(I'll be posting a weekly dining review of a sit down or counter service disney establishment here until, well until I run out of places to review)
If you are expecting spicy ďhotĒ foods of India that you may get at your local, and probably very good, Indian restraint you will be sadly disappointed with Sanaa. They tell you right away that while it is indeed Indian food they use African flavors. The cooking here is a little slowed down, a little less "hot", and a little sweeter than you will expect. Weather you like it or not will depend on your ability to leave your preconceived notions about what Indian food is at the door.
How much you like Sanaa will also boil down to how much you like the sweeter and less robust version of curry that they serve. Calling it ďDisney hot,Ē meaning toned down for broader pallets, does not quite do what they are attempting justice but it is still accurate. The waiter even stated that they will make the curry hotter for you but overall the spices are mild there. Thatís the African influence. Slow cooked and savory.
The restaurant is set up to resemble a market, at least artistically. You can ask about anything in the slightly busy dining room and they will tell you about it and what it resembles. I asked about the lampshades, and was told that they were meant to represent the hand woven baskets and birdcages of the markets. Itís a room that is full of interesting arts and crafts like that, as well as traditional cooking utensils and quite a few hidden Mickeyís.
To fully get all of Sanaís flavors it is best experienced through itís sampler menu. Two or three dishes of your choice served together. You will get a taste and a feel for what the restaurant is about but it can be overwhelming. By the time the meal is over you will have sampled about 8-10 dishes, depending on your party! The quality of each part of the samplers varied wildly with the best being truly 5 star and the worst making you consider sending it back and asking for more of the better one.
There were 5 of us at the meal, one a diehard lover of Indian food. He was right in saying that the naan was incredibly disappointing. Doughy and not well cooked, it was as if they were rushing to get it out. A surprise because unlike at many Indian restraints you had to pay for the naan. Indian dining rooms are free flowing with it because itís a staple often used to scoop up the food and savory sauces. Here the bread is served with your choice of dipping sauces instead. We chose the mango chutney, which was our first experience with the cooling down and sweetening up of the food. The hotter spice hit your mouth well after the mango, giving you two tastes of what seemed to be two different flavors at different times that didnít balance correctly. The green mango pickle which was nice but a little too tart for me, although one member of our party thought it was the best thing on the menu. We all could have feasted the delicious cucumber raita for the rest of the day. Just brought it up to the room and picked at it all day. In fact next time we very well might! It was perfectly seasoned and surprisingly cool to the taste. The sad quality of the naan was made up by the delicious Onion Kulcha which turned out to be the perfect complement to the cucumber. Just a perfectly done sauce.
We also tried the salad sampler. The carrot, orange, and mint salad was overpowered by the carrot. Mint flavors were barely notable. The best was the watermelon, lime, and radish. Initially I was very skeptical of this one but trust me itís the most clean and refreshing part of the menu. The radish ads a lasting crunch to the watermelon, and the melon sweetens the radish, with the lime supplying just the right amount of tartness. The roasted beats were standard and not notable.
The best of the Appetizers for Two was the roasted Cauliflower, presented simply and perfectly cooked. The potato and peas samosa was almost all potato and no pea. Lamb Kefta was the in between one. While the meatball was seasoned well the slightly gamey lamb flavor was a little too muted for my taste.
As I said earlier much you like Sanaa will boil down to how much you like their version of curry. The main course sampler was chicken in red curry sauce and beef short ribs. The curry was very, very sweet with little hint of the hot spice left on your lips and a great deal of sweet on the tip of your tongue. Itís an unusual mix that our hot curry friend sent back for more spice, and if you think all curries should burn your mouth you will too. However after having a few bites I found it refreshing and cool with just enough traditional curry flavor that it could lay claim to that name. Short ribs were also quite sweet and cool. The two dishes were very complementary in flavor. We really missed having a full plate of naan in front of us to sop up some of the sauces here. I hope they consider bringing out complementary bread in the future.
By this time we had had about 10 different dishes each. Although loath to do it, we skipped desert and just had the pressed coffee. Although it looks expensive on the menuÖ well it is, but each order provides about 5 cups. If you go you really must try it, itís very good (especially after being subjected to Nescafe almost everywhere else on property).
Notice I didnít mention the animals. Although you have a view of the savanna there is no guarantee that any animals will walk by nor will you necessarily have a great view of them. Donít go for the animals, go for one of the more unique dining experiences you will have at WDW. And by all means, bring an open mind.
*** and thumbs up!
Until some indeterminate time next week this is your Galloping Gourmand saying, "hi ho foodies! Away!"
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