Today’s post comes to you from David Landon, owner/author of Future Probe and EPCOT-aficionado. Please enjoy his take on how Coral Reef has changed over the years.
When The Living Seas opened in 1986, 8-year-old me was fascinated by it. I especially wanted to eat at the Coral Reef Restaurant, since it combined two of my favorite things-seafood and expansive undersea vistas. Unfortunately, my mom’s dislike for seafood meant that a meal at the Coral Reef was out of the question during my childhood visits to Walt Disney World. On my first trip to EPCOT as an adult, though, the Coral Reef was at the top of my dining to-do list. Until I saw the menu.
To judge from their menus, many of Disney’s table-service restaurants, especially in EPCOT, are designed to cater to Sophisticated Adults, people who actually enjoy golf and willingly wear a blazer even when they’re not going to a wedding or a funeral. I am not one of these people. I’m a meat-and-potatoes guy. When I see a menu item like “Compote of whipped Spaetzle in a Mascarpone reduction”, it doesn’t assure me that I’ve picked a great restaurant, it makes me wonder if the waiter mistakenly gave me a menu written in Klingon.
I was further discouraged from eating at the Coral Reef by the negative reviews it received. Words like “disappointment”, “mediocre” and “overpriced” kept popping up (although complaining about things being overpriced at Disney World is a little silly. It’s like going to a Michael Bay movie and complaining about the explosions) After repeating some of those comments on my blog, I decided that I really ought to eat there at least once, if only to confirm that the place was as bad as I thought it was. So, on the eve of a weekend trip in August 2010, I took the plunge (ha ha!) and made a reservation.
Although the reviews I’d read said that the service at the Coral Reef was indifferent at best, all the Cast Members my wife and I encountered there were fantastic. I had already reviewed the menu online and knew exactly what I would order, but my wife needed more time. Our server checked back with us at regular intervals, kindly answered all my wife’s questions, and never made us feel rushed.
We were pleasantly surprised to be seated at a table right next to the aquarium. Just inches away, on the other side of the glass, a large sea turtle was resting on the bottom of the tank. He stayed there throughout our meal, occasionally swimming up to the surface for a lungful of air. Best of all, the old Living Seas area music was playing over the restaurant’s PA system! Unfortunately, the noisy conversation from the restaurants other patrons worked against the quiet peacefulness that the aquarium, the restaurant’s subdued lighting, and the area music were trying to create, but it’s not like Disney can put a Cone of Silence over every table. (Bonus points if you know what a Cone of Silence is!)
Another complaint I’d heard about the Coral Reef is that the portions are too small. I’d have to disagree with that; I found them to be quite sufficient. I didn’t have any food left over (except for the watercress, which I chose not to eat because, as you may have noted earlier, I am not a Sophisticated Adult) but I wasn’t hungry after I finished eating, either. My wife’s Caesar Salad came not with just cut-up pieces of chicken, but an entire chicken breast. We both enjoyed our entrees very much. My steak was grilled to perfection, and the potatoes were very tasty as well. My wife enjoyed her salad very much, and she absolutely loved the Chocolate Wave she ordered for dessert. She said it was even better than Le Cellier’s Chocolate-on-Chocolate Whiskey cake. High praise, indeed!
My only criticism of the Coral Reef is the limited menu options. You’d think a seafood restaurant inside EPCOT’s Seas pavilion would offer a wide selection of seafood, but sadly that’s not the case. Still, I definitely recommend the place. It’s the best table service restaurant in Future World. The food is just as good as Le Cellier’s, but the Coral Reef is easier to get into and has the superior atmosphere.
So, don’t believe the reviews. Whatever problems the Coral Reef had since they were written have been corrected. The food is great, the atmosphere is perfect, the service is excellent, and best of all you don’t have to be a Sophisticated Adult to enjoy it.
BIO: David Landon is the author of the EPCOT-centric blog futureprobe, which Internet surfers often stumble upon by mistake. He is also the co-host of the Circlevision Radio podcast, which launches in Summer 2011.He can often be found on Twitter under the handle @futureprobe1982, making what he thinks are witty remarks. He lives in North Central Florida with his wife and an extremely excitable Chihuahua.