Walt Disney World has slowly been reopening restaurants, with many locations returning as family-style meals. In this WDW dining review, we’ll cover the latest to return, how it stacks up to the competition, and whether we recommend making an Advance Dining Reservation here.
As with so many of our posts during this time of transition at Walt Disney World, let’s start with a quick recap. Restaurants began reopening with modified family style meals last fall, with every single one of these previously being all-you-care-to-enjoy dining options. Since buffets were/are verboten, that was the interim solution.
The results of this have been decidedly mixed. Several of these restaurants were not exactly culinary powerhouses, and to the extent they were appealing, it was due to variety, quantity over quality, and character interactions. Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s both come to mind there, and it’s hard to see them having the same appeal now.
Other restaurants have arguably done a much better job. For example, in our Cape May Cafe Dinner Review, we suggested that we preferred the family-style meal there to our last buffet experience–but that was admittedly ages ago. Still, the pricing was tough, especially considering the surcharges for crab legs, which were previously included on the buffet at no additional cost.
With more recent announcements, pricing has been even more of an issue. Both Tusker House and ‘Ohana appear to have less appealing cuisine and yet are each charging $55 per adult. Enter Sebastian’s Bistro, the latest restaurant to reopen at Walt Disney World with a new family-style dinner menu.
The return of Sebastian’s Bistro was included in the same announcement as ‘Ohana, and received negligible interest from most Walt Disney World fans. They were either excited about the return of the Polynesian’s iconic eatery, or distraught that it wouldn’t have noodles. (Thankfully, a few days later noodlegate was satisfactorily resolved.)
For our part, we were always more excited about Sebastian’s Bistro. As I’ve said before, I think ‘Ohana is slightly overrated whereas Sebastian’s Bistro is incredibly underrated. This was further reinforced when I saw the menus and pricing–at $29 per adult, you could (almost) dine at Sebastian’s Bistro twice for the cost of one dinner at ‘Ohana.
My excitement got the best of me. Consequently, we arrived at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort over an hour before Sebastian’s Bistro was slated to start serving dinner on its reopening day. This was “necessary” to ensure we didn’t get shut out of a table, but of course, it wasn’t.
No one else cared about the return of this under-the-radar Walt Disney World dining gem. We were camped out in front of the restaurant alone for a good 45 minutes of that time. Or I should say, Sarah was camped out. I don’t have the capacity to sit still for that long. While she did the dirty work, I ran around the resort checking things out and taking photos. Because it’s always a good idea to get all hot and sweaty before dinner.
To cut an undoubtedly uninteresting story short, we were the first guests seated in the reopened Sebastian’s Bistro. Among other diehard Caribbean Beach fans, that will hopefully count for some sort of bragging rights generations from now.
For everyone else, it’s worth noting that Sebastian’s Bistro had an estimated 5 minute wait on the Walk-Up Waitlist via My Disney Experience throughout our meal. Even though a lot of tables were out of commission, there were still open ones even as we left the restaurant. (This is purportedly for physical distancing, but I’d guess that staffing is the real issue–a lot of new College Program participants at the location.)
In our regular Sebastian’s Bistro Review, we discussed the venue’s thematic ambition–or lack thereof–so that’s probably unnecessary to rehash.
I will say that even as someone who is, ahem, crabby about theme, I like the atmosphere at Sebastian’s Bistro’s. Its good vibe sneaks up on you and definitely doesn’t translate to photos. The decor is kinda meh, but the music is good, the views outside are captivating, and it feels nice. I suspect that years from now, Sebastian’s Bistro will have the same cult following as Sanaa or Olivia’s Cafe. It’s just too new for that now. Walt Disney World fans don’t love things until they’re at least a decade old or about to close permanently.
Moving along to the food, the family-style dinner at Sebastian’s Bistro starts with the Spice Necklace Salad: Mixed Greens and Kale with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Grilled Pineapple, Orange, Spiced Candied Walnuts, and Radish with Key Lime Dressing.
By salad standards, this was fantastic. I mostly ate the fruit and spiced candied walnuts–both were delicious–but what I had of the greens covered in the key lime dressing was also good. (More importantly to WDW salad aficionados, this one is Sarah approved and gets very high marks from her.)
Next up, the Buttery House-baked Pull-apart Rolls with Guava Butter and Caramelized Onion Jam.
These are a new-classic Walt Disney World appetizer. We love them so much that we’ve encouraged a stop at Sebastian’s on the Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll and trying to order them while at Banana Cabana. Hopefully, their inclusion in this family-style meal means Walt Disney World fans will stop sleeping on these. (Pro tip: save any leftover guava butter for the vegetables that will follow.)
The “Taste of the Caribbean” main course comes out in two platters, one with vegetables and one with meats. We’ll run through each individual item on those, starting with the Grilled Broccolini.
This was grilled, and it was broccolini. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Next, the Vegetable Curry.
Sarah was a big fan of this dish, which had a healthy amount of fresh vegetables and a mild curry flavor. I prefer heavy curries (ideally topped with a cutlet), but found this to be solid. It’s a light dish that’s approachable–a tasty way to get your fill of vegetables, should you so desire.
Our final item from the vegetable platter was the Cilantro Rice and Beans, which I guess is only half-vegetable.
I’m not going to shower this with praise–c’mon, it’s just rice and beans–but it was very good. As far as filler goes, this trio was excellent. Even the otherwise straightforward broccolini had a nice char and grilled flavor to it. I was impressed by everything up until this point of the meal. It’s not uncommon for the pre-meat items to be phoned in or unambitious, but that was not the case here. The opening act of the family-style meal at Sebastian’s Bistro made a shockingly strong first impression.
The meats took things to the next level.
The Oven-roasted Citrus Chicken was perfectly-prepared, with crisp skin with a delicious rub of spices giving way to juicy meat underneath. The citrus flavor was not particularly pronounced, but it was “present enough” to fill its role in enhancing the meat’s flavor.
Next up, the Grilled Flank Steak with Mojito Relish.
This was likewise cooked to perfection, with a generous amount of high quality meat. Not quite on par with the exceptional Grilled Skirt Steak Chimichurri with crispy Yuca from the normal menu, but within striking distance. Part of that might come down to personal preference, as I’m a sucker for chimichurri, whereas the mojito relish didn’t do much for me.
Finally, the Slow-cooked Mojo Pork with Mango Sambal.
We both agreed that this was the unexpected all-star of the menu. With or without the mango sambal (which itself was delicious), the meat shined. It was tender, juicy, flavorful–just about any superlative you could use to describe pork would apply here. Utterly fantastic, and a huge portion to boot!
Then came dessert. “Our Celebrated House-made Coconut-Pineapple Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream.”
I’m not sure who was “celebrating” this since it wasn’t on the menu at Sebastian’s Bistro before, but HOLY COW WE ARE NOW.
This is bound to be “controversial” among the ‘Ohana faithful (but no more so than me saying that restaurant is overrated), but this is better than the bread pudding at ‘Ohana. In fact, it’s actually like someone took the recipe for that iconic bread pudding and dialed it up to 11 with a little coconut and a lot of pineapple.
This Now-Highly Celebrated House-made Coconut-Pineapple Bread Pudding has all of the great qualities of the ‘Ohana dish, plus better top texture that’s hard to describe in appealing terms (I tried twice and deleted both sentences because they didn’t land right). Also, it’s hard to tell from the photos, but our portion was colossal. I ended up eating most of it, which was a “bad decision” that I absolutely do not regret.
Prior to doing the family-style meal at Sebastian’s Bistro, we suspected there was a catch, and speculated that it was not all you can eat since the menu did not specify as much. That turned out to be accurate. At least according to our server, Sebastian’s Bistro is family style but not all you can eat.
It’s possible you could request more rolls or a particular item, but we didn’t press the issue. We left absolutely stuffed and couldn’t conceivably have eaten anything more. (Even as I write this the next morning, I’m still full.) On the plus side, tables all around us had to-go boxes, which is something you wouldn’t see at an all you can eat meal.
Ultimately, this was an absolutely fantastic dinner at Sebastian’s Bistro, with the family style service holding its own and offering exceptional quality on par with traditional table service dining. (Our last superior meal at Walt Disney World that comes to mind was at Topolino’s Terrace, which isn’t at all a fair comparison.) This was better than Cape May Cafe and I cannot imagine ‘Ohana surpassing Sebastian’s Bistro.
That’s all without even taking cost or value for money into account. Sebastian’s Bistro completely trounces both on that front. By my calculations, we had over $105 worth of food based upon the previous a la carte menu prices–and that’s a conservative estimate that doesn’t account for the vegetable curry and broccolini. All for ~$60.
Normally, I’d be concerned that a deal this good wouldn’t last. A price increase would be imminent as soon as Advance Dining Reservations increase following glowing reviews. I’m not so sure that’ll be the case here.
No amount of singing Sanaa’s praises–and pretty much every blogger does, not just me–has moved the needle on its popularity. I can shout from the rooftops that Sebastian’s Bistro is a great meal and a great deal, but I don’t think that would matter. It’s viewed as an inconvenient location with an unappealing menu. Even though both beliefs are false, Sebastian’s Bistro is nevertheless a nonstarter for so many Walt Disney World fans. Honestly, so long as it means $29 dinners for us, I’m okay with that. Their loss.
Planning on doing the new family-style dinner at Sebastian’s Bistro? Have you had any of these items on the prior a la carte menu? What did you think of the cuisine then? Are you excited to give Sebastian’s Bistro a try or is it a nonstarter for you? Do you agree or disagree with our review? If you haven’t dined here, does this sound appealing to you or not? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!