Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Boathouse at Disney Springs Takes Dining To A New Level

Every once in a while, I come across a place that totally blows my mind. You know what I'm talking about. The kind of place you are so impressed by that you just want to keep going back to over and over again. Sort of like that new guy you meet that you just can't stop thinking about. This is what happened to me when I recently visited The Boathouse, located at the newly named Disney Springs, in Orlando, Florida (formerly known as Downtown Disney).

The Boathouse is owned by genius restaurateur Steven Schussler, CEO of Schussler Creative and the master mind and creator of the popular Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex and Yak & Yeti. Schussler is a charismatic King Midas of sorts, who has a definite vision and a knack for making things happen. We had the opportunity of having dinner with Schussler on our recent trip to Orlando, and after an evening of amazing food, unique entertainment and enlightening conversation, we walked out of there impressed and very excited about reading his National #1 Bestseller book It's A Jungle In There.

With the amazing Steven Schussler

A look from the water

A visit to The Boathouse will be nothing like you've ever experienced. For starters, three fourths of the restaurant is built on the water. It has spectacular views of the sunset from just about every angle, and the nautical-theme brings a relaxing, don't-bother-me-I'm chilling kind of ambiance to the place. You know everything in Disney has a story, and The Boathouse is no exception. With six distinct rooms telling a different tale, there is a dining spot for just about every mood, and they have taken great care and detail to replicate each setting with impressive authenticity. For example, starting from the entrance and to the left, you walk into the place the "harbor guy" would've brought the boats in through, similar to a garage. Its look brings you back to that time and place, complete with tracks and a high ceiling.

Then there's the area to the right where the boats would've been fixed, the place you'd find all the knick-knacks. The dining room there is casual and more relaxed in its decor. From there, you walk into what some would characterize to be reminiscent of Martha's Vineyard, and a more fine dining experience with furniture to match. Move a bit to the back, and you enter the section that would have been the private dining room of the family that lived in the harbor house. The designers and construction team went to such great detail to make it look genuine, that you can visualize just how the family would have lived merely from the location of the hallways and the coziness of the chimney. 

After you come down from the visual high of the decor, you hear about the vintage dream boats on the property and of the rare Amphicars. What are Amphicars many would ask? Well, I found out in the best way possible they are amphibious automobiles that were in existence during the 1960's, and are still prized today as novelty, collectible automobiles. Mr. Schussler happens to own eight of them and a trip to The Boathouse can include a fun, romantic ride on the lake in one of these babies. We had an incredible time on our ride, and it felt a bit like time-travel to actually be sitting in a car while in the water.

Aye aye captain

Hold on to your duckies, we're going in...

Yes we're in the water and yes, we're in a car

View from the Amphicar Ride

Now that we talked about the fun, I want to get to the best part: the cuisine.  You're probably wondering, the place looks great, the amphicars are cool, but how is the food? It is unbelievable. Sometimes themed places that offer this level of entertainment lack a bit in the dining department, but Schussler cuts no corners, and his precise attention to detail ensures both the food and the service are exemplary. We kicked off our dinner by sampling their Raw Seafood Platter. Imagine a generous serving of lobster, succulent shrimp and oysters to awaken the palate. Everything was fresh and of outstanding quality. We followed that starter by trying their Yellowfin Tuna Poke. You know me and my relationship with the chicken-of-the-sea so I was in temporary ecstasy while I indulged in this perfectly crafted appetizer. We immediately noticed it wasn't just the taste of the dishes that were amazing, but the careful presentation that made you want to admire each plate before indulging. The final "Launch" we had was their very famous Blue Star Angus Carpaccio. Served with arugula, olive oil, shaved grano padano cheese, and capers, this was the creme-de-la-creme of carpaccios. I didn't know how much more food I could consume, but I couldn't stop. It was that good.

Raw Bar Platter with  Oysters, Lobster and Shrimp

Yellowfin Tuna Poke

Blue Star Angus Carpaccio

Next came the entrees, and we sampled a few. For example, The Boat House serves certified Gibsons USDA Blue Star Heritage Angus and one bite into this delicacy will make you fall in love. The Steak was juicy and tender, simple in its preparation, but impressive in its quality and taste. It practically melted in my mouth.  The Cedar Planked Salmon, one of my favorite preparations for the fish, was outstanding as well; its smoky taste enhanced by the frisee roasted wild mushrooms, petite green beans and grape tomatoes by its side. 

Gibsons USDA Blue Star Heritage Angus 

Cedar Planked Salmon

We also tried their New England Lobster Roll, because let's face it. We're in The Boathouse. How could we not? The roll was generously filled with fresh whole maine lobster, teasingly falling out from the toasted split bun, in a sweet dream of deliciousness. And last but not least, we loved their Shrimp & Andouille Mac N Cheese, a memorable party of cheesy pasta mixed with flavorful andouille sausage and tender shrimp. Yes, I was very full at this point but that's what walking around Disney Springs after a spectacular meal is for.

New England Lobster Roll

Shrimp & Andouille Mac N Cheese

Before I go on to dessert, I want to mention a side dish we sampled that rocked our world. I could tell the chef took as much time and dedication in preparing it, as she did for the other courses of the meal. It was the Roasted Sweet Corn and it was unbelievably creamy and scrumptious. I can't think of another time I've had corn that tastes as good.

Cut From The Cob Roasted Sweet Corn

And now for the grand finale.  I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast as the parade of desserts were laid in front of us. But unlike her, who sang throughout her meal, I dipped my spoon into each one and put their "service to the test". Wow…talk about impressive.  From gigantic, family-sized desserts, to regular portioned ones, there is an endless variety to choose from. We had the Key Lime Pie in a Mason Jar and the Whiskey Caramel Cornbread Cake. They also brought out their S'mores Baked Alaska (which makes you want to dive right in face-first) and their Florida Sunshine Cake, a decadent yellow cake with orange flavored cream cheese icing and toasted almonds. Both of these are prepared for four people (or one hungry foodaholic) You definitely have to leave room for dessert on a visit to The Boathouse because the surprises just keep on coming.

Whiskey Caramel Cornbread Cake

Florida Sunshine Cake

Whiskey Caramel Cornbread Cake

Gibsons S'mores Baked Alaska

If you're planning a trip to Orlando any time soon or if you live in the area. a meal (or several) at The Boathouse is a must. You'll walk out happy, impressed and planning your return visit. It's an amazing experience only Steven Schussler and his dedicated team can provide.  For more information on The Boathouse, visit their website here.

Boathouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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