Coral Reef Restaurant - Dining Aquatic

by Roan Poulter, contributing writer
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It's not very often that I discover a new restaurant. The Coral Reef is in no way a new restaurant to Epcot, but hidden away behind The Seas it might be considered a hidden gem. As a testament to the hidden nature of this restaurant, we were able to secure a table on the day of the runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge, when the park was insanely busy.


Don't let this sign fool you, they don't serve seahorse. Photo by by Roan Poulter.


Beautiful and creative oceanic details abound. Photo by Roan Poulter.

We entered into the restaurant through a long curving corridor that builds visual interest. Several soft benches wait in semi privacy where we discussed how it was we had missed the Coral Reef Restaurant on our previous 50 trips to Epcot (yes, that many).


The corridor of benches gives the illusion of privacy, surprisingly refreshing in the hustle of the park on a busy day. Photo by Roan Poulter.

The first thing we noticed was the staff, by that I mean that there were staff members everywhere. It feels like every third person in the restaurant works there. This meant fast and friendly service at every turn. The dining room looks like a well rendered oceanic throwback to the Copacabana from I Love Lucy, where tables on successively elevated terraces sit well spaced so that everyone has a clear view of the stage. But instead of a stage with performers, there is a massive aquarium with 8-foot sharks, flying manta rays, and enough colorful fish to provide visual interest for even the most obtuse aquarium naysayers.


The aquarium contains an impressive array of sea life. Photo by Roan Poulter.

The menu, as might be expected, is seafood dominated. Whether you feel a sense of guilt or complicity as the fish brethren swim by is on you. Selections vary from charbroiled octopus and creamy crab spinach fondue to pork shanks and crabless cakes. One very nice feature I wanted to mention was that we witnessed another table that had questions with a food allergy. To solve this, they had a kitchen staff member come out to discuss options with them. It seemed a positive experience compared to other Disney dining where you are given a book and allowed to decipher their ingredient lists. He spent a couple of minutes listening and giving suggestions and options to fit their needs.


The sea life you may see while you decide which seafood dish to eat. Photo by Roan Poulter

The prices are not cheap, but seemed on par with a medium to high end seafood restaurant. We were given a 20 percent discount for being annual passholders, which always seems to help, though it can be a rare treat at Walt Disney World.

Here's what we had:


Freshly baked rolls are absolutely mandatory for sopping up the remnants of a devoured meal, and consequently making the dishwasher's job a breeze. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Seared mahi mahi with shrimp-mango salsa, boniato mashed potatoes, and a coconut-lime sauce – This is a healthy portion of succulent mahi mahi, slathered in the salsa. I found the salsa to be overly sweet, with little to none of the savory shrimp flavor showing through. The boniato mashed potatoes did little to increase the flavor profile. Overall it was a strong piece of fish with a weak supporting cast of flavors.


The mahi mahi stands ready to be judged. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Seafood Scampi – Seared skewers of sea scallops and shrimp, Prince Edward Island mussels, diced tomatoes, and pasta served with scampi butter. If I were to complain about this dish, it would only be that there wasn't more of it. The scallops were an outstanding delight, but there are only a couple, so mind your portion split wisely, or you may go without. I don't care for their description, the scampi butter combines with the juices of the seafood and tomatoes to create just the hint of a broth. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente to give a carbohydrate body behind the savory bites of seafood. The mussels didn't look very appealing, they looked dried out to me, but tasted great. The spices were perfectly laid so as not to interfere with the taste of the seafood medley.


The scampi was the pinnacle of the meal for all of us. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Our ratings are as follows:

Dad (42): 4.7 of 5 – The seafood is amazing. One of the two sauces was not to my liking. The atmosphere is wonderful, especially the closer one sits to the aquarium. Some of the details are hard to notice from the nosebleed seats.

Mom (42): 4.8 of 5 – A little expensive. Loved the mahi mahi, even thought the sauce was very good. The scampi was excellent.

Daughter (18): 4.8 of 5 – Don't listen to my dad, the sauce was great on the mahi mahi. Watching the fish swim is the ultimate in relaxation.

Son (15): Not present.


I can forgive a lot of things, but the rampant use of pastels is borderline. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Comments

  1. By davidgra

    I have to admit that this is one of the few restaurants in Epcot that we just don't care for. We've eaten there a total of three times, the most recent being about six or seven years ago, and we've never once had a meal that we'd consider better than mediocre. The last time we ate there, the food for all five of us at the table (with each ordering something different) was pretty bad. For the prices they charge, it's not worth it.

  2. By ralfrick

    Copacabana is a Barry Manilow song. Ricky Ricardo worked at the Tropicana, which he bought and renamed Club Babalu (sp?).

  3. By theguitarman

    I wanted to point out one discrepancy regarding the table with the food allergy. Disney takes food allergies very seriously, so when you mention them in your reservation or to the waiter, Disney goes above and beyond at all of their restaurants. Yes, you are given a special menu, and they offer to have the chef come out and speak with you. When you place your order, they run it by the chef to be sure you haven't chosen an item that contains one of your allergens, and will come back in the event you accidentally do. I've never been just handed a book and not given a great amount of extra attention. I've always been supremely impressed with Disney's attention to food allergies!

  4. By carolinakid

    Quote Originally Posted by ralfrick View Post
    Copacabana is a Barry Manilow song. Ricky Ricardo worked at the Tropicana, which he bought and renamed Club Babalu (sp?).

    This.

  5. By quackinup

    Can't say that I'm excited by the menu (not much of a seafood fan) but this is a place I may have to try once just for the atmosphere, like I did the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.

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