*This dining experience took place in August 2016.
Sanaa, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village, has long been one of my favorite restaurants at Disney. I love the Indian and African inspired dishes, the amount of gluten free and dairy free offerings, and of course, the amazing views.
On this particular occasion, I visited with my mom and stepdad who were in town briefly, having just arrived back from a trip to Europe. Their tradition every time they come back from vacation is to dine at Sanaa. And who am I to argue with their tradition?!
I looked over the Sanaa allergy friendly menu but asked to speak to a chef, as I had a few questions about some of the new regular menu dishes that are not listed on the allergy friendly menu. As I learned from a recent visit to Sanaa, many of the dishes on the regular menu are gluten free and dairy free but oddly not listed on the allergy friendly menu.
Chef Fallon who assisted me and my friends back in April is a rockstar and helped me out on this visit. She deserves some huge kudos.
For an appetizer, we had to get the Sanaa bread service. It’s a must. I love that I can get gluten free and allergy friendly (and vegan!) naan bread. Because we were splitting it, I ordered two pieces of the special diets naan while my mom and stepdad got regular naan.
Before anyone else dug in, I immediately scooped up some dipping sauces for myself. I’m a huge fan of the Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney (which I recently made on My Gluten Free Disney Kitchen!), and the Roasted Red Bell pepper Hummus. I also really enjoy the Tomato Date Chutney.
The gluten free and allergy friendly naan was good, but probably the least well cooked compared to other visits where it has been divine. It wasn’t bad, but it seemed a bit dry. Thankfully, I had lots of dipping sauces to help with that.
The gluten free, allergy friendly, and vegan naan bread is made with Cup4Cup Wholesome Flour blend and is listed as gluten/wheat, egg, fish/shellfish, milk, peanut/tree nut, and soy allergy friendly.
This is a photo of the traditional bread service. This naan is egg, fish/shellfish, peanut/tree nut, and soy allergy friendly.
For my entree, I ordered the African-inspired Biryani which was listed as Fragrant Rice with Seasonal Vegetables influenced from the Cape of Good Hope. This is a vegetarian dish (I believe it was also vegan).
Chef Fallon noted that many people ask for protein in the dish and that she could do so for me. I told her to surprise me for whatever was easiest for her, as I’m not fussy and like most proteins. This would later come back to be an issue with the check, but more on that later.
The Biryani was served with crispy fried onion straws on top. Because I was unsure about the safety when it arrived (I’ve had the wrong thing given to me before at Sanaa), I asked server Jonathan to ask Chef Fallon and confirm its safety. I learned it was made with a gluten free flour, so that was great.
Unfortunately, I had to wait a good 10 minutes before I could even talk to a server about this (Jonathan was not our server was a total rockstar; sadly, our server Eddie virtually ignored us throughout our meal and sent over other servers to assist us, while waiting on tables located directly next to us.). It did take another 5 minutes or so before I got confirmation, so I waited at about 15 minutes before I could eat my meal.
Overall, once I finally got to eat it, I really enjoyed this dish. I loved the protein addition (Chef Fallon noted they will be updating the menu soon, and the protein add option will be listed), and I thought the rice was well cooked. The crispy fried onions were amazing!
My only slight negative was the vegetables in the Biryani. I’m all about a nice vegetable melange but Brussels Sprouts, Green Beans, Carrots and some other root veggies seemed an odd combo to me. I love all of those, but they seemed a bit out of place with my dish.
My mom got the Butter Chicken and Braised Beef with Basmati Rice, all of which is gluten free. The Butter Chicken contains dairy, but the Braised Beef is dairy free. I’ve had the Braised Beef on a previous visit and thought it was just OK.
My stepdad had the Braii Lamb with Apricots, Squash, Bacon, Cashews, and Goat Cheese. It looked amazing. It wasn’t listed as gluten free, but I am thinking it might have been easily gluten free, if not naturally gluten free, as all of the lamb dishes at Sanaa have been gluten free in the past.
The Braii Lamb, I’ve had before was gluten free on the Braaivleis – South African Braai Sample Plate. Next time, I will ask because it looked incredible and was a great value compared to the other dishes at $22.
Everyone enjoyed our meal, but I was a bit shocked when I got my bill and noticed a $15 upcharge for the protein I got. I definitely don’t mind upcharges and am used to them at restaurants (thought to be honest, it’s not all that rare at Disney), but I was shocked that it was so much and not communicated to me prior.
I did speak to the manager Zach who basically said the restaurant charged that much because they needed to recoup their cost. He also noted that the new menu will be coming out and that this price was reflective of new price increases at Sanaa. I did explain to him that had I known there was an upcharge that high, I would have ordered my standard faves. I also let him know that I at no point specifically requested those proteins (he indicated the seafood made it a higher price, which I do understand, of course) and that the chef came up with those.
He did reduce the price down to $26 total, which was the same price as the current pricing for the curries on the menu. Still, I was a bit stunned at the experience, and it’s definitely not something I’ve experienced at Disney before without telling me prior to ordering.
Overall, we enjoyed the food and atmosphere, but the experience with service was a bit lacking on this visit. I’m sad to hear that a new menu coming out will now price the curries from $26 to $34 and include 3 choices. My guess is the portion size will be lowered for each of the sauces, but that remains to be seen. Of course, menus and prices are always subject to change, so I will let you know if this new proposed change takes place.
I love Sanaa, but I think I may skip it for dinner for a while and maybe only go at lunch where the prices are a bit more reasonable. It’s a shame because it’s my favorite restaurant, but this particular visit makes me want to take a bit of a Sanaa break for a while.
As an update, I did speak with Disney’s Guest Services, and they were also surprised by the upcharge I received and assured me that this is not a new common practice at Sanaa or other locations. Hopefully, others will not experience the same issue I did on this visit to Sanaa. This was a rare occurrence, and I’m glad it’s not the norm.
Have you been to Sanaa? What is your favorite dish there?