With Disney’s Animal Kingdom finally making the jump to a “full day experience”, the now 20 year old park has seen the addition of new attractions with the Kilimanjaro Night Safari, entertainment with The Jungle Book – Alive With Magic and now dining with Tiffins. Does Disney’s newest Table Service add to the Animal Kingdom experience or does it go the way of the Dinosaur?
When first stepping into Tiffins one can’t help but to realize how new everything feels. At the time of this visit, the restaurant was still within the first 24 hours of opening, so this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, But with the rest of the Animal Kingdom’s lived in and long existing atmosphere one can’t help but realize the fresh smell of wood when opening the doors, or the scent of leather when opening the menus for the first time.
Tiffin’s is very much a new venture for the Animal Kingdom park, while it stands as a little more upscale than previously offered dining options like Yak And Yeti or Pizzafari, Tiffin’s offers a type of exotic yet accessible option to dining that could make tame tastes seem new.
Tiffin’s has a somewhat small and specialized menu of appetizers and entrees, but both offer something for any tongue. Emboldened names on the menu draw the attention with side dishes that question the decision. Sure Pork Tenderloin doesn’t sound too crazy, but when paired with Huitlacoche Tamale, Hominy Succotash, and Red Mole Sauce, the dish sounds a bit more than some might expect. But here’s where Tiffin’s shines. All the fare may seem exotic enough with the various spice, flavor profiles and accoutremont but at the end of the day isn’t anything too scary.
Wanting to try as much as possible I opted to order the Black Eye-Pea Fritters with Zhough, Yogurt, Peppadew Purée. Very similar to a Falafel the dish came with three fritters on a bed of the sauces. The standout here was the peppadew puree, offering a nice sweetness alongside the spices which stood out well alongside the earthy lightly friend pea mash. While unaware at the time, zhough is a green chile paste, and while it offered a nice mildness (especially when paired with the yogurt on the plate), having more of a taste for the spice and heat offered by peppers, I really didn’t dig into this as much as I should have. But for $11 I felt the appetizer had enough going for it, and I didn’t mind sharing with the other two people I was dining with.
For an entree I decided to go with the Berbere Spiced Lamb Chop (after much deliberation). Lamb is very easy to overcook, which is what lead me to try it here, also because when asked which to order between the lamb and the duck the server nodded excitedly at the option of lamb. Served with mustard greens, lentils, and a tomato mint chutney I was extremely excited to try this, and I was not let down in the least. The lamb was cooked perfectly, nice and rare with the berbere spices adding a nice earthiness to the meat. While I’ve never been a fan of lentils (it’s a texture thing) I found the earthy legume to be a nice compliment to the berbere spiced lamb. While I had originally wished this came with some type of starch like a potato or parsnip, I came to appreciate the lentil side especially alongside the bitterness of the mustard greens. Similar to a very dark lettuce or chard, mustard greens may be a lot to eat on their own. But with the tomato and mint chutney, they became the perfect side. The chutney offered a nice sweetness and any fear I had of the mint overpowering the flavor quickly disappeared.
This was one of those meals that I didn’t want to end, and while $41 seems like a bit much when browsing a menu, multiple times during my meal I was surprised to remember that I was eating this at a theme park. Not just that, but a theme park whose food I usually just equated to typical Asian style fried rice based dishes and Jalapeno Stuffed Pretzels.
Tiffins offers a wide assortment of tropical inspired mixed drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. But being a beer fan I had to go with the Kungaloosh. A spiced ale brewed exclusively for the Walt Disney World resort by Concrete Beach Brewing (an offshoot of Sam Adams), this was quite similar to most fall/winter seasonal beers offered by most breweries. A nice round ale spiced with cinnamon and cardamom, I very much enjoyed this Adventurer’s Club inspired (Kungaloosh was the greeting one would receive when entering the old Downtown Disney establishment) beer and had two with my dinner. For a little bit of cross promotion I talked about this beer over at the Bagged And Bored Cast Episode #303 if you want to hear a little more about it.
For dessert I also had a coffee, rum, brown sugar and butter known as a Mustang Coffee that was exquisite, and made me wonder why I haven’t been putting butter and brown sugar in my coffee for years. Yes, putting butter in coffee may seem a little strange at first those thoughts go away as soon as you remember that you’re usually already adding milk or cream to your morning coffee anyways, and what’s butter besides a salted heavy heavy cream?
Story runs deep in Tiffin’s and now in the typical Disney way. Cast aside are the made up tales of adventure and fantasy as the restaurant and its cuisine are based off of the Imagineers responsible for creating the Animal Kingdom’s adventures through Africa and India. Photos and drawings from safari line the walls of three distinct themed dining rooms, featuring artwork from indigenous crafters as well as relics from Animal Kingdoms actual own history.
The Cast Members here seem keen and excited to share these stories, giving a little bit more gravitas to the experience, and with your meal comes one of twelve different printed sketches from Disney Legend Joe Rhode, the Imagineer responsible for planning all of Animal Kingdom.
Tiffin’s delivered an experience that far surpasses most other dining ventures and adds a little bit of flair to a park that is in a state of flux as it is. While still in it’s opening weekend, when I dined there was no wait at all, and I only saw three other tables in the dining room over the course of my meal (a surprise since it was a Saturday night the first weekend of Animal Kingdom’s newly extended hours and the second night the park offered night time entertainment).
I can only say good things about this place, and while it comes at a premium (dinner and two drinks for myself came to $87) it was a fantastic experience that everyone should jump on now before word gets out about just how wonderful Tiffin’s is.