Disney’s Animal Kingdom has always been a park in need of more table service dining. From the time when the park opened in 1998, the options have been very limited, in fact, at one point in time, your only options were the Rainforest Cafe and a character buffet breakfast in Dinoland. Even with the addition of Yak and Yeti in 2008 and the conversion of Tusker House to a buffet, the options still seemed limited and the park did not feature a fine dining (or signature) establishment. Fast forward to the advent of the expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the park finally is slated to add an entirely new land, a nighttime attraction and entertainment lineup, new counter service establishments, and of course, Tiffins Restaurant and the Nomad Lounge.
Tiffins marks an important moment in the park’s history. Tomorrow will see the park boast its very first late night closure without Extra Magic Hours, what could be a daily occurrence from now on permanently regardless what nighttime show is running. Adding a signature venue where guests can drink and dine for a few hours adds a nice chunk more to a day at the park, and with the level of quality and service at Tiffins and the Nomad Lounge, you will certainly be spending at least an hour dining here if you choose to do so.
Of course, we have reservations to dine at Tiffins on its very first day of operation on Friday and once again on Saturday to experience the Jungle Book: Alive with Magic package, but when I heard there would be a soft opening today, I jumped at the opportunity to take our very first look inside the new restaurant and to try the Nomad Lounge area which boasts a unique menu of food and drink from the main restaurant.
Before we get too far into this, you MUST see the interior of this restaurant. It is absolutely one of the most gorgeous restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. If you are like me, which if you are reading this I assume you are, you are fascinated by theme park design, and that’s what this restaurant is all about: the journeys and the hard work that went into creating Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here’s a video walkthrough of both eh restaurant and lounge:
Nomad lounge is placed in the midst of Tiffins, along the path from Discovery Island to Pandora: The World of AVATAR. This was done so Nomad would have waterfront patio seating and a circular bay of windows around the interior seating and bar area. Being a lounge, you do not need and can not make reservations to dine here, unlike Tiffins.
The specialty drink menu here is gigantic compared to many of the lounges on property, at least in variety of drink only offered at this establishment. There are even drinks only available at the Nomad Lounge that will not be served to dining tables at Tiffins.
The drink menu can be a bit overwhelming, but the staff at Nomad Lounge is impeccable. All of the recommendations and the guide through the menu we received were second to none. Also, I’m a sucker for themed coasters…
I’m no fan of mint drinks, but if you are, the Snow Leopard’s Salvation is the drink for you.
The Boto-Rita was fine, not really my thing, but pretty good.
I’m a really big fan of the ubiquitous Jungle Juice, so when I tried two drinks here that tasted like alcoholic versions of the Animal Kingdom favorite, I was quite happy. The first of which was the Leaping Lizard, which also has a pineapple decorative piece meant to look like a lizard’s head…
My personal favorite was the Night Monkey, which just might be may favorite drink in all of WDW.
The Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale is a nod to the former Adventurer’s Club at Pleasure Island and a really fine dark beer that I will certainly be ordering again. You may yell at me, but this is honestly the first thing ever having to do with the club that I’m happy about…
The Lamu Libation was my second favorite drink that we tried. It was perfectly sweet and had a great flavor to it. I will be ordering this again for sure.
The Temping Tigress was also enjoyable, even though I hate bourbon, I would not turn this down if it were offered to me again. This is probably the highest honor I can give to any bourbon drink I’ve ever had in my life.
The lounge also has a number of non-alcoholic options, of which we tried the Hibiscus Henna. The lounge offers a number of the alcoholic drinks without alcohol under different names, which is a nice offering.
Nomad Lounge also offers a small menu of exclusive bites, which of course we had to try.
The vegetarian summer roll was surprisingly good. This is not necessarily something I would usually order anywhere, but the spicy sauce accompanying the roll made this quite enjoyable.
The Indian Butter Chicken Wings were a bit of a letdown. The flavor just wasn’t there on these, which is somewhat disconcerting as this was the item I was most looking forward to. Luckily, we were so wowed by this point by the atmosphere and drinks that this don’t ruin our experience.
The seasonal fish balls were one of my favorite dishes here, even though I had zero expectations they would even be on my radar when eating here. The pepper accompaniment blended well with the perfectly cooked white fish for a great flavor.
The seared wagyu beef was by far the worst item we tried. No flavor and quite expensive for just three small pieces.
The pork ribs were the real winner here. Again, while a small portion, the lime accented flavor and fall-off-the-bone quality were worth every penny. Unlike some other lounges on property, the portions here may be good for 1-2 guests, but that’s about it. This is a lounge attached to a signature dining venue, so it isn’t shocking, but could be better.
One last item that is not featured on the menu is the bread service. Similar to Sanaa, this plate features a sampling of bread with dipping sauces. However, this plate here offered unique breads and dipping sauces, including a spicy yogurt sauce which was my favorite. I highly recommend ordering this on your next visit to the lounge.
For dessert, the lounge offers an exclusive “Taste of Tiffins” which has minute samplings of three of the larger desserts in one small plate. This was really fantastic, and gets a review pretty much like Amorette’s pastries; it’s very small but makes us for it and taste and quality of the presentation.
Nomad Lounge and Tiffins are not yet accepting any sort of discounts, as to be expected at this point from a new dining establishment at Walt Disney World.
Overall, Tiffins is a gorgeous restaurant and definitely the signature restaurant that Animal Kingdom deserves, design wise at least. We’ll bring you a full review of Tiffins in the days ahead, but the interior is a beautiful love-letter to the attention to details and amazing journeys that Imagineers made to make Disney’s Animal Kingdom happen. The interior is jaw-dropping.
Note that they were not yet allowing guests to purchase the customizable tags to hang over the bar, but when they do, $0.85 of your dollar (which is the minimum donation) will go to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund.
Nomad Lounge is just a beautiful as the rest, both inside and out. The music is relaxing, yet vibrant and the patio is just as serene as it is in the main bar area.
The food menu is really solid and may even improve as the days progress (our server was surprised to hear we did not like the wagyu beef). The drink menu might be second to none quite honestly. I can’t think of a specialty drink menu at Walt Disney World where I would have a more difficult time picking a beverage. There is a lot on this drink menu and a lot of it is absolutely phenomenal. Nomad Lounge will without a doubt will be a regular drink destination for us, and the bread service and ribs will likely be on the must-order short list overtime we visit. The atmosphere alone is worth your money, never mind anything they will serve you. Kudos to all involved in the creation of Animal Kingdom’s latest masterpiece.