‘Ohana Dinner Review and Polynesian Resort Construction Update – 6/13/14

We’ll take a moment to head out to the Polynesian resort for dinner at O’hana’s, our favorite Irish pub on property to try their newest scotch and Guinness flight. Wait a second. I’m dreaming again. It’s ‘Ohana, where “The call of a conch shell welcomes you to an evening of Hawaiian-flavored specialties, storytelling and games.” Gregg and family from the site’s forums were nice enough to invite Lisa and I out for dinner so we have a bit of company.

Like much of the rest of the resort, walls are up all around the restaurant and Tambu Lounge to the point where neither is visible from much of the lobby. Trader Sam’s is expected to go in elsewhere – Tambu should remain to serve drinks to the two restaurants.

Fortunately, ‘Ohana doesn’t suffer much from the lobby refurbishment directly as it’s in the back corner of the second floor. This is your view from Kona Cafe.

The view as guests disembark the monorail with Kona sushi on the left.

Back to the task at hand. Request a table in the main dining room if you have kids interested in participating in the various cast-member-led activities. It seemed like things had been toned down from previous visits – there was the occasional announcement that something like a hula dancing competition was about to start, but they either didn’t get any volunteers or the activities weren’t as prolific as they were back in the day.

‘Ohana is not a restaurant you want to plan to be at if you’re interested in a nice view of Wishes. There are only a handful of tables with a Magic Kingdom view. ‘The restaurant is often backed up so if you’d like to see Wishes after your meal, schedule it 90 minutes to two hours before Wishes is scheduled to begin. That should be plenty of time to finish and walk down to the beach for the show.

Menu:

There have been a few changes to the menu in recent memory, including the removal of the chicken skewer, addition of vegetarian lettuce wraps, and a change in accompanying sauces.

Dinner is served family style, which gives diners little control over what’s brought and replenished when, not to mention the sheer amount of food that covers the tables. So much was brought out that we had to trade out the dumplings for the chicken wings intermittently.

‘Ohana’s dense pineapple coconut bread is a major step down from Kona Cafe’s fluffy sweet bread with macadamia nut butter in this celebrity Disney blogger’s opinion, but this is not a restaurant that you want to fill up on bread anyway. We were brought three long loaves for six people, resulting in Disney throwing two and a half loaves away, which seems like a shame. The salad was fresh with crunchy lettuce and a fruity flavor from the dressing and mandarin oranges.

Vegetarian lettuce wraps are up next.

Flavor was bland on these with just a little ginger showing through the crunch. I would guess these will be re-tooled sooner rather than later. They’re a bit superfluous with the salad and won’t do much to satisfy vegetarians uninterested in the skewers.

The pork dumplings arrive with a similar sauce – this time more ginger-y and garlic-y than the wraps.

The dumplings have a nice crispy exterior and a slightly spicy pork-y interior. Very good.

A serious bowl of stir-fried vegetables, lo mein noodles, and honey-coriander chicken wings arrives before the skewered meat. The wings were meatier than the usual and the subtly sweet sauce should be enjoyed by most guests. I could have made a meal out of the dumplings and noodles, which were lightly stir-fried with a touch of teriyaki sauce. The vegetables remained al dente and had a nice crunch as well.

Hot towels arrive for sticky fingers.

Sweet-n-Sour Pork Loin, Szechuan Sirloin Steak, and Spicy Grilled Peel-n-Eat Shrimp arrive via skewers that your server will fork down onto your plate at your request. Pork is pictured on the skewer – it retained its juices and had a nice sweet flavor to it – very good.

The steak was cooked to a perfect medium for the most part. Some pieces were a bit fattier than others as is often the case and some pieces were even rarer than this. Request what you’re looking for if you’re picky. They’ll bring as much as you want.

The grilled peel-n-eat shrimp are messy, but the shell was easier to remove than I remember and the shrimp were quite large. I started with a half-dozen that were as large as what you’d expect from one of those $13 shrimp cocktails appetizers around property.

Dessert remains the delicious ‘Ohana Bread Pudding à la mode with Bananas-Caramel Sauce. The picture is not indicative of the immense size of the two slices delivered to our table. Not that size is of much consequence here as there is literally no end to how much more they will bring you. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

The bread pudding is predictably light and airy, served warm with vanilla ice cream on top and a side of bananas foster sauce. I am not a person that would order bread pudding under most circumstances, but this really is delicious. The banana sauce is not overwhelmingly banana-y and complements the dish nicely.

‘Ohana is not an inexpensive proposition at around $42/adult and $20/child without characters or much of a view for most people. That does include what amounts to three or four courses and bottomless non-alcoholic beverages. Food quality was better than I was expecting and there is a ton of it – too much really. Considering it’s a family-style dinner with a set menu, it “feels” like there’s a surprising amount of variety when you consider you’re served 11 different items. I wouldn’t say the pace of the meal “felt” rushed – we were served salad as the first course at 5:43pm and dessert was delivered at 6:55pm. My personal preference is the traditional buffet experience where I can control what I want to get when. With that said, ‘Ohana is a satisfying meal, but it felt like something was missing – perhaps because we were seated just inside the entrance far removed from the main dining room and the windows that line it or due to the lack of children running around the restaurant with ukuleles bugging everyone that isn’t related to them.

Major construction continues around the Polynesian inside and out.

The water feature just inside the entrance is walled off entirely while it’s removed.

Around the first floor.

Looking back at check-in and concierge ahead on the left.

The old Wyland Gallery soon to be a Dole Whip outpost.

The BouTiki store is now a dead end.

While the store remains open. (There’s no gate on the main entrance.)

Outside, your theme park balcony view room is temporarily obscured by construction.

And then at some point in the future, permanently obscured by the bungalows themselves.

From the second floor.

It remains to be seen how things turn out, but this is an awful lot of beach blocked by a few guest rooms.

The Nanea pool and bar close on July 26th for a refurbishment that’s expected to continue through spring of next year. Rooms lining the pool are expected to be taken out of inventory, cutting down the number of rooms in use to around just 400 or a bit less than half of the total number available.

Captain Cook’s remains closed through August.

The art makes it look basically the same, which is probably why the refurbishment is only taking six months.

In addition to the construction, the monorail will be operating at a reduced schedule beginning June 22nd as Disney sets out to improve automation:

  • Resort monorail – 8:30am to 12am (down from 7am to one hour after regular close)
  • Express Monorail – 9:30am to 11:30pm (down from 8:30am – one hour after regular close)
  • Epcot Monorail – 9am to 11pm (down from 8am – 11pm or 12am)

Disney plans to offer additional buses and watercraft during the outages. Buses are actually faster and more convenient than the other options and the monorail should be operating for most return trips, even if it means taking a faster bus in the morning.

January crowd calendar preview incoming.

Comments

  1. josh says

    I’ve heard of some pretty slick rates out there via Expedia and whatnot. Even with some of the construction nonsense, a sub $200 rate is tough to pass up given the location and remaining amenities.

  2. weepstah says

    “The art makes it look basically the same, which is probably why the refurbishment is only taking six months.”

    Zing!

    Jesus, this Poly refurb is the most depressing thing since they torn down Horizons and replaced the Tiki Room with Under New Management!

  3. David says

    If you can’t manage keeping both dumplings and wings on the table at all times, why even continue this silly blog?

  4. Mike says

    Bummer for those staying at a monorail resort and want to take the resort monorail in to arrive at MK by 8:30am or before. They should really start resort monorail service at 8am.

  5. Agnes says

    At the risk of sounding like a kiss a**, it’s nuts how awesome these pictures are – so much detail and color. The one of the main dining room looks like it came straight from a brochure. You’ve come a long way from those tilted days.

  6. Someone says

    Just stayed at Poly for two days in Samoa. Had a great time…construction did not bother us one bit :-)

  7. Phyllis says

    Josh, you are a published author now. Nice enough to invite Lisa and I should be nice enough to invite Lisa and me. Use the “try it separately” rule….to invite Lisa, to invite me. Now put it together…to invite Lisa and me. You really do write a good blog. I love ‘Ohana. I’m glad they dropped the chicken skewer. I think the other three skewers can be better enjoyed.

  8. Rob Huddleston says

    Ugh. I would love to try ‘Ohana (or O’hana, for that matter) for dinner. Alas, I am a slave to giant furry characters that my boys love to assault, so another Lilo & Stitch breakfast. At least the juice is a refreshing option at breakfast. Sigh.

  9. Greg says

    Are the Beef skewers spicy? My kids love chicken but with it gone from the menu, beef will be their choice (they don’t like pork or shrimp). But, like most young kids they don’t like spicy.

  10. Scott says

    Excited to read this review and after numerous trips to Disney finally got an Ohana ADR for the time we wanted.

  11. josh says

    Not unless you want to have an aneurysm. A 2-bedroom theme park view at Bay Lake starts at $830. I would guess a Bungalow would start around $1,200? Maybe more as there are only a handful.

  12. Megan says

    I’ve heard rumors that the Bungalows will only be available to DVC members whose home resort is the Polynesian. Who knows if that’s true.

    The Poly looks depressing. Wow.

  13. Heather says

    Reading a positive ‘Ohana review was refreshing. I’ve recently read multiple threads on the DIS about how how it’s gone down hill, it’s terrible now, don’t bother going, I cancelled my reservation because they dropped the chicken skewers from the menu, I’m never going again, etc… I’m still really looking forward to going in August.

  14. neffernie says

    Thanks for the construction update. I am glad I decided to drop our ‘Ohana ADR for this trip. I still love the restaurant, but the walls all over the place are too depressing. I will wait until they finish before going back so we can check out the new look.

  15. Wendy says

    did you see any kids eating any other sort of food at O’hana? My kids aren’t big meat eaters and my daughter has a peanut allergy and I know they use peanut sauces there. My husband and I would like to try this on our next visit but hope they could bring our kids maybe a more child friendly meal from Kona if possible.

  16. terri says

    yes they will bring the kids chicken tenders or hot dogs and fries if you ask :-)
    weve eaten here loads of times x

  17. Pam H. says

    I can’t wait for Trader Sam’s to be finished. I’ve been to Trader Sam’s in California and it is the most amazing place to drink!

  18. Jan says

    So disappointed that the grilled chicken was taken off the menu. It was the best of all the choices. It was bad enough when Ohana’s took the turkey off the menu. That was always such a delicious addition. You give us chicken as a replacement & now you take that away. The beef tends to be fatty with some gristle, so we only eat some pieces. The shrimp is just too much work & the kids don’t like it (ewwwwww I have to touch that!). The pork can get a little dry but had great flavor. Hands down for my family was the chicken. There was no one who didn’t ask for 2nds, 3rds & sometime 4ths. What a shame…. guess the poultry farmers caught up & said you’re feeding folks too much chicken & we can’t keep up. Just like the turkey farmers did.

  19. says

    Polynesian has always been my favorite resort however im not a fan of the new changes. Not liking the bungalows and the transformation of DVC not to mention the construction is gonna ruin my vaca next week seeing im staying in the Hawaii building. I hope its worth it when its done but now that they are removing the water fall and centerpiece I don’t think it will be nice. Im very upset with Ohana removing its grilled chicken. the grilled chicken from ohana is the #1 food item I go to Disney for. That’s like taking away mickey ice cream bars or churros. im very disappointed in these changes.

  20. RebeccaMcK says

    My kiddo LOVED the shrimp at ‘Ohana but it was a lot of work for us to keep up with her, cutting the tails and legs off….ugh. She was eating it faster than we could eat just about anything else at the table. I liked our meal more than Hubby did, so we’ll stick to breakfasts there (whenever he’s with me, hehe). LOVE the breakfast – doing one in October, which is when I’ll see the updated Poly “stuff” in person (in progress or partly done).

  21. Amy says

    We just returned from 5 days at the Poly. Captain Cooks is still open, just relocated. We ate there twice. We had early breakfast reservations at Epcot but with the monorail on a modified schedule we were worried. We received a voucher for taxi service so we would make our reservation on time! I thought that was nice. We never heard any construction noises during our stay. It looks like a mess right now but it really wasn’t too bad.

  22. dusty cheatham says

    $$$$$$$ POLY $$$ P.O. RIVERSIDE, FRENCH QUARTER . BOB JACKSONS SHOW IN LOUNGE . POLY $$$$$ WALLS MONARAIL DOWN ,

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