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Review Posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017
The character interactions at Tusker House are so much fun! It's one of the few locations you can meet and interact with the fab four dressed in their safari gear. (Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Mickey … possibly Minnie … but never all five on the same day … usually … there's no rules here people, it's a theme park).
There is a decent amount of room in most of the dining areas for the characters to move around in and even though Tusker House is quite large, you seem to get ample time interacting with each of the characters. Like most of the character buffets at Disney, there's a little song-and-dance routine every now and again, where small (and sometimes large) children get to parade around with the character group. Because there's no real "path" at Tusker House, this part of the dining experience seems a bit confusing (to me anyway) but it probably doesn't matter much.
From a value standpoint, just about all character buffets at Disney are the same cost these days, so there's not really any issue there.
Mealtrip.com is mostly concerned about food though, and this is one area where it pains me to say, Tusker House just isn't what it had been when it first opened all those many years ago.
It's not that the food is bad. It's all perfectly edible and some of it is quite good. It's just that the theme of the "land" and location isn't really represented in the cuisine as much as one might expect… and not nearly as much as I remember that it had been, before Tusker House's Lunch and Dinner periods became character buffets. (How's that for a run-on sentence.)
Tusker House is located in the "Africa" section of Animal Kingdom. The thing that I love about eating in any "theme" park restaurant is the immersion level of the theme being represented. The interior design is here. The characters are properly dressed in themed attire. The background music works… why then… am I looking at a baked chicken drumstick, green beans, and mashed potatoes with brown gravy?
There are all kinds of cooking methods and spices (and spices does not have to mean "hot" spices) that are associated with the region and cuisine that we're talking about. When Tusker House first opened (prior to the location being a "character" dining experience), there was a great mix of authentic vs western cuisine represented.
Now… unfortunately I have to use a phrase that is too often used with character dining experiences… you're not coming for the food, you're coming for the photo-op with the charters.
The flavors, cooking methods, and even variety has been normalized to the point where it can't be called anything other than "American Cuisine". I'm honestly not sure why they are even trying to "dust" this dish and that dish with something like curry, because it's not in an amount that's great enough for the character of the spice to come through… so it all just ends up being oddly named and slightly off tasting for even American food.
One of the best items on the day that I visited for this review, was a peri-peri spiced, banana leave wrapped and baked salmon. I love Verlasso Salmon… great product… and this dish was one of the meal's highlights to be sure… but I'm just not sure how many Verlasso Salmon are swimming around in the middle of Africa. Per-peri sauce? Yes. Banana leaves… plausible. Salmon… only in certain regions of South Africa really.
I get it… I totally understand… all the food has to be palatable to all the guests… because everyone wants their photo with Mickey… not everyone wants to eat spiced Teff & Quinoa with Roasted Pork or Curry Seafood Stew. But at what point does it make more sense to just get rid of the food and turn Tusker House into a character meet and greet attraction?
So… to recap… great characters, great environment, same price as most other character buffets… but if you're looking for even slightly ethnic cuisine… I'd recommend a small detour to Animal Kingdom Lodge's Sanaa, or heck… even Epcot's Spice Road Table and Tangierine Cafe. Yes, those last two are in the Moroccan Pavilion at Epcot, but the food being served is closer to North-West African fare, than what Tusker House is currently offering.