Saturday, September 3, 2011

Restaurant Review: Flying Fish Cafe

My first trip to Flying Fish was nothing short of abysmal. Yup-that good. But something kept nagging at me (besides my rule of always giving a restaurant a second chance) to try it again. So on my latest trip, I gave the Flying Fish one more shot and I can say it pleasantly came through with a delightful dining experience.

Brief Description: The name might tip you off to the fact that fresh seafood takes center stage in the unique eatery.Innovative takes on shellfish, wood-fired steaks and a fun selection of fish like salmon and their signature red snapper round out this menu. As you enter you can see the brilliant chefs creating culinary magic through the glass that separates the kitchen from the dining room. The restaurant is a whimsical homage to a classic seaside boardwalk with smile inducing little touches.

Decor: This restaurant isn't just pretty, it's happy and fun. Whimsical touches can be found throughout and the feeling of a carnival or seaside fair is present. But don't get me wrong-not the cheesy, creepy kind of carnival way. Think more refined MacKenzie Childs then Jersey Shore. Gold & platinum set the main color palette,with accents of blue, red and then a big splash of multicolour coming from the art deco rug. A union of warm, medium blond woods and cool, brushed stainless steel make up the dining tables. Chairs are padded but rather unremarkable, though sufficiently comfortable. Some of the striking decor pieces include the large, cut panel Ferris wheel, thick scale-covered columns, asymmetrical lines around floor to ceiling windows as well as unique pieces that look somewhat like the swing ride at a fair, but flying fish get the enjoyment on this ride. Look up when it's light and you'll see a big beautiful sky. Like being outdoors on the perfect fair day, blue skies and puffy white clouds smile down on you. But when the lights go down, the sky turns to night and color changing LED "stars" come out to twinkle (not tinkle) for your delight. The seating is somewhat close, but there are lots of tables set in alcoves & booths that create an intimate atmosphere. The Flying Fish Cafes' decor lift's your spirits, but does it in a gentle way that doesn't hype you up. A lovely dining atmosphere.

Service: My first experience at the Flying Fish was quite disturbing. A combination of a packed restaurant, and less than professional waiter soured me greatly on the restaurant. But because I know how poor service can so easily make or break your view of a restaurant, I needed to give the Flying Fish Cafe a second chance. I am very glad I did. This experience was stellar. As a party of one, the chance to be forgotten about or flat out ignored is high. And sometimes it's simply a matter of perception-when you have no company to fill the time, you notice it going by more. I have to say that from start to finish, my server was perfect. His timing was not off by a second-even when seated other larger tables. He was a pleasure to talk to about the menu and he was also extremely knowledgeable. He made the meal an experience. I also had a very enjoyable experience with the hostess that sat me. She was welcoming and engaging and I have to mention it because too many times my experiences with the host staff (including Disney) give of the overpowering scent of "I couldn't care less", so my encounter with her was a very nice way to start my experience. Overall I give the Flying Fish high marks this time around on service.

Menu Selections/Approachability: Fresh seafood takes center stage at the Flying Fish Cafe, while there are a few non-fish, non-seafood options, those options are limited to a strip steak & pork tenderloin. This menu is tailored with thoughtful takes on shellfish & a nice selection of fresh fish like tuna, salmon & red snapper. While the selection of fish is a bit on the safe side, what they do with it takes it beyond creative. This is something I really like. When you stay with a familiar main ingredient and create around it, using the freshest ingredients, you give guests and opportunity to try something out of their comfort range while having training wheels on. It's a smart choice and Flying Fish pulls it off brilliantly. Once again 8 is Disney's lucky number for entree options, but the selections are so across the spectrum in difference,  that it almost gives the illusion of more choices.

Execution/Food Quality: First word, 3 letters. WOW! Beyond my own dishes, which were beautiful (although my pictures will not do them justice), every dish that went past me to other tables, was picture perfect. Best part is they know it at Flying Fish, as they definitely use that old trick of carrying low. Dishes are actually carried at eye level as to entice you with their deliciousness. But the dishes at Flying Fish aren't just another pretty face-they have substance too. Local seafood choices translates into freshest seafood available. This is something normal for Disney-fresh, seasonal and a local as possible. They start with the best and then execute the dishes flawlessly.

Value: With an average appetizer price of over $13, and average entree price of $37, and an average dessert price of $7.50, Flying Fish is on the pricier end of the dining spectrum. Your wallet will take a hit here no doubt, but in my opinion is-it is worth every penny. For this restaurant you need to resign yourself to not worry about price and enjoy the experience. Ambiance, service and most of all food come together to make this a memorable visit. I am fond of saying "I don't mind paying a lot for a meal, as long as it's worth it.". I can honestly say the Flying Fish Cafe is worth it.

Transportation Rating: I am giving the Flying Fish Cafe a transportation rating of 4. Navigating your way to the Boardwalk involves a few steps and can be a bit tricky and time consuming. Your travel options are to take a bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios. Do not enter, but instead use the pathway to the right and walk over (5-10 minute walk) to the boardwalk (the actual boardwalk & Boardwalk resort are two different but connected things) and the Flying Fish is right there to your right. You can also take a bus to Hollywood Studios and also to the right, is the boat launch to the Boardwalk docks. And the final way you can travel is to take a bus to the closest park (any) or Downtown Disney and then take a resort bus back to the Boardwalk. But please note that the bus to the Boardwalk will often make stops at the Swan & Dolphin, as well as the Yacht and Beach Club resorts before the Boardwalk stop. Factor this into your traveling time.

My final word on the Flying Fish Cafe is while a bit tricky to get to, it is well worth your time to include it into your vacation dining plans. And now that is offers a Dine with an Imagineer option, there is even more reason to  give this hidden gem a try.

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