(Walt Disney World) During a recent visit to Walt Disney World, we found ourselves searching for a new dining experience. At our usual home resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, there were several wonderful choices from the Disney quick-serve, The Mara, to the buffet-style, Boma – Flavors of Africa, and finally the Signature Disney restaurant, Jiko – The Cooking Place. Trouble is, we’ve been to each; most many times. We wanted fresh and new — we wanted an “experience”.
Disney does experiences very well, as you know. From the theme to the food and service, Disney knows how to do it all just right. They did it again with the place we ultimately decided upon — SANAA.
SANAA is pronounced “sah-NAH” by the Disney Cast Members, and it’s said to be the Swahili word for a “work of art” and for “beauty”. I’d agree with both translations as they equally apply. The Orlando Sentinel, which awarded SANAA 4 of 5 stars in its restaurant rating, says that the“…menu melds the cookery of the islands of the Indian Ocean that are part of Africa — Zanzibar, the Seychelles, Comoro Islands, Mauritius and Madagascar. This widens the spice options and Sanaa handles the seasoning with great skill.” To this foodie, SANAA does those thing, but is also nothing short of a perfect addition to the offerings of Animal Kingdom Lodge and WDW, overall.
This relatively new gem in the crown of the now-larger Animal Kingdom Lodge resort area is in Kidani Village, the Disney Vacation Club facility just a short bus ride away from Jambo House. Kidani Village is also the more recent addition to the resort taking the form of a large cape buffalo horn-shaped series of buildings (when viewed from above). Along with sports courts, some prized covered parking, a small gift shop and themed pool areas, Kidani Village adds SANAA with a touch of Disney magic. Note that the other eateries mentioned above are all located in Jambo House, the core hotel and entertainment complex of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
SANAA continues the Disney trend of going beyond the traditional and bringing the world’s cuisines to guests of the World. Take for example the Landry’s-operated Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom Park near Expedition Everest, it’s commercial, but it’s also not traditional theme park food and that’s a welcome thing to me. Exotic food and dining experiences are growing in popularity in America and that’s reflected by Disney and it’s operating partners. Value for money is also important these days, SANAA delivers on all three.
To start, SANAA’s decor is imagineering at it’s foodie best. Hidden meaning, and hidden Mickeys, abound in the dining room. Above your heads are key elements of the East African theme — the light fixtures and the ceiling. Our hostess, Memory from South Africa, explained that the light fixtures represented the water jugs and baskets carried to the village marketplace where local trade in fresh and dry goods would take place. Above the figurative lighting was the stunning ceiling, comprised of an abstract (yet recognizable) canopy of an Umbrella Acacia tree. It was explained to us that the canopy provided shade and a place to set-up goods for barter or trade — a traditional setting for a marketplace in East Africa. Other features of the theme were as intriguing, including the columns in the form of giant painted beads, once used as currency, and the chairs taking various forms such as warriors’ shields with detailed carving. Tables contained at least one hidden Mickey, as did the displays of original African art on the walls and in small niches throughout the rooms, including the attached bar area.
The final, key feature that I’ll mention were the floor to ceiling arched windows that overlooked the Kidani Village savanna. Our dining partners were giraffes, zebras, water buck and more — all just a stone’s throw from our table. Of the scores of restaurants “on-property”, SANAA is the only one with such a breathtaking view of wildlife. It seemed that all conversation just suddenly stopped, when a giraffe casually walked by the dining room while we were there. That’s wondrous and unique.
The menu was also unique with lots of choices, but not so many so as to overwhelm the first time adventurer. It focused on sustainable foods, drawing from globally-available ingredients. The sustainable fish of the day was Arctic Char, for example. Our waiter was friendly and knowledgeable. While we always review menus, when somewhere new we try to have the waiter lead us to the best items available that day. In this situation, we decided, with his input, on a tour of the region so-to-speak. No passport required.
Our first starter was the Indian Style Bread Service. We selected three breads, Naan, Roti and Paneer Paratha. These were served with accompaniments of our choosing, including Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus and Mango Chutney. At $8.99 this was a tempting and tasty choice to get the palate moving for our East African-Asian adventure.
Our second starter was the house-made Tomato Soup with Paneer Cheese for $5.49. Rich and thick, almost like a bisque, it was absolutely wonderful. The Paneer Cheese was added in cubes and, warmed by the soup, melted to add a punctuation of creaminess that encourages you to practically scrape the bowl to not miss a drop.
My main was the Tandoori Chicken with fragrant Basmati rice and a tomato and cucumber-yogurt Raita for $14.99. The chicken was moist and Raita only had one problem – there wasn’t enough of it! The rice was a bit plain which was probably a good thing as it didn’t compete with the chicken. Together, they were a wonderful, balanced selection.
Mrs. PDF chose the Salad Sampler, which was technically a starter for sharing, but served as an ample entree. Her selections were Chickpeas with cucumber and tomato, Roasted potato, corn and spinach, and Watermelon, lime and radish. Of the three the Watermelon, lime and radish salad is what I heard about all evening. She said she could have had three bowls of that one alone. The price? Just $6.99.
My daughter sampled our dishes and had her own meal. She particularly loved the Bread Service and couldn’t get enough of the Naan. For her age, she’s developing a pretty discerning palate.
No dessert for the adults, as the portions were generous and the pace relaxed. Those would have to wait until our next visit. For my daughter it was chocolate cake and ice cream with Mickey Mouse made of chocolate.
SANAA is a must for a “Mouseke-foodie”, or anyone seeking a new dining experience while in WDW. I assure you that there will be another visit by our family, as soon as we return to the Happiest Place on Earth. Until then, as it is said in Swahili, “Je fun. Kula vizuri.”
Read more about SANAA, including other reviews, and get directions and more on Urbanspoon.com
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About the AuthorKevin Barron is a husband, father, self-described geek, and enthusiastic founder of PeeDeeFoodie.com. He also hosts its companion podcast, the Pee Dee Food Show, which can be found on iTunes and the blog. Learn more about Kevin under the Contributors tab above.
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