The countdown has begun to Harambe Nights Street Party, kicking off June 7 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – a spectacular nighttime addition in the park’s Harambe Village. With a never-before-seen performance in the new Harambe Theatre of “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” that includes a live orchestra and choir, dancers, lots of drama and celebrity guest narrators (see Shawn Slater’s earlier post on the Disney Parks Blog), the evening’s culinary experience is like rich icing on the proverbial cake.
Shortly after arrival, you’ll nosh on appetizers like Moroccan beef kefta with tamarind glaze, pickled fennel paneer cheese with tomato, Durban-spiced chicken bites and a safari cheeseburger slider with tomato curry aioli. Pair with African-inspired wine and beer and get the party started. Be adventurous – the chefs have had great fun crafting a menu that introduces new flavor sensations. If you’re a fan of Jiko—The Cooking Place, Boma—Flavors of Africa or Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, chances are you’ve tried some of the fantastic global flavors on the menu. We have, and we can’t wait for the butter chicken with warm naan bread (a Sanaa favorite), or the spicy veggie samosa with mango chutney.
After the Welcome Reception, the food never ends – you even get a “Lion Chow” snack for the show – a salty-sweet combo of sea-salted pretzel chips, benne (sesame) crumbles, cardamom candied pecans, golden raisins, dried cherries and candied ginger.
The curtain closes and the street party opens, with live music, characters, live performers and dozens of savory dishes. We caught up with Chef Robert Gilbert for a little insider info:
Chef Robert, tell us about the menu.
When we began working on this menu it was all about harmonizing the Harambe Nights’ experience with the exquisitely refined influences of Africa’s diverse cuisines. We tried for balance, for seasonality, for local ingredients – and most of all an authentic experience.
What was your inspiration?
Disney isn’t just a theme park or resort, it evokes a feeling, and we tried to capture that feeling through an immersive food experience – it was a strong collaboration with Chef David Njoroge at Sanaa, a native of Kenya who embraces true African-style cooking.
How long did it take to develop the menu?
We did four tastings before the menu got the green light. And we had some of our chefs and cast members work with the Sanaa team to truly appreciate and understand what goes into African-style cooking. It took us more than a month to get it right.
What are some of the unique African ingredients in the dishes?
We use paneer, an Indian cheese similar to queso blanco, in the appetizer with pickled fennel. The kachumbari salad – kachumbari is a Swahili name for fresh tomato and onion salad – is a popular food in East Africa. We use masala spice blend. And, of course, the traditional naan bread with chutneys and pickles is a favorite of guests.
Do you have a favorite dish?
That’s easy – the butter chicken with basmati rice – you can’t eat just one piece, it’s that good.
Chef Robert shared the menu with us, subject to tweaks, but here’s a look at the dazzling array of flavors:
Fresh Cooked Breads, Salads and More
Watercress, melon, feta and berry balsamic onion salad
Kachumbari salad with tomato, paneer, carrot and cilantro
Roasted beetroot salad with sunflower seeds
Creamy mac ‘n cheese
Spicy vegetable samosa with mango chutney
Traditional naan, onion kulcha and pappadum breads
Roasted pepper hummus, raita and garlic-ginger pickle
Surf and Turf
Mango, radish, lime and mustard seed salad
Watermelon, cucumber and fennel salad
Coriander chutney roasted potatoes
Line-caught corvina filet with goan curry sauce
On-stage-seared lamb chops with tamarind pomegranate sauce
Slow-cook Action Stations
Fork-tender peri barbecued pork
Vegetarian eggplant tikka masala curry served over creamy goat cheese pap
Butter chicken thighs
Vegetarian legume wat served over basmati rice
Golden pineapple with toasted coconut
Apple slices with Amarula caramel sauce
Ripe melon with minted lime yogurt dip
Rice pudding, dried fruit compote and pistachio gremolata
Caramel salted Tanzania chocolate Kenya coffee bite
Chai cream with zebra stripes
Ice cream bars
Harambe Nights is every Saturday from June 7 – August 9, with the Welcome Reception starting at 7:00 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., it’s show time. Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Tickets with premium floor seating are $134 for adults, $94 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Capacity is limited. For tickets, Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.