Join us in welcoming back Guest Reviewer Katie Roth with a review of ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Note that this review was written before the most recent round of ‘Ohana Menu Changes. Currently the Chicken Skewer is not being served at the restaurant. Aloha!
I have been staying at the Polynesian for years, but I had never eaten at ‘Ohana until last year! I know, I know…utter blasphemy! I was psyched that my husband and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Disney World AND were able to score a dinner reservation at ‘Ohana.
I admit that it was I that brought my husband into the light of Disney, and I just love getting to share my favorite experiences and eats with him whenever we visit Walt Disney World. Knowing how much he loves grilled meat, I absolutely could not wait to eat here with him!
To help control our excitement, we went to Tambu Lounge to temper those jitters. My husband went all out and ordered the Lapu Lapu while I went with a pineapple mojito (regular mojito with fresh pineapple chunks added). We loved our drinks and were primed for dinner
In my opinion, ‘Ohana’s location lends itself to be one of those ‘would have missed it if I didn’t know it was there’ restaurants. The location of the restaurant is on the upper terrace of the Great Ceremonial House lobby tucked away behind the Tambu Lounge. If you are in front of Kona Café then you have gone too far!
As I’ve seen in the past couple of years, the easiest way to spot ‘Ohana is by the long line of people checking in for their Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) or those hopeful souls asking about a walk-in reservation. When it comes to Disney food (particularly at ‘Ohana), never leave fate to chance.
Lately, I have been eating a lot less meat and more fish for health reasons. I informed the host at the check-in station that I would like a vegetarian/pescetarian meal to which he replied would be no problem. I have heard great things about the vegetarian offerings at ‘Ohana and couldn’t wait to try them out! Just remember, if you are going to make a special request like this, check in early and let them know.
Once you are checked in, you will be given a buzzer and told to wait by the Tambu Lounge for your “cousin” (server) to take you to your table. If this is your first time to the restaurant, they will take you on a mini tour of the food that will be served to you. Keep in mind that this is family style, so there are no menus to meander through, and serving sizes are completely at your discretion! This is a restaurant where it is imperative to remember the mantra “pace yourself.”
The restaurant atmosphere lends to a very relaxed feel – no one likes to feel uptight or stressed when their pants are at risk of popping a button.
The lighting is very dim, particularly in the aisle areas where we were seated. A large portion of the dining area is set under “huts” (thatched roofs, carved poles, mood lighting). The decorations are minimal and the colors are muted. An entire wall of the restaurant is comprised of windows that overlook the Polynesian resort, the Seven Seas Lagoon, and straight over to Cinderella Castle. This is another location that is great for watching the fireworks while dining!
I would have to say that the centerpiece of the restaurant is the large grilling station adorned with slate. It was gorgeous! Every home should have one.
And now on to the grub!
First out is the Welcome Bread, which is a pineapple coconut bread. I am saddened to report that our loaf was cold, dry, and came with ZERO butter! I remember it coming with butter the prior year, so I was a little disappointed with that. You know, because I was going to go hungry with this meal… hehe.
The salad came out shortly after the bread and was a combination of chopped romaine, passion fruit and mandarin orange chunks, and passion fruit vinaigrette. The salad had a nice tangy, fruity flavor, but it was nothing that I wanted to over-indulge in.
The appetizers came out around 2 minutes after the salad. Something you will learn very quickly about ‘Ohana is that they bring the food out very fast. They’re really trying to maximize their turnover, I suppose!
I got a special vegetarian appetizer, which was a trio of homemade hummus dips and pita chips. Oh my gosh, these hummus dips were AH-mazing! They were packed with flavors and didn’t taste at all like the store-bought stuff. The chips were thick, flaky, and slightly oily. They tasted homemade as well and went perfectly with the hummus. My husband even snuck a few for himself. I am not kidding, I would have been happy to just eat this for my meal!
The regular appetizers that were brought to us were pork potstickers and honey coriander chicken wings. The potstickers were amazing like last time (yes, okay, you caught me…I had one or two). For all of you that hail from St. Louis, these babies reminded us of toasted ravioli, but were packed with a savory pork filling inside a crispy exterior and topped with a really sweet glaze. They were perfect. The wings were sweet, savory, not spicy, had a prominent cinnamon flavor, and were cooked perfectly.
While the appetizers were being brought out we ordered another drink; the Magical Star Cocktail. I was a little surprised when it came out because it was in a completely different glass than the picture showed in the drink book. Hmm….now that I think of it, maybe from the effects of the other two drinks we actually ordered something else? In any case, this drink was perfect for the meal! I liked it more than the previous two for sure …probably because I couldn’t taste the alcohol in this.
Next out were the side dishes for the meat, veggies and noodles. The veggies were a mixture of stir-fried broccoli, red bell pepper, mini corn, water chestnuts, and soy sauce. The vegetables were super crisp and the sauce was savory and (thankfully) not overly salty. The noodles were sweet, chewy, sticky, and delicious. Even though they were cold, we still enjoyed them very much. Next time I think I’m going to make a combo of the veggies, noodles, and peeled shrimp.
Once all of the sides come out, the “cousins” go into full swing serving everyone skewers upon skewers of freshly grilled and marinated meats and shrimp. They also bring out two different dipping sauces to accompany the proteins; peanut and sweet ‘n sour.
I left it to my husband to describe the proteins for me. The pork was very tender and was extremely flavorful from the savory marinade it was grilled in. He said the pork was best with the sweet ‘n sour sauce. He recommends using your fingers because “ain’t nobody got time for forks!” (Hmm…I think the alcohol had kicked in for him…)
The beef was less savory than the pork, which led to the natural flavor profile of the beef to really come out. It was cooked to medium and is great for steak lovers. The chicken was an alternative flavor to the other meats and was a little dry (Editor’s Note: The Grilled Chicken Skewer has been discontinued from this menu.).
The shrimp was tender, seasoned perfectly, had a great charbroiled flavor, and wasn’t “fishy.”
I was somewhat disappointed in the vegetarian entrée. I was expecting a gorgeous display of tempura fried veggies to come out, but instead I was served what was basically the veggie side dish with the addition of tofu chunks and crispy potato wedges. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, I just had delusions of vegetable grandeur running through my head.
As you can see from the picture below, when you don’t pace yourself, you will look like this! Utter. Look. Of. Defeat. I couldn’t even show the picture of my husband after eating all of the meat; it was just too embarrassing.
Okay, so by this point the elastic band on my running shorts was stretched to the max. Going against my better judgment, I still indulged in the dessert (Bananas Foster bread pudding served with vanilla ice cream). The bread pudding is actually made from the pineapple coconut bread and is served warm with vanilla bean ice cream and a container of warm liquid gold (bananas foster rum caramel sauce with banana slices in it) on the side.
Since it is self-serve, you have all of the power as to how much sauce goes on your pudding. The texture of the pudding was great with its crunchy crust and warm, tender inside. All of the flavors worked so well together and I was so thankful it wasn’t overly sweet. We wished we wouldn’t have eaten so much so that we could have enjoyed more of this!!
Overall, we thought that this meal was fantastic and we can’t wait to go back! Our service was great; friendly and efficient. The food was out of this world, even if it was cranked out like an assembly line.
Katie works full-time as an engineer in Ohio and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in mechanical engineering through Purdue University. Katie and her husband absolutely love everything Disney and try to work that special brand of magic into every aspect of their life including visiting Walt Disney World multiple times per year.
What south seas flavors do you enjoy most at ‘Ohana? Are you looking forward to a particular taste on your next trip? Chime in now!