Tucked into the transformative African-inspired “Kidani Village” at Walt Disney World’s “Animal Kingdom Resort” is a restaurant so inspiring that it was named after the Swahili word meaning “work of art.” “Sanaa” has a comforting balance of exotic taste mixed with recognizable standards, an understated worldly sophistication, service that welcomes you wholeheartedly, and a crowd-pleasing view of the resort’s animal savannah. Enjoy a meal during sunset at “Sanaa” when a tapestry of rich earthly colors saturates the interior, and you may never want to leave.
During prime dining hours African drummers welcome guests into the restaurant’s foyer, setting the tone for an artistic & unique experience. Sanaa’s dining room is sizeable but sectioned off into cocoons of smaller enclaves filled with rich colors & texture. African art, colorful glass fixtures, and dense wood furnishings create an authentic atmosphere which instantly ‘warms’ guests with a hug of serene relaxation. Just when the atmosphere lulls Disney Park exhausted guests into complacency watch out because you just may see a giraffe or zebra pass by the restaurant’s ground level viewing windows. Just outside of Sanaa is the resort’s Sunset Savanna and the new Pembe Savanna – authentic replicas of the unspoiled grasslands of the Serengeti – where a menagerie of African animals graze and live.
Open for lunch and dinner, “Sanaa” boasts a refreshingly compromising menu. It does not commit to offering just exotic African dishes with Indian flavor, nor does it compromise its inspiration to offer tourists typical American standards. There’s a fine line offered on the menu that is sure to please everyone; taking crowd pleasers like steak, chops, fish, and chicken and adding elements like minted greens, cucumber-yogurt raita, papaya sauce, and Naan bread. Side dishes like Basmati Rice, Five-grain pilaf, potato and spinach salad, & seasonable vegetables in a light curry broth translate into an exotic, yet recognizable, version of ‘comfort food.’ For the adventure seeking palate try the Tandoori Chicken, Grilled Lamb Kefta, or the Beef Short Ribs slow cooked in gravy. Less adventurous guests may really love the Tomato Soup with Paneer cheese, the Grilled Pork Chop, or the culinary innovative Grilled Angus Chuck Burger.
“Sanaa” doesn’t disappoint the wine or dessert enthusiasts either. Each entree on the menu is thoughtfully paired with wine suggestions most complimentary to the dish, with alternate suggestions to match every guest’s diverse palate. Wine flights featuring selections from all over the world are popular at “Sanaa;” as well as a spirited cocktail dubbed the “Painted Lemur.” Amarula Fruit Cream Liqueur and Van der Hum Tangerine Liqueur combined in a Chocolate-striped glass inspired by the distinctive striped tail of the Madagascar lemur – the cocktail otherwise known as the “Painted Lemur” – is often seen in the hands of guests relaxing in Sanaa’s design-laden lounge & bar area. Desserts like the Mango Pudding, Orange-Sesame Cake, and Passion Fruit Kulfi also mimic the true meaning of the restaurant’s name – tasty works of art!
“Sanaa” is one of those places that if you picked up the restaurant ‘as-is’ and planted it in any kinetic American city like Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York it would be the talk of the town. Local television affiliates & newspapers would review the restaurant as “a real ethnic gem amongst city standards,” “a surprisingly serene oasis,” & “authentic atmosphere with culinary flair.” Alas, “Sanaa” sits in one of the most popular family destinations in the United States – Walt Disney World; located appropriately, because you’d probably never get the real giraffes and zebras in New York City.
“Sanaa” participates in Walt Disney World’s “Disney Dining Plan” & is counted as one table service credit per person. Check out Sanaa’s various menus below:
Photos by Jessica S. Kramer-Teheran