In June of this year, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit Animal Kingdom and experience Pandora, sans kids. It was our anniversary celebration; 24 hours, kid free at Walt Disney World. If you have kids, you understand how precious this alone time can be. I knew we would be spending an entire day (with a break mid-day back at the hotel) at Animal Kingdom to experience Pandora: The World of Avatar, which had opened Memorial Day weekend. We knew we wanted to dine that night/day at a signature restaurant, and since we were going to be at Animal Kingdom, we decided to try Tiffins.
So, at the 180 day mark, as I am a planner, I booked a dinner at Tiffins. As plans tend to do, they change. So with 60 days left to go, I obtained Fastpasses for Flight of Passage and two other rides. In tweaking the FP+ times and deciding to leave some time for a bit of a monorail crawl, dinner needed to be changed to lunch. So with about 20 days to go, I was looking to go from dinner to lunch. To my surprise, I could have had any time of day I wanted. This surprised me a bit, but I changed our times and we were ready. One menu item, however, had to be checked on before I officially made the switch. I had been hearing about the octopus appetizer, and as it was also on the lunch menu I was happy to switch.
For this 24 hour stay, we were at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, as we are DVC members and as I stated this was an anniversary (10th to be exact) getaway.
We have wanted to try the Disney Dining Plan and this was a good, super short stay to try it out for the first time. Therefore, after calculating how many points we would need for the restaurants we were visiting, we chose the Deluxe Disney Dining plan, as it allowed us the most bang for our buck. For Tiffins we would need 2 dining credits as it is a signature dining experience, even for lunch. Having not ever been on the Dining Plan before, I wanted to make sure we officially checked in to the hotel before heading to rope drop to see Pandora. Insane, yes, but as we were excited, and well rested from a kid free night the evening before, we arrived ready to deposit our luggage and head to the parks.
Upon checking with the front desk, everything was good to go with our dining credits, so we set out for the park. Somehow, we were able to ride things faster than anticipated, and as such we wanted to move up our lunch reservation so we could get back to the hotel and relax as early as possible. I again had no problem adjusting times, not once but twice from 2:30 pm to 12:30, and then to 11:45 when we knew we were done with everything we wanted to do. However, we really did not need a reservation and could have just done a walk-up, again surprising and at this point a bit worrisome, but we were committed.
Camp Minnie Mickey Totems
The restaurant itself is lovely, and very relaxing. There are statement art pieces everywhere, and you can see how it is a love letter to the process of creating Animal Kingdom. You really feel like Joe Rohde is inviting you to experience this place, and journey back to how his team created this place. I like to think of it as Joe’s Place. In the center of the main dining room are the totem poles that originally stood outside in Camp Minnie Mickey, the lost original land that is now Pandora: The World of Avatar. A great nod to the past. As a guest you are invited to touch and experience the art around you; it really is a unique, calming, and beautiful space.
The service was great. Our server was new to Tiffins, but this was definitely not his first rodeo; he was experienced and did a great job at pacing our meal correctly. We were not rushed. He also answered all our questions, and when he did not know he went to find out. The restaurant was not full, which was unfortunate. Cast Members could be overheard regaling guests with artwork descriptions, stories of how Animal Kingdom came to be, among other topics. There really was a lot of pride taken in this place, and the service being provided.
Wagyu Striploin and House-smoked Brisket
On to the meal. As we were on the Dining Plan we were able to choose one appetizer, one entrée, and one dessert, as well as a non-alcoholic beverage. My husband chose the Signature Bread Service, and I chose the Marinated Octopus. Unlike Sanaa, here the bread service only has 3 accompaniments, and there are 3 different types of bread. All were delicious, and it was not overly filling. We each had our favorites but overall it was yummy. The marinated octopus, if you like octopus, was divine. It was so tender and not rubbery at all. The seasoning was great and the saffron aioli and lemon-caper olive oil just added to the subtle smokiness of the lightly charred octopus.
Pan-seared Duck Breast
For our entrees, my husband chose the Wagyu Striploin and House-smoked Brisket. He loved it. The meats were both delicious, though he favored the Wagyu over the brisket. The root vegetables and guava demi-glace added the perfect amount of sweetness, and gave the “potato” texture that always pairs well with beef. I chose the Pan-seared Duck Breast, which I now have dreams about eating. The sweet taste of the huckleberry compote with the fatty and tender duck meat was perfection.
Passion Fruit Tapioca Crème
With each course the food got better and better, until dessert (at least for me). I chose the Passion Fruit Tapioca Crème, because I love tapioca, and what better way to end one of the best meals I’ve ever had than with a dessert I love, right? Wrong. It was gorgeous to look at, and was more of a parfait than I had anticipated. The grapefruit overpowered the sweetness of the tapioca and passion fruit, and as such was a real let down to an otherwise fabulous meal. It was refreshing, but just too heavy on the grapefruit over the tapioca. My husband, however, chose wisely. He had the Lime Cheesecake. This little circle of deliciousness had lime cheesecake on top of a green tea sponge. It was a well-balanced dish, both in flavor profile (tart/sweet), and texture (soft/crunchy). I would choose this dessert to complete my meal next time.
Overall, this was easily the best meal I’ve ever had at Walt Disney World in the 36 years I have been visiting. Add in the great service and the lovely and calm surroundings, and this overlooked gem is not to be missed. Please remember that this is a signature restaurant, and while we were on the dining plan it cost us 2 table service credits. Had we paid for this meal, we may not have chosen to have dessert at lunch, but would have definitely gone with the appetizers and entrees. Had we paid cash, our total would have been $137 plus tax and tip for appetizers, entrees, and dessert for two people, which is pricey. That is about $69 per person for lunch. However, when you consider that some character meals charge the same for food that is nowhere near as good, it may be worth the splurge. When we go back, I think we will forego the dessert to keep the cost down a bit more. According to the Walt Disney World website, as of the writing of this post the cost for both lunch and dinner for these options would be the same. As for us, we are already planning to return next summer with our extended family for another fabulous meal at Tiffins, and I can’t wait.