REVIEW - Tiffins at Disney's Animal Kingdom

May 27, 2016 in "Tiffins"

Tiffins overview

Disney’s Animal Kingdom welcomed a brand new signature restaurants to its dining line-up today with the opening of Tiffins.

For the first time, Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers high-end dining, with pricing comparable to some of Walt Disney World’s established guest favorites, such as California Grill and Citricos.

It might sound ambitious to put a high-end restaurant in a park like Animal Kingdom, and it is yet to be seen if the risk will pay off. But the team at Disney has not tip-toed around the idea, and has instead gone all out to create a restaurant that could be equally at home in one of the deluxe resort hotels.

The motivation behind the new restaurant more than likely originate from Disney’s desire for the park to become an all-day venue. The new nighttime offerings, such as the upcoming Rivers of Light, and Kilimanjaro Night Safaris, mean there is much more to do once the sun goes down. And perhaps a signature dinner is the perfect addition to the new after-dark line-up.

The Tiffins Building

Built onto the back of the existing Pizzafari with new construction, Tiffins is currently somewhat tucked away in the corner of the park. It sits on the side of the walkway to what was Camp Minnie-Mickey, and although it's just a dead-end now, come 2017 it will be the main walkway to Pandora - The World of AVATAR.

There isn’t a great deal to see on the exterior. It fits in well with the nearby Pizzafari, but keeps a fairly low profile. To the left of Tiffins is the Nomad Lounge, which although part of Tiffins, has its own name, menu and space. We'll be back for a separate look at the Lounge.

Arriving at the main entrance you immediately get a sense that this is not your normal theme park restaurant. The Tiffins sign is simple and elegant, complete with a row of Tiffin boxes on the top of the sign.

The menu display is equally elegant, and will give diners the first indication that this restaurant is indeed signature.

Stepping through the doors, which are covered with beautiful hand carved animals, you find yourself in the lobby.

A beautiful gold ceiling is a highlight of the room, along with a wooden carved map of the world behind the check-in desk.

Tiffins is a gallery of art based on the travel and adventure that inspires the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the restaurant stays true to that throughout.

There are three dining rooms, the Safari gallery, the Grand gallery and the Trek Gallery.

Tiffins Safari Gallery

Perhaps the most detailed of the three dining rooms, the Safari Gallery, is decorated with photos and artifacts of the Imagineer’s exploration of Eastern and Southern Africa, which was the inspiration for Harambe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

You’ll find signs, artwork, photographs, and even one of the electrical boards from Tusker House.

The dining room is beautiful to look at. While covered in interesting things to see, it still feels very luxurious and high-end.

The seating is leather, and includes a combination of tables and booths. A wooden ceiling and thick wood paneling throughout adds to the air of luxury.

Tiffins Grand Gallery

The largest of the three dining rooms, the Grand Gallery reflects folk influences that led to the design of the park.

In the center are wooden carvings that once lined the walkway to Camp Minnie Mickey.

At the rear of the building are intricately carved wooden animals and insects, that also once had a home on Pizzafari.

Like the Safari Gallery, the room looks and feels beautiful, with leather seats, wooden paneling, and a combination of booths and tables.

Tiffins Trek Gallery

Similar to the Safari Gallery, this third dining room represents the adventures of Imagineers overseas, but this time in South Asia, and specifically the creation of Anandapur.

Artwork, photographs and artifacts cover the walls, and there are things that you are sure to recognize from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Tiffins - The Food

 

The physical menu is one of the best menu presentations at Walt Disney World. Bound in a heavy leather book, it adds to the feeling of adventure and word travel, and underlines that you are dining in a special restaurant. (View full menu)

A complimentary bread basket starts your culinary adventure at Tiffins, giving you a chance to look over the menu and make some hard decisions.

The appetizer line-up is very different, and includes some interesting ingredients. A Marinated Grilled Octopus, Flash Fried Icy Blue Mussels, Cheese and Chicken Liver Pate, and a Fish Crudo are some of the more unusual dishes.

We tried the Black-Eyed Pea Fritters, accompanied with the Tiffins Signature Bread Service.

The fritters were a great way to get started. Light, with a satisfying crisp outside, you get a serving of three for $11.

The Tiffins Signature Bread Service at $10 is beautifully presented in a stack of containers, with three types of bread on the top, and a set of four accompaniments below. There is a Harissa Yogurt, Lime Chutney and a Black-Eyed Pea Hummus.


Something to be aware of, is that there is a complimentary bread basket which is delicious, but contains one of the three breads that is also part of the appetizer bread service.

Moving to entrees, there is a solid line-up of proteins, including a Chermoula-rubbed Chicken, a Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, Pan-seared Duck Breast, a Berbere-spiced Lamb Chop, a Hoisin-glazed Halibut, and the most expensive dish on the menu - the Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib. A Vegetable Curry is the only entree without a meat.

The lowest price entree with a meat is the Chermoula-rubbed Chicken at $34, and the majority of dishes are in the $40 range.

The Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib was without question our favorite dish at the restaurant. Cooked to absolute perfection at a medium-rare, it had a depth of flavor that is hard to find. Wagyu Beef isn’t cheap, and at $53, you only get 4 slices, but it is most definately worth it.

The Whole-Fried Snapper at $43 was our second entree, and although nothing could really compare to the Wagyu Beef, it was wonderfully prepared and had a great flavor. The fish was moist and tender, and the accompanying fermented black bean sauce complemented it perfectly.

Finally for dessert, we tried two interesting sounding dishes - the Passion Fruit Tapioca Creme and the restaurant’s signature Calamansi Mousse.

Both were incredibly fresh tasting, light, and were the perfect sweet ending to the meal. Priced at $12, the desserts are on the small side, but ooze quality.

As you would expect, there is an extensive range of specialty drinks, beers and wines, along with a couple of non-alcoholic options.

The Verdict

Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been crying out for a good restaurant, and we are happy to say that Tiffins is it.

Fans of Jiko and Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be pleased that Tiffins follows in a similar mold. There is very much a depth of flavor that you don’t see in many restaurants, and it is thankfully far superior to the recently opened Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen that attempts a similar world traveller inspired menu.

The ambiance of the restaurant is calm and relaxing, and although it is a signature location, families visiting with young children can be easily accommodated. The kid’s menu is one of the better ones, including short ribs and salmon.

Service of course varies, but on our visit, everything was exactly as expected.

It is likely that drinks, and a three course dinner will cost around $100 per person, and that’s a lot, especially inside a theme park. Tiffins perhaps is not a place that you visit in between rides on Everest and Kilimanjaro. But it is perfect for an evening out when you have the proper time to enjoy the experience.

With the opening of Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it goes right into the top 10 of Walt Disney World restaurants. Once inside, you quickly forget you are in a theme park, and the break from the hustle and bustle of the park is very welcome. This is not a restaurant pretending to be high-end, it is high-end. It is a close call with Jiko, and the only way to find out is to make it part of your next trip to Walt Disney World.

Tiffins is open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch is served 11:30am to 3:30pm, and dinner from 4pm to 9:30pm. The Disney Dining plan is accepted with two credits. As Tiffins is an in-park restaurant, there is no dress code beyond that required to enter the park.

As always, WDWMAGIC restaurant reviews are paid in full by the reviewer, and are not part of any promotional tasting.

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Article Posted: May 27, 2016 / 4:54pm EDT