ADDRESS: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village (3701 W Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee, FL 34747)
If staying up until midnight for the New Year’s celebration at EPCOT wasn’t already a long ordeal as it is (we had been in the park since about 10 a.m. that morning), the real fun began when you were trying to leave and get back home afterwards. You and the thousands of other people who had the same idea were all trying to squeeze through the limited parking lot exits to get on the road; we didn’t end up getting back to the hotel until just before 2 a.m.
So needless to say, the entirety of New Year’s Day was spent recovering from the day prior. While wandering around Disney Springs that afternoon, my friends Bryan and Katie were looking through the Disney app at places that had dinner reservations open. It just so happened that one of the spots called Sanaa over in the Animal Kingdom resort area had availability, and the mixture of African and Indian flavors described on their menu definitely attracted our curiosity.
Even though there were signs in the resort about how to get to the restaurant, it still seemed like a bit of a maze. We walked through the main lobby only to curve around towards the guest rooms and take an elevator downstairs and weave around some more before getting to the host stand. We only had to wait a few minutes before we were escorted over to our table, which was in a pretty good spot right by the window. During the daytime, you’d be able to see the animals wandering around outside; unfortunately for us, it was already pretty dark when we began eating.
There were a lot of the entrées that sounded intriguing, with most (if not all) of them involving a meat or fish of some kind. While we were trying to decide on what to get, our waitress, Dani, did recommend going for the Indian-style Bread Service: five different types of naan accompanied with nine condiments to choose from. We had already been thinking about getting an appetizer, and the naan sounded perfect to start off the meal. It was after a little further discussion that we decided to go family-style with the entrées that night, splitting plates of an African-inspired Biryani with Chicken along with the South African Braaivleis (a trio of fire-grilled meats).
I certainly appreciated the colorful décor of the restaurant, with a number of patterns and wood elements that helped to remind you of the African-inspired backdrop. The interior I also found to be really well lit, and actually in some cases, the lights were so bright I had to tone it down in my food photos.
Bread service came out first, and I thought the visual presentation of the accompaniments was really spot-on. Served almost like an artist’s palette, the nine different choices of toppings you had available ranged in both flavor profile as well as spice level. Roasted red pepper hummus or mango chutney might have been some of the more mild options (spice-wise), but if you were looking to dial it up, the red chile sambal or spicy jalapeño-lime pickle might be more your speed. I would definitely recommend going around the entire board so that you can get a sense of which flavors you prefer to pair with the different types of naan.
The two entrées came out next, and just based on portion sizing alone, I think we made a good call by ordering less food and splitting amongst the three of us. The biryani consisted of a large bed of white jasmine rice, with some curried vegetables served off on the side of the plate. A nicely grilled piece of chicken was put right on top, garnished with crispy onions and parsley. The chicken was spiced well, the vegetables had the aromatic flavor from the yellow curry sauce, and the jasmine rice was there to soak up all that extra flavor. But I think I was still missing that punch of umami, which was perfect because the braaivleis plate featured some really prime looking grilled meats.
Beef, pork tenderloin, and boar sausage made up the three main proteins featured on the dish, with vegetables and mashed potatoes appearing to accompany the meats. All three of them were fantastic, getting that nice char flavor on the outside, and still retaining a lot of moisture as well. Savory and umami flavors were certainly at the forefront, along with a spice blend on the outside of the beef and pork tenderloin that provided some other flavor notes as well. Out of the three meats though, I think my personal preference leaned towards the beef and the boar sausage.
I’m not sure if it was just the type of food I was craving that night, but I think I definitely leaned more towards the braaivleis plate than the chicken biryani when things were all said and done. You could definitely tell that the meats were fire-grilled, and their richness was balanced out well by the vegetables it was served with. If we hadn’t been eating family-style, I definitely could have handled that entire plate. For what started off as a casual browse in the Disney app, the restaurant turned into a really great find for a place that serves up some cuisine certainly not as widely available in the local area. Add this place to your list if you’re looking to spice up the flavor variety while dining in the Disney World vicinity.
Let’s now take a look at the Sanaa Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
Naan: traditional, garlic-ginger, spiced, onion kulcha, paneer paratha.
Accompaniments: cucumber raita, roasted red pepper hummus, mango chutney, tomato-date jam, tamarind chutney, coriander chutney, garlic pickle, red chile sambal, spicy jalapeño-lime pickle.
And finally, here are my rankings for Sanaa:
Food: 4.5 / 5
The flavors were definitely rich, and I was especially impressed by the presentation of the bread service. Almost all the entrées feature meat of some kind, with varying accompanying flavor profiles that all sounded very delicious. The hearty portions definitely left me satisfied.
Atmosphere: 4.5 / 5
The bright colors and other elements of the décor really helped to add to the immersive nature of the place. I could only imagine that it would have been pretty neat if it was daytime outside and you could see the animals hanging out in the open space outside of the restaurant.
Service: 4 / 5
Overall, I’d describe the service as probably average at best. Dani, our waitress, would stop by every once in a while to make sure things were still going well. She helped recommend us going for the bread service, which ended up being a great choice. But for some reason, I still got a lingering vibe that her hospitality seemed a bit forced.
Price: 4.25 / 5
Once again, dining at a Disney property already had my expectations set in terms of what the final dollar count would be. But in this case, for the amount paid, I thought that it was well worth it, for both the quantity of the food that you get as well as the immersive atmosphere around you.