Following up on yesterday’s Nomad Lounge review and Tiffins preview, which reviewed about 90% of the Lounge food and drink, we’ll cross the threshold for a review of about 95% of the menu at Animal Kingdom’s new signature restaurant. If you missed Nomad, see this review.
We again find ourselves on the walkway that once would have transported us into Camp Minnie-Mickey for the meet and greets there, in addition to where Festival of the Lion King used to sit. That is of course now the future home of Pandora.
To get here, just take a left before you pass Pizzafari as you head to Africa or just after if you’re walking through Discovery Island from Africa. There are doors to the lobby/check-in area straight back from the main Pizzafari entrance, but they are currently roped off with strollers on patrol out front.
As a signature restaurant that costs two credits on the Disney Dining Plan, prices come in higher than most other theme park restaurants, but special touches abound, whether we’re talking about the embroidered napkins or the menu that arrives in a leather-bound travelogue that smells just like the interior of a new car.
The appetizer menu:
Here at Tiffins, we are celebrating the Imagineers’ “bold spirit of global discovery” as they spent countless millions of dollars taking a magnifying glass to the illuvium in Manaus and then comparing that to the glacial till found in Punta Arenas along Cape Horn. Then Joe Rohde and company took all of that painstaking research, all of those thousands of sketches, and all of those millions of dollars spent and built the parking lot that is DinoLand USA. I suppose that we are lucky that Disney is sticking mainly to Asian, African, and Indian influences here rather than Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama. Otherwise we would probably see a hamburger on the menu that’s grilled on the pavement out back. It’s probably more of a logistical consideration than anything. With all of the food preparation for Restaurantosaurus going on back there, it’s unlikely that there’s capacity left for signature dining.
A total of nine entrees follow on two pages.
Entree prices range from $29-$53 with an average price of $39.67, which is in line with signature restaurants located in the other theme parks. Over at Epcot, Le Cellier offers seven entrees between $28-$52 with a higher average price at $43.57. Ignoring the Cobb Salad at Hollywood Brown Derby over at Hollywood Studios, the nine entrees range in price from $29 – $74 with an average of $42.67. Add the Cobb and the average comes down to $40.20, which is still higher than Tiffins. So while the prices here are “expensive,” they’re actually lower than the signature options at the other Parks and would compare favorably to signature restaurants located at the resorts. Tiffins is perhaps best compared to Jiko over at Animal Kingdom Lodge, where you’ll find eight entrees that range in price from $32 – $52 with an average of $42.63 or 7.4% higher than the signature theme park dining here.
While Nomad Lounge offers 13 cocktails, only four make the cut here:
My estimation is that they would bring a Nomad cocktail should you order one, considering drinks are prepared in the same place. While it’s not interesting at all, the Hightower Rocks is 25 cents cheaper here than Nomad.
The full beer menu is available, as are a variety of wines, first as part of the regular menu and then from the provided wine list:
As is usually the case, you’ll pay less of an upcharge compared to the store price as you spend more money. The Espiritu de Apalta is $49 in stores compared to $85 here. That’s about 74% more expensive. Compare that to the Veramonte Chardonnay, which is $12 in stores or $35 here. That’s almost a 200% increase. Of course, $35 is also $50 less than $85.
I think without exception I reviewed the drinks we enjoyed at Nomad Lounge positively and this Anapurna Zing – $8.50 Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Passion Fruit Purée, Mint, Lime Juice, and Ginger Beer appears there and at Tiffins. One of life’s greatest disappointments is perhaps that Bombay Sapphire is not actually blue…just the bottle is… but the East version of this gin is more interesting than most with the Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorn giving the drink a distinct, but subtle pepper flavor on the front with a lingering, aromatic finish that’s sweetened up by the fruit and ginger beer. Very good and a bargain at $8.50 – it’s a lot of cocktail.
And the $12.50/$12.75 Hightower Rocks -Casa Dragones Blanco Tequila, Watermelon, Sweet-n-Sour, and Lime Juice is another winner in my estimation. The tequila hits hard up front, but it’s sort of unbelievable that Disney is putting an $80/bottle tequila into drinks that are considerably less expensive than you’d pay at many of the new Disney Springs’ outlets or at La Jarra over at Epcot. So while you’ll taste the tequila up front, it’s incredibly smooth and immediately washed away by the watermelon and lime. Very refreshing and a drink that might catch up to you after you finish the second.
A reminder that the Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale is exclusive to Walt Disney World. It’s brewed at Concrete Beach Brewery in Miami under the Boston Beer/Sam Adams umbrella.
Xingu (pronounced shin-goo) Black Lager is a surprisingly light beer that starts out tasting like your typical lager before ending with some subtle chocolate malts. At 4.7% it’s a lot more drinkable and a lot more refreshing than your typical dark beer.
The $13 Lobster-Popcorn Thai Curry Soup – Lime-Basil Emulsion and Popped Sorghum is delivered to the table as a bowl with a couple bites of lobster on the bottom before your server/food runner will pour the creamy, decadent, mildly spicy broth over the top. Popped sorghum is hull-less and would be an interesting appetizer to add to the Nomad Lounge menu, but plays a minor roll in the soup here, where the flavor profile is primarily coconut milk, garlic, and lemongrass with the lobster picking up the citrus from the lime and the spiciness of the basil. Very good and a somewhat unique presentation.
The $16 Marinated Grilled Octopus – Artichoke Barigoule, Saffron Aïoli, Lemon-Caper Olive Oil is exactly what you should expect from a signature restaurant. While octopus is a trendy ingredient at the moment, it’s still somewhat rare to find, at least grilled rather than deep fried, served here on top of artichokes that have been braised with onions, garlic, and carrots in a wine-based marinade that’s probably very similar to how the octopus is prepared. The aioli adds a creamy garlic component to the surprisingly tender octopus that serves to soak up the flavors of the other ingredients, not unlike shrimp or lobster. The artichoke serves a similar roll underneath. Altogether it is certainly an interesting dish.
While it’s somewhat irrelevant, we thought the $18 Grilled Octopus – purple potatoes, capers, and heirloom tomatoes at STK from the night before had a fresher, more natural flavor and there was more of the key ingredient.
The $11 Black-Eyed Pea Fritters – Zhough, Yogurt, and Peppadew Purée arrives with three light, crispy fritters. The green underneath is the zhough, which is a green chili paste from Yemen, and sort of like a spicy pesto sauce with the chili, garlic, cilantro, cumin, caramom, and caraway combining with olive oil. You have the option to spice the fritters up by pushing them through the spicy salsa or the mildly spicy, piquant peppadew sauce. It’s not an overwhelming portion, but it’s a light yet vibrant way to get your meal started.
The $12 Flash-fried Icy Blue Mussels – Za’atar Butter, Confit Tomato, and Persian Cucumber. The muscles retained a fishy, marine flavor with a soft texture inside of what was a surprisingly crispy exterior. Flash frying in a pan at a very hot temperature serves to instantly sear the exterior and lock the flavor of the bivalve molluscs without allowing much of the oil to seep inside. Again, it’s not a terribly large portion, but still a good value I think considering the flavor, ingredients, and uniqueness of the dish.
The $12 Archaeologist Salad – Spring Vegetable Variations, Pumpernickel Soil, and Champagne Vinaigrette is perhaps the most straightforward dish so far on the menu, though even here you’ve certainly got some interesting vegetables highlighted by bright flowers and other ingredients.
While pricey, this is what you’re going to pay for a salad that looks like this just about anywhere and all of the ingredients are extraordinarily fresh on top of what might look like bacon, but is actually finely ground pumpernickel bread. The effect almost makes it look like the salad is growing out of the ground, which is kind of neat, in addition to adding a mild sweetness to the salad which contrasts nicely with the vinaigrette. Very good if you’re in the market.
You’re on your own with the $14 House-made Head Cheese and Chicken Liver Pâté – Goji Berry Chutney, Accoutrements, Whole-Grain Mustard as I have very carefully covered up the “good stuff” with the bread.
The $15 Sustainable Seasonal Fish Crudo – Roasted Corn Salsa, Finger Lime, and Smoked Sea Salt was one of my favorite appetizers, combining the citrus of the lime with the smoked sea salt and acidity of the oil. Crudo, which is Italian for “raw,” means the fish is similar to sashimi, only other ingredients are used to enhance the flavor of the fish. And enhanced they were. Excellent.
The $14 Salad of Roasted Baby Beets – Goat Cheese Crema, Walnut Granola, and Sun-dried Cherry Vinaigrette is attractively plated and offers a smorgasbord of flavors depending on what you stick your fork into. The beet and granola were sweet on their own and those primary ingredients contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the cheese and mild fruity acidity of the vinaigrette. Very good too.
The $10 Tiffins Signature Bread Service with Harissa Yogurt, Lime Chutney, and Black-Eyed Pea Hummus may or may not be on the menu. It is not on the Nomad Lounge menu, but your server will likely tell you about it if it appears like you’re in the mood to order some food. And it was only on about half of the Tiffins menus we were given. I reviewed it in more depth as part of the Nomad review, but the portion size on the bread is rather paltry. With three people, each might have an opportunity to grab a small piece of each of the three options and then you’ll have 75% of the dips leftover.
Sanaa, which is popular for its incredible bread service, offers more than twice the number of accompaniments and easily four times as much bread for $4 more. And they will bring you more of their five different bread selections for around $2.50 per piece. In that respect, Tiffins’ entry is disappointing, even if it is delivered in a darling container.
Back with the cuts that started in late February, Disney began to forego offering complimentary bread at the majority of its restaurants by default, instead relying on diners to request free bread by name. For those of us visiting a restaurant for a second or third time and expecting a certain kind of bread to be served, it is perhaps not such a big deal to ask for onion rolls at Yachtsman or sourdough rolls at Be Our Guest. But at a restaurant like Tiffins, where nobody knows what to expect on day one and two, it would have been nice if any of our three servers asked us if we’d like some if they aren’t going to bring it by default. It turns out that they do offer complimentary bread and it’s one of the four offered with the $10 bread service, in addition to the unadvertised dip in the oil and molasses. So while the dips that arrive with the Bread Service are very good, you may want to put that money to work elsewhere and instead inquire as to whether they will bring you some gratis. One note on the dip is that the oil, vinegar, and molasses are very sour at first blush, but I think you’ll get used to it after the first or second bite. None of us really cared for it at the onset, but it was more palatable by the third or fourth piece. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them switch out accompaniments, but then Disney may be banking on you not liking it and not requesting a second plate.
That concludes the appetizer portion of the menu, which blends familiar flavors with what is potentially more out-there tastes for the majority of guests. The salad and bread are probably the “safest” choices, while we enjoyed everything else thoroughly. There isn’t a bad choice.
Moving on to entrees, we have the $34 Chermoula-rubbed Chicken – Couscous, Dried Fruits, Picholine Olives, Preserved Lemon, and Harissa Yogurt.
If you’ve dined at Jiko at any point in the last few years, you’ve probably seen something rubbed with “Chermoula,” which is a north African spice mixture of herbs, oil, lemon juice, garlic, coriander, and tumeric. The chicken has a delightfully lemony flavor profile, which could be spiced up with the harissa yogurt spread underneath if you wanted to go in that direction. Our particular dish was served a little dry, but you likely won’t suffer from the same problem. There are more interesting entrees available, but this is a relatively “safe” choice. Over at Jiko, the Chermoula-rubbed Lamb Chops are currently $52.
Next up is the $41 Berbere-spiced Lamb Chop – Mustard Greens, Lentil Stew, Tomato-Mint Chutney.
I am not usually a lamb guy, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed these chops – incredibly tender and the earthy, kind-of-sweet berbere spice is nuanced enough that it lets the natural flavors of the meat shine through. I didn’t care much for the bitterness of the mustard greens, but that is a personal preference thing as I don’t like wilted greens much either. The lentils underneath soaked up the spiciness of the rub perhaps more than the lamb and had a surprisingly fragrant flavor to them. Lots of cardamom and clove. Very good.
The Berkshire Pork Tenderloin – Huitlacoche Tamale, Hominy Succotash, and Red Mole Sauce is quite the plate of food with the pork tenderloin itself being the most flavorful. You might not want to Google “Huitlacoche” but ours was surprisingly dry. You might have better luck. The succotash underneath was cooked to a nice al dente and there were a surprising amount of vegetables underneath the meat. Very good overall and perhaps the biggest portion of food for those looking to share.
The $37 Grilled Head-on Prawns – Tomatoes, Roasted Fennel, Olives, Sea Urchin Butter Sauce, which is missing one of the prawns. Keeping the head and shell on the shrimp, while potentially awkward at first, makes for a significantly tenderer, juicier, more flavorful shrimp. And as gross as it might be, when you pop the head off you’ll likely see a squirt of that juice shoot into the air. But they do taste that much better. The sea urchin butter sauce is creamy, rich, and salty and tastes a bit like the ocean. The dish is a little out there overall, I think, but this is a good opportunity to try something new.
I almost always end up with the dishes that nobody else wants to order for the sake of #bloggability, which in this case was the $29 Roasted Market Vegetable Curry –
Millet, Spring Vegetables, and Lime Chutney.
We dined here two days in a row – the first time a la carte and the second time with the Dining Package, which I’ll cover at the end of this review. But because the Dining Package is a fixed price, it made more sense to order the less expensive items during the first meal and save the more expensive entrees for day two, so I went with the cheapest entree in the curry. And you know, it was impressive with a wide variety of perfectly prepared vegetables in a surprisingly creamy, spicy curry sauce that was only improved by the lime chutney. I’m not sure there’s a better vegetarian entree in the Park pending you like spicy food. They may also be able to tone down the spice by request.
The side of what is apparently millet provided a nice counterbalance to the spiciness of the main dish with some dried fruit mixed in along with the cucumber and chutney on top. It was a little dry and didn’t have a ton of flavor on its own, but I didn’t really mind considering the intensity of the curry.
What will certainly be the most popular entree on the Dining Package and perhaps also out of pocket, this is the $53 Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib – Rainbow Carrot, Roasted Peruvian Potatoes, and Chimichurri. You might remember our joke-of-a-portion that was the $21 Wagyu at Nomad Lounge. The Strip Loin here, which is served medium rare by default, is easily ten times as much meat and it was tenderer and more flavorful. No sauces or accompaniments are needed though a bit of the chimichurri adds some garlic to the flavor profile. In case the four slices of beef aren’t enough, additional heft is added in the short rib, which is fork tender and nearly as flavorful. One of the better steak dishes on property. The Peruvian Potatoes are interesting in that they’re purple, but they could have used a bit more salt and didn’t have a lot of flavor. Still, an inside-the-park home run overall.
The $43 Whole-fried Sustainable Fish – Fermented Black Bean Sauce, Som Tam, and Peanuts is yellow snapper in this case and literally a whole fried fish, which may be disconcerting-looking if you’re not expecting it. The uncensored picture is available here. Like the head-on shrimp, the preparation here seals in as much flavor as possible and keeps the fish moist and tender. It’s a bit of work going to town on extracting all of the meat while dodging the eyes and scales and whatnot, but it’s worth it for the best-possible-tasting fish. Recommended if you can handle it.
The $39 Pan-seared Duck Breast – Leg Confit, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Parsnip Purée, Truffle Reduction, Peach Gastrique was the closest entree that came to a disappointment. The portion on the duck wasn’t particularly large and what was served didn’t have a lot of flavor. There was a bit of fruitiness to contrast with the richness of the duck breast and leg confit, but that was about it. You may do better.
On the entree front, the beef is assuredly going to be the most popular entree, though there’s certainly something to say for the pork and the lamb, in addition to the curry that most vegetarians should find satisfying.
Five desserts are offered with prices ranging from $9 – $12. It’s surprising perhaps that a cheese plate isn’t offered – those are a staple of most signature restaurants, including Jiko.
Press Pot Tea is available.
As is coffee, tea, and a boozy coffee from the Nomad Lounge menu.
The $12 Calamansi Mousse – Mango Lava and Coconut Meringue is a pretty dessert that’s light and airy with a faint, fruity mango flavor and a bit of sugary sweetness. While attractive, I thought it was the most forgettable taste-wise.
The $10 Lime Cheesecake – Almond-Sesame Tuile and Green Tea Sponge, like the Mousse, is on the small side, but much richer in flavor with less pronounced lime than you might expect. It was also a lot more creamy than it was dense, which I appreciated at the end of a meal. The earthy flavors of the matcha in the Green Tea Sponge on the bottom contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the cheesecake on top. Very good.
The $9 Passion Fruit Tapioca Créme – Chocolate Crumble and Citrus Fruits was light and delicious with several layers of different flavors.
I am not traditionally a tapioca person, but it worked really well here topped with the creme and chocolate. I didn’t care much for the chunks of grapefruit in between the cream and tapioca layers, but you might appreciate the contrasting sourness of the fruit against the sweetness of the chocolate and cream. As I broke into the cream, the chocolate crumble and thin pieces worked their way down into the rest of the dessert so I got a little bit of a chocolate-y punch in each bite which I appreciated. Altogether, it was a surprisingly light, flavorful, refreshing dessert and a breakaway favorite of the group. Very good.
The $9 Sorbet Tasting – Kaffir Lime Syrup, Passion Fruit Curd, and Crunchy Vanilla Crouton is kind of confusing in that you’ll select two flavors from four choices, none of which are listed on the menu. They are all fruity in nature – passion fruit and jackfruit and two others or maybe neither of those and a few others I don’t really remember. This is probably the lightest way to end your meal if you feel the urge to spend $9 on what amounts to two dollops of very light, flavorful sorbet. It was really good and as part of the Dining Package, you might want to attach it at the end if you’re feeling full, but it’s certainly an expensive few bites out of pocket. You couldn’t easily replicate the quality though.
The $12 South American Chocolate Ganache – Caramelized Banana and Cocoa Nib Tuile was far and away the most popular of the desserts at our table. The ganache is also the basis for the Taste of Tiffins at Nomad Lounge and is a very bold, soft, dark chocolate. The sugary creaminess of the banana contrasts nicely if you want to go in that direction. It’s a very rich dessert that could also be shared if you’re paying out of pocket. Half of this goes a long way.
Coffee and teas are pressed tableside and arrive with about two-and-a-half cups-worth. Decaf is a nice way to end a later meal or you might want to go Full Caffeine if you’re planning to stay up through the whole Jungle Book show.
Tiffins is a beautiful restaurant that’s broken down into three separate dining rooms. According to Disney:
Dining inside Tiffins is like sharing a meal inside a renowned adventurers’ club: the theme of travel can be seen and felt everywhere you look. Hike your way through the rustic front doors and behold an enormous map of the globe, before unearthing 3 elegant dining rooms honoring the spirit of Africa, Asia and some of the world’s most exotic animals.
Lavish artwork—including photograph collages, paintings and sculptures inspired by actual notes and field sketches of the Imagineers who created Disney’s Animal Kingdom park—can be found throughout the restaurant, while earth tone colors give this hideaway an authentic, warm and inviting feel… perfect for explorers looking for something new.
“Insane messes of wire that somehow work” describes the back of most of our computers.
The Safari Gallery is my second favorite of the dining rooms. There is a lot to see, though a dining-room-themed-to-the-construction-of-a-theme-park might be a strange concept initially.
The Grand Gallery is my favorite:
Artifacts here include concept art for Rivers of Hahahahaha, artifacts from Pizzafari, and carvings from Camp-Minnie-Mickey.
My favorite piece is “Tiger Surrounded,” which is a painting in the center surrounded by wooden buildings that represent their habitat lost.
While The Grand Gallery focuses on the Imagineers’ time in Africa and the concepts behind Harambe, The Trek Gallery is all about Asia and the creation of Anandapur:
There is some interesting art on the walls, but this is my least favorite of the three dining rooms and in my opinion, the least intimate, particularly considering that they parade your party through Nomad Lounge from the check-in area to get to it.
The Dining Package
Tiffins offers a Dining Package that includes a seat in the reserved section for what is now The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic” and what will hopefully be “Rivers of Light” in the future.
I’ll review the show and offer some tips on seeing it in a separate post, but there is the opportunity to save some money with the Package even if you don’t have any interest in the Jungle Book show, not unlike the Fantasmic Dining Package at Hollywood Studios at Mama Melrose or Brown Derby.
For $67/adult and $32/child ages 3-9, you can pick any appetizer/entree/dessert/non-alcoholic drink from the menu:
To maximize the value, you could order the $16 Octopus, $53 Wagyu, $12 Chocolate Ganache, and $6 Zingiber Fizzie (which is included) and come out with a meal that costs $87, or a savings of 23% over the cost of the Dining Package. On the Dining Package day, I ordered the $15 Fish Crudo, $41 Lamb Chop, $9 Tapioca Creme, and $3 Diet Coke, which came out to $68 or just about the same money as the $67 Dining Package price. While it was a filling meal, it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of food considering my Disney appetite and if you come to eat, you would likely be able to finish most of each course without a lot of trouble.
So if you plan to order two or three courses at Tiffins, you might see if the Dining Package is available. We saved some money and the reserved seat basically acts as an extra FP+ for the show, which opens your evening up to add a late FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Here’s the Kids/Dessert menu:
Kids have much less of an opportunity to save on the package, which is a bummer.
On one hand, I give Disney credit for continuing to push the envelope on what most kids are willing to try. On the other hand, there’s no way 7-year-old-me would eat anything off this menu. While I might like the flavor of the chicken or ribs, I don’t see me even willing to take a bite if it’s touching multigrain rice and arrives with a weird sauce. This is potentially Disney’s way of turning most families off of the restaurant. After all, if there’s nothing the kids will eat, then the fam is probably heading towards Restaurantosaurus instead. On one hand, it’s nice for adults that want to enjoy a quieter, more peaceful atmosphere sans disruptive children. On the other hand, it seems like Disney could throw families a bone and simply add a hot dog and hamburger to the menu. If they’re really that concerned about menu integrity, they could add a bunch of bizarre toppings to a $12 kids’ burger and then underneath it say – Also available plain – $9.
Breaking the Restaurant Down:
Atmosphere – 10/10
The restaurant is gorgeous with a variety of dining rooms with lush theming. Only at Walt Disney World.
Food – 9/10
Almost everything we tried was fantastic with more imaginative presentations and ingredients than just about any other restaurant on property. I would swap out almost any of these entrees for anything currently offered at Jiko etc.
Value – 8/10
Always a contentious topic when it comes to Disney Dining. You could very easily take a look at that salad, look down at the menu, and look back up at the salad and say “that’s not a $12 salad.” Or “that’s not a $50 steak.” And you’re not necessarily wrong. But we do compare this restaurant to Walt Disney World’s other offerings and I think the quality of the ingredients, attention to detail on the presentation, variety in the menu, size of the portions, and the caliber of the experience put it on the same level as any of the other restaurants at this price point. Certainly there will be those that don’t enjoy their meal here, but objectively, it’s going to be hard to say that Tiffins isn’t worth the money while another signature restaurant definitely is.
Service – Score Mostly Irrelevant
We dined here three days in a row – once for a soft opening, once on opening day, and then again for the first day of the Jungle Book package. They were only filling about half of the tables and service was still slow – attentive, but they were pretty clearly overwhelmed. Our first server wasn’t real sure which items were appetizers and which were entrees. Our second server was much more knowledgeable, but very slow. When you’re paying these kinds of prices, you don’t want to be the one that has to ask if waters can be refilled or remind the server that we hadn’t put in our entree orders yet despite our menus being taken away after ordering the appetizer course. But things will undoubtedly get better as time goes on.
But that does play into one other thought I have with price points this high at signature restaurants in the theme parks. If you’re looking for an intimate meal for an anniversary, birthday, or what have you, then I’m not sure Tiffins/Brown Derby/Le Cellier etc. are your best bet. People are generally dressed in their theme park gear and you’re much more likely to sit next to parties that just happened to walk up to the restaurant and ask about mid-day availability. Not that this is the worst thing in the world, but if you’re looking for a special night out, I think your chances are better at a restaurant like Citricos or California Grill where people are planning to dress up a bit and enjoy a special experience. YMMV of course.
Those looking for the best food at Animal Kingdom certainly need to look no further.
Tiffins is spectacular. Beautiful restaurant. Imaginative menu. Excellent food. I’m excited to see some seasonal changes in the coming months so I have an excuse to go back. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
A special thanks to the Corless family for their patience in my picture taking and being willing to order the Head Cheese so I didn’t have to.