Posted by: spectroswdwblog | June 7, 2009

Sanaa…Jiko on a dime?

  Sanaa is the new restaurant located in the Kidani Village section of the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This restaurant offers African cuisine with Indian flavors for lunch and dinner as well as views of an African savanna. Sanaa means “work of art” in Swahili and the dinners here are worthy of the name.  It boasts a great décor and could be an alternative to Animal Kingdom Lodge’s premier restaurant Jiko.

   We started our dining adventure by taking the Downtown Disney bus from Jambo House over to Kidani Village.  All of the theme park buses stop at Kidani Village first and then Jambo House.  The only way to get from Jambo House to Kidani Village without walking, is to get on the Downtown bus as it stops at the Jambo House first then goes over to Kidani. 
Fire Pit, Kidani Village

Fire Pit, Kidani Village

We went into the lobby and headed to the back, and down the stairs to the restaurant.  We were greeted at a large check-in desk and given a pager.  The restaurant is on the savanna level so the animal viewing area is right out the back door only a few steps away.  Kim asked if the pager would work out there and the cast member said it would. We walked out to the observation area. It is not that large, there is a fire pit in the center of a circle that sits at the far end of the observation area.  There were plenty of animals to see and being able to watch them while waiting for your table was a real plus in my book. Once our pager went off we went back to the check-in desk and were greeted by a hostess.  As we past the desk and headed toward the dining room there was a fairly large bar to our left.  It was dimly light with warm tones of red, orange and brown.  There is a thatched roof right over the bar.  The walls, like they are in the dining room, appear to be made of mud and have a smooth surface.  Aside from the bar itself there are a few tables and chairs to sit at in the lounge area.  The chairs are very unique in their construction and appear to be made from some sort of woven plant martial.  We went into the dining room and I was surprised by the level of the décor.  If you have ever been at the Jambo House counter service restaurant area called Mara and the sit down buffet location called Boma, than you would recognize elements from both restaurants located here.  Like Boma large pots stacked on top of each other hide support columns lending the feel of a market place.  Like the Mara, Large trees rise to the ceiling and large flat green perforated sculptures hang from the ceiling like leaves.  The back of the restaurant has large semi-circle booths for large groups and they are topped by a thatched roof.  There are some dividing walls that make the restaurant seem smaller than it really is.  Despite the details in the architecture the main focus here are the large
Large Windows lookout to the Savanna

Large Windows lookout to the Savanna

arched windows designed for animal viewing.  The restaurant sits on the savanna and diners have ground level views of the creatures just outside the windows.  Unfortunately the restaurant is not really tiered so the closer you are to the front windows, the better the view.   Once we were seated we met our server Ken.  He handed us our menus and we looked them over.  Ken took our drink orders and promptly retuned with them.  Now the menu here is not your typical steak, sea food, chicken and pork.  Although there is a NY strip on the menu most of the selections are eclectic so having a good server to be personable, explain the menu, and offer suggestions is a must.  Ken was an awesome server, he explained the menu, knew how the dishes were prepared and made suggestions based on our questions.  After he helped us he left us alone to decide.  He returned in a few minutes to take our order.  For an appetizer Ken suggested the Indian Style Bread Service which gives you a choice of 3 breads and 3 accompaniments.  We did not know what breads went best with what accompaniments so we told our trusted server to bring us what he thought would be the best.
Ken brought out our 3 breads and explained each one of them to us.  The three breads were, naan, roti, and paneer paratha. Roti is thin and made of atta (whole-wheat). The naan is soft and fluffy and is made from plain flour with a little bit of yeast. Parathas are layered breads made of wheat flour but fried in a little oil. The one we liked the best was the naan. A bumpy flat bread with a nice brown appearance.  It was light and had a firm yet soft texture on the inside.  The second was the roti a flat bread similar to a tortilla but it had a hot kick to it, it was very unique and delicious.  The third and our least favorite was the paratha, although we did eat it, it was a flat round bread about the thickness of a pita and had herbs and cheese baked into the layers.  The flavor was good but I did not care for the texture of it.  It was very smooth with no holes and was a bit rubber like.  Not in a way it was chewy, but that it was almost jell like because of the smoothness cooking the bread in the oil created. The 3 accompaniments which are spreads matched the breads perfectly.  One was the Cucumber Raita.  This white yogurt base spread was not very spicy and worked well with the roti bread.  The other spread we had was a mango chutney, this sweet and fruity spread also worked well with roti but also with the paratha.  The third and my favorite was the roasted red bell pepper hummus. This packed a bit, not a lot, of spiciness’ and was perfect with the naan bread. 

For entrees I ordered the Spice-crusted Cornish Game Hen with turnips and cherries $17.99 and Kim had the tandoori chicken $17.99. The hen came in a round slightly concave dish perched on the turnips.  The cherry glaze had only a hint of cherry favor but the sweetness of it balanced out the bitterness of the turnips. The meat was very tender and moist and fell off the bone easily. The spices added a nice subtle flavor that went well with the meat. Kim’s Chicken came with a Choice of basmati rice or five-grain pilaf. She chose the basmati rice.  This is a long grained rice that comes in two verities, brown and white.  Sanaa serves the white rice and unlike typical Asian rice basmati rice is free flowing, meaning it is not a sticky rice.  The rice and the chicken were uniquely served in small bowls.  The chicken is cooked in a tandoor oven.  A tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven used in cooking and baking over charcoal.  The chicken was marinated but it did not overpower the taste of the chicken, and then cooked in the high heat oven.  The chicken had a delicious wood grilled flavor and was very moist on the inside.  The chicken also comes with a dipping sauce. Ken told us that the chef makes the dip from the marinade used on the chicken.  The sauce was good but the chicken did not need it, that’s how flavorful the chicken was.   After our meal Ken asked if we wanted desert.  We were full but decided to look at the menu.  We picked out the desertSanaa’s Dining Room

sampler.  This is the new trend in restaurants and Walt Disney World is no exception.  The desert consists of 3 small deserts on one long plate.  Our sampler consisted of, no sugar added mango pudding, cardamom-butter cake and egg-less chocolate cake $6.99.  The chocolate cake was Kim’s favorite, I liked the cardamom-butter cake. The mango pudding was delicious but could have been a bit smoother and less Jell-O like in texture.

  I would definitely return to Sanaa for another dinner. The service was great, the food fantastic and the view of the animals unique. The warm dimly lit décor can be lost if you dine early when the light of the sun can enter through the large glass windows.  For animal spotting I would ask for a

table close to the widows but you may have a bit of a wait because there are only a limited number of them available. Waiting for your table gives you the option of sitting in the cozy bar area or going outside to look over the savanna.  The restaurant was pretty full during our time there but the noise level never seemed to bother us. It does get a bit loud when a giraffe wanders over to the window to do some people watching and diners scramble for their cameras, oohing and ahhing. If you plan on eating here I would make  Advanced Dining Reservations play calling 407-WDW-Dine.  Kidani Village is not fully open and the restaurant is already doing quite well as word gets out that this moderately priced restaurant can give you a near Jiko experience for a lot less money.

Kidani Village Viewed from the Savanna

Kidani Village Viewed from the Savanna

Sanaa Bar

Sanaa Bar

Dining Room

Dining Room

Bread Appetizer

Bread Appetizer

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

Cornish Game Hen

Cornish Game Hen

Sampler Desert

Sampler Desert

Sanaas Dining Room is Warm and Dimly Lit

Sanaa's Dining Room (added photo)

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Responses

  1. Yumm, looks wonderful, all of it.
    did you find that it is a sort of dark-ish place ?

    • Yes, but i liked it. It was hard to take pictures because I had to make the choice between capturing the true ambiance and risk the photo bluring, or showing the room by using the flash but then presenting the room in a bright unnatural light. I will add a photo without the flash. As I mentioned a lot of light does come through the large savanna windows


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