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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Sanaa

9 September 2012

Being a fan and foodie of Walt Disney World, I knew I would be eating well, but I was surprised to find myself falling in love'with African Cuisine! I've been to Tusker House once, Boma three times, and now Sanaa twice, with hopes to dine at all three again soon and add Jiko to the list! I don't know if it is the novelty of such an unfamiliar cuisine or the fact that African cuisine really excels in showcasing the natural flavors of the main ingredient while enhancing them with different spices. Either way, African food is delicious and I always look forward to what new food adventure my tastebuds will embark on when dining at one of Walt Disney World's African restaurants.

'Sanaa, the Art of African Cooking with Indian Flavors' is the restaurant at Kidani Village, the Disney Vacation Club side of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is advertised as a casual family restaurant with a savanna view decorated with 'Handcrafted, Artisan D'cor inspired by an East African Spice Market.' Words are not enough to describe the true adventure of dining at Sanaa. The African Art begins even before you step into the restaurant and once you're in the resort property. Kidani actually means 'necklace' and the buildings that form the village are the shape of a necklace. The lobby of Sanaa and the hallway leading to it is decorated with authentic African art, pottery, baskets, and so much more.

The first time I went to Sanaa with, you guessed it, our very own Brent Dodge, our favorite Hidden Mickey expert Alex M (did you spot the one in the above picture?) and her mother, we were lucky to arrive while it was still daylight. With the large bay windows for a picturesque savannah view, we were drawn to the atmosphere of dining in the middle of an African wildlife reserve. With the excitement of this new experience, I missed out on some of the detail of the East African spice market theme we were dining in.

Sanaa from the outside

Sanaa's views from the inside

While I ponder what to have for dinner, Brent Dodge remarked 'I feel like I'm eating with the cranes

One cast member told me that Sanaa means 'the marketplace' while another, from Africa, said its meaning is more like 'the place where you get your dinner.' The second time I went to Sanaa, the sun had already set, so more attention could be made to the fantastic market theming of the restaurant. I was with my family and we were celebrating my mom and my brother's birthdays. Our seater told us a lot of interesting facts about the restaurant and African cuisine. The continent of Africa is enormous, so crossing through it was part of the Indian Spice Trail, which explains the influences of Indian spices and flavors in African cuisine.

The ceiling of the restaurant seems to be supported by skinny, umbrella shaped like trees. These are Acacia trees, a common tree found on the African savannah, known to be food for Giraffes and a common place to set up market as its shady branches provide a natural shelter.

With celebrating two birthdays in my family, our seater brought us to the best table in the house'a table that was actually a house! Our table/booth was called the 'Royal House' and was known as the Chief's House that looked out onto the village marketplace. It was quite an honor to be the guests of the local royalty!

The menu features the expected portions such as non and alcoholic beverages, appetizers, salads, and the house steak and fish of the day. The stand out portions of the menu are the Indian-Style Bread Service and entrees in the following categories: 'Slow Cooked in Gravy, simple and well-seasoned,' 'From Our Tandoor Ovens,' and the 'Sanaa Vegetarian Sampler.'

With my friends, we made sure to try everything we could. The Indian-Style Bread Service was a must, and we also started with a few appetizers. For the Bread Service the portions are for two to share. You get a choice of three breads and three accompaniments. Between my two meals at Sanaa, I had tried all four types of bread and several of the accompaniments. Naan, the most basic and most traditional of Indian Style bread, was a plain, doughy, soft and flat bread; basic taste, but still delicious. The Onion Kulcha was probably my favorite, with just enough onion flavor. The Paneer Paratha was whole grain bread with paneer cheese, a mildly spiced Indian cheese. The Pappadam was a saltier bread, more like a thin crispy cracker. It had a distinct nutty flavor as it is made from lentil flour. Between my two meals, the accompaniments I tried included the Mango Chutney, Cucumber Raita, Red Bell Pepper Hummus, Garlic Pickle, and the Tamarind Chutney. All were delicious, though the one that stood out was the Cucumber Raita, a white, creamy sauce tasting very fresh, great with the salty Pappadam. Overall, the bread service was a terrific way to start off the meal and prepare yourself with some of the flavors of Sanaa.

Naan bread with accompaniments
Clockwise from top: Mango Chutney, Red Bell Pepper Hummus, Cucumber Raita.

From left: Onion Kulcha, Naan, and Pappadam

Clockwise from top left: Tamarind Chutney, Garlic Pickle, and Mango Chutney

Next we tried a few appetizers: Lamb Kefta Kabobs and Potato and Pea Samosas. Kefta is a Middle Eastern food made of any ground meat mixed with different seasonings. The Lamb Kefta Kabobs were particularly spicy, probably the spiciest and hottest thing I've ever had at Disney World. They came with carrots, also spicy and hot, the type of spiciness that spreads fire in your mouth. Needless to say I did not enjoy them, but did appreciate sampling them. The Potato and Pea Samosas I did enjoy much more as they came with the Tamarind Chutney, which was like a sweet and sour, tangy barbecue sauce.

Lamb Kefta Kabobs

Potato and Pea Samosas

My first time, I chose the slow-cooked in gravy entrees in which you pick two from six choices of proteins and basmati rice or five-grain pilaf. Though advised it was very spicy, I chose the Lamb Vindaloo, which had an interesting name coming from a common Indian curry dish. The Lamb Vindaloo certainly was very hot, feeling most of the heat in the back of the throat, though some in both parties found it to be tame. I do have to admit, it was not the hottest thing I've tried in life, but still packed quite a punch. I knew I needed to combat the Vindaloo with something tamer, so I also tried the Butter Chicken. It was a simple chicken dish in a tomato based, cream sauce. The flavors came from a hint of tomato, the richness of the butter, and a little bit of lemon to enhance the main flavors.

From rear: Butter Chicken, Five-Grain Pilaf, Lamb Vindaloo

My second meal, I chose from the Tandoor ovens. You can read more about Tandoori cooking in my review of the Landscape of Flavors at Disney's Art of Animation resort. I chose the Tandoori chicken with five-grain pilaf and apricot-raisin chutney. The chicken was so juicy and flavorful, the accompanying sweet tandoori sauce was not really needed. The chutney was delicious, very acidic made with golden raisins and having an overall strong apricot flavor.

Since we were celebrating birthdays, dessert was brought to us along with an African birthday song, complete with drums and happy cast members. For Alex's birthday, she received a frozen banana cream mouse with chocolate filling. My brother and mother got a slice of delicious egg-less chocolate cake. My dad really wanted dessert and ordered the Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding. All three had impressive presentations, plated with sauces, berries, and other garnishes.

Frozen Banana Cream Mousse with Chocolate

Egg-less Chocolate cake with Strawberry Sorbet

Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding

Sanaa provides an exciting African adventure for all the senses, with the visuals of the African wildlife and African art, the sounds of tribal drums and music, and the tastes and feels of African cuisine with Indian flavors. Walt Disney World is credited with transporting its guests to new and exciting places, and I believe Sanaa is one of the best examples of this philosophy. By recreating and showcasing the atmosphere and flavors from Africa makes dining at Sanaa a true adventure you can't help falling in love with.


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