Restaurant >Wildly uneven
Thereís something unsettling about eating a bowl of pasta with a squawking parrot perched overhead. Or getting fanned by the flapping ears of a life-sized elephant as another round of Rainforest Rickys arrives from the Magic Mushroom organic juice-and-smoothie bar.
Rainforest Cafe, an addition to the Downtown Disney Marketplace, is a slickly packaged, 550-seat restaurant loosely patterned after a lush jungle, with faux wildlife and vegetation, special effects and colossal fish tanks.
Outside, thereís a 65-foot spewing volcano, which generated some enthusiasm from afar, until I got closer and saw the snaking Disney-style line. At 8 p.m. on a weeknight, it took 20 minutes to get our "passports," followed by an hourís wait for our table. We headed for the retail area, which sells $30 T-shirts and semi-educational jungle knickknacks. In our estimation, hunkering down on a stool fashioned into a gazelleís hindquarters at the aforementioned Magic Mushroom was a more attractive way to bide our time.
The menu offers casual, familiar items with clever names. Best of our entrees was the seafood Galapagos ($14.95), which blended fresh sautéed shrimp and fish pieces with vegetables and pesto sauce over linguine. I also liked the rasta pasta ($11.95) -- grilled chicken, pesto, broccoli, red peppers and herbs in a garlic cream sauce. Less appealing was the marinade in the Siam stir fry ($12.95), chicken sautéed with vegetables, served on rice with wontons and sesame seeds.
The desserts we sampled ($4.95) were delicious: "gorillas in the mist," a chocolate-topped banana cheesecake, and "chocolate diablo," rich cake with gooey layers of pudding.
Thereís a healthy selection of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads and comfort foods like meat loaf and fried chicken. When asked, the server brightly informed me that I could take home a menu -- for $15. Service was adequate, but we had to hunt our server down for the check. (Attempts to call her from across the room were rendered futile by the loudly trumpeting elephant.)
As with other themed restaurants Iíve tried, the heavily merchandised atmosphere and slightly above-average menu at Rainforest Cafe outweigh the novelty of the overall dining experience.