*This gluten free dining experience took place in August 2020. It includes information about dairy free options, as well as fish/shellfish, peanut, hazelnut, cabbage, and chicken & turkey allergies.
Dinner at Sanaa
Sanaa, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village, reopened in July 2020 after the Disney Parks & Resorts closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hands down one of my favorite restaurants at Disney World. In fact, just before the parks & resorts closed temporarily, we had enjoyed a great meal there for my birthday. In August 2020, we took a mini one day staycation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort. So, dinner at Sanaa was a must on that visit.
COVID-19 & Reopening Notes
On this particular visit, we made reservations for the restaurant a few days before we dined there. I used the My Disney Experience app and found that there was a late evening seating, which we decided to book (the restaurant closed at 9 p.m.). The app worked as it normally does, and we were able to add in our special dietary needs in the app and alert cast members of our needs when we arrived at the restaurant. We also utilized online restaurant check-in when we arrived at Sanaa. Online check-in includes using your My Disney Experience app to check-in yourself. It’s super easy, and I hope Disney keeps this going forward too.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort itself featured many mechanisms to provide sanitization, social distancing, and safety for both guests and cast members. All cast members wore facial masks and some cast members also wore protective shields, as well. All servers in the restaurant wore both facial masks and protective shields. In addition, there were many portable hand sanitizer stations for guests to use. We also saw cast members regularly cleaning surfaces and restrooms throughout our visit.
While Jambo House was very quiet during our mini staycation, we found that Kidani Village — where Sanaa is located — was a bit busier. There was a bit of crowding in the lobby area of Sanaa. We think this may have been due to guests waiting for to-go/takeaway orders along with other guests waiting to be seated. We were able to social distance as best we could, but we found the lobby to be a little more crowded than we would have liked. Currently, Sanaa is the only restaurant open between both sides of the resort. So, it’s not a surprise that the restaurant was busy. Once we were seated, we felt much more comfortable with the social distancing spacing in place versus the lobby.
As a note, at the time of writing this review, we have been to several of the Disney Resorts, including the Contemporary Resort, Old Key West Resort, and Riviera Resort. All locations have the same protocols, as far as we have observed. Be sure to check with restaurants and the official Disney World website for additional information about current guidelines and recommendations.
Sanaa means “work of art” in Swahili. And, the restaurant itself truly is a work of art.
Even when you arrive at the check-in counter, you’ll be treated to beautiful African and Indian inspired decor.
Inside the restaurant, you’ll find uniquely designed chairs, bright colors, and beautiful decorations. I absolutely love the unique designs in the restaurant — making it feel truly special.
My favorite part of the restaurant is actually above you when you dine. If you look, the main interior of the restaurant resembles a tree, its branches, and leaves. All of the light fixtures in the restaurant are especially beautiful.
As you can see from this photo, the seating area was well set-up for social distancing. In fact, so far, it might be the best social distanced seating we’ve experienced at Disney World. Brandon and I had a great seat right by the window where we could enjoy a view of the giraffes, zebras (including the new baby zebra), and other animals on the Savannah. But, even if you don’t get a window seat, there is plenty of amazing theming to take in while you dine at Sanaa.
Like most restaurants at Disney World, Sanaa does offer an allergy-friendly menu. We also spoke directly to a chef, as well, to discuss options. Chef Kimi was excellent at helping us navigate the menu to ensure that we had the most up-to-date information about options and customizations for our special dietary needs.
My biggest recommendation with allergy-friendly menus is to always look at the regular menu too. Sanaa is extremely gluten free and dairy free friendly. And, many dishes that are naturally gluten free may not be listed on the allergy-friendly menu as an option. I always ask and double-check because there are so many great dishes on the menu to enjoy.
Up first, we had to start with the Allergy-Friendly Bread Service. It’s a must order anytime we dine at Sanaa. And, neither of us could ever visit the restaurant without ordering it. The Allergy-Friendly Bread Service can be customized for a variety of special dietary needs.
The allergy-friendly naan bread (which is made in-house, so use your own judgement and comfort level regarding cross-contamination) uses the Cup4Cup Wholesome Flour Blend and is marked safe for Gluten/Wheat, Egg, Fish/Shellfish, Milk, Peanut, and Soy Allergies on the menu. To my knowledge, there are no actual tree nuts in the bread. But, they use coconut milk which is classified by the FDA as a tree nut (even though it’s a fruit). Be sure to speak directly to a chef about this or any other special diets concerns that you have to ensure you feel safe consuming any item.
The dips/sauces included in the allergy-friendly bread service are all amazing. The regular line-up of dips are all gluten free & dairy free EXCEPT the cucumber raita which contains dairy. You can easily swap out a sauce and double-up on your favorite depending on your special dietary need.
We were both so thrilled that the allergy-friendly bread service was on the temporary allergy-friendly menu, as it’s truly one of our favorite parts of any Sanaa meal. It didn’t disappoint on this visit either!
For my entree, after a lot of debating on what to order (because everything is amazing at Sanaa), I decided to get the Sustainable Fish prepared with Geelrys Rice, Sukama Wiki, and Citrus Butter. It is marked safe for Gluten/Wheat, Egg, Peanut/Tree Nut, Shellfish, and Soy Allergies on the allergy-friendly menu. I believe it can be made dairy free. But, you’ll want to speak with a chef about that option.
Overall, this was an outstanding dish. The fish was beautifully cooked and well-seasoned. And, the rice offered a sweet and sour twist that paired really well with the fish. It’s a dish I’ve ordered many times. And, I would definitely get it again.
I do also love the curries at the restaurant too. So, be sure to check out some of the other options, like the Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables, which is so flavorful and delicious (and naturally gluten free & dairy free).
For Brandon’s entree, he ordered the Grilled New York Strip with Roasted Potatoes Vinaigrette, Harvest Vegetables, and Bain’s Butter. This dish is marked safe for Gluten/Wheat, Egg, Fish/Shellfish, Peanut/Tree Nut, and Soy Allergies. He also ordered a side dish of the kid’s Macaroni & Cheese, which was made safe for Brandon’s fish/shellfish, peanut, cabbage, hazelnut, and chicken & turkey allergies.
Usually the Sanaa menu has mashed potatoes listed as a side dish option, which Brandon usually gets in place of the roasted potatoes — which he is not a fan of. But, Sanaa is not currently offering mashed potatoes during this time. So, he thought he’d give them another try. Like previous visits, he was not a fan of the seasoning and vinegar on the potatoes. He did, however, absolutely love everything else including the steak and mac & cheese.
During our visit, Sanaa was offering to-go/takeaway orders for their full menu. So, even though we dined in the restaurant, I asked if I could get a dessert to go. I debated back and forth between the Kheer (which is dairy free and plant-based and can be made gluten free) and the Triple Chocolate Mousse (which is gluten free as is but contains dairy).
Ultimately, I decided to get the gluten free Triple Chocolate Mousse and enjoy it in our room later in the evening. If you’re gluten free, this is a fantastic dessert that isn’t overly heavy but has great flavor. Thought not listed on the allergy-friendly menu, the restaurant almost always has seasonal Kulfi (ice cream) and tapioca pudding that are both usually gluten free (and the tapioca pudding is both gluten free & dairy free). So do be sure to ask a chef about options!
If you want to get more information about our visit to Sanaa, we did film our visit and included it in our Mini-Staycation video day 1 on our YouTube channel.
Sanaa has always been and continues to be one of my most favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World. With a menu that is extremely special diets friendly and delicious food, there’s truly something for everyone on the Sanaa menu. It’s definitely a restaurant that we recommend to anyone visiting Disney World for something unique and delicious.
Have you been to Sanaa? What was your experience dining there?