Have you ever wished that you had a time machine just so that you could go back in time and enjoy a meal all over again? Or perhaps at the very least you could have a Star Trek replicator so that you could replicate a meal (although you know that replicated food is never as good as the original thing)? That is precisely what I wish as I fondly remember the meal we had at Todd English's Blue Zoo.
Located in the Dolphin Hotel, Blue Zoo was not on our original trip itinerary. It seemed maybe a little too fancy and expensive, but when I saw that it was included on the list of restaurants for Orlando restaurant month, we decided we should jump on the opportunity to give it a try.
After passing behind the waterfall wall the hostess greeted us and asked,
"Are you celebrating anything special this evening?" Immediately I thought, do over.
“Yes”, I replied. I pointed to Shannon,
“It’s his birthday.”
“Happy Birthday,” said the hostess as she guided us to our table.
If you looked up the word swanky in the dictionary you might find a picture of Blue Zoo. They even have fancy towels in the bathrooms instead of hand blowers or paper towels.
The atmosphere is supposed to make you feel as though you are dining underwater. The room is bathed in blue.
The massive chandeliers look like bubbles floating to the water’s surface.
It gives you the instant feeling that you are in for something special.
Shannon ordered one of the signature drinks. We starred in wonderment at the drink as smoke curled out of the glass. It was cool.
The woman sitting next to us ordered an entree that was set before her. Then the server ladled a smoking sauce over top. It was not harsh fire smoke but more like a beautiful wispy dancing mist. The woman asked the server to stop for a moment so she could take out her phone to get a picture of the ladle in action. I wanted to get a picture too, but we were sitting pretty close to them and I thought it would seem too awkward. It’s one thing to take a photo of your own food, but quite another to take a picture of your neighbor’s.
I have to digress for a moment regarding our neighbors. They were from Florida though what part of Florida was unclear. She played an instrument in an orchestra and she was apparently always late because James the conductor gave her a tongue lashing for her tardiness. They were at Disney World for a few days celebrating their anniversary. They were staying at the Swan Hotel next door. They were trying to decide where they wanted to eat the following evening. The wife was campaigning for Monsieur Paul’s in the France pavilion. To persuade her husband she read aloud a blog post of someone who had recently visited Monsieur Paul’s. Due to our close proximity we got to hear the blog post too. When she was finished her husband exclaimed,
“Pfft, bloggers.” By the tone of his voice I am certain that he rolled his eyes as well.
Shannon smirked and I tried hard not to want to stab him with my fork. They probably thought that we were some sad unhappily married couple because we talked very little during the meal. We were having too much fun listening to them. They never did make a decision about where to eat the following evening.
Our meal started with a bread basket. It was filled with an assortment of breads accompanied by fresh butter.
It’s the type of bread basket where your mind says, don’t fill up on bread, don’t fill up on bread…. but your hand doesn't listen and keeps plucking pieces from the basket.
Since the restaurant month pre-fixe meal affords you three courses, we both started out with the tomato salad.
You might be looking at the picture and asking,
Is that popcorn on that plate? Yes, yes it is. I think the purpose of the freshly popped popcorn was to act as croutons. I would have never thought of doing that, but it was very good. The best part of the salad was the tomato tart. It was creamy and tangy and the crust melted in your mouth. I ate it in tiny nibbles because I didn't want it to end.
Shannon got the steak with a chimichurri sauce for his entree. He said it was yummy.
I ordered the octopus Bolognese.
I love octopus, but it’s one of those things like lamb. If you order it somewhere where they know how to cook it, it is wonderful. Octopus should be tender melt in your mouth and not fishy tasting. If it’s cooked on a grill then the suction cups on the tentacles turn into little delightful crispies. If you get it somewhere that does not know how to cook it, then the octopus can turn out tough and fishy.
I trusted Blue Zoo and was not disappointed. It was some of the best octopus I've had. The sauce was tasty and the pasta was so fresh I was convinced that someone must have made it just before throwing it into the water to boil.
Our server was remarkable. She was friendly and attentive and although she had many other tables, she treated us as if we were the only patrons in the restaurant. When she brought our deserts she had a special little birthday plate made up.
Shannon got the plate of assorted chocolate desserts.
I liked his bumpy bubble plate.
I got the assortment of berry desserts.
The desserts were heavenly. They were the kind of desserts that make a little piece of your soul float out of your head for a second. We ate them slowly trying to savor every bite.
Once our desserts were consumed, we figured our meal was finished, so we were surprised when our server arrived with a plate of complimentary happy birthday chocolates.
They were delicious. To make it fair we took a knife and cut each piece in half so we each had a taste of all of the chocolates.
Blue Zoo more than made up for the unbirthday disappointment the evening before. It is a meal we will not soon forget and ended up being our favorite meal of the trip. It ranked up there along with The California Grill as one of our favorite meals at Disney thus far.
If you are a foodie, I highly recommend having dinner at Blue Zoo at least once. If you can time it in September for restaurant week then it won’t burn a hole in your pocket, and if you happen to have an extra time machine laying around, I’d love to borrow it for just a few hours so I could back and have our Blue Zoo meal all over again.
Extra Note-If you drove to Blue Zoo, just tell your server that you drove and parked in the parking lot and you will get a free parking pass. It worked out for us because it ended up being an entire free day of parking.