The Flying Fish Cafe, located at the Boardwalk Resort in Walt Disney World, is categorized (by Disney) as a “signature” dining experience, which means everything is priced with an even more outrageous mark-up than Disney is used to getting away with. That’s to be expected, of course, but the even bigger question remains “Is it still worth your time and money?”
SPOILER ALERT: Oh yeah…
Let’s dial it back a bit. Boots and I made advanced dining reservations there for 8:05 Saturday night, so we spent the late afternoon/early evening moseying around EPCOT and enjoying the holiday festivities over there. We arrived through the International Gateway just in time to catch our much-loved British Revolution performing at the gardens in the UK pavilion, then walked World Showcase for a while, grabbing a snack here and there and doing some shopping and sightseeing. The Candlelight Processional was going on that night with Gary Sinise hosting; although we didn’t see him or the performance, the stage at the American pavilion was beautifully decorated. In fact all of Epcot at dusk, with a cool chill in the air and holiday lights and decorations up in full force, looked pretty goshdarn stunning. I almost didn’t want to leave, but eventually we made our way back to the Boardwalk. We had an hour to kill and decided to spend it enjoy cocktails at the Bell Vue Lounge bar, where I enjoyed a Maker’s or two and we listened to the vintage Christmas radio broadcasts from the 1940s over the sound system. There were some very loud “undesirables” at the bar who had to be talked to by the bartender for their rather abhorrent and inappropriate conversation, but even they couldn’t dampen our spirits. Much.
Besides, the Boardwalk at night is just one of the many wonderful sights to see at Disney… and you don’t have to pay a cent to go there either. There was a great energy going on there that night. The Alabama / Auburn game being broadcast a few doors down at the EPSN Zone might have had something to do with it too…
At eight we left the lounge and went down to the Flying Fish, located on the boardwalk itself overlooking Crescent Lake. The flashy exterior (complete with large, gaudy, blinking neon sign) leads into a warm, inviting interior. The restaurant seemed a bit narrow but lushly decorated, bright and cheerful with plenty of blues and golds, with the feel of something akin to an underwater carnival. It maintains the boardwalk theme by celebrating fun and festivity, but not in a manner that seems chintzy or over-the-top.
We were taken to our table, where our server Tim (replete with thick Boston accent) brought us our menus and some rather pleasing potato sourdough bread. I also ordered a glass of Stag’s Leap Petite Sirah which I utterly enjoyed. So far we were off to a good start. After perusing the choices, Boots decided to go start with the soup of the day, which was Roasted Pumpkin Bisque, and finish with Pork Tenderloin. I figured I’d open up with the Tomato and Mozzarella salad and enjoy the Maine Sea Scallops for my entrée.
The first course arrived shortly thereafter. Here’s a look at Boots’s soup:
The pumpkin bisque was made from a fondue of Cedar Key clams, leeks, and butternut squash, served with clam beignets, applewood-smoked bacon, crème fraîche and pumpkin seed oil. If that sounds like a freakin’ mouthful and half, it only made the dish all the better for it. Boots claims it was outstanding. I tried some myself and had to concur entirely. ZOWIE. That was delicious, and in a larger bowl could easily have been a meal in and of itself.
Comparatively, my tomato and mozzarella salad might seem tame in comparison:
… but I totally enjoyed it. Comprised of Florida yellow beefsteak tomatoes, Ugli Ripe and Tiny grape tomatoes, petite basil, peppercorns, and a dressing of both aged balsamico and Sicilian olio verde, this was totally what the doctor ordered for a light, flavorful appetizer. I got to give it up for the Tiny Tomatoes though. I mean, they tasted wonderful but I just love saying, “Tiny Tomatoes”. It’s quite addictive. TINY TOMATOES! Anyway, I really liked this salad. Thankfully it wasn’t overloaded with dressing; it had just enough to complement the flavor. The mozzarella slices were thick but creamy and light. While I generally prefer the thicker, “meatier” beefsteak tomatoes, these Florida yellows were enjoyably crisp and fresh.
Well Flying Fish absolutely killed it with the appetizers, but now it was time for the show. Here’s a look at Boots’s pork tenderloin:
The “official” title to this entrée was ‘Grilled Pepperberry and Wattleseed-crusted Snake River Farms American Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin’. It was served with a macaroni-and-cheese side laced with bacon-studded greens, leek, fontina cheese, and truffles, and garnished with a compote made of figs, port wine, balsamico, red onions, and grilled portabella mushrooms. You know that “moment in the sun” bat-meets-ball noise in the last verse of John Fogerty’s ‘Centerfield’? That’s how well they knocked this one out of the park. Boots was over the moon with how perfectly the pork tenderloin came out. I sampled it myself and was pretty much in perfect agreement. It was just about as perfectly prepared as you could possibly want your grilled pork to be.
She wasn’t quite as enamored with the macaroni-and-cheese side dish:
Boots liked it but was expected something creamier and more traditional. This iteration of mac-n-cheese had a more natural, less pronounced flavor with a nutty, crunchy consistency. I tried it and agreed, although I felt that if had less of a ‘crunchy’ texture it would have been significantly better. Still, it was a unique flavor to an otherwise perfect dish.
And then here came my scallops:
The scallops were served in a Risotto di Carnolini bed, flavored with Kuri and Butternut Squash, Pecorino Romano, and Mascarpone and garnished with Crispy Prosciutto Cracklins. I had eaten pork the night before and was looking for a good seafood dish this time around, and I definitely had my wish fulfilled. The scallops were meaty and extremely tender, barely requiring the use of my knife at all. The risotto bed was creamy and rich, but never overpowering the sweet tenderness of the scallops. I was particularly taken in by the crispy prosciutto garnish; while it did make the entire entrée a wee bit ‘saltier’ than I would have liked, the sharp flavor still worked well with sweetness of the scallops.
We polished off our entrees as best as we could, but we hit the Wall pretty soon. Tim offered us the dessert menus but we passed. I wasn’t stuffed but I was very, very satisfied with our meal. The Flying Fish Cafe isn’t an inexpensive night out; with our Tables In Wonderland 20% discount, the entire meal (two appetizers, two entrees, two glasses of wine and soda) came to about $135 with tax and tip. But given the quality of the food, service, ambiance, and location, the Frying Fish Cafe left hugely positive impression on us. A return visit is definitely in order. Next time though, I’m leaving room for dessert. I gotta keep remembering to DO that! Here’s the video: