Sanaa (pronounced sah-NAH) is Walt Disney World’s newest restaurant, located at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village. Its name is Swahili and translates to either beauty or work of art and both the restaurant and the new DVC resort itself not only live up to the name but exceed its definition.
The design of the colorful restaurant is stunning with new details to be explored in every nook and cranny. The ceiling represents an acacia tree, providing its diners with shade as they overlook the savanna. Zebras, ostriches, wildebeest and more roam the area between the restaurant and AKL’s Jambo House and sometimes exhibit no shame as they let the curiosity get the best of them and come as close as possible to the restaurant’s windows.
True to its name, there is plenty of intricate and authentic artwork on display within the restaurant, much of it beaded (be sure to notice the bead work in the check-in podium as well).
In addition to the artwork, the restaurant features cultural representatives from various African countries. On the counter of the check-in podium, guests will find information cards about the countries represented by the cast members on staff at the time. The check-in area also has a few instruments (mostly in the form of drums) to occasionally keep the younger set amused as they wait or to be used when the representatives sing for a dining guest celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday.
The restaurant also offers a daily cultural tour of the restaurant (check the activities board for more information) conducted by a couple of the representatives, exploring the design elements of the restaurant. The tour runs around 20 minutes and ends in the lounge area where the cooking staff provide information on the ovens and the process and offers a sample of the naan bread along with a few spicy spreads. Another benefit to the tour (aside from being completely free and open to everyone, including guests not staying at the resort) is that it’s done while the restaurant is in transition between lunch and dinner so it offers an excellent opportunity to explore.
For lunch, I chose the Tandoori Chicken. Tandoori refers to the fact that it’s cooked inside a tandoor clay oven, a popular fixture in Indian restaurants, in which food is cooked using radiant heat from a fire at temperatures reaching upwards of 900 degrees. The chicken is served on top of naan bread which is also cooked in the tandoor oven. Accompanying the chicken and bread are mint greens and cucumber-yogurt raita. Admittedly not a foodie, I rather enjoyed the meal and if I had any complaint, it was that there wasn’t enough chicken. The naan bread is delicious and the raita offers a smooth, colder alternative to the chicken.
Although I don’t normally eat dessert, I opted for the restaurant’s sampler which offers a selection of mango pudding (no sugar added), egg-less chocolate cake and cardamom-butter cake served with a little bit of orange and saffron syrup. The mango pudding was my favorite by far, offering the same type of texture found in the mousse of my Boma favorite, zebra domes, only with the mango flavor. In defense of the rest, I may have overdosed on chocolate earlier in the day thanks to the special celebration cupcake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios so I found the eggless cake a bit bland and wasn’t at all impressed with the cardamom-butter cake (which brings the word bitter to mind, although that may not be the right word to be honest). The cardmom-butter cake consists of many ultra-thin layers and it makes for an interesting story and look (along with the saffron syrup, the cake looks almost as if it’s a micro 2×4 – but tastes much better I’m sure). If I had to do it all over again, however, I’d forgo the other two players and go right for the full mango pudding option. The chai cream also came highly recommende from my server.
Of course spirits were high being it opening day not just for the restaurant but the resort as well and it showed. Virtually every cast member was overly friendly and welcoming and obviously very proud of Disney’s latest creation (and with good reason). I honestly recall very few other dining experiences at the resort where the environment was so warm and enjoyable so here’s hoping the restaurant can maintain this energy. Given the smaller common area of Kidani Village over Jambo House, the restaurant is more easily accessible from the bus stop than its sister resort’s pair of dining options and coupled with the savanna view, Sanaa should prove itself to be a viable dining option, particularly for non-members who may have been visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the day.
Below is Stitch Kingdom’s photo gallery of Sanaa. In the interest of time, the photos are all presented in their original, unedited/uncorrected formats so imperfections (notably dirt on the camera sensor) will sometimes be visible. I apologize for this and hope to correct the images over time but I also promise I can personally do this establishment no photographic justice so feel free to use my imperfections as an excuse to go check out the location for yourself in person.
All images © Stitch Kingdom. All Rights Reserved. Photos may be reproduced providing the Stitch Kingdom graphic remains and/or photo credit is given with a proper link to StitchKingdom.com, unless written consent by the site is provided.