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 Õra 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!