine. It looks like this bird has some recommendations on the menu.
Request a window table when you check in to peer out at the zebras, giraffes, ostriches, cranes, and more. I do recommend a reservation during the daylight hours, at least on your first visit. There’s no artificial lighting or anything outside so when it’s dark, you won’t be able to see anything other than your reflection in the glass.
The restaurant itself is pretty and perhaps more importantly, the layout benefits from some privacy.
A lot of Disney restaurants typically seat people on top of each other, but the tables here are mostly well-spaced out.
But I would still suggest a window table.
Lunch, served from 11:30am to 3pm, also offers some less expensive entrees, in addition to the popular Potjie Inspired dishes like Butter Chicken and Braised Beef, in addition to six more choices. Sanaa is a great spot for vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions as well. I also like that there’s a variety of flavors, including some “safe” options. Recently, you may have seen me complain that something like Skipper Canteen is all “out there,” particularly on the kids’ meal front.
Here, you’ve got a fantastic burger on the menu served on a naan bun with Spiced Mustard, Goat Cheese, Pickled Shallots, and Piquante Peppers. And if you don’t want any of that, you can request it served with a side of ketchup instead. It’s also just $2.50 more than the Southwest Burger at Pecos Bill or less expensive than Cosmic Ray’s Chicken/Ribs combo.
Other lunch items like the Tandoori Chicken served Open-faced on Naan Bread with Minted Greens, Tomato, Onion, and Cucumber Riata are also excellent.
Another perk to visiting Sanaa is its location in Kidani Village, which is typically a little quainter feeling than the larger Jambo House.
That’s potentially another perk of visiting during the lunch hour – most guests are out visiting the theme parks, which means less vying for comfortable rocking chairs outside or for the attention of the many cast members stationed around the resort answering questions.
But per usual, the website does not take any of its own advice as we visit for dinner on the evening of January 18th, 2k16. We are again joined by Steve and Peggy Milz and family, a name that has become synonymous with reviews of Shutters over at Caribbean Beach. As I’ve mentioned before, if you do have the misfortune of running into me at the theme parks, I am nearly impossible to shake and will basically be with you for the rest of your vacation and then “randomly show up” during any subsequent trips. Wherever you go. Disney World or otherwise.
Disney Parks Blog had made a fairly big deal out of some new dishes arriving at the restaurant in this post and I was excited to give the new menu a try.
Now Chef Eddie Mendoza has added new dishes to the menu that he calls “African with an Indian touch.” “We didn’t invent this fusion, it happened with the ancient spice trade,” says Chef Eddie. “Something magical happened once the Indian spices hit the shores of Africa.”
Thanks for clearing that up, Eddie. I think everybody assumed you had invented food.
There is one very important piece of the Sanaa menu sort of tucked away at the end of the drink list – and that’s the Indian-style Bread Service.
You now receive five breads instead of the previous three. You can add more for something like $2.19 a piece, so keep that in mind if you’re a larger party or just really like bread. The accompaniments are organized from least to most spicy. My personal favorite is the Red Chile [sic] Sambal on the spiced naan. The naan and other breads are all fresh and the accompaniments are varied and unique. The bread service here is one of the best parts about visiting Sanaa – you have to order one.
I like that the kids have some options – a more “adventurous” child can get in on the Kids Butter Chicken or Shrimp with Quinoa Pilaf or they can play it safe with something like the cheeseburger, pizza, or mac and cheese.
The menu isn’t leaps and bounds different than its predecessor, though some of the South African items are a new direction for the restaurant.
Wine, just in case you’re interested:
The list isn’t quite as extensive as Jiko and pricing is more than a little rough. That Bouchard Finlayson Blanc Der Mer is a $14 bottle of wine that they’re selling for $53. Mara and the resort store do sell bottles of a few of these at surprisingly affordable prices. You may instead elect to pop a bottle prior to dinner should you find yourself staying here.
Peggy ordered a very bloggable Malawi Mango Margarita – A frozen blend of Tequila, Van der Hum Tangerine Liqueur, Mango Purée, and Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice – a very refreshing frozen cocktail with more of a punch than most.
Here we start with the Kids version of the Butter Chicken, which arrives with a creamy sauce with some hints of curry powder.
Steve followed with a similarly sized bowl of Butter Chicken and the Braised Beef, which is fork tender beef in a hearty gravy. I’ve never been a big fan of how the food is presented in the little bowls. The portion is deceptively large I think, though I think the little bowls make it look like just a little food. But with that said, it’s not an overwhelming amount of food for nearly $26.
Peggy ordered a new addition in the Traditional Sosatie – Braai Lamb with Apricots, Butternut Squash, Bacon, Cashews, and Goat Cheese. Sosatie is a traditional South African dish of meat cooked on skewers and that’s what arrives here on top of a bed of greens. The lamb is marinated in garlic, chilies, curry leaves, fried onions, and tamarind juice and then barbecued over an open flame. We weren’t sure that the accompaniments worked quite as well – I think they were trying to go for the saltiness of the bacon contrasting with the fruitiness of the apricots and creaminess of the goat cheese, but it kind of blended together into an unfamiliar, creamy texture with the goat cheese melting underneath the lamb. But it was a unique dish and a very good value at $22.
Always a sucker for a good sampler plate, I went with the Braaivleis – South African Braai Sampler Plate – Boerewor [sic], Lamb Chop, and Pork Tenderloin with Seasonal Accompaniments. The Boerewors is available as an appetizer or you receive one of the homemade South African beef and pork sausages with the sampler. The recipe actually hails from the personal kitchen of one of Sanaa’s South African cooks, so you know you’re getting authentic flavors here. The texture was perhaps coarser than I was expecting with a lot of clover and allspice, but was mild overall. And I know what you’re thinking. How long is the longest braaied boerewors of all time? 5,108.8 feet. Which is about 5,078.3 feet longer than I would have expected
The Lamb Chop reminded me a lot of the lamb I had ordered over at Jiko for $39 and may well be the exact same thing. It was cooked perfectly with a minimal amount of spices that helped bring out the flavor.
The pork ended up being the heartiest portion of the meal with three thick slices cooked to a medium pink with some charring around the edges. I thought it was a little tough, but it proved flavorful. To the left you’ve got a bit of the Cape Malay Onion Salad that is not to my tastes, but if you like pearl onions in creamy sauces then you’re in for a treat. Other vegetables included cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots underneath along with some potatoes with an herb-y olive oil. Altogether, it was an extremely filling meal with a nice variety of flavors. You could easily get away with sharing it, I think. The pork and sausage in particular are very heavy.
We actually opted to share two of the kids’ desserts – the Peanut Butter Turtle – Eggless Peanut Butter Mousse and Banana Cake and oh my gosh it’s the best thing ever. It has a very pronounced, creamy, decadent peanut butter flavor surrounded by the chocolate-y exterior. I’m not sure “mousse” would be the word I would use because it’s much more dense than that. If there was a full size version of this for adults I don’t think I would eat anything else ever.
As you exit, check out the chocolate display from the Food and Wine Festival next to the check-in podium. It’s all chocolate.
Sanaa is always a treat. You can’t beat the view along with the bread service. You might ask if they can wrestle up one of those peanut butter turtles even if you happen to be over the age of nine. (They’re only like $3 each.) Those with the ability to make it over there, perhaps after a leisurely morning or during a break on a visit to the Animal Kingdom theme park, should be in store for one of the more memorable meals of their trip.
Continuing on with the Animal Kingdom theme, I’ll run a review of Jiko next. I’d expect a lot of operating schedule updates this week along with a preliminary version of the September 2016 crowd calendar. I am headed to Chicago on Wednesday for the weekend, so content on the tail end of the week will likely be sparse, but we’ll get back into it next week with an Animal Kingdom rope drop.