So, my mom and I had already done one day at Epcot, but were doing a second day so that we could finish up World Showcase and see Illuminations. That first day we were there, my mom spent a lot of time reminiscing about her only other trips there in 1985 and 1986 (when I was 1 and 2). She had a lot of fun telling me about what had changed, and what was new. At one point, she mentioned a restaurant they had eaten in that was really cool…a restaurant that looked into a giant aquarium. When I told her that restaurant, Coral Reef, was still there, she said she would LOVE to eat there again.
Okay, now there are lots of restaurants with reputations at Disney World. Within the Disney community, you hear a lot of opinions repeated so much, that you just accept them as fact. Well, there are few restaurants with worse reputations than Coral Reef. Every now and then, you may hear someone say it was okay…but mostly, you hear people say they will never eat there again, and that the food, service, and value were all horrible. However, it is also very difficult to get an ADR there! When you search ADR’s in Epcot, it’s very often unavailable.
So, the day before we were going back to Epcot, we were working on getting reservations, and I told my mom I would check and see if Coral Reef was available. I just KNEW it wouldn’t be, so I really wasn’t worried about it (note: even though I knew I would have to eat there at some point for the blog, I didn’t want my mom to be subjected to a bad experience on her vacation). With my mom sitting next to me, looking over my shoulder at my computer screen, I searched for lunch at Coral Reef. *Sigh* Of course (in case you didn’t know from the title of this post), it was available. This was the first time I had ever seen openings there! The time was for 11:20am…perfect for our schedule. My mom was so excited! Since, as I said earlier, I knew I would have to eat there eventually anyway, I made the ADR.
At this point, I made a very cowardly decision. I decided not to tell my mom about what everyone says about Coral Reef. She was so excited to go there and try it, and I didn’t want to burst her bubble. Although, I also didn’t want to tell her that it was going to be bad…that would ruin it for her. Plus, if/when it was terrible, I wanted to be able to claim to be surprised. Like, “Oh mom, I’m so sorry the food was awful, I had no idea!” I know, I know…I said it was cowardly! But, I thought maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t be so bad and it wouldn’t matter.
Since we had already done all we wanted to do in Future World, and World Showcase doesn’t open til 11 anyway, we decided to sleep in that morning (well, as much as Malcolm would let us), and plan on getting to Epcot at 11 for lunch and starting our day then. Once again, our plan worked out well…I was quickly discovering that EVERYTHING is easier and less stressful with a toddler when you have another adult there to help you…go figure! Anyway, we got there at about 11:15 and checked in.
One thing I had heard about Coral Reef was that if you eat there, you should request a table near the aquarium windows, since the atmosphere is the only good thing about the restaurant. I’d heard several people say that they were far away and couldn’t see the fish and were unhappy. I thought about it, but in the end I decided not to request an aquarium-side table. I made this decision based on several factors: 1) Malcolm was hungry, and hungry toddlers get very cranky, 2) I was hungry, and hungry pregnant women get very cranky, and 3) It didn’t really matter to us if we were super close to the fishes, we aren’t too picky. Even without making a special request, this was one of the longest waits I’ve had for a table after checking in. Granted, it was only about 10 or 15 minutes, but, still, one of the longer waits.
We entered the dining room and were sat on the front part of the third level…almost as far away from the tank as you can possibly get. However, I thought that our view was still pretty good. No, the fish weren’t right up in our faces…but it also meant that there weren’t people coming right up to our table to take pictures of the tanks (like I totally did to some poor people at one of the front and center tables). While I know Malcolm would have liked to be closer, and it probably would have made the meal easier for me because he would have been distracted, I don’t necessarily think it’s worth the extra wait to sit at one of the first tier tables. That being said, I’ll probably change my mind when Malcolm is older and tells me he wants to sit right next to the fish.
I had looked at the menu online before we went (thanks to allears.net!!), and honestly, I wasn’t all that impressed with the options. It’s actually a pretty limited menu, and it’s also very expensive. I decided that I would ask our server for his opinion. He recommended we get either the Grilled Mahi Mahi, or the Seared Chicken Breast. My mom and I both couldn’t decide between the two, so we got one of each and shared. We didn’t order anything for Malcolm, because he was going to eat off of our plates (seriously, my kid LOVES Mahi Mahi and rice…he’s weird like that).
Our drinks and bread came out first. In Malcolm’s apple juice, they had stuck in some weird plastic dolphin thing for decoration. I thought it was pretty dumb at first…but then Malcolm spent most of the meal playing with it, and even began to use it as a fork at one point. I’m all about pointless crap if it keeps him entertained, so that was a bonus. Also, the bread was super yummy. We even had to ask for more. I was really happy about that because I figured if the food was terrible, at least we would have bread, so we wouldn’t starve.
Our food came pretty quickly, and I have to say, I was impressed with the presentation. It LOOKED good, and was very pretty. I know it’s silly, but when I go to a nice restaurant, I like for my food to be kind of pretty. It’s not a requirement, or a deal-breaker or anything, but just something I look for that makes me happy.
I started with the chicken, which was served with spaetzle with bacon. I was actually really pleased with the flavor of the chicken. It was a bit dry, but overall, I thought it was yummy. The spaetzle was pretty good too. Not my favorite thing ever, but good, and Malcolm liked it.
The Mahi Mahi with rice, on the other hand, was FANTASTIC!! I thought it was so good, and it went so well with the rice and everything. This is most definitely a dish I would return for. Also, I know this is totally wrong, but there is just something fun about eating fish while looking into an aquarium. Twisted? Yes. But something I think everyone should do at least once in their lives. Anyway, poor Malcolm didn’t get very much of the fish because my mom and I ate most of it, but honestly, it was too good to waste on a kid who’s happy to eat dog food. Don’t think Malcolm starved though. He ate a lot of the spaetzle, rice, bread, and some crackers that our waiter brought him.
For dessert, we decided to order the Butterscotch Creme Brulee with seasonal berries. I really wanted to get the Chocolate Wave, because I’ve heard so many good things about it. However, for some reason, when I’m pregnant, I get SUPER sensitive to the flavor of alcohol and can’t eat anything made with liquor…it literally gags me. So, since my mom and I are both huge creme brulee fans, that’s what we went with.
One thing I thought was interesting about the dessert…it said “with seasonal berries” on the menu, yet it came with a lone strawberry, and not even a whole strawberry! It was cut in half! I was a bit disappointed with that, but the actual creme brulee made me forget. It was perfect! I loved the butterscotch flavor, and it was cooked perfectly! It was also served with a biscotti, but we didn’t get to try that, because Malcolm grabbed it as soon as it was set on our table and drolled all over it. Although, he seemed to really like it, so I guess it was good.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Coral Reef. However, I’m not sure I could really recommend it. Yes, it was good. Yes, I will return there. But, if you only had one or two days to spend at Epcot, there are so many other places I would tell you to visit first. I mean, it wasn’t as good as Les Chefs or Le Cellier or Via Napoli. BUT, if you want American food, or just really love aquariums, someone in your party is just dying to go there, or you have several days at Epcot-check it out.
I’m hoping my good experience wasn’t a fluke after all the bad reports. I’m hoping that maybe Coral Reef knows how bad it reputation is and is working on improving and THAT is why it was good when we went.
Have you been to Coral Reef? Let me know about your experience there! Either leave a comment, tweet me @scarlettashley1 on twitter, friend me on Facebook under Scarlett Ashley, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org