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.
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.
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.
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.
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.