The other day I found myself with a few extra hours before I was supposed to meet up with friends for dinner and decided to go exploring. Not actual exploring, like at the polar ice caps or anything (for anyone who knows me, I don’t do cold), but one of my favorite types of exploring: at Disney resorts. After some brief investigative work a few weeks ago, I made a list of some lesser known activities around the parks and resorts that I’d like to highlight here or at least try out for myself. So, back to the other day, I chose to spend a few hours at the Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village.
This resort opened back in May of 2009 and I had my first stay there several months later. One of my favorite things about the resort, aside from the animals, of course, is their restaurant Sanaa. The food has always been great, featuring flavors of African and Indian influence in a setting that has, in my opinion, one of the best views to be found from a restaurant anywhere on Walt Disney World property. When I learned that there was a free Cultural Tour of Sanaa, I knew I wanted to learn more about one of my go to restaurants. On the activities guide at the Animal Kingdom Villas, the description is listed as “Discover the inspiration behind this unique location through the eyes of one of our Cultural Representatives.” Based on this, I was expecting something similar to the Cultural Safari that takes place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Jambo House in the evenings.
Seeing that the tour was scheduled for 4pm, I opted to get to the resort with plenty of time to see the animals on the savanna before I needed to check in at the restaurant’s podium. I started my adventure in the library at Kidani Village, which is probably my second favorite rooms at a resort in which to relax. After a short while I went downstairs to Sanaa to make sure that they knew I was there for the tour. Sometimes these tours are not very well known, to the point where not many guests show up, so it is best to announce your presence if you don’t see any other people around, which was the case this time.
My host, Vincent, was from Botswana and kindly gave me a private tour, which was really cool since it was more like us just hanging out and having a conversation as opposed to a typical lecture style tour. We started at the entrance to the restaurant where he explained that the word Sanaa means “works of art” in Swahili. The restaurant is decorated accordingly with various works of art from tribal drums from different African nations, to gourds used as drinking vessels, coffee pots, clothing, light fixtures and wall hangings.
During the tour, Vincent explained how the restaurant was setup into areas reminiscent of the boma, roughly translated to a hearth or safe area for gathering. There is usually a boma found in each home, and then also a larger boma in the village for everyone to gather together. After pointing out a couple of hidden Mickeys, in the restaurant, one of which I’d never noticed, Vincent led me to the lounge area of the bar. He advised me that the chef would be coming out to greet me with the bread service that is typically on the menu as an appetizer. This was an added bonus that I wasn’t aware of previously: free food!!!
Chef Johnathan came out and described the process the restaurant used for making the bread in the tandoor oven and how they only use fresh herbs and spices and grind them there at Sanaa to ensure consistency. The bread service consists of several pieces of naan and three dipping sauces: a coriander (more commonly known here as cilantro) chutney, a mango chutney, and a cucumber raita. While I’m not a fan of cucumber at all, unless it is in the pickled form, I decided to be an adult and try what was served to me. The sauce was creamy, being yogurt based, with only a hint of cucumber if you didn’t actually eat the chunks of cucumber mixed in, which I didn’t. The mango chutney was typical, but with some peppers mixed in and it was a bit more liquid than what I’m used to. My favorite of the sauces was definitely the coriander chutney, which by taste, is very similar to a sauce that I make based on a recipe that used to be used at Jiko
. I love cilantro, but if you are not fond of it, you may want to skip this one. I enjoyed this so much I went back and asked for and received a copy of the recipe to take home.
The tour and tasting took me about half an hour, which was just about perfect since I had the place to myself. I would gladly take this tour again, especially now knowing that there is a snack at the end. It was a great way to spend a part of my afternoon and think it would be fun with a group of friends maybe even ending the tour at the bar with an adult beverage. If you go, say hi to the bartender Kat. Have you been to Sanaa? Did you take the tour? Have you taken any other tours? I’d love to hear your feedback.
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