Welcome back guest author Carrie Hayward, author of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, as she shares her recent trip to the Disneyland Hotel’s newest restaurant — Tangaroa Terrace. Thanks, Carrie!
My husband and I are big fans of Disney’s take on tiki culture and often wonder why they don’t exploit the theme more around the parks and resorts, especially when it comes to food service (Aladdin’s Oasis, I’m looking at YOU). So we got very excited when we heard that Disney was reimagining the counter-service restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel with a tiki theme. On Sunday we had a chance to try the new Tangaroa Terrace.
Much has been made of the restaurant’s modern take on tiki décor. While Trader Sam’s next door has the dark, cave-like feel of an authentic mid-century tiki bar, Tangaroa Terrace has high ceilings and plenty of windows, making it a pleasant space to eat in but nearly impossible to photograph with a point-and-shoot camera, as you will see…
Like Captain Cook’s at Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Resort (which, incidentally, used to have its own Tangaroa Terrace Restaurant), Tangaroa Terrace requires you to place your own order at touch-screen kiosks just inside the door. There’s a large menu hanging in the queue area, but the only way to see pictures and complete descriptions of menu items onscreen is to go several steps deep into the ordering process for each dish individually.
Once you’ve input your order, the kiosk spits out a receipt for you to take to the cash registers. A cold case next to the kiosks offers salads, sandwiches, fruit, kids’ meals, desserts, and a few drinks. More bottled drinks are available across from the cash registers.
Hand the cashier the receipt you got from the kiosk plus any impulse buys, pay for your meal, and get a number to put on your table for hot food delivery.
Napkins, cutlery, and condiments are behind the cash registers, against the bamboo wall separating the tiny indoor seating area from the sales area. A station for fountain drinks, coffee, and tea is located in the seating area.
Indoor seating is scarce—the dining area seats maybe 20 people. Outside is an attractive wraparound patio, but only parts of it are shaded.
We were expecting more tiki flourishes in the décor at Tangaroa Terrace—squint and you could be at almost any fast-casual chain restaurant—but there are a few items of interest, mainly the light fixtures. The high ceilings and abundance of natural light help compensate for the anonymous interior design too.
What really got us excited about Tangaroa Terrace was the menu, which was billed on the Disney Parks Blog as a fresh, Polynesian-accented take on classic counter-service fare. We ordered the Angus 1/3 lb. Hawaiian Cheeseburger and the Island Fish & Chips.
The menu describes the Angus 1/3 lb. Hawaiian Cheeseburger as a “ground angus burger with teriyaki sauce, fresh grilled pineapple, Havarti cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato on a multigrain bun with choice of sweet potato fries or green papaya slaw.” The trouble is, the touch-screen ordering system doesn’t let you select how you want the burger cooked, so ours came out roughly the consistency of shoe leather.
The thin patty had a veneer of plasticky cheese and a hint of teriyaki glaze, but the burger was otherwise dry—it’s up to you to craft some kind of sauce from the ketchup, mustard and mayo offered at the condiment bar. A few shriveled pieces of pineapple, tough standard-issue Disney bacon, a tomato slice and a pale yellow fringe of lettuce rounded out the accompaniments.
Described as “panko-crusted mahi mahi and sweet potato fries served with lime tartar sauce,” the Island Fish and Chips were even worse than the burger.
The fish was dry and flavorless, and the runny “lime tartar sauce” seemed to be ranch dressing mixed with horseradish. The best thing you could say about the dish was that the fish arrived hot, something we almost never find at Disney restaurants. On the other hand, the sweet potato fries with both meals were cold and soggy.
I snapped pictures of a couple other items waiting in the kitchen to be ferried to guests’ tables.
Now Tangaroa Terrace had only been open a few days when we went, so maybe they were still working the kinks out. But so far the low-quality ingredients and poor preparation are pretty much on par with the rest of Disneyland’s counter-service dining—in other words, not great. It’s just a shame that all the effort put into designing the building and packing the menu full of exotic descriptions didn’t extend to crafting truly interesting, well-prepared food to match.
Carrie Hayward is the author of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons (http://www.passporter.com/weddings.asp), a guidebook and bridal organizer for weddings and honeymoons at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise Line. Follow her adventures in Disney dining at http://disneytravelbabble.com.