01 September 2010

Good food, cold drinks

Once upon a time there were no table service restaurants within Disney’s Animal Kingdom, save the Rainforest Cafe that lived on the border between the Oasis and the parking lot. In recent years, both Asia and Africa have stepped up to provide sit down dining respites from the heat and humidity of the park. In Africa’s Harambe, that meant providing the very popular counter service restaurant, Tusker House, with a buffet make over.Once inside Tusker House you feel as if you have stepped immediately back outdoors. With sheets of fabric strewn across the ceiling, wires crisscrossing the square, and an assortment of goods neatly arranged the entire buffet area feels like an open air marketplace. Even the copious amounts of serving stations get in on the act, appearing as vendor carts that could be rolled away at a moments notice.Having been a counter service establishment once upon a time, the seating areas of Tusker House are expansive. Décor ranges from a hunting lodge motif to an education center, and even includes a detailed safari board, in case you’ve forgotten when your expedition is set to depart. With so many spacious accommodations remaining from the counter service days, it is not surprising to see rooms only marginally occupied with dining guests.Moving back towards the carts, and more importantly the food, each station offered a specific variety of dishes. The menu included:
Whole Grain Breads and Rolls
Chocolate Mango Bread
Mealie Cornbread
Apple, Endive, and Walnut Salad
Caesar Salad
Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Fresh Mint and Yogurt Dressing
Mixed Greens
Tunisian Couscous Salad
Fresh Green Bean and Red Onion Salad
Curried Rice Salad with Golden Raisins
Peri-Peri Marinated Baked Salmon
Saffron-Infused Root Vegetables and Cabbage
Pearl Couscous with Sweet Basil
Spiced Vegetables and Tofu Tandoori
Jollaf Rice
Sweet Plantains
Rotisserie Chicken
Cape Malay Curry Chicken
Basmati Rice with Toasted Almonds
Orzo Pasta
Seafood Stew with Tamarind Barbeque Sauce
Spit-Roasted Beef Top Sirloin
Kenyan Coffee Barbeque Pork Loin
Ham and Bean Soup
Marrakesh Couscous
Roasted Potatoes
Blatjangs (Spicy South African Preserves)
Mango Chutney
Mixed Dried Fruit Chutney
Chocolate Volcano Cake
Carrot Spice Cake
Strawberry Mousse
Coconut Macaroons
Lemon Bars
Pecan Chocolate Tart
Passion Fruit Tart
The expected flavors, ingredients, and preparations were all present at Tusker House, but felt as if they had been toned down in order to appeal to majority of diners who may not be familiar with African cuisine. That said, the range of choices available were so numerous that it would be simply impossible to taste everything in a single visit to the restaurant, let alone a single trip to the cart stations. Among the group that I dined with the overall favorites were the Samosas, Tunisian Couscous Salad, Spit-Roasted Beef Top Sirloin, Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Fresh Mint and Yogurt Dressing, and the assortment of condiments.The desserts themselves provided a wide array of options, from fruit to chocolate, pastries to mousses, and everything in between. Nothing in this section, however, was a drastic departure from desserts found all throughout Walt Disney World. The notable winner amongst my party was the Baklava, hands down.Tusker House provides not only a break from the Florida heat, or African heat depending upon how you chose to look at it, but also a nice break from the monotony that can be vacation dining. More and more, Walt Disney World appears to be embracing the true differences in world cuisines, while still offering familiar components that children and hesitant adults will find appetizing. The ample amounts of space provided by the former quick service location also allows for a less cramped and quieter meal, as well as the ability to truly take in the surroundings. Overall, I would certainly mark Tusker House as a must try on the Walt Disney World food trail.


Lisa said...

One of my favorite places to dine in WDW.

Ryan P. Wilson said...

Lisa, it is definitely a restaurant that I love to eat at from time to time, it simply has everything I am looking for.