Coral Reef Restaurant - Dining Aquaticby Roan Poulter, contributing writer
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.
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 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 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 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:
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.
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.
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.