Restaurant Review: Coral Reef

by Gray Cargill on June 12, 2009

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining in Epcot’s Coral Reef restaurant, located in the Living Seas section of Future World.  I chose to have lunch there for two reasons: The underwater aquarium view and a particular item on the menu that doesn’t appear to be served anywhere else on Disney property. As I was researching my dining choices online, I ran across tons of negative reviews for this restaurant. This made me a little nervous. But finally, I decided it was worth the risk, and I would just make up my own mind about it.

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

I needn’t have worried. I had a delightful lunch here. First off, it’s a beautiful restaurant, inside and out. They do have the large fish tanks to view while dining, which puts this among the top of my “favorite Disney restaurants with a view” list. I did not have a seat right in front of the aquarium, which was fine by me, since you can see it from pretty much the whole restaurant.  I arrived at 11:50 for my 12pm ADR and got in promptly at 12. Service was efficient and close to excellent (the one glitch was when the server brought me the wrong entree but that was straightened out in less than a minute). I mention the efficiency because I was a little concerned about how long it would take to eat at a table service restaurant for lunch on a day when I had a full agenda at the park.  That definitely wasn’t a problem here.  I placed my order within five minutes of sitting down, the food arrived at 12:20, and I was out of there by 12:32. Seriously.

Bread and Dipping Oil

Bread and Dipping Oil

While I was awaiting my meal, my waitress brought out some bread and dipping oil. I’m not normally a bread eater, but it’s hard to resist trying a new dipping oil. All dipping oils I have previously had were of the Italian variety, usually heavy on the garlic; this one had a slightly Asian taste to it. Interesting. Not bad, but not enough to tempt me to eat lots of bread. For my meal, I ordered the blackened catfish with pepperjack cheese grits.

Catfish with Cheese Grits

Catfish with Cheese Grits

The catfish and grits were so delicious I practically inhaled them. These were truly the best grits I’ve ever had in my life–and I was just in New Orleans (“Land o’ Grits”) at Christmas time. I had some good grits in New Orleans, but these. . .these were really outstanding. They were very cheesy, with a good texture. The catfish was rubbed with some great spices that gave it just enough of a kick without being too much, and was topped with a tomato marmalade that was just a little sweet. It was heavenly.

Coral Reef Restaurant

Coral Reef Restaurant

The catfish was $17.99, the iced tea was $2.19.  Tax was $1.32.  As I was paying my check, the waitress brought me these two flat, plastic blue dolphins. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with them. She laughed and said I could use them to decorate a picture frame or something. (Like I would ever do that.) I thanked her and brought them home and gave them to my coworker’s daughter. Nice touch, though. I can’t remember the last time I was at a restaurant that gave me a gift for dining there.  I wouldn’t mind if this became a trend at all restaurants.

I am really perplexed by all the bad reviews I have read for this restaurant. Either  people’s expectations are out of whack, or I was eating at an alternate universe Coral Reef. Whatever the case, I had a fantastic solo dining experience and highly recommend it. If you go, order the catfish. It rocks.

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SoloFriendly August 23, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Wow, saying the steak at Coral is on par with Le Cellier is quite a compliment to CR! Le Cellier is pretty much the barometer by which all other red meat is measured at WDW. :-)

TheAngelForever August 23, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Yes, we had dinner at The Coral Reef. It was quite busy and loud (lots of kids including mine). TechyDad and I took lots of food photos. We usually do more, but were distracted. I have several photos from the Coral Reef. Looking to see if I blogged that yet. I think that is the day I left off at and then my son's 2nd B-day. I had a hard time debating if I liked my steak there more or Le Cellier – it was close.

SoloFriendly August 23, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Were you there at night, TAF? I'm wondering when exactly it gets busy. I have a feeling I was lucky with my timing. Do you take photos of your meals when you travel? I'd love to see what the steak looked like. (My meal WAS amazing. I can still taste it. LOL.)

TheAngelForever August 23, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I remember going to Coral Reef back in the early 90's when it was rarely busy. My brother was taught by a waiter how to eat a lobster (food plan was amazing back then). We went there in May and had a fabulous meal. My only complaint was the loudness in the restaurant. Thanks to the tank everything really echos in there. Your meal looked amazing. I have the steak since I had so much salmon and other fish on our trip.

SoloFriendly August 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Wow, saying the steak at Coral is on par with Le Cellier is quite a compliment to CR! Le Cellier is pretty much the barometer by which all other red meat is measured at WDW. :-)

TheAngelForever August 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Yes, we had dinner at The Coral Reef. It was quite busy and loud (lots of kids including mine). TechyDad and I took lots of food photos. We usually do more, but were distracted. I have several photos from the Coral Reef. Looking to see if I blogged that yet. I think that is the day I left off at and then my son's 2nd B-day. I had a hard time debating if I liked my steak there more or Le Cellier – it was close.

SoloFriendly August 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Were you there at night, TAF? I'm wondering when exactly it gets busy. I have a feeling I was lucky with my timing. Do you take photos of your meals when you travel? I'd love to see what the steak looked like. (My meal WAS amazing. I can still taste it. LOL.)

TheAngelForever August 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I remember going to Coral Reef back in the early 90's when it was rarely busy. My brother was taught by a waiter how to eat a lobster (food plan was amazing back then). We went there in May and had a fabulous meal. My only complaint was the loudness in the restaurant. Thanks to the tank everything really echos in there. Your meal looked amazing. I have the steak since I had so much salmon and other fish on our trip.

SoloFriendly June 16, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I saw that, too, Brad, and I was skeptical as well. I did book my ADR 3 months in advance, but had to adjust the time about a month before my trip. I had no problem doing that. I was there during prime lunch hour, and the restaurant was less than 1/3 full. People could have walked in and gotten a table easily. Maybe TouringPlans.com is talking about dinner reservations?

Brad June 16, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Great pictures. I'm curious, TouringPlans.com mentions that this is up there with Le Cellier on the number of days you need to book in advance. Did it seem crowded and did you have any trouble getting an ADR? I am a bit skeptical of the claim.

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