has always been a guest favorite spot to grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But with a big menu change, is it still as crave-worthy?
Located in the Great Ceremonial House that serves as the centerpiece of the resort, the restaurant is airy and open…but still relatively boring when it comes to decor and theme. But since the Polynesian is on the Monorail, Kona Cafe is relatively easy to access even if you’re not staying at the resort. And, of course, the food has been fairly consistent over the years: good with moments of greatness.
Now the recent menu change has guests wondering whether Kona Cafe should stay on their must-get Advance Dining Reservation list or whether they should head elsewhere. We reviewed lunch shortly after the menu change, and overall, we were impressed by the offerings! In particular, we thought the sushi was a terrific value, and we enjoyed the Hawaiian-Style Reuben sandwich. Even dessert had some pleasant surprises with Key Lime and Tiramisu cups bringing good flavor.
But I wanted to get back to dine from the Dinner Offerings portion of the menu, which is where you’ll find Steak and Seafood that isn’t available for lunch. The All Day Offerings include the items we reviewed previously and some other items I wanted to try.
But first: Lapu Lapu. 😉 This refreshing tropical cocktail is a staple of the Polynesian. Diners and visitors to the resort can also order a Lapu Lapu at ‘Ohana and Tambu Lounge. It’s easy to spot this iconic Polynesian Village Resort drink because #pineapple. (FYI: If you order this on the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll receive it in a glass — no pineapple!)
The meal begins with soft dinner rolls and macadamia nut butter. This butter is a popular addition to the breakfast menu at Kona, where it’s served with the Macadamia Nut Pancakes (see our review of the pancakes here!). At dinner, it’s a unique addition to the warm rolls.
For this visit, I went with two All Day Offerings, one Dinner Offering and a side. The menu is fairly eclectic here, with some dishes having subtle touches of island flavor and others being very island-forward.
The Duck Fried Rice with Confit Leg is one such island-forward dish. Fried rice is dotted with peppers, onion, shitake mushrooms, small bits of duck, and egg. A fried spring roll on top also contains duck. Bok choy provides a bit of color. Overall, the fried rice was sweeter than expected, and delicious.
The star of the dish, though, is the confit duck leg, which is succulent and savory. The sweet togarashi is the dominant spice here, so if you’re familiar with and enjoy the ubiquitous Japanese spice, you’ll enjoy this dish. Fans of duck will also appreciate its use here.
The Big Kahuna Burger is little messy but flavorful. It’s a burger (more on this in a moment!) topped with sauteed pastrami, corned beef, pepper jack cheese, mustard aioli, and tangy cucumber.
The toppings are generous, and the pastrami and corned beef bring lots of flavor. Subtle heat from the pepper jack is a nice addition as well. The aioli adds some much-needed moisture.
The burger, though, was probably the least exciting thing we ordered overall. The flavors were fine, but the patty was a bit overdone and there were definitely more enticing things on the menu. That said, if you’re in a burger mood, this and the Crispy Cheese Burger we discussed in our lunch review are decent options (click here for that lunch review!).
The big ticket items at Kona Cafe are found on the Dinner Offerings where the 20-oz. Bone-In Black Angus Ribeye comes in at $55! (If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, this is a big value for you… except you’ll likely need to order a side.) The ribeye is a beautiful cut of meat, and the grill marks and visible seasoning are really compelling. Arugula and a braised cipollini onion are the only accompaniments, and they’re definitely more garnish than side dish.
The meat was cooked perfectly (I ordered it medium-rare), and it carried great flavor from the grill and seasonings. I was honestly impressed.
If a big slab of meat is all you need for a meal, you might not be too concerned about a side; but like a lot of steakhouses, Kona Cafe offers a number of sides that pair well with the steak. Roasted Heirloom Carrots are an intriguing option, as is the Lobster and Crab Mac and Cheese (already a guest favorite), but I went with a true classic: Creamy Mashed Potatoes. These were very good — creamy as per the description and a generous portion definitely share-able. The flavor was spot-on!
I was also stoked to try a couple of options from Sauces! You know I love a good sauce, and these were delicious! Togarashi Hollandaise is a bright fusion of two powerful flavors, and the Horseradish Cream Sauce was potent enough to really hold its own. (A little of this added to the Big Kahuna might’ve helped things along, too…)
Desserts here also had a makeover recently, and we tried them during our lunch visit when the new menu first came out in January. The five options — all served in small glasses — include Tiramisu, S’mores, Tapioca Pudding, Bananas Foster, and Key Lime.
Each dessert is $5.00, and the ones we tried were all delicious, with Key Lime slightly nudging out Tiramisu as our favorite. Tapioca Pudding was great, too!
Kona Cafe is still a good option for table service — particularly if you’re unable to find a table service ADR to your liking in Magic Kingdom and want something nearby. The Monorail ride over to the Polynesian is a nice escape from the park, and the decent menu offerings at Kona are a tasty way to fuel up for a night of fireworks and fun.
That said, it currently seems to me that Kona Cafe is being presented as a “stand-in” for an absent signature dining experience in the deluxe level and every expensive Polynesian Village Resort. The steakhouse additions to the menu and high-end ($$$) options are clearly a move to show guests that they don’t have to go to Citricos, Narcoossee’s, or California Grill to get signature-level dining when they’re staying here. But the atmosphere here is still that of a moderate-level dining location, so I think they have a way to go to convince high-paying guests that this is the date night they deserve.
However, in the meantime, those who are dining on the standard Disney Dining Plan are going to be able to get some expensive options for their one-credit payment here…so make hay while the sun shines.