Coral Reef Review
Coral Reef is a seafood restaurant in Epcot at Walt Disney World with views into an aquarium. This review features food photos, our thoughts on the cuisine, and whether the excellent ambiance here is enough to justify dining at this restaurant in The Seas pavilion. We’ve dined at Coral Reef a few times, with this review featuring photos from our most recent visit to Coral Reef.
Although Coral Reef is primarily a seafood restaurant, it has options for everyone for both lunch and dinner. Coral Reef is a 1-credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan, and also accepts Tables in Wonderland. Coral Reef is one of the more expensive non-signature table service restaurants at Walt Disney World, making it a bad option if you’re paying out of pocket, but a good option for maximizing your value on the Disney Dining Plan.
On our prior trips to Coral Reef, things had been a bit hit or miss. The food was considerably better during our most recent meal. It was actually very good, unexpectedly good, resoundingly good. As you might have gathered from the superlatives, this was not something either of us were expecting. While we both really enjoy seafood, it can be easy to poorly prepare, and many times even well-prepared seafood is just so-so.
I would compare our meal to some of the better seafood dishes we’ve had at top-tier real world seafood restaurants. It’s still no Flying Fish, which we’d consider the top seafood restaurant at Walt Disney World. However, for an in-park restaurant, Coral Reef has a lot going for it.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. Let’s start by taking a look at that exceptional ambiance…
The ambiance was also better the previous trip because we were able to get a seat right next to the tank. If you have reservations for Coral Reef, we highly recommend waiting the extra 20 minutes or so that it typically takes to be seated at a tank table.
Plus, for you fellow children of the 90s, who doesn’t want to eat at the table where Danny tried to propose to Vicky on Full House, or where Cory interrupts Topanga’s date by holding up a sign inside the tank that tells her “I will chase you forever” on a classic episode of Boy Meets World. Seriously, Coral Reef deserves a spot in the TGIF Hall of Fame (and if such a hall of fame doesn’t exist, it should!).
One of the fun things about sitting at a tank table, especially if you have small children or wildlife enthusiasts, is that the restaurant will provide you with a fish guide describing and picturing various creatures living in the tank.
This can lead to an incredibly fun meal–potentially the best of your Walt Disney World vacation–for your 8 year old…or for your “Tom.”
We dined at Coral Reef for lunch (even well in advance, it was extremely difficult to secure dinner reservations for a day we wanted), and many options on the lunch menu were enticing.
Despite this, we both ordered the Grilled Mahi Mahi. In the future, we need to plan these things better so that we can sample some of each others’ dishes and try multiple dishes. It just sounded so good, though!
And good, it was. The creamy, coconut-lime sauce was the perfect compliment to the grilled mahi mahi (which is right up there as one of my favorite fish, anyway), which had a wonderful texture and flavor thanks to its preparation. Even the rice, something I normally view as a sort of filler, tasted fairly good.
Don’t even get me started on the rock shrimp; I’m salivating at my desk as I think back to their crisp crunch and perfect taste. It’s not often that Disney prepares shrimp this well. They’re usually either soggy and cold or rubbery and cold. These were perfect. I don’t think the cilantro really added a whole lot to the dish besides being a nice garnishing touch.
The Chocolate Wave was delicious, too. Again, we both ordered this, but after such a great experience with it our last time at Coral Reef, this should be no surprise. It doesn’t really look like anything special in the photo here, and honestly, I remember the preparation being a lot more impressive on our last trip, but it was still quite decadent.
Certainly something you should consider ordering, but from what I understand, most desserts at Coral Reef are actually pretty good.
Our server was inattentive, but it appeared that she was serving a lot of tables. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were short-staffed that day, so I don’t blame her. I would rather give people the benefit of the doubt in these situations. Still, I expect attentive service (regardless of who is at “fault”) when dining out, so it was still disappointing, although it certainly could have been a fluke, and nothing on which you should base your decision.
Overall, Coral Reef treated us very well, and was a real surprise. Coral Reef can be a bit pricey if you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan, but the cuisine and ambiance can justify the expense. Many commenters have remarked that the food is a bit hit-or-miss, and our own experiences corroborate this. Knowing exactly how much of a hit it can be has me optimistic for the future, and we’ve decided that if we ever get another subpar entree at Coral Reef, we’ll likely send it back. After all, the restaurant has demonstrated that it’s capable of preparing amazing dishes, and with the prices it’s charging, patrons certainly shouldn’t accept anything less than an exceptional meal. Coral Reef is currently one of our favorite dining options at Epcot and we look forward to returning here soon, but it does lose a point for its noted inconsistencies.
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If you’ve been to Coral Reef, did you have a poor or great meal (or somewhere in between)? Do you think it stacks up to the highly praised options in Epcot’s World Showcase, or would you rather dine at one of those restaurants? Planning on going to Coral Reef? Share your thoughts in the comments!
There’s nothing I can say about this restaurant that I liked, I will leave it at that. Service bad over half hour late on seating from reservation and food was terrible and pricey. Not good
Coral Reef is a terrible restaurant. The menu is very limited. The food is awful. The employees act like they don’t want to be there. The manager was condescending and rude.
We ate at CR on November 27, 2020. The menu was stripped on nearly all sea food items. The Lobster Bisque soup was a salty, gritty disgusting taste and texture. Being that sea food entrees were limited to “shrimp and grits” and “seared Mahi Mahi,” we went with the Mahi Mahi. Again, the meals flavors were wrong, the rice bed was plain white rice, not jasmine rice. The vegetables were non-existent. The fish, whatever it was, was not seared Mahi Mahi. The white fish was tasteless. It reminded me of freezer burned food. It was not seared anything. The sauce as another salt lick of nauseating, strange, unpleasant textures. I could not choke down most of the meal. The restaurant was not busy in the Friday after Thanksgiving. Given that EPCOT is a sad, walled off fraction of its former self, the entire visit capped of with an inedible $100 dinner (without drinks or dessert) was sad and disappointing.
Sadly your review of the Coral Reef at Epcot echoes of mine. This was once a great restaurant when it opening and we loved eating there. However, things have changed drastically with there food preparation, staffing and over all management oversight. This all happened before COVID 19, and I doubt this restaurant is going to Improve. It is time for Disney to seriously think about closing the Coral Reef and reimagining the space.
The bisque has long been my favorite, and it was a thin, salty disappointment today (1/28/21). I just spoke with the server, and they have not been able to obtain all the ingredients right now. She could have mentioned that before we ordered. Sigh…
On Thursday, September 10 we had reservations for lunch at the Coral Reef restaurant to celebrate my birthday while at WDW. I made reservations online and checked the box concerning dietary restrictions.
When we arrived at the restaurant I was given a menu for allergies, however, I don’t actually have an allergy, but a necessity for a low sodium diet. When the waiter arrived at the table I asked him for a low sodium menu, or if it would be possible for me to speak to the chef? He assured me he would take care of it and he suggested the rib eye steak with no seasoning. He later returned to the table with rolls and olive oil saying the butter would be too salty and that he was replacing the side dish of mashed potatoes with steamed broccoli.
The dinner arrived and my plate was piled high with broccoli and a grilled steak. The steak was filled with fat and gristle, and by the time I cut away the uneatable portions, I was left with less than half of the meat. I asked to speak with the manager. The manager arrived at the table and said, “is there a problem.” I showed him the remains of the fat and gristle and the half eaten plate of broccoli. He explained, “that is the way our meat is cut and marbled, it has a lot of fat on it.” He never apologized, nor did he attempt to correct the poor meal that I was served, and he just walked away. I assumed as a manager of the restaurant that he would try to make amends, but he did nothing and the waiter brought the check with no correction or apology.
We paid the bill, which amounted to over $90 for our meals, before the tip. I know the Coral Reef is an expensive restaurant, but the expense was definitely not worth the price and the ineffective Disney employees did not make the situation any better. Here are three things that I have learned after eating at the Coral Reef restaurant and want to share: 1) Never order steak at a sea food restaurant, 2) Never have a waiter order for you instead of allowing you to talk to the chief, and 3) Never eat at the Coral Reef at Disney or any other Disney owned restaurants where the manager displays little or no concern for his guests.
I only ate here one time with my 2 grandchildren. We were so excited because of the “underwater adventure” theme we had read al about. First of all, despite the fact we had reservations, we still had to wait, and wait, and wait… for over 30 minutes and then we were given a middle table not any where near the aquarium. The kids were 5 and 6 and short, so they really could not see anything except other patrons. We were still excited, though and looked forward to this great seafood meal in a cool indoor place! It did not happen. The server could have clearly stated , “I have no interest in wating on your table,” and it would not have been any more obvious than his whole attitude. It was awful. Even though we had the dining plan, we ordered bisque and a few appetizers that were no covered on the plan. They did not arrive until the meal came. Kids are kids, and they were just happy to eat. As for me, the food was ‘meh’ at best. Nothing I would have called home about, but nothing I would have sent back to the kitchen, either. The waiter NEVER came during the entire meal to check on us, refill drinks, ask if we needed anyting…. I had to grab another server to ask for things. Our original waiter did appear when it was time to leave the bill and kindly explain to us that the gratuity was not part of the dining plan (yes, he really did so). This happened in 2012 (but it is still a vivid not-so-good memory) and even though we have bee back to WDW almost each summer since, I have never gone back to Coral Reef because I just thought it was an overall awful meal/ experience. It is not worth the money to “try again” with so many other fantastic paces out there!
Caution: forget making a reservation. The SERIOUSLY overbook and blame it on customers taking too long. I feel sorry for the staff but the entrance is not well organized! When the reservation was made we were told by Disney personnel to arrive 15 minutes early. Now an hour wait of lost time. Yes I am winning, but if I cancel, I get charged. Not well organized
So you’re saying you went in 45 minutes after your reservation? How typical is this? Normally I wouldn’t mind but I have a late reservation and want to be out in time for Illuminations. If I went right in, it wouldn’t be an issue but I was worried about this exact thing.
Should I eat here for lunch or use the extra time for attractions and just visit the aquarium?
My entire family loves CR. We usually end up all getting something different and have always been very happy with the food and the waitstaff. Deserts are great. The thing that sets it apart from other Disney restaurants is the tank. It is mesmerizing. Actually scuba dived in it on our last vacation (Dive Quest) and that was also awesome. Will be dining at CR again in June, 2017.
Awesome review! I just wanted to know if there are tables for parties of 5 next to the tank window..? I got reservations in a week or so and really wanted to sit next to one.. Thanks!!
I was able to get a dinner reservation for 2 pretty easily a month before my December 30th EPCOT trip last year… My wife and I got lucky and were seated right next to the tank (though we had to wait 20 minutes past our reservation time). Our waiter was nice, but no-nonsense. We witnessed a different waiter pointing out fish, and explaining the workings of the tank, which was pretty interesting – we just had to over-hear it.
Our food was great. We each ordered a different kind of fish (I forget which), and we were both very happy with it. Even the bread and butter before-hand was quite tasty. We opted out of dessert in order to find something in the World Showcase. Overall, it was a good experience. This was my first experience with a Disney table-service restaurant, and I was happy with our choice. I did a lot of research on your website to figure out which Epcot restaurant would be the best fit for us. 🙂 Thanks!
I recently ate at the CR in November of 2015 and my fiancé and I both enjoyed our meals. We were seated at the tank without having to ask, but it looked like most parties of 2 to 4 were being seated closest to the tank. He had the seared rainbow trout and I had the shrimp and grits. The shrimp and grits also included andouille sausage, which added a lot of flavor. I highly recommend the shrimp and grits as I live in the “Andouille Capitol of the World,” in Louisiana and can say the flavors were very authentic. We plan on making sure that we dine at the CR in November of 2016!
I was underwhelmed by the food in June 2011. It was not bad, just not worthy of the prices. Loved the ambiance. I want to try every place and did not plan to return for our upcoming trip. However, my 19 year old son asked if we could please go back to Coral Reef. He loved it! Guess we will give it another whirl…