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    If you love buffets, there's nothing better than table after table laden with massive and sometimes bizarre combinations of food. But if you dislike or distrust the concept of groaning boards, you'd probably be inclined to avoid Boma - Flavors of Africa, the buffet-style African restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. You do so at the risk of missing some unusual and very tasty dishes.

    "Boma" is a fenced space in the Maasai bushland, surrounded by thatch huts and usually home to a chief and his family. The Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is designed as wonderfully as the rest of the building (the massive thatch cathedral ceiling in the lobby still makes me teary-eyed), with pillars like stacks of huge ceramic pots, a massive copper hood over the hot tables, and hanging lights made of orange, yellow, and green glass gourds. The 270-seat restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, with a half-dozen "cooking stations" offering serve-yourself salads, soups, meats, seafood, veggies and desserts.

    The servers, all from various African countries, seat more than 1,000 people a day, and dinner will set you back $21.99 (breakfast $14.99). But that price opens the gate to a world of very different (and sometimes unrecognizable) foods, from salmon baked in banana leaves to "zebra mousse."

    Some dishes change by availability, but you'll usually find a thick and creamy carrot soup spiced with ginger, along with curried coconut soup and mulligatawny that show the Indian influence on South African food. The puzzling flavors in the different dishes come from unusual combinations of tamarind, cumin and cinnamon, along with hot chilis, cilantro and papaya. For a mouthful, try the cucumber chutney with the grilled spiced chicken.

    Prime rib and ham (and mac 'n' cheese for the kids) are by far the most unimaginative of the offerings and not really African at all. Better to check out the seafood stews or a wonderful mix of white potatoes and sweet potatoes spiked with cinnamon and pepper. "Pap," a white corn mash almost identical to grits, is served as porridge for breakfast, but made thicker – and sometimes grilled – at dinner. Wines are strictly South African and equal to vintages anywhere; the coffee is Kenyan.

    Boma is an unusual take on the buffet. But it's best to call ahead for priority seating – it could save 45 minutes of agonizing wait time.

    Sometimes having unlimited resources is a good thing. Where else but at Disney can you stay in a hotel overlooking 33 acres of savannah filled with 200 African animals? The Animal Kingdom Lodge is an impressive feat of design, and within it is an equally impressive new culinary treat: Jiko-The Cooking Place.

    Walking through the front door means emerging from a low-ceilinged entryway into the hotel's grand, six-story main lobby. The thatched, arched expanse above you is like a beautiful ancient grass cathedral. You can spend an hour appreciating details -- the giant mud chimney of the fireplace, the immense ostrich lamp framed by a wall-length picture window, the Zulu shield chandeliers -- and still miss things. Designer Peter Dominick calls it "an architecture of emotion," and he is quite correct.

    In the restaurant, mosaic-covered columns are accented by large copper-colored rings echoing Yoruba neck rings. Suspended from the midnight-blue ceiling are metal-mesh "birds of fortune" flying toward a distant sunset (the sun sets every 20 minutes; watch the back wall change).

    The staff, which comes from many African countries, is both courteous and gracious, wearing beautiful jalabas and kitenge dresses, clothing originally from Kenya and the berbers of Morocco. That Pan-African mix shows up on the menu in most delightful and surprising ways.

    Breads come from the red, open ovens in the center of the room (the "jiko") and are superb, particularly flatbread with yogurt and onions ($6.25). The maize tamale appetizer ($5.50) may look like Mexican food, but unwrapping the corn husk reveals creamy corn-custard cubes spiced with caraway and truffle oil. You will sit in wonder at the flavors. Try the "One Soup," a sweet and spicy mixture of black beans, apples and celery ($6.50). The South African wine list may be unfamiliar but, according to Wine Spectator, can challenge any in the world.

    Accompanying a generous beef tenderloin ($27.50) is what's listed as "macaroni and cheese." I heard every other table ask about it, which may be the idea, but to call oven-baked fusilli with three cheeses "mac and cheese" is grand understatement. "Baked chicken and mashed potatoes" is another misleading description for a slow-cooked Moroccan "tagine" (a stew of meat, fruit, vegetables and spices) that's presented in a mini enameled oven, crisp and delicious with a sauce of olives, grapefruit juice and garlic that's tart and sweet. The salmon ($20.50) comes perfectly seared on a bed of purple rice and orange dressing. It's one of the best fish dishes in town.

    When it comes to Moroccan restaurant ventures in this city, Achraf Taby has had his meaty fingers in the mix of quite a few of them. After stints in the kitchen at the now-defunct Casablanca Grill and Lounge and the eponymous Chez Achraf (it's now called Atlas Express, but still serves Moroccan staples), Taby has taken the helm of the kitchen at Kabbab House, a visually alluring if somewhat clichéd grill/lounge in the MetroWest Plaza. And while history hasn't been kind to couscouseries in Orlando, owner Simo Soaf is determined to make it work, and most of what I witnessed suggests Kabbab House has the potential to be a mainstay.

    With less than a handful of Moroccan restaurants in town (Epcot included), Berber cuisine has hardly had the opportunity to evolve ' so, not surprisingly, the menu here cleaves to the familiar. There's nothing wrong with that. You won't find modern riffs on traditional Moorish meals, but if you're up for kebabs, tagines, couscous and assorted Mediterranean bites, look no further.

    Moroccan cuisine comprises a heady array of dishes tinged with influences from Persia, India, Spain and Levantine nations, and for a representative sampling, the five-course Royal Feast ($23.95) poses quite a value. Depending on your mood, you can start your meal off with sweet-and-meaty chicken pastilla or a Mediterranean platter of hummus, tabouli and baba ghanoush. The pastilla was served piping hot and was a tad unctuous, but the overall textures and flavors of this flaky phyllo pie stuffed with chicken, eggs and almonds and dusted with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon exemplified the exotic nature of Moroccan fare. The platter was entirely satisfying, particularly the tart tabouli. The next course featured hearty harira, my go-to comfort soup of choice, but one sadly lacking in beef. Soaf admitted it's a ploy to appeal to vegetarians but, thankfully, the essence of the spice-laden, tomato-based broth wasn't lost. Greek salad was well-portioned with enough feta crumbles to keep cheeseheads in check.

    For the main course, diners can opt for a mixed grill of kebabs, lamb tagine or chicken tagine. The diminutive and anemic merguez sausage seemed like an afterthought on an otherwise impressive platter, dominated by succulent chicken and tender beef kebabs lanced on a blade. The beef, while soft, was overcooked; nicely seasoned kofta (ground beef) kebabs were grilled and seasoned to perfection; and the cushion of saffron rice deserved equal billing with the meat. Saffron and preserved lemon charged the sauce in the chicken tagine, with plenty of green olives offering a true taste of Tangier, even though the jus was a bit oily. Fluffy semolina highlighted a side of lamb couscous ($6.95), but the shank of the fluffy critter wasn't as fall-off-the-bone tender as I expected, and overcooked baby carrots added to the inconsistency. Honeyed baklava, the fifth and final course, proved too formidable for the IKEA silverware, but sweet mint tea made an ideal after-dinner refresher.

    If you plan on dining here on Friday or Saturday night, be sure to call ahead; the place gets packed with patrons flocking to catch live music and belly-dancing. Service is friendly, but harried and uncoordinated. Our server worked feverishly while others paced the room like zombies. When utensils aren't delivered, glasses are left unfilled and checks fail to materialize, other servers need to pick up the slack. Still, Kabbab House holds a lot of promise, and with a little work, lovers of Moroccan fare may avoid having to hear the heave of the Moor's last sigh.

    Orlando’s lone Ethiopian restaurant is a blessing for foodies with an appetite for the exotic. Utensils come in the form of pancake-like sourdough bread called injera, used to scoop intensely spiced dishes from a large communal platter. Be sure to sample traditional honey wine as well as Ethiopian coffee, brewed in a clay pot.

    'Eighty percent of everything you see here is authentic,â?� says Charlie, our greeter for the evening at Sanaa, the newest dining option at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

    'Sanaaâ?� is the Swahili word for 'work of art.â?� The comfortable, earth-toned restaurant, sited in the Kidani Village, is patterned after an African spice market. Charlie, according to his name badge, is from Johannesburg, South Africa. So far, so authentic. The cloth draping the walls and ceilings? Authentic. Most of the artwork and knickknacks? Authentic.

    Naturally, Charlie's scripted claim led me to wonder what around here wasn't African in origin, but he handed us off to our server before I could get a journalistically satisfying answer. As in all things Disney, it's often best to just go with the flow. Thankfully, that's not hard to do. Disney has food service down to a science, and it would take one far more curmudgeonly than I to let that mystery 20 percent spoil dinner.

    Sanaa is billed as 'the art of African cooking with Indian flavors,â?� and while I'm no expert on African cuisine, I do know Indian flavors when they across my plate. And that is largely what will cross your plate at Sanaa. The appetizer sampler plate ($14.99) featured potato and pea samosas, pulled duck with red curry sauce and a few pieces of roasted cauliflower. With the exception of the duck, indistinguishable from pulled pork, it was all Indian-light; nothing too spicy or challenging here.

    Our server, whose name tag indicated that she hailed from the exotic land of the University of Central Florida, painstakingly explained the workings of the on-site tandoor oven, after which it would have been almost rude not to order something from it, which we did. And it was a wise decision. The tandoori chicken ($17.99) featured moist, perfectly cooked chunks of yardbird, a small bowl of rich, tangy, yogurt-tinged dipping sauce in which to dunk them, and a bed of basmati rice. It proved satisfying, if a bit small for the price.

    From that same oven came 'Indian-style bread serviceâ?� ($8.99), a sampler of naan, paratha and paneer paratha accompanied by your choice of three dipping sauces. I've had lighter, tastier Indian breads at any number of I-Drive establishments, and the sauces ' mango chutney, tamarind chutney and cucumber raita ' were flavorful if just a little too sweet, likely a concession to the American palate.

    We also ordered a dish called, plainly enough, 'slow cooked in gravyâ?� ($18.99), again a sampler of two out of three options: beef short ribs in red gravy, chicken with red curry sauce or shrimp in green curry. I chose the beef -' falling-apart tender, but the gravy was too close to barbecue sauce for my comfort -' and the shrimp ' large and succulent in a mild green curry sauce that left me wanting more ' and along with a generous portion of basmati, it was more than I could eat.

    Dessert was a float-off-your-spoon'light chai cream mousse ($5.49) and a pot of robust, pressed Kenya AA coffee ($6.29), one of the strongest and most distinct flavors of the whole meal.

    Sanaa's limited menu options, somewhat muted flavors and detailed atmosphere make for a safely exotic experience. It is, as my dining partner put it so aptly, starter Indian food. If you like it, don't let your culinary adventure begin and end there.



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