Sanaa’s unusual name, pronounced “Sah-NAH,” is the Swahili word for “artwork.” With interiors inspired by African art and remarkable views of the resort’s Sunset Savanna through 9-foot windows, diners experience “the art of African cooking with Indian flavors” in the 150-seat, family-oriented restaurant located on the ground floor just below the lobby of Kidani Village at Disney Animal Kingdom Villas. Adjacent to Sanaa is a 24-seat lounge serving African wines, beer and spirits.
Sanaa’s cuisine is a melting pot of tastes from the islands of the Indian Ocean that all are part of Africa – Zanzibar, the Seychelles, Comoro Islands, Mauritius and Madagascar. These islands were on important trade routes with influences from French, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Arab and Chinese traders. The diverse spices and flavors give the chefs an endless array of options for Sanaa.
The most indelible mark on the cuisine of the region was made by Indian traders who introduced curries, spice blends and breads. Central to African-Indian cuisine is the use of the tandoor oven, essentially a large clay pot similar to a pizza oven. The tandoor provides very high, dry heat that creates a crisp outer layer and moist interior. Along with meats, a favorite tandoor oven treat is the Indian bread naan, which is slapped directly onto the oven’s clay walls and allowed to bake until puffy and lightly browned. The Sanaa kitchen has two custom tandoor ovens.
Appetizers such as lamb kefta with tamarind-dried papaya sauce, and unusual salads like okra, radishes and tomato, roasted beets, and carrot, orange and mint start the dining experience. Specialties include tandoori chicken, lamb and shrimp, slow-cooked curries, and braised short ribs. Most of us think of curry as a spice but it is actually a centuries-old cooking method that allows flavors to fully develop in the meats, vegetables, and sauces. The base blend of seasonings for Sanaa’s curries include cardamom, chiles, cinnamon, cloves, saffron, coriander, nutmeg, fennel seed, cumin, tamarind, turmeric and more. The turmeric is what gives many curry dishes their characteristic yellow color.
Entrées include the tandoori-roasted meats, curries, and sides such as dahl (stewed lentils), curried crushed potatoes, stir-fried green beans and slow-cooked spinach and paneer (a mild South Asian cheese). Indian-style flatbreads including naan, roti, and paratha are paired with chutneys, Indian-style pickles and raita (yogurt-based dip). For guests who prefer more American flavors, there is a grilled pork chop and club sandwich at lunch and grilled flank steak at dinner.
It wouldn’t be vacation without dessert! Sweets are the final adventure, including mango pudding, cardamom-butter cake, papaya with sea salt and lime, and vanilla-coconut rice pudding. View Sanaa’s full menus by following the links below.
Whenever I’ve dined at Sanaa it’s been a special and memorable experience and I always look forward to going back again. Give it a try for lunch for the best views of the animals or go for dinner to absorb all the ambiance of a night on the Savannah. You won’t be disappointed either way. For reservations, call 407/WDW-DINE.