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Guest Review: ‘AMA ‘AMA Beachside Restaurant at Disney’s Aulani Resort

We’re so excited to have a review of Disney’s Aulani Resort’s premier restaurant just a few days after its opening! Mark Hickson is a Disney fan, a former Disney Imagineer, and a Hawai’i resident and food blogger (among many other things). We’re honored to share this article with our readers. Thanks, Mark!

'Ama 'Ama Beachside Restaurant

So the resort has been open for five days now and I thought it would be the perfect time to dine in the resort’s signature restaurant, ‘AMA ‘AMA. The restaurant is named after the tasty mullet fish ʻamaʻama that us locals enjoy.

Atmosphere

The setting is an open air thatched roof fishing shack and a minimalist fishing factory with concrete pillars and a large fish holding tanks complete with pipeline and spigot. Of all the beautiful facilities at Aulani Resort this place’s theme is the only one that doesn’t work.

Our reservations were for 5:30pm and my wife and I were seated directly. Unfortunately since it is an open air dining area (no walls), the sun was low enough to shine in so it was very bright and hot at our table. In retrospect I would wait until sunset to be seated.

Eats

Take a look at the official ‘AMA ‘AMA menus below:

click image for larger version

click image for larger version

For drinks I ordered a Pineapple Papaya Cosmo. It was fun, tropical and fresh with a light foam on top. Good enough to order a second, which I did! My wife’s coffee was bitter and tasted like it was re-heated in the microwave. Seriously, we live in Hawai’i and are accustomed to having great local coffee. This was not it.

Pineapple Papaya Cosmo

Our waiter Kevin was wonderful! He was a delight to talk to and really helped make the evening. My wife ordered Island Field Greens with a Papaya Seed Vinaigrette salad and the Paniolo Rack of Lamb (medium-well), with Island Fruit and Poha Berry Chutney. Feeling dehydrated from heat she ordered a Lemonade that has a slight taste of ginger and was very refreshing.

She found the Salad “ordinary” and only ate half. Her Lamb was not a “Rack,” but three bone-in chops that were burnt on the outside and undercooked on the inside. The wine sauce (not described in the menu) had not been reduced properly and exhibited an alcohol taste.

Island Field Greens with a Papaya Seed Vinaigrette salad

Paniolo Rack of Lamb with Island Fruit and Poha Berry Chutney

I ordered the Hamukua Mushroom Tart with Baby Arugula, Coriander Crème Fraiche and Parmesan. My entrée was Grilled Keahole Lobster with Lemon Grass Sauce, and Korean Pancake. To complement my meal I ordered a S.A. Prum Essence Riesling.

The Mushroom Tart was delightful. It has an unexpected savory sweetness that was very satisfying. My Lobster, although small, was perfect. The small veggies were pickled Japanese Sunomono style and the “Korean Pancake” was very much like a crab cake. There was also a tempura Shiso leaf for a fresh flavor contrast. The star was the Lobster that was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth.

Hamukua Mushroom Tart with Baby Arugula, Coriander Crème Fraiche and Parmesan

Grilled Keahole Lobster with Lemmon Grass Sauce, and Korean Pancake

Wow! How could our two meals be so far apart? After five days they should have worked out all the kinks with the new kitchen staff. Was Chef Patrick Callarec in the kitchen last night? Maybe not.

So we finished with dessert. I had the Coconut Panna Cotta with chilled Passion Fruit broth and Green Tea Tuile while my wife had the Hawaiian Chocolate Cake with K’au Coffee Cream and Caramel Chard. Both were great! We ended our evening being serenaded by two musicians singing traditional Hawaiian songs. That was very nice.

Coconut Panna Cotta with chilled Passion Fruit broth and Green Tea Tuile

Hawaiian Chocolate Cake with K’au Coffee Cream and Caramel Chard

Overall

O.K. so here is the bottom line. At $198.00 before tax and tip the ‘AMA ‘AMA is not every night fare. The quality of the food preparation needs to be improved and frankly the restaurant does not feel Hawaiian. All-in-all we will not be rushing back any time soon for dinner.

About the author:
Mark has dined at some really great… and not-so-great eateries across America and around the world. An accomplished cook of Italian, French and American cuisine, he is known for keeping bellies full and people laughing and wanting more. A former Walt Disney Imagineer and resident of Oahu, he conceived the landmark kitchenware store and celebrity chef theater “Cucina Bella.” His reviews are real-world and not influenced by mass media, hype, or other reviewers. Mark is a recipient of the international gastronomic society “Chainedes Rotisseurs” Presentation Plate by the Maui Bailliage in 2008.

Mark’s websites include:
http://www.DisneybyMark.com, http://markhickson.com/hawaiidining, and http://markhickson.com.

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14 Comments

  1. I didn’t think the prices looked to steep for Hawaii, then I realized I was looking at the wine pairings! For $53 those lamb chops should do a jig for you too!

  2. Rochelle Myers says:

    I’m sorry it wasn’t that great. However, it’s really not fair to expect perfection 5 days in. You probably weren’t performing at your best after only 5 days at your job, either. I’d consider this as an “early look” at a single meal, not a “review” of a restaurant that is only very recently up and running.

    Some restaurants actually open with lower prices while they get their sea legs before going to a full price menu, which is nice since they probably can’t offer a top notch experience in the first few weeks. It would be nice if Disney did this as well, but they probably won’t. It’s unfortunate that you paid full price for a restaurant experience that may not have been ready for prime time.

    Many professional restaurant reviewers wait a month before starting their review process when a new restaurant opens. It gives the place a fair shake. Anything published earlier than that is more of a first look.

  3. melissa sue says:

    Is that really how the lamb came out?!?! No self-respecting kitchen staff would send out a plate looking like that. I can’t even believe they’d charge prices like that for food that looks like that!

  4. Jeanne says:

    Even looking at the picture of the lamb, you could see it was burnt………what chef would send that out from the kitchen……….not acceptable for a disney restaurant.

  5. Theresa says:

    This restaurant is ridiculously overpriced for a place that offers no shade or indoor seating at all. I think it’s nice to dine outside when the weather is nice but what do they do if it starts raining a little during your 200 dollar meal? Also, the atmosphere described sounds more like a tiki bar at a pool than a fine dining establishment. If I were to pay those sort of prices, I would want the environment to feel upscale as well. Atmosphere plays a huge role in what I would be willing to pay for an entree and I don’t think I’d pay over fifty a person to eat in a fishing shack and factory. What a terrible idea. They should convert this place to a burger bar or something ridiculously low key and move their upscale restaurant to a nicer setting. Also, quite a shame that your lamb came out looking that burnt and I agree that the salad did look incredibly ordinary and boring especially for a 12 dollar salad. How disappointing. That said, I love that you gave such an honest review.

  6. Savorique says:

    Dishes served by the seashore supposedly tend to taste better somehow but I guess this one restaurant missed it.

  7. Jeanine says:

    That’s too bad that they didn’t come stronger out of the starting gate. I’d think that they’d have to come up with something a little more compelling to keep people from going across to the Marriot to eat at Roy’s.

  8. debra t. says:

    I am so sick of seeing the smear on dessert plates. That has just be done to death. They look like skid marks. Yuck.

  9. Kaleo P. says:

    Did Disney even bother to research “anything” before opening or even well before considering the pricing of its resort! Period! When its neighbor opened its doors in Dec ’93, it too went through similar situations, over-priced menus, high priced “kama’aina” room rates, rediculous prices in every asspect of the resort actually. And here comes the well anticipated Disney resort the “Aulani”! Basically, exactly the same footprint! I mean really guys, did it ever occur to anyone calling the shots to just maybe talk to the locals in the area that frequent the Ko’Olina properties and get a little feedback? I would’ve gone as far as finding out more about Hawaii and its “present” residences! I’ll give them that much though, disney did an excellent job at capturing the cultural values of old Hawaii. but how long will that last? did it occur to anyone that learning the lifestyle of “today” is equally important? O well, we’ll just have to see how quickly and wisely the intelligence department at the “Aulani” resort will pick up on such basic details huh. Lets hope soon! Traditionally, September is normally the slowest month of the year in the travel industry, but am sure “someone” knew this right? That being said, with limited selections and over priced menus, I dont think even the high-end locals who dont mind splurging now and again are willing to frivolously squander their valued earnings to a property that was so highly anticipated in opening an then to leave us with a less that adequate first impression! Au’we.

  10. Mark Hickson says:

    Mahalo to all who commented on my review of ‘AMA’AMA. In a few weeks I hope to return and dine at Aulani’s other venue, Makahiki.
    Until then Aloha!
    Mark Hickson

  11. Shawna Walker says:

    My husband and I just went to this restaurant for my friend’s birthday. No question, the atmosphere was why we were there…nothing less than amazing! However, we were very disappointed at the food and the prices. I don’t eat fish and there was only one steak option and no chicken entrees. The steak was $43 and I would have needed to have a chain saw to eat it. The 3 potato puff were like eating a potato chip with air in it. It was very disappointing and we wished we would have gone to Roys…but the view at Roys is nothing like the view at AMA AMA. I realize the restaurant is new but someone had to have tasted the menu items or at least purchase good quality meat for that price. I have another special occasion I want to celebrate but I just don’t know if the atmosphere is worth eating expensive and poor tasting food.

  12. Eduardo says:

    My wife and I took our daughter to eat out. The view is nice but the food is horrible and very expensive. I don’t mind expending money on good food but this one broke the chain. I order the seared ahi, first it was extremely cooked and they only gave me 3 small pieces with 2 shrimps. My wife order the catch of the day special and it was the paella with fish, everything tasted the same, it tastes slike red pepper and that it. I’m very dissatisfied with ama ama restaurant. The best thing that I had was the beer.

  13. Hinano says:

    We were extremely disappointed with the food and service at this restaurant. Not only was the service slow at everything but the appetizers, bread, and main dishes were awfully salty and junk! We could not believe we were celebrating our 10th anniversary and they seated us outside in the dark when no one else was seated outside and we could not even read the menu. We used our I-phone light to see the menu’s and our meals. Our reservation was at 6:30, we weren’t seated until 6:45 then we weren’t served water until 7. We didn’t leave until almost 9 because service was so slow. There were so many gaps that our two kids got their food and ate it all way before we got our dishes. When I complained about how salty the food was the manager came to the table and said to me- “I heard your annoyed”? As if I came in with that attitude to celebrate such a huge occasion or because I’m watching them ruin it for us as we planned and saved for this moment months before. Not one single staff member even mentioned that it was our anniversary. The funny thing is at breakfast at the makahiki restaraunt the next morning almost every staff member congratulated us and even brought us a special chocolate mousse anniversary cake!
    We called the manager on duty that evening Jason to report the incident. He has never called us back since that evening. The next morning at check out I asked if he was there and the front desk said yes! I have already told over 20 people already of our awful experience at Ama’Ama!

  14. Kellie says:

    Our experiences have been very similar. Kevin was also our waiter and he is phenomenal!

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