The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin opened its new companion hotel, the Swan Reserve, in November. It’s distinguished from the two larger resorts – it sits separated across Epcot Resort Boulevard – with a more modern glass-and-steel design and the absence of frighteningly large creatures on its roof.
With the new hotel comes another signature restaurant, Amare, to join the likes Todd English’s bluezoo, Kimonos and Shula’s Steak House.
Amare is a Mediterranean restaurant whose name means to love. (It’s the verb form of the word as opposed to the noun. That’s amore.) However, the succinct menu has more of a Greek accent. The restaurant is described on the hotel’s website as casual upscale. I can agree with that. The decor is tastefully casual – it’s a breakfast, lunch and dinner venue – with bare blond wood tables set with blue and white chargers with a spirographic motif, cloth napkins, basket light fixtures, wood flooring and an open kitchen. Large windows from the second floor restaurant look out toward the other hotels.
The upscale part is in the quality of the food, with high quality ingredients well-crafted and served in an appealing manner.
While we nibbled on the sesame-crusted hot bread served with hummus, a pool of olive oil and an island of tapenade, we looked over the menu and negotiated our choices.
We started with the polpletti appetizer, a trio of ground lamb and beef meatballs served in a tomatoey puddle atop crispy potatoes and sprinkled with crushed roasted pine nuts. Dollops of saffron aioli dotted the plate. The meat had a looser texture than most meatballs and the flavors, especially the lamb, were pleasant. And I really appreciated the nuttiness of the pinions.
We also had the Amare salad, an impressive bowl of shredded romaine and iceberg lettuces topped with marinated cucumbers, artichokes and red onions, with a clump of creamy feta cheese and slices of salty kalamata olives. It was all drizzled with a red wine dressing seasoned with marjoram. A delicious and satisfying salad.
For my entree I chose the seabass al cartoccio, two striped bass fillets with white and purple potatoes, tomatoes and wilted greens sealed in a parchment pouch that allowed all the flavors to steam together. The package was clipped open at the table by the server. The fish was firm and with all the other flavors hardly needed the creamy white wine sauce that accompanied.
My companion chose the grilled souvlaki, opting for one each of the chicken and beef skewers. Both meats were remarkably tender and the beef was even a nice medium rare. The plate was also filled with a spicy hummus, tabbouleh, and marinated cucumbers, topped with a haystack of crispy potatoes and accompanied by poofy pita for the option of making a sandwich.
Our server was knowledgable and accommodating, and we enjoyed our seat near the kitchen where we could watch the open over where the flatbreads, shrimp and other items are cooked. And you should know that the restaurant will validate your valet parking, which is always a nice touch.
I can’t saw whether the Swan Reserve offers anything special in the way of hotel accommodations, but I can say that Amare is a nice addition to the array of restaurants at the resort.
Amare is at 1255 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista (map). It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-934-1609.