Ultimate Restaurant Review: Coral Reef
Recently, I attempted to book basically any Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) that I could.
Due to capacity limits, many eateries book up well ahead of the date you plan to visit. As such, snagging an ADR comes with a degree of difficulty.
I caught a break when one of my favorites opened up the day before our EPCOT visit.
Here’s my review of Coral Reef Restaurant, a high-price restaurant with an inimitable amenity.
You’ve walked past Coral Reef Restaurant, whether you realized it or not.
This place resides in Future World, eerily close to Spaceship Earth. In fact, that point has grown clear during EPCOT’s renovations.
Disney has opened a path on the right side of Spaceship Earth (when you enter from the main gate), the one near The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Coral Reef resides in the same building/pavilion as The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Also, if you walk toward the ride’s entry area, you can veer right to reach the restaurant, which is just around the corner.
Obviously, the location suggests the conceit of this place, where you dine by one of the world’s largest saltwater tanks.
An intelligent restaurant design has situated some seats right beside the protective glass of the saltwater tank.
On lucky days, you can sit here and feel like you’re dining with the residents of the aquarium.
Oddly, Coral Reef primarily sells seafood, which leads to ethical questions about eating fish in front of other fish. Try not to think about it.
The seating at Coral Reef mirrors a movie theater in that most of the tables and chairs face the aquarium. Disney knows what it’s selling here.
Oddly, a series of two-top tables resides by the aquarium, which means that the people sitting by the window must turn a bit to watch their friends.
As for the seafood aquarium fish, they’re plenty used to humans dining at the tables. So, they go along with their days, sometimes dropping by to say hello.
I’m friends with several of the mantas and even a couple of sharks! It’s very Disney.
Check-In Process and Getting Seated
The check-in process for this meal proved marvelous. We asked whether we could enter the restaurant early since we had nothing else to do.
The kindly cast member said they were too crowded. So, we wandered around for 50 minutes.
Due to limited attendance, we managed to ride Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Meanwhile, we texted my nephew and invited him to join us. By the time our actual ADR window opened, he was sitting there waiting for us.
So, we asked whether Coral Reef could seat a party of three rather than two. They quickly said yes, and we wound up with a special guest.
Disney’s always better when you’re there with family, right?
We didn’t use the app to check in this time due to that conversation. Instead, a fantastic worker took us directly to our table.
The only disappointment involved our seating, which wasn’t close to the aquarium window.
However, we’ve dined there so often over the years that I feel somewhat greedy whenever we get one of those tables now.
Instead, we sat toward the top of the restaurant (it has movie theater-esque levels) and happily talking about family matters for more than an hour.
The Dining Experience
I’ll acknowledge one of the constant criticisms about Coral Reef. The food could be better, and everyone knows it.
Some meals include superb cuisine, while others prove lackluster at best.
Generally, we don’t care, as we dine here for the aquarium view. Also, we usually use the Disney Dining Plan. So, it’s just a Table Service credit anyway.
When guests pay out of pocket, they’re more likely to notice that Coral Reef also qualifies as overpriced.
Our meal for three guests averaged more than $55 each, albeit with tip.
For that price, the meal must deliver. My wife, who ordered the vegan option, definitely believed that it did.
Coral Reef sells the Grilled Vegetable Skewer with Impossible Kefta. You can tell from the picture that it’s a decadent dish.
She raved about the entire meal, which also included Lentils, Basmati Salad, and a Smoked Eggplant Salad.
She didn’t care for the eggplant much, but she devoured the rest of her plate.
My family member and I share similar palates, and so we ordered the same thing. We both went with the 10-oz Slow-roasted Grilled Rib-Eye.
Let me be clear. It’s a comically large portion of meat. In fact, someone who saw pictures of the steak was still joking about its size today.
If that’s a 10-ounce steak, other places have been ripping me off over the years!
Alas, I found mine a bit tough. I generally quite like the steak here and would ordinarily list it among my ten favorite steak places at Walt Disney World.
For whatever reason, the magic was lacking this time. My loaded mashed potatoes weren’t as tasty as usual, either.
However, the bread at Coral Reef remains as delicious as ever. I’m a passionate fan of the way it pairs with the butter.
Our family member ate every bit of his steak, although his dish got a bit cold.
He patiently waited for some promised steak sauce that our server never remembered.
I had to chase down a busboy to ask for some and am thankful to that cast member for working hard to please the customers.
We rarely have lousy service at Disney restaurants, but this meal definitely skewed toward the bottom.
My party didn’t stress over it, as the company was terrific. We don’t take family dinners for granted ever since the pandemic, do we?
We went nuts on desserts, which does factor into the hefty meal price. Each of us ordered sweets at the end of the meal.
Since Coral Reef only offers three desserts, that means we tried everything.
Personally, I’m addicted to the Chocolate Wave, a raspberry dish that never disappoints.
My wife chose the plant-based dessert, Baileys Almande and Jack Daniel’s Mousse.
I’m not really joking when I say that there was no sign of its existence on the plate after she had finished.
Our guest selected the Mixed Berry Mousse, which you can tell is absolutely gorgeous. He also finished most of his dessert.
So, we all devoured our sweets, and two-thirds of us slammed down the entrees, too.
Overall, that’s the description for a successful meal.
I’ll be honest that I would have enjoyed it better if we’d been on the Disney Dining Plan.
I find that I think about the price less when I use entitlements rather than paying out of pocket.
When people question the value and quality of Coral Reef, I cannot disagree. It’s pricey on its own.
Once we factor in that the service is shaky and the food quality inconsistent, it does feel somewhat overpriced.
Still, we dine here for the aquarium, the bread, and the desserts. And the new vegan dishes dazzle with their quality.
Overall, we found much more to praise than to criticize during this meal.