Flying Fish, Disney Boardwalk Inn, Orlando
It might seem strange to find a fine-dining restaurant set along an old-fashioned boardwalk. Especially if this restaurant has entrees in the $30 range–and also has a door that opens onto an old-timey sweets and ice cream shop through the foyer. Indeed, stepping into Flying Fish feels a bit like the midway at the carnival in terms of the grandiose decor and harlequin pillars. The decor is gold, white and blue and has a theme of–wait for it–flying fish. I like the open kitchen; the two saute stations and wood-fired grill front the dining room, and those more interested in theatrical cooking than theatrical decor might enjoy eating at the seats that sit on the other side of the hot line. (I took my son to see the kitchen and one of the line cooks hammed it up for his benefit, sponging a wet rag on the hot grill to create a big flame-up.)
Fortunately, the carnival doesn’t end when the plates start coming to the table. A creamy onion bisque was rich but not overwhelming, with a crown of microgreens and an incredible depth of flavor from several different types of allium (shallot, scallion, etc). My husband’s lobster quesadilla used high-quality cheese and plenty of chunks of sweet lobster meat; a dish of guacamole nestled alongside for dipping and smearing. The best dish we tried was my potato-crusted snapper, an entree I remembered loving back when I ate at Flying Fish in 2003. The fillet was covered with a thin, wispy layer of potato before deep-frying to a golden finish. It rested atop of generous pile of leek fondue, with a deep ring of veal demi-glace sauce around the bottom of the plate. It’s a fabulous combination of flavors and textures, each spot-on in its execution. I sopped up as much of the sauce as I could with the whole-grain sourdough bread on our table. My husband’s orecchiette with assorted seafood was also top-notch. The pasta and the seafood were impeccably fresh.
Flying Fish is definitely one of the better choices for dining at Disney, and I have to say it’s a better option for seafood than Coral Reef over in Epcot. It’s also in a great location–you can walk via the International Gateway into Epcot’s World Showcase, and you can time your reservation in order to stroll over for the 9pm Epcot Illuminations show in that area of the park. But there are also plenty of diversions right near the restaurant. Flying Fish is situated near an old-timey boardwalk with shops, restaurants, a couple of nightclubs, and booths hawking everything from hair wraps to funnel cakes.