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Monday, April 11, 2022

Dining at the Coral Reef at EPCOT… Not Just for the Kids Anymore

 by Beth Keating



April 11, 2022


With so many festivals going on at EPCOT these days, it seems like there are only a handful of days out of the year that there aren’t dozens of enticing food booths beckoning park guests from the crowded walkways of World Showcase.  That being the case, it’s been a rare evening in the last few years that we’ve dined at an actual EPCOT restaurant, rather than snacking our way around the lagoon. That’s a pity because the EPCOT restaurants are among the best at Disney World.


One of my husband’s favorite EPCOT restaurants has always been the Coral Reef, in the now renamed World Nature section of the park.  I, on the other hand, not being much of a seafood lover, have at least half a dozen other EPCOT restaurants that I would rather get dining reservations for.  When our kids were small (and there were fewer festivals in sight), we would book Coral Reef to provide entertainment for them, so we were able to get a few quiet minutes to eat our food while it was still hot.  A floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall aquarium big enough to hold 54 Olympic-sized swimming pools provides quite the visual babysitter.


On a recent night when we had a limited number of hours in the park, we decided to forego the festival food booths and hit up a sit-down restaurant instead. The Coral Reef Restaurant had an opening that fit our time frame, and off we went. And it turned out to be a much more enjoyable experience than I remembered from our long ago child-centric dinners.

For starters, we had a very engaging cast member serving at our table. Vern was not only an attentive waiter, but a well-informed “tour guide” who shared lots of knowledge about the more than 2,000 creatures making the aquarium their home.  He even knew each of their names!  And if I didn’t know better, I would have thought he had “Tina,” the black splotched ray, trained to come when he mentioned her name.  We were seated in the first row of tables along the massive viewing windows, and when Vern mentioned Tina, she came and parked herself on the bottom of the tank, mere inches from our seats.  Honestly, the panoramic view of the great reef sharks, tarpon, sea turtles, and unicorn fish was just as big of a draw for the evening as was our meal.


Our dinner began with standard issue small rolls and butter, but we also opted for the shrimp cocktail ($16.00). The large, sweet shrimp with a traditional cocktail sauce and a charred lemon, served on an adorable skewer stand, didn’t disappoint. The only problem?  The appetizer came out at the exact same time as our entrées. Since it was the last seating of the night, and many of the tables were already cleaned up, the kitchen staff was likely a little anxious to wrap up for the evening.

Our entrées were the seared Mahi Mahi ($32.00), and the seared salmon ($29.00).  The Mahi Mahi was served with jasmine rice, Caribbean shrimp salsa made with cute little teeny tiny shrimp, and a yummy coconut and cilantro-lime sauce.  The Mahi Mahi was tender, done perfectly, and the shrimp and sauce, with a small kick, were ideal accompaniments. 

The seared salmon got an excited response from our waiter, who raved about the corn risotto that was served with the salmon. And he was right. The risotto was creamy and full of flavor.  (I would encourage the chefs to add that risotto to the menu as its own entrée in the fall, especially for those of us looking for something less “seafood”!) The salmon was also plated with a mixed greens salad in a light citrus dressing, and the salmon itself was flaky and tender.  It wasn’t overcooked, just prepared to the perfect edge of doneness, with a slight, nicely seasoned crust on top.


Appetizers at the restaurant also include a lobster bisque ($12.00); smoked wild mushroom cioppino ($13.00); or a Caesar salad ($11.00).  Additional entrée choices include shrimp and grits ($32.00); oven roasted citrus-marinated half chicken ($28.00); grilled vegetable skewers with Impossible kefta ($24.00); or a 10 oz prime rib ($36.00).  We didn’t have room for dessert, but there were key lime tarts ($9.00); mixed berry mousse ($8.50); the chocolate wave, a warm flourless chocolate cake ($10.00); or a Baileys Almande and Jack Daniels mousse ($9.50) available. Assorted specialty and themed cocktails were also on the menu.


By the way, the pomegranate lemonade was quite refreshing.

More than 60 different species call this beautifully crafted coral reef habitat home.  Some days, diners may even be able to see scuba divers caring for the coral reef and its inhabitants. This is one of those restaurants that you will dine in as much for the ambiance (and learning opportunities) as for the meal.  Even if you are dining sans kiddos, this was a lovely evening out, with lots of credit to our cast member, Vern!




Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.


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1 comment:

  1. f disney..how do i sue their ass for tanking my stock?