Service Under the Sea is Apparently...Terrible.
Written: Nov 1, 2006 (Updated Nov 1, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
- User Rating: Disappointing
Food and Presentation:
Ambiance and Decor:
Pros:Good steaks, fish were fun to watch, nice color scheme
Cons:Bad, bad, bad service, overpriced, noisy
The Bottom Line: Swim far, far away!
The concept of dining in an ocean-themed room with an aquarium, the fish swimming too and fro peacefully sounded quite appealing. I booked dinner for Mom and I at The Coral Reef Restaurant with high hopes. Even if service and food were mediocre, I figured, the atmosphere would be enough to make this a memorable and enjoyable meal. Unfortunately, the service proved to be so atrocious that no amount of manta rays and sea turtles could make up for it, so we will not be returning to the Coral Reef.
The Coral Reef Restaurant has a seafood-focused menu. This restaurant can be found within the gates of EPCOT in Orlando, at the Seas pavilion. Theme park admission is required to visit the Coral Reef. Particularly since the advent of the Disney dining plan, reservations at the Coral Reef are an absolute necessity. They can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling 1-800-WDW-DINE, although I suggest dining elsewhere at EPCOT instead.
We had a reservation time of 7:40, and arrived ten minutes early as suggested. Our first impression of the restaurant was positive, as the entryway is decorated with calming blues and greens and lit with charming anemone-shaped lamps. After waiting in a line to check-in we were sent to a very crowded waiting area located basically in the hallway, across from the bathrooms. There was no place to seat and we got the idea that the restaurant was running behind in seating patrons. We were seated at about 7:50, but I think we would have been seated later had we not been a party of two.
Our table was about average in terms of location. We were in the third row or so from the big fish tank, but we could see by peering over a wave-shaped partition. The worst place to sit would have been along the very back wall. Tables are on tiers gradually ascending in height, which does help with viewing. The atmosphere was pretty enough but a little loud. Apparently we had just missed Mickey scuba diving in the tank. We did, however, see plenty of rays, a couple of small sharks, a sea turtle, and schools of fish.
Our Dining Experience
Our server started off pleasant enough, telling us about the drinks and specials. I started off with a Blue Whale drink. As it turns out, this is just Sprite in a fancy glass with a glowing ice cube. The ice cube did make a nice souvenir, but dont pay $6.29 for this if you are not on the dining plan. We had to order appetizer, dinner, and dessert all at once, which I dont prefer. Its tough to know what I will want for dessert before I even order my meal. For appetizers, my mom started off with the Shrimp Cocktail served in a martini glass and I had the Ceasar Salad. My salad had good dressing, but it was just three large lettuce leaves with no croutons or cheese. The dressing was just dumped on top instead of tossed with the leaves. My moms cocktail was attractively presented, although she found the cold Asian noodles a little off-putting. We did not see our waitress for about twenty minutes after we finished our appetizers.
About twenty to thirty minutes after our appetizers were served, an employee arrived with our entrees. We had both ordered the Grilled 12 ounce NY Strip Steak based on our servers recommendation and the fact that I dont like fish much. The lady delivering the food put the steaks down, but did not pick up the appetizer plates, leaving us with a pretty cluttered table. Additionally, we had nothing but a butter knife to eat our steaks with. A friendly server behind us swooped in a couple minutes later and gave us steak knives, so we were able to start eating. The steaks were great, and I loved the au gratin potatoes although they were very rich. As we were finishing up our steaks, our server arrived for the first time since she had taken our orders. She was coming to bring us steak knives and laughed at the fact that we already had them. Its a good thing we already had them at that point! She did not clear any of the remaining dishes off our table. The situation was getting pretty cluttered by this point.
After we finished our steaks, we sat and stared at the giant pile of dishes. Eventually my mom got tired of looking at hers and moved it to the end of the table. We sat there for probably another twenty minutes without seeing our server, who had only two other tables one of three and one of five. Finally, our desserts arrived with our server following behind them. By this time our table was full of nasty plates of half-eaten food, but we had moved them down to the other end so they werent really in our way and we just wanted to eat our dessert. Literally, my moms shrimp cocktail goblet was still on the table as dessert was being served. At this point our server made us hand her ever single one of the plates, dropped a butter knife on me and a plate on the floor, and generally laughed and acted bizarre about the whole thing. My mom was kind of over the whole meal by this point. She tried a bite of her Butterscotch Brulee and said it was just okay. My Chocolate Wave, a molten cake dessert, was just average when compared to similar desserts elsewhere. We then sat for some time and waited for our check, which our server set on the table without saying a word to us.
The whole meal clocked in at about an hour and a half, which would be fine in some settings but the pacing was very off and our server was absent for much of the time. Service was so poor we actually debated saying something, but the staff at the hostess stand avoided eye contact and didnt say so much as good night! on the way out, so we felt like it was a lost cause.
On the whole, our meal at Coral Reef was a very uncomfortable experience. Service was some of the worst I have ever had, and being forced to stare at our leftovers was decidedly icky. I did enjoy looking at the fish tanks, and the food was okay by Disney standards. However, Coral Reef is a very pricy meal. Our tab would have been $120 for two had we not been on the dining plan. At this price, the level of service we received was absolutely appalling. Barring some major change in management, I cant seem myself returning to this restaurant in the future. Coral Reef is a tragic waste of a beautiful venue. For a great meal at EPCOT, try Le Cellier instead.
*Eating at Disney? Check out my Top Ten Places to Eat at Walt Disney World!
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