Boma has been, for a long time, one of the go to buffets on property. It is one of those meals you make a reservation for when you want a family member to branch out and try something mildly adventurous or you have a friend who’s never been to Walt Disney World and you want them to see how unique any meal can be on property. It has dishes that rise above the rest of the menu, things like Zebra Domes and Watermelon Rind Salad. It has a unique setting and is generally a highly sought after reservation. It also happens to be my father’s favorite place to eat in Walt Disney World, so that makes it a must do whenever he is visiting with us. Except, after our last visit, I’m not sure he’ll be inclined to make that reservation again. To give you the full picture, let’s utilize a good, bad, and ugly system for this review.
Let’s start with the good, and there is still a lot of good to be found at Boma. Many of the dishes, such as the aforementioned Zebra Domes, Pap, Chakalaka, curries, and Durban Style Roasted Chicken, are favorite items of guests for a reason. There are some wonderful components on the buffet, but considering how large of a buffet Boma offers, you do have to know where to look. The desserts are always winners, as are many of the items you wouldn’t normally prepare in your own kitchen or find in an American restaurant.
There is also the environment to consider, a boma is a shelter or corral. Typical usage is for livestock during evening and night hours or for governmental offices in the African Great Lakes region. You try to suss-out how those two got linked, I’m going to keep talking about the restaurant. If you look at the variety of stalls along the Boma buffet and the fencing that surrounds dining areas, you’ll see small shelters, gates, and other signs that point to the traditional usage of bomas. These architectural details may be lost on most, but it does set the table for an intriguing meal.
Now, let’s look at some of the bad elements. Actually, let’s call this section sad, simply because I know how good Boma can be. Maybe we caught the restaurant on a bad night, but the food was bland, and much of it felt like it had gone too far towards the Americanized cuisine route. In particular the majority of the salads and a good portion of the entrees just felt uninspired on our recent visit. While the menu for Boma is extensive and has room for soups, salads, and entrees to rotate, it felt as if everything on the buffet were the exact same dishes I had seen in my past three visits. It felt as if its uniqueness is starting to slip away or, as it is put in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it’s lost its muchness.
I could quibble about how long the lines were to get food, but long lines at a buffet in Walt Disney World, especially one with a dining room as large as Boma, are to be expected, if inconvenient.
To talk about the ugliness of Boma almost physically hurts me, because this restaurant has represented so many good things to me and my family. Throughout the course of our meal I witnessed countless wait staff that were completely apathetic to the families and groups they were serving. Rarely did our waiter come by to check on us, which was less a problem for us, but other waiters were doing similar things to guests around us and I could feel the contempt and frustration radiating off of them. In addition, when they we did see staff interacting with their tables, and someone at the table had a question (about specific wines or alcoholic beverages, or about specific dishes), they seemed wholly uninformed. Thankfully, I did see wait staff retrieve kitchen staff when it came to allergy issues.
Animal Kingdom Lodge, as a whole, is a study in brown and tans, and how to utilize these color schemes to the best of their abilities and create a way to impart the message of what it is like to live on the savanna. A study in tan can lead to blandness, but that isn’t something that you typically see at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but it is precisely what I witness at Boma. The culinary adventure Boma once offered seems to have lost its way in a number of respects. I hope that they’ll take the good that still resides inside the corrals, build upon it, give their cast members new life, and once again return it to the fun and delicious experience I know it can be.