This past weekend, Jeff Lange (from JeffLangeDVD.com) and I visited Sanaa, which is located inside the newly opened Kidani Village at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas. The word Sanaa – with emphasis on the latter half of the word, means “artwork” in Swahili.
Sanaa opened with the resort on May 1st, and serves “African cuisine with Indian flavors”. We stopped by for lunch on May 2nd, and it was running at 50% of the normal capacity – which allowed for much more time with the server, and a quieter dining experience (except that it seemed that half of the Disney internet community was there, so it was also a lively 3 hour socializing event).
Sanaa is nestled just down the stairs at the Villas (we have extensive photo and video coverage of the resort – with 9 minutes of pool footage as well before the resort opened). The wonderful difference between Sanaa and the restaurants at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House (Boma and Jiko) is that the view out the windows of Sanaa is of the Savannah. Not every seat will have a great view, but many do. Even though I was off a bit to the side, I was able to see the giraffes moving around outside. Next to the restaurant is an outside observation area as well, for those who want a longer look with some fresh air.
The restaurant itself feels very cozy, with a bar off to the side with the most interesting bar chairs I’ve ever seen. The centerpiece of the main room is a tree designed with the roots and leaves creating the ceiling above diners. A variety of lanterns dangle from the branches. Large windows look out on the Savannah, and there is a smaller dining area set aside from the main room. We have 3 minutes of video footage here!
Kim from Texas was our server, and she was wonderful. Knowledgeable and friendly, Kim recently transferred from Spoodles (which will close this summer to make way for a new restaurant venture between Disney and Cat Cora).
Well in advance of visiting the restaurant, we had seen a PDF file of the menus for both lunch and dinner. We spent the last two weeks joking about the Tinker Bell and Lightning McQueen drinks that head up the otherwise elegant looking menu. Jeff liked to say that he’d have a “Lightning McQueen Raceway Punch and an Angus Burger”. Personally, I would rather see those drinks on a separate drink menu instead of watering down the finer restaurant menus on property.
We both started out with the Mango Lassi Smoothie ($4.29). This is made of nonfat yogurt and mango puree’, and was really quite good. My extended family is from India and I’ve spent a lot of time in Indian restaurants – but have yet to perfect a mango lassi in my own kitchen.
We decided against the Indian-Style Bread Service ($8.99) in favor of the Potato and Pea Samosas (7.99). The samosas were fairly standard, very tasty with a side of Tamarind or Mango Chutney. What I did like about Sanaa was that the meals were flavorful, but I did not need tissues during lunch due to a spice overload.
For entrees, I chose the Tandoori Chicken, and Jeff ordered the Chicken with Red Curry Sauce and the Beef Short Ribs. His were slow-cooked entrees and he could choose 2 of the 4 listed on the menu for his meal. Mine came on Naan Bread, and his entree included a choice of Basmati Rice or Rice Pilaf (he chose the Basmati).
My entree was good, but seemed a little short on the chicken and very (very!) heavy on the Cucumber-Yogurt Raita that sat on top of the chicken. I have never had this style of Tandoori Chicken – but for me, a little sauce (or any sort of dressing) goes a long way. I was glad to have skipped the bread service, as the large piece of Naan Bread was more than enough bread for my meal.
Jeff enjoyed both of his entree choices, saying that the Beef Short Rib meat had been cooked to where it was very tender and melting in his mouth. I tried a bite of the Chicken with Red Curry, and it tasted very different than when I’d first tried a similar entree at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival – the chicken was delicious, and that is a meal that I’d order myself. It seems that the Grilled Angus Chuck Burger (wrapped in Naan Bread for $10.99) was a hit too, the couple next to us raved about their meals to a chef for nearly a half hour.
For dessert, we split the Dessert Sampler ($6.99). Sanaa has a wine list which touts many South African wines as well as other wines from around the world, but it also boasts a refreshing selection of Loose Leaf Tea Offerings on the dessert menu. While I did not order any tea, it is another option ($5.95 for a 17 ounce pot) that sets it aside from many restaurants.
The Dessert Sampler included small samples of 3 different desserts – No Sugar Mango Pudding, Cardamom-Butter Cake and Egg-less Chocolate Cake. The Mango Pudding tasted sweet even without sugar (I am not sure if another sweetner has been added). The Egg-less cake tasted rich, but perhaps my favorite was the Cardamom-Butter Cake, which was mildly sweet and ended the meal perfectly.
I’d recommend Sanaa for a dining experience that is unique. Some reviewers (and posters on internet forums) have expressed concern that the menu might become less authentic due to the American palate, but Jiko and Boma (and now Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom) have proven that Disney can offer diverse menus in some of it’s most popular restaurants without making significant changes.
I was able to use my Tables in Wonderland (formerly the Disney Dining Experience) card at Sanaa for 20% off.
Some more photos from around the restaurant follow on page 2. Thank you to Jeff for hosting my videos at his website, which features vintage and current theme park fan DVD's! From Horizons to the Main Street Electrical Parade to early 1990's Tomorrowland, and continuing to current day DVD titles – the DVD's make wonderful gifts, taken from the viewpoint of someone who has visited and chronicled the parks in photos (and eventually video) for 35 years and lives and breathes Disney in a way that few people I know do (and I am a Disney fan and theme-park goer for nearly 35 years myself!)