Filed under: Dining
On my last trip I made a reservation to have a late birthday celebration at one of Epcot’s restaurants. I’ve been to most of the eateries in Epcot, but there was one that was missing from my list. I had never been to Coral Reef before. I had always heard mixed reviews, but I wanted to give it a try for myself. I thought at least the scenery would be cool with a great view of the fish tank. I really love seafood, so I wanted to give it a shot since it touts a menu featuring my favorite food. Was it worth going against all of the bad reviews? Read on to find out!
Our visit to Coral Reef started with a 30 minute wait, even though we had made an Advanced Dining Reservation. There seemed to be a lot of folks standing around in a similar situation. Since the restaurant is located inside the Seas Pavilion, we wound up sitting outside listening to the seagulls chant, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” for half an hour. There is not a ton of space inside, so if the weather is not cooperating, waiting could be a very wet time. I could stand around talking and being silly with my friends for hours, so it wasn’t horrible to have to spend half an hour with them outside, but we were hungry!
Once inside, the atmosphere at Coral Reef is one of its key selling points. The lobby feels as though you are walking into the sea: there are jellyfish-shaped light fixtures on the ceiling and a wave pattern on the floor. When guests are seated, the tank side dining area is revealed. The view of the Seas Pavilion’s aquarium is the main event here and really is beautiful. The dining area is smaller than I pictured, but there are semi-circular booths facing the tank to give parties a nice view of the fish swimming around. My group was given one of these tables and really enjoyed the view. It is also quite loud in here, which occasionally made conversation more difficult than it really should have been.
Since we were celebrating a birthday and the completion of that day’s half marathon for two of my dining companions, we ordered appetizers. I had heard great things about the creamy lobster soup (basically, lobster bisque), so that was my selection. A couple of my friends were disappointed that there were only one or two options that were not made with seafood. With that in mind, the other appetizers at the table included crab cakes, the mixed field greens salad, and the day’s soup of the day made with veggies and beans, but no fish. My soup was good, but not amazing; I’m not sure if I would order it again. The salad with candied walnuts, seasonal fruit, and blue cheese looked lovely, and my friend reported it tasted as good as it it looked. The crab cakes also got a good review. The soup of the day didn’t get get much praise, unfortunately. It sounded like an odd combination of spinach and beans, and my friend didn’t love it by any means.
When it came to picking and entree, my philosophy was “the more fish the better.” I opted for the mahi mahi, which was topped with shrimp and with a coconut based sauce. Unfortunately, the shrimp were really overcooked. Otherwise, the mahi was decent, and I liked the sauce, but I just couldn’t get over the chewy shrimp. One friend ordered the vegetable-potato strudel and really enjoyed it, so keep that in mind, vegetarians. The seared chicken breast was also ordered, but it wasn’t enjoyed. My friend who ordered the braised pork shank all but licked his plate.
Dessert was probably my favorite part of the meal. Most of us ordered the signature chocolate wave, and one opted for the Baileys and Jack Daniel’s mousse. The chocolate wave was basically a molten chocolate cake with a raspberry gelato served along with it. It was delicious! I love the combination of chocolate and raspberry, so I was very happy with this sweet ending. The Baileys and Jack Daniel’s mousse also got rave reviews! It was a good way to end an otherwise so-so meal for me.
In addition to my so-so meal, the service was also mediocre. The fact that the restaurant was running behind may have been because service was slow. It took a while to get both our food and our check, and I don’t think our server ever checked on us after our entrees were served. The cast member was pleasant, so I couldn’t fault her for her personality, but it was less than impressive service on top of a less than impressive dinner.
Overall, I wasn’t all that pleased with my Coral Reef experience. I’m usually pretty upbeat about my adventures in Disney World, but this restaurant just fell short for me. Sure, it was cool to watch the fish swim around while we had dinner, but that alone is not worth sacrificing a good meal and good service. It certainly wasn’t the worst dinner I’ve ever had, but it was far from great. A few of my fellow diners did really enjoy their meals, but there seemed to be an even split between those who liked their food and those who weren’t really impressed. I think it will be a while until I give this one another chance, especially since I really love a lot of the other options in Epcot.
How about you? Have you dined at the Coral Reef recently? Tell me if you loved it or hated it in the comments!