Trips to Walt Disney World are always full of memories that stick with us for a lifetime. Even among those memories certain ones stand out well above the others. I remember a New Years Eve years ago… it was still early in the evening, and it was raining a bit outside. My wife, Cheryl, and I had been looking for a place to eat dinner, and even though we didn’t have an ADR we were looking for something other than counter service. We had been exploring our then new Disney Vacation Club home resort, the BoardWalk Villas, and on a whim we decided to first head into the Flying Fish Cafe.
Shaking ourselves dry, we chatted with the greeters. They informed us that all their tables were booked for the evening, but that they could sit us at the counter next to the kitchen if we didn’t mind. We were hungry, wanted to be dry, and felt the warmth of the kitchen would be comforting. Back then there was no Chef’s Tasting Dinner; it was just the two of us sitting at the counter feeling a bit in the way. While we were looking over the menu, we started talking with the Chef while he was cooking and magic happened.
If I asked what something was, he made me a small portion to try, and one by one I worked through the appetizers. It was a lot of fun, and I could tell he was enjoying it as much as I was. He played with fire and did some cooking tricks (you don’t only get these in Teppan Edo). And it stopped mattering that we were in the way. He asked me if I trusted him and I said, “Sure, you’re cooking food that I’m eating.” He told me he’d make us something “off menu” and I couldn’t help but sit back and enjoy it.
This memory has always stood out for me, and every time I pass by the Flying Fish Cafe I’m reminded of it. That’s why I get excited when I have an opportunity to return to the Flying Fish as I did during the Reunion 2011 event put on by the WDW Today podcast and MEI-Mouse Fan Travel. Similar to the story above, it was raining, and Cheryl and I were looking for a place to eat while our friends went to the Candlelight Processional. From inside Epcot, we used the WDW Mobile Dining Reservations site to make an ADR.
We hadn’t been inside to the restaurant since the new Chef’s Counter opened. From the looks of it, it is basically a much more stylized version of where we had sat before – except now these seats come with a special price tag of $149 per person with a wine pairing or $99 without. That night however, we were there for a regular sit down dining experience so we passed by this area as well as the bar on the way to our table.
Walking through the restaurant, the old-style boardwalk feel is evident in the stylized look of the oceans on the floor and shells evident all over. There is also the hint of Coney Island with the roller coaster murals on the wall and the ferris wheel centered on the back wall of the restaurant. As the name of the restaurant implies there are flying fish in the air as you look up toward the restaurant’s ceiling – they are para-sailing on the lighting fixtures.
As is typical for our dining experience, Cheryl asked for the chef while I looked over the menu. Meanwhile, the waiter brought over some bread, which looked similar to my favorite bread from The Wave, but didn’t taste nearly as good. Cheryl ordred herself a special salad as an appetizer which looked to be quite good. She also ordered a special pasta dish as her main course. However, as sometimes happens the chef did not prepare her gluten free pasta correctly, and it was a sticky mess. Her meal, while looking presentable, was a bit unappetizing, and she had to send it back.
I have a rule I’m fairly strict about when dining out, especially at Walt Disney World where you can often end up paying good money for okay food. Simply put, if you don’t like it, don’t eat it, and request something else. I’ve never eaten at a restaurant anywhere that won’t do this for you, and this time was no different. The waitress took it back, and the chef asked if there was anything else he could make. Cheryl asked for some roasted fingerling potatoes instead.
My meal went much better. I started off with the “Degustation of Flying Fish Artisanal Cheeses.” This is the signature appetizer in the restaurant; it can also be ordered as a dessert. It has its own separate menu, and has the option to be paired with a wine flight. The cheeses are $16 for a tasting presentation of 5 cheeses and an assortment of accompaniments and toast points, with the wine flight costing an additional $16. If you’ve not tried a lot of different cheeses this could be considered an adventurous course. I will tell you that a soft cheese with honeycomb is a divine thing if you’ve never had it.
For my main course, I went with the Chef’s special, a Brioche and Herb Crusted North Carolina Day-Boat Flounder. It was served on top of a serving of heirloom root vegetables and topped with a citrus, truffle and Vermont butter sauce all for $36. I’m a huge flounder fan, and the crust on this fish was fantastic. It was moist, soft, crunchy, and delicious – the sauce was an excellent pairing. The vegetables have this sweetness to them that is an excellent reflection of their freshness, even when cooked. It is a fantastic dish.
As we were pretty full, we opted out of dessert. The waitress explained that she was comping us for Cheryl’s main course as it was not to her liking. Usually a restaurant when charging for an alternate dish will charge you for a menu item that approximates your order. As there is no comparable pasta dish on the menu I’m not sure how much they would have charged for it.
Overall this visit was split down the middle. My meal was fantastic and Cheryl’s was not. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t try it again in the future, it just means that we’re going to be much more careful about what Cheryl orders. Next time I’m hoping that she can have a better experience.
What about you? Have you ever been to the Flying Fish? What did you think? If not, do you want to go? What about this restaurant are you looking forward to the most? Are you considering the Chef’s Table? Okay, I’m-sorry-I-ate-your-fish, okay? I’m-sorry!