Flying Fish Review
Flying Fish is an upscale table service restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Boardwalk, a short walk from Epcot. In this review, we’ll share food photos, thoughts on the menu and ambiance, and recommendations in terms of dining at Flying Fish, one of the best options for seafood in WDW. Flying Fish is considered one of Walt Disney World’s Signature Restaurants, which is Disneyspeak for “fine dining.”
In practical terms, that means it’s a bit pricier than a normal table service restaurant, requires 2 table service credits if using the Disney Dining Plan, and has some semblance of a dress code. Flying Fish participates in the Disney Dining Plan and also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Since our last visit, Flying Fish had a top-to-bottom refurbishment that re-imagined the restaurant thematically.
At one time, Flying Fish was one of our favorite table service restaurants at Walt Disney World. In our old review, we wrote that it was a notch below Victoria & Albert’s, and right up there with Jiko. We have dined at Flying Fish several times over the years, but none since the restaurant was reimagined. We loved its cuisine as well as its perfect date-night ambiance. Naturally, when I heard there was temporarily a 30% discount being offered for Annual Passholders (see our Fall WDW Dining Discounts post for more info), I made a point to go back on our recent trip to Walt Disney World…without Sarah.
Instead, I was joined by Josh of easyWDW.com (here’s his review of the same meal). When one’s lovely spouse is unable to dine at an elegant and romantic fine dining establishment, another Disney blogger-dude is obviously the logical replacement. This is sort of like that time Coca-Cola was replaced by New Coke, which everyone thought was every bit as good as classic Coca-Cola (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, Josh).
Let’s start with a look inside the re-imagined Flying Fish. Previously, Walt Disney World described the decor as “Coney Island inspired.” The influence there was visible, even if the old Flying Fish felt like a much more elegant and abstract interpretation of Coney Island.
The new-look Flying Fish has had its entire interior redesigned. The only thing that stayed the same was the basic layout; otherwise, all of the decor and style totally changed. Disney indicates that its aim with the redesign was to create a sophisticated style paying homage to the golden era of seaside boardwalks.
I’m not entirely sure Flying Fish succeeds in that regard. However, this is not to say it fails. The new-look interior is an abstraction much like the previous interior, and has some clear aquatic motifs, whimsical architectural stylization, and a stunning chandelier that looks like fish flying above the ocean surface. From the fluidity of the seating to the carpet to that chandelier (and more), the restaurant now evokes the ocean.
As Walt Disney World is currently in the process of re-imagining and refurbishing many of its hotel spaces, one recurring concern has been the balance between thematic integrity and luxury. While this most notably pertains to hotel guest rooms, it’s also a relevant consideration here. Flying Fish is a fine dining restaurant, and one that caters heavily to convention-goers during some times of the year.
While I think it’s fair to say that the old design of Flying Fish skewed a bit too much towards the ‘whimsical’ side of Coney Island (a carnival motif does not bring to mind fine dining for me) and also was a decidedly 1990s vibe, the concern with the redesign was that it would over-correct this. My worry was that the new look would turn Flying Fish into a generic fine dining restaurant to appeal more to the non-Disney crowd.
Personally, I do not find this to be the case. I think there are a lot of fun thematic touches throughout Flying Fish that help give it character, such as the comical ‘historical’ photos lining the walls and gorgeous lighting fixtures. There’s also a level of detail and design, which provides sophistication.
Diehard Walt Disney World fans may disagree, citing less charm via the removal of the murals, carousel of flying fish, and the carousel. I’ll definitely miss some of those elements (particularly the carousel). However, should a restaurant with $50+ entrees really have a room that evinces the inside of a circus tent?
Suffice to say, I think the new aesthetic of Flying Fish now strikes the appropriate balance, perfectly toeing the line between theme and elegance. Reasonable minds may differ, but I like the new design of Flying Fish a lot.
Along with this new design, there’s an all-new menu by Chef Tim Majoras, a veteran of the Flying Fish kitchen. The new menu remains seafood-centric, and features sustainable fish and shellfish. This includes Chef Majoras’ creations, and changes a bit seasonally.
Our server noted that the fall menu tends to be a bit higher-end as that’s when the guest demographic shifts to conventioneers (spending OPM). Also noteworthy is that some fan-favorites like the char-crusted strip steak did not return on the new menu.
The bread service is (infused? enhanced?) with seaweed and sea salt butter, a nice touch in terms of both taste and theme.
It was good, but I wouldn’t put it among the best bread services at Walt Disney World.
We did two appetizers to start, one of which was the Kurobuta Pork Belly. This was nothing short of incredible. Tender–but not due to an abundance of fat–and a wonderfully smoked flavor.
It was also surprisingly complex. I tend to think of pork belly as one of those dishes that’s either good because it’s a nice cut (that isn’t too fatty) and is adeptly cooked, or bad because it’s not, but this was more than that. The highlight was the slightly-tart cherry gastique, providing a sweet/sour-ish contrast; the apple slaw providing the requisite Mickey Check making this a nutritious choice. (Said check was oddly missing from the menu, an obvious oversight).
We also had the Masago-crusted Grouper Cheeks. I don’t know quite how to describe this, but I think the most succinct way might be calamari for fancy folks. That’s not entirely accurate as this was milder, lighter, and more nuanced than calamari, but words otherwise fail me here.
Both of these appetizers were exceptional, and my words probably are not doing them justice. The quality and flavor of both is worth underscoring, though, and I’d highly recommend them.
To numb the pain of having to converse with me for an entire meal, Josh started out with the Maple Bacon Fig Manhattan. This cocktail features “Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Averna Amaro, Bacon-infused Maple Syrup, Honeyed Black Mission Figs, Candied Bacon.” This was poured from the shaker table-side, and Josh indicated it was a high-quality concoction.
Flying Fish has long been one of a handful of signature bars at Walt Disney World where there are unique drinks rather than the standard Disney-Parks menu, and these drinks never have disappointed. They also have a strong beer menu, which includes two different options from Bell’s. (A point of pride for Michiganders like me–now they just need some Founders!) The wine list is likewise extensive.
For our entrees, he had the Snake River Farms Wagyu Strip Loin and I had the Ã•ra King New Zealand Salmon. Thanks to the literary juggernaut that is the easyGuide to Walt Disney World, Josh is able to fund an extravagant lifestyle of Wagyu steaks, disposable Canon cameras, and Bass Pro Hotel stays. This is why many people call him the Nicolas Cage of Disney blogging. Here at DTB, we’re just glad to not once again be eating salmon from a cup of ice out of a backpack. 😉
Despite the price difference, we both agreed that my King Salmon was the clear winner of this meal. The filet was a great cut that was sizable and perfectly-prepared. It had just the right amount of fattiness to it, and the creamy grits were an excellent accompaniment. The cilantro was not too pronounced, adding just enough to up the flavor profile.
I’m struggling to think of a better fish entree I’ve had at Walt Disney World. Moreover, given the cost (this was literally the cheapest entree on the menu), this struck me as a good value even by real world standards.
The Wagyu Strip Loin was…interesting? Despite this Japanese beef being renowned for its marbling and tenderness, this steak was surprisingly tough. I was shocked when I initially (tried to) cut into it, and had to try again with a bit more effort. Wagyu is normally described with cliches like “melts in your mouth” or “cuts like butter” and that most definitely was not the case here.
I know this is going to be seemingly contradictory, but despite that toughness, the steak was perfectly cooked and the taste was phenomenal. (It was also a large portion.) After being caught off-guard by the steak’s toughness, I was once again caught off-guard by all of this. How it managed all of these characteristics at once is something of a mystery to me, but I suppose I’d take a cut tough of meat that’s delicious over a tender one that’s flavorless. (At this price point, both would be ideal.)
For dessert, we opted to split the Under the Sea. This was the recommendation of our server, who said the presentation was great. This dessert consists of “Valrhona Chocolate, Chocolate Coral Sponge, Pistachio Sand, Dehydrated Milk Foam, and Tasting of Three Sea Salts.”
This was fantastic. Variety and texture are the themes here, with the dense chocolate providing a nice contrast to the airy milk foam. The sea salts enhanced all of the flavors, and I had never tried pistachio “sand” before this, but now I’m left wondering why it’s not in more desserts. All told, this was a really inventive and delicious dessert.
Flying Fish Cafe has always had some of the best desserts at Walt Disney World, and the accompanying presentation is equally amazing. I don’t even know where to begin with these. If you look at the dessert list and find yourself salivating over each and every choice, know that you’re in good company and that those that came before you were in a similar situation.
Our server was excellent throughout the entire meal, frequently returning to our table to check-in on us, and engaging in friendly conversation. Perfect balance of helpful and pleasant without being overbearing. Towards the end, he brought us out a cappuccino to try.
By coffee standards, it was good…but it was decaf. As someone who only drinks coffee as a caffeine-delivery mechanism, decaf coffee is something of an oxymoron in my world.
In terms of seafood, Flying Fish is the best option among Walt Disney World restaurants. Coral Reef in Epcot is going to be its most obvious “competitor,” but we’ve learned that it can be incredibly hit or miss (although the ambiance is always spectacular). I’d also put Narcoossee’s and Paddlefish in that conversation. We’ve had a couple of good meals recently at Narcoossee’s, and I’d say it’s definitely worth considering. I’ve now done a couple of partial meals at Paddlefish (insufficient for a full review), and have left underwhelmed both times.
In terms of non- or quasi-Disney restaurants, I think Todd English’s bluezoo merits mentioning. Sarah and I dined there a couple of nights after my dinner at Flying Fish, and we were incredibly impressed. I don’t think it was quite on par with Flying Fish, but our meals there also cost less. Like Flying Fish, bluezoo is a short walk from Epcot. We’re also huge fans of Hemingway’s at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and highly recommend it if you’re interested in a nearby (off-property) option.
Overall, this experience at Flying Fish once again reinforces why we’ve considered it the creme de la creme of the Signature Dining category. For me, it surpasses its counterparts at the Grand Floridian (except V&A’s), and earns a spot among the top 5 restaurants at Walt Disney World. While the atmosphere and menu have changed, Flying Fish is every bit as good as before. It’s the perfect date night restaurant: delicious, romantic, and an ambiance that is second-to-none at Walt Disney World. Plus, afterward you can stroll the BoardWalk, pop into Epcot for Illuminations, or head to Jellyrolls (or the adjacent AbracadaBAR) for a nightcap. Flying Fish is an easy top pick for us!
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If you’ve been to Flying Fish, what did you think of it? Are you a fan of the redesign or the new menu? Do you think it’s the one of the elite Walt Disney World restaurants? Planning on going? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
My husband and I visited, the Flying Fish, after having an amazing dinner at another restaurant in the same area as Flying Fish. As with most meals Disney – the premade – tastes the same resort food came to mind despite the presentation. Very salty and just not worth the time to visit again. We appreciate the atmosphere but the food is just not exceptional.
what do you recommend eating at Flying Fish in 2022?
really useful post. thanks for sharing this information.
I have been going back and forth the last few months of trying to move our reservations to FF over California Grill. We get one date night without kids and hoping to pick a “winner”. We picked CG based off many reviews we read last year but thoughts? We ate two years ago at Jiko and Citros. We loved both. This will be our last trip for a while. 🙁 Thanks!
That’s a really tough choice. I’d make the decision based upon how much you like seafood. Both are excellent restaurant, but Flying Fish skews more towards seafood. If you love that, go there. If you’d prefer something else, do California Grill.
That helped! We enjoy seafood but would pick steak over it. 🙂 Thank you!
I have always loved FF, but this looks very much like change for change’s sake and to raise the price points even higher. I literally had the char-crusted steak on every visit to FF dating to its opening in 1996. It was that good. It remained great over the years. As its price went from under $30 to close to $50 (again, ONLY Disney!) And the look of the place seemed pretty timeless. My significant other likes the place even more than me, but after looking at the menu after it reopened, we decided to head back to California Grill instead. The meal, service and experience were worth every penny. May head back to FF … but in no hurry.
And instead of going with Josh (who I think was an old fan of mine dating to LP.com days when I ripped social media blogging whores), I think you are big enough a celebrity that you could have done a “Take Disney Blogger to the Stars To Dinner” campaign. You’d be surprised by how many people would buy you a dinner just for your insight of the MAGICal world of Disney.
I really want to dine here but we will be traveling with twin infants and a 9 year old. Would it be inappropriate to bring them to Flying Fish for dinner?
Wow, I guess we are the only ones, but I felt the food taste and choices had dropped dramatically from pre-refub to after. The decor was nicer and we were there not long after they re-opened, but it came off too “foo fooey” like VIctoria and Alberts. We like real food, preferably flavorful, and served in a fine atmosphere, which previously we found here as well as Citricos and Narcooossee’s, but this round it was much less appealing. I also missed the crabcake appetizer and thought it was lacking on allergy meal options for a fine dining option.
Great review, Tom! Completely agree on all points and thoughts. Flying fish (along with the proximity to EPCOT) is the biggest reason why I prefer staying at the EPCOT resorts. I have yet to try Bluezoo or Hemingway’s, but now those spots are on my radar!
I have to give a shout out to the Abracadabra Bar, as that place just oozes “cool.” It’s a great spot for a drink before Flying Fish or a nightcap after. I also want to mention the opportunity/possibility for solo diners to dine at the bar in Flying Fish. I believe it’s one of the handful of restaurants that has that option (and one of a few signature)?
Finally I want to give a shout out to the “new” Crews Cup Lounge at the Yacht Club. With close proximity to Flying Fish and a surprising collection of bottled beer/liquor, it’s another solid option for pre or post-Flying Fish shenanigans. If people are into sours or curious to try a good sour beer, Crews Cup has Petrus.
Totally agree with your review. We first went there last fall after it opened. We were so impressed that we have been there six times since. Almost every time I try to order something different from the menu; I have yet to be disappointed. Everything is always exceptional. Chef Tim’s combinations of flavors and textures with what he chooses to accompany the entrees is amazing. We have brought different friends on several occasions. Twice someone ordered the Wagyu steak, (they let me have a small bite) and it was never tough. Our friends are also sold on the place and want to go back. Can’t say enough good things about this place.
That’s good to hear about the Wagyu steak! Thanks for the feedback.
After MUCH debate about where to eat on our actual 25th Anniversary during an upcoming spring 2018 trip, my husband convinced me that Flying Fish was the place. Your’s and Josh’s review totally sealed it and I can’t wait to make the reservations. It sounds just what the doctor order for a perfect date night. (or Blogger’s night out as the case may be – grin)
I would be flattered that my review sealed the deal, but Josh also influenced the decision? You know he spends 12.75 hours per day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, right?!
The Chef’s Table was fantastic, and as a non-wine-drinker, it’s actually quite nice to be ‘set up’ with a load of pairings. It was also better value than it may have at first appeared, due to the (utterly bizarre, for the US) fact that the gratuity was included.
Revisiting after the re-do was a shock though – I personally feel they went too far in seeking the ‘high end’. The restaurant belongs as part of the Boardwalk, so the circus/carnival imagery was entirely appropriate in my opinion – just as California Grill reflects the clean lines of the Contemporary, or Le Cellier imparts a rustic Canadian ambiance. I have a hard time thinking of another signature restaurant where luxury won out to theme so dramatically. This isn’t to say it doesn’t look nice – it looks absolutely awesome – but you can easily forget where you are (in the wrong sense).
As for guests paying $50/entree and the need to please them, it’s worth remembering a significant number of guests are on the DDP and therefore will likely not feel this way. That said, having dined there twice since the re-fit, there are still great details to be found (the carpet design hides a lot of fun!), and I agree it’s one of the best restaurants in the World.
Well, that makes me feel even worse about missing out on the Chef’s Counter, so thanks! 😉
I have no evidence to support this, but I suspect significantly fewer guests are using the DDP at Signature Restaurants than regular (1-credit) ones. That, coupled with the level of conventioneer clientele the restaurant attracts helps justify the increased emphasis on elegance and slightly scaled back theme, in my opinion. However, I do understand (and respect) that others have a different perspective here. It’s a close call, IMO.
I dined there just after the refurb and thought they really stepped it up, glad they’ve been able to sustain the quality! I really liked the old decor a lot more though, the new look doesn’t really mesh with the Boardwalk imo / I might just be biased because I worked at the Boardwalk during the days of the Flying Fish CAFE.
We ate there last Christmas and loved it! Hubby enjoyed it more than Victoria and alberts the prior year. We shared the pork belly (mistake-never share the pork belly! So amazing, enjoy the order yourself ). Also had that Manhattan- excellent. Our entrees were very good and we found the pricing to be reasonable especially for the quality. Loved it!
Where did the Chefs table dining option go? We’ve asked the last few times we’ve been in the area and the host/hostesses have no clue what I’m talking about. Did I dream that it existed before??? In my dream it was a great dining experience that I would like to see back.
It hasn’t returned…yet? There have been persistent rumors that it’s going to come back at some point, but we’re a year out now, and that still hasn’t happened. The Disney Parks Blog indicated it’d be returning (prior to the end of the refurbishment), but perhaps plans changed? I hope it makes a comeback at some point, because that was high on our Walt Disney World bucket list!
Dined there in February on our honeymoon! It was fantastic, quite possibly the best meal of the trip, and it was a long trip with a lot of eating!
Tom, we ate at Flying Fish last night and had almost your exact menu choices. The service was fantastic and the food was great. The Wagyu at Tiffins was better, in my opinion, and I could have done without the scalloped potatoes. We’d go back. Definitely worth a try for anyone looking for a nice restaurant for a date night.
Thanks for another informative and entertaining review Tom. Question… should I be proud or a little sad that I got all the little inside joke contained in this post without having to click any of the links? Seriously though, your cruise ship salmon out of the backpack still makes me laugh to this day.
Anyways, I’ve been wanting to dine at Flying Fish for three trips now, but for some reason or another it just hasn’t worked out with our plans. I am definitely going to make it a top priority for next time!
Well, I’m not sad about the salmon cup ‘incident’ and I’m the one who pulled that bone-headed move, so obviously you should be proud that you got the joke. 😉