I had some amazing dining experiences during my recent trip to Disney World. This time around, I booked a lot of table service meals, since I found during my last trip that I wasn’t all that fond of Disney’s counter service restaurants. (Disney does many things very well, but counter service food just isn’t one of them.) My admin friend from the Disney Food Blog asked me which restaurant was my favorite from this trip. It was a tie between Sanaa at Animal Kingdom’s Kidani Village and Todd English’s Bluezoo at the Dolphin. Both scored really high points for both food and atmosphere. Let’s start with Sanaa.
Sanaa is the newest table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Villas, or more specifically, Kidani Village, the new Disney Vacation Club villas with African theming. Animal Kingdom Lodge and these new villas feature a huge wildlife preserve with wild animals roaming around the grounds that you normally would only see in Africa (or on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom theme park). Guests who stay here have this spectacular view for their entire stay from their balconies, special viewing areas, and the property’s restaurants. You can read more about this property at Disney’s website.
Sanaa bills itself as African cuisine with Indian flavors. I have only sampled African food once before, but I love Indian food, and the photos I saw online of various entrees were just mouth-watering. I checked out the menu online before I left on my trip and knew I just had to squeeze in lunch there one day.
On Saturday, after catching Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom park, I grabbed a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge/Kidani Village. Kidani Village is the first stop on the bus route. This is a beautiful property, and I’m sure all the new Disney Vacation Club owners who bought into this are rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation of their first stay there, as well they should be. I walked around snapping photos of the lobby before heading downstairs to see if I could get a walk-in reservation at Sanaa. As it turned out, lunch was a great time to try eating there, as it was almost empty. (Everyone was at the parks, of course.) Score!
According to Disney’s website, Sanaa means “work of art” in swahili. This makes it an appropriate name for this restaurant, which is just gorgeous. The attention to detail is typical Disney excellence, and culminates with these neat tree branches that dissolve into the ceiling. But the centerpiece is the view: The restaurant has large windows through which you can view wildlife (I saw zebras) roaming just on the other side of the glass. When you think about Disney restaurants with a terrific view, this has to go toward the top of the list.
Sanaa includes a bar/lounge area for a pre-dinner drink while waiting for your table, which is exactly what I always hope for when there’s a long wait. My wait was about two seconds, however, so I bypassed the bar and was led straight to my table by my hostess, Cassandra, who is from Africa. I didn’t think to ask if the menu was available at the bar. Just for the record, there are plenty of two-top tables in this restaurant in comfortable locations.
My waiter was Simon, and he did an impeccable job–very, very professional, yet just the right amount of friendly. He started to explain the menu to me, and I didn’t really have the heart to tell him that I had already read the menu online and knew what I wanted. So I let him get through quite a lot of his spiel before I finally interrupted him. I ordered an iced coffee and the tandoori chicken.
This tandoori chicken wasn’t just good, it was the best tandoori chicken I’ve ever had. The chicken was blackened just enough on the outside to be nice and crispy, but oh so tender on the inside. It was served with diced red onions, tomatoes and mint leaves on a piece of naan bread with a dollop of cucumber rait (which reminded me of tzatziki). The flavors were sensational, and I savored every bite. I ate almost all of it, which was a little too much for me. I was uncomfortably full when I left, but it was worth it. Needless to say, I did not have room for dessert.
I’m so happy I was able to dine at this restaurant during my trip, and also very glad it was during lunch. Because there were only a few other people there, the restaurant was quiet and peaceful, and I was able to just relax, take in the decor, the ambience, the view of the zebra outside the window, and the flavors of the food. It’s one of my favorite memories of my trip.
Sanaa gets a rave review from me. From now on, this is a must-do restaurant on my dining list when at Disney World.