*This dining experience took place in October 2013 and includes a gluten free & vegan dining review in addition to my gluten free & dairy free review. This review includes my comments, as well as comments from Laurie Sadowski, the Allergy-Free Cook, who accompanied me on this meal! Laurie’s comments are in green!
Ah Sanaa… This continues to be one of my hands down favorite restaurants on property. I adore the Indian & African inspired flavors and the variety in which I can get as a gluten free & dairy free diner. I don’t think I could ever get bored eating at this restaurant! Located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village, this restaurant is often seen as a “hidden gem,” which always surprises me given it’s wonderful food, service, and location. But then again, it is off-the-beaten-path if you don’t have a car or don’t want to resort hop. For me, I will always go out of my way to visit Sanaa.
On this particular occasion, I was lucky enough to be heading to dinner with my friend and food allergy cookbook author, Laurie Sadowski. If you attended the dessert party weekend festivities, you’ll likely met Laurie! This was a great place for us to relax and enjoy a meal as we prepped for the weekend festivities.
Before we visited this location, I contacted Chef Trish ahead of time, not only to see if she was going to be on-duty that night, but also to check in with her on options for Laurie & I that might be slightly “off the menu.” Normally, I don’t do this, but this was a special occasion, and we were really looking forward to the meal. Laurie jokingly mentioned samosas (which are definitely not gluten free) to Chef Trish, and little did we know we would be in for a treat when we arrived.
I, too, love Sanaa, and my top dish there is their tomato soup. When Sarah and I were choosing our weekend restaurants, we decided to each pick our favourites, and I was happy to oblige when I discovered Sanaa is hers.
Our server was Brenda, and she’s taken care of my tables in the past. She’s always very good and knowledgeable. Chef Trish came out to greet us, and boy was she prepared for us! She had decided to make something special – a gluten free & vegan version of a “samosa.” Instead of a pastry dough, she created a pastry type coating out of quinoa which she ground and left some coarse to provide texture. Inside were potatoes & peas. Then she lightly fried them in a pan and garnished with a mint chutney and tamarind sauce (which normally is not GF but was for us!) and a mango chutney along with micro-greens. Though the texture wasn’t really samosa like, the taste profiles were nice & very samosa reminiscent.
The tamarind sauce had a lovely flavor to it, with a hint of coriander spice, it had fresh cilantro and mint, a squeeze of lemon and lime and was finished with coconut milk. The samosa, topped on the same had flavors that were good, though more of a quinoa patty, rather than the pastry. It was fried in a Tunisian olive oil, which was a nice way to complement it as a whole. Topped on it was the mango chutney, which included creamed papaya, achar spice, and the microgreens. Big, big fan of this. The balance of flavors with the spice of the samosa and the creamy tamarind sauce was spot on.
Believe it or not, I’d never had the tomato soup at Sanaa — one thing that surprises most people, especially since they have a reputation for making wonderful soups (my mom says the tomato soup here is the best tomato soup she’s ever had!).
My mom and I will second this!
Chef Trish made a nice option for me, a gluten free & dairy free tomato soup made creamy with coconut milk. YUM! This was amazing. It had a nice coconut foam on top and was topped with arugula which is a nice peppery green. There was a lot of depth of flavor to this, and this was easily one of the best soups I’ve ever had GF/DF or not! I also got the chance to try out Laurie’s version of the tomato soup which had no coconut milk in it and spinach. This was also divine, though I admit, I preferred the coconut milk version (I’m a sucker for coconut milk).
The version that I had is the one that I always get, and my top favourite. The traditional tomato soup on the menu contains slow-slow-slow (as in multi-day) cooked tomatoes, which gives it the richest flavor. It generally includes paneer (cheese), which isn’t dairy free, but the same base is used for the dairy-free (as well as soy-free and vegan) version on the menu, with spinach instead. I could eat my life in this!
Laurie & I also shared the bread service with lentil pappadum and several dipping sauces. We picked the coriander chutney, red bell pepper hummus, and mango chutney. All three are my hands down favorite dipping sauces. Of course, at this point I was feeling very full, but we hadn’t even received our entrees yet!
Full? What’s that?
For my entree choices, I ordered the Goan Fish Curry and Chef Trish said she could re-create my favorite dish Green Curry Shrimp which is no longer on the Sanaa menu. I was so excited that she could re-create it!
The green curry shrimp was very close to the version that used to be on the menu. It wasn’t quite as spicy (which wasn’t very spicy at all to be fair) as the original, but the flavor profile was very close. Next up was the Goan Fish Curry. It featured mahi mahi which is a nice firm fish and worked perfectly with the goan curry. Fair warning, this was spicy! And I mean spicy! I think it was almost more spicy for me than the Durban chicken. Yikes!! I enjoyed the flavors, but spice intensity wise, it was a bit much for me. I ended up picking out the fish and eating the fish with rice just because the sauce was a little too much on the spice scale. I would go with the Durban chicken next time.
Sarah was sweatin’ a little, but definitely talking about how good the dish was. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it! Too bad we can’t have that milk and white bread to mop up the intensity. Thank goodness for rice!
My entrée was done off the cuff, which is my favourite way to dine at Disney World. I didn’t want to have the sampler—I’ve had it in the past many times, since it’s pretty much the only option—so Chef Trish put together a mash-up of other things that were on the menu.
The appetizers on the menu included (not gluten-free) tikki chickpea cakes, and she made me a version of these. She asked if I liked the mango chutney from the appetizer (yes!) because she said the flavors went really well with what she had in mind. I ended up getting a version of the chickpea dish, sitting on a mango, papaya lime juice “sauce”. It was topped with a shaved fennel salad that included red onions and fresh cilantro.
One nice thing I also ordered was the African Starr Mojito which was the perfect accompaniment to the meal. It was so refreshing and filled with fresh mint. This is perhaps now one of my favorite Disney World cocktails. I’ll definitely be ordering that again.
By the time dessert came around, I was just way too full to order any. Though it was nice to see Laurie’s rice pudding that she got. It looked divine!
Oh, and it was. It was a warm bamboo rice pudding, cooked to perfection, and topped with fresh berries. Nice and simple, both in presentation and flavor, but just the right amount.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this meal. I was so stuffed by the end of it but everything was so flavorful and delicious that it was worth it. I can’t thank Chef Trish enough for providing that lovely samosa treat and the special soup. I would definitely request both of those again for a special occasion.
I’d give this meal a solid 9 out of 10 for delicious food & terrific gluten free and dairy free options.