Saturday, February 21, 2009

tusker house review

During our last trip to Walt Disney World, we decided try dinner at Tusker House, at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This restaurant recently underwent a major rehab, to make it into a proper sit-down restaurant with a large African-inspired buffet. It has been compared to Boma, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, often called "Boma light". As Boma is unquestionably my favorite restaurant *anywhere*, I figured I should give this place a try.

We planned on an early dinner, with ressies for 5:00 pm Saturday, January 17, 2009. We arrived a few minutes early, and were seated almost immediately. The place wasn't very crowded, and stayed that way for our entire meal. On my last trip to the World, I had been impressed on how every host/hostess had asked us before we were seated if we had any special dietary requirements. Sadly, that practice seems to have been short-lived as I was never asked that on this trip. So, of course, I mentioned to the hostess that sat us that I was a vegan. "A what? Oh, you're server can help you with that." So, of course I mention it to the server. "A what? I don't know what that is. Oh... okay. Would you like to see a chef?"

After our drinks are served, and my hubby has made his first trip to the buffet, a chef finally makes it to our table, and asks how he can help. I explain that I am a vegan, and at least this time, he appears to understand what that means. He asks if I would like him to show me around the buffet. Ummm, yes, that might be helpful, LOL. As we walk towards the food, he says "So are you a strict vegan?" It was so tempting to ask "Is there any other kind?", but I refrained, and simply answered "yes".

The chef was fairly thorough with the tour, showing me which dishes were okay and which ones weren't, and what made them "non-vegan". While certainly not overly friendly, he got the job done, and I felt confident enough to feed myself when he was done. He did point out one pasta dish that had cheese, and said that he could make it without cheese, if I would like. It didn't look interesting enough to pursue, so I passed. After stating that none of the desserts were vegan, he said that he could get me a popsicle, if I wanted. Okay, as a vegan, I'm used to making do, but a popsicle? Perhaps Disney has given me unrealistic expectations, but this just seemed a little disappointing to me. But, the buffet looked fairly promising, so I vowed to make the most of it.

The following are some of the dishes I tried. First, the salads. This was surprisingly disappointing - even hubby agreed. It really wasn't much more than lettuce (arugala), with a couple of dressings to choose from (I had the balsamic vinaigrette). They had some roasted potatoes which I was looking forward to. I love Boma's Potatoes with Affritude, and these looked similar. Sadly, they had almost no flavor - no seasoning that I could detect, and very boring.

There was a table of "condiments", listed as "Blatjangs (Spicy South African Preserves); Sambals - Condiments: Mango Chutney, Mixed Dried Fruit Chutney; Hummus and Tabouleh". I think that everything here was vegan. I didn't try the hummus because, sadly, there is no vegan bread of any kind, and I'm not much for raw hummus without something to put it on. And, I'm not much of a tabouleh fan. I tried the chutneys. The mango chutney was pretty tasty. I wasn't so crazy about the mixed dried fruit one, though. I felt like they should be eaten "with" something, though, and not quite sure just what - sort of like the hummus, needed some bread or crackers to go with it.

Next was Marakesh Cous Cous with Roasted Vegetables - I'm a pretty big cous cous fan, and I really enjoyed this one. Sadly, the samosas on the same table were not vegan.

There were some green beans in olive oil - very plain, but okay. The potatoes had dairy, and obviously, the dish to the right is not vegan.

Next up, some cold dishes: Tunisian Cous Cous salad (left), a curried rice salad with golden raisins (right), some sort of green bean and onion salad, and some fresh fruit. Honestly, I don't remember the green bean salad - I might not have tried it. The cous cous salad wasn't bad, but I prefer warm cous cous to cold - the flavor was interesting, though. The rice was kind of odd - too heavy on the raisins, just not my thing. The fresh fruit was, well, fresh fruit. I sort of made it my dessert, though there was very little of it left when I went back for more. Either it was very popular this evening, or they need to work on restocking better.

And, last but not least, my "main entree" - Spiced Vegetable and Tofu Tandoori (center dish). This was actually very good - the highlight of the meal, for me. Also on this table, Basmati Rice with Toasted Almond Slivers, and Pearl Cous Cous with Sweet Basil. I don't remember the Pearl Cous Cous (it might not have been vegan). I tried the Basmati Rice but didn't care for it.

So, while I didn't leave hungry, and I did enjoy a couple of dishes, it simply did not live up to my expectations. Boma this was *not*. While I don't expect every restaurant to cater to my every whim, there really wasn't an offer of anything special here, and the service was simply "okay". Given that they weren't that busy, we never should have had to wonder when we might get a drink refill. And the chef never returned to the table to make sure everything was okay - again, not something I would expect all the time, but for a vegan at a buffet, it would have been nice.

And for any of you omnivores out there, my non-vegan hubby felt pretty much the same way - okay, a bit pricey for what you got, and certainly no comparison to Boma. I'm glad I tried it, but I probably won't be back here any time soon.


Gabriella said...

My family will be going to WDW in 10 days and I love your review of Tusker House because we have an ADR there and now know what to choose. I agree about Boma, it's our favourite restaurant at Disneyworld; even our 10 year old non-vegan son loves the buffet at Boma. Thanks for the review!

Melody said...

We absolutely loved this buffet when we tried it for lunch in December. We are vegetarian, not vegan, so perhaps there was a bit more of a selection for us. We did feel it was comparable to Boma and cannot wait to eat here again! I think I had three servings in all of the Tandoori Tofu!


Thanks for the report!