Polynesian (Village) Resort at Christmas, Kona Cafe Review, Construction Continues – 12/5/14

Edit: Disney released some new renderings of the bungalows here: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2014/12/new-details-announced-for-disneys-polynesian-villas-and-bungalows/

We’ll check in on Polynesian Village Resort construction, check out the holiday decorations, and grab sushi at Kona Cafe.

Progress is being made inside the lobby where the front desk recently reopened with a slightly different layout.

The changes here aren’t exactly night and day and it’s not entirely finished. The blinds are still drawn with construction continuing outside. The rock work behind some of the podiums are new. The desks are shorter and allow for cast to interact more intimately with guests. You may remember Art of Animation resort was the first resort to utilize that setup.

This is what it looked like last year with longer desks, wood paneling, and artwork, but it’s the same general idea.

Simple curtains now surround the center of the lobby, which is expected to open sooner rather than later, despite looking a ways off from completion:

We’re after-hours here, but a lot of work continues throughout the day.

Looking down the hall.

Decorations remain sparse here. The Poly is not historically one of the “must see” resorts for the holidays, though it’s on the monorail, which makes it easy to pop in for a few minutes to check out the little trees and few wreaths:

That’s about it. In unrelated news, there are few better ways to make friends at the Poly than carrying around a Lapu Lapu. Every other person will ask you what it is and where you got it. To which you can reply, “It’s a pineapple…”

Moana Mercantile replaces Trader Jack’s upstairs. Moana is otherwise a Disney animated musical film set for a late 2016 release. #synergy

New beverage coolers look to be installed next door at the snack store.

Drinks (temporarily?) relocated at Moana.

A large assortment of “Hawaiian Host” products available for sale. Considering shipping starts at $11 when purchased directly from their site, there might some value here.

Fetzer Crimson wine-by-the-glass is perhaps a little more classy than those Copa cups. Or at least fewer people might realize that a 750ml bottle runs $8.95.

The resort’s official opening next year will hopefully bring some Polynesian Village Resort merchandise. Until then, it’s the same stuff along with a mixture of Adventureland items from Downtown Disney’s Marketplace Co-Op.

The Pineapple Lanai continues to serve Dole Whips. As far as I know the operating hours remain 12pm to one hour after Wishes.

Same prices as when it debuted.

The Kona Island sushi/coffee bar recently reopened after a brief refurbishment. There’s a surprising number of empty seats at this casual eatery for a Friday at 8:30pm, but the resort remains under heavy construction with hundreds of rooms out of inventory for their DVC conversion.

Morning menu:

Who orders an ounce of wine? Kona Island should begin serving sushi and Kona Cafe’s full menu nightly at 5pm.

The website has run a few Kona reviews in the past.

There are probably a couple more.

Chopped together menu:

The menu has seen an awful lot of changes throughout the various reviews over the last 3+ years, but mainstays like the sticky wings, lump crab cakes, potstickers, Kona salad, Pan-Asian noodles, Kona-coffee rubbed pork chop, pan-seared duck breast, and togarashi spiced ahi tuna endure. Other items like the steak and lamb chops are still available with different sauces and accoutrements. Generally speaking, the items that don’t change are your best bets. Items like the steamed pork buns, sesame seared sea scallops, and oven-roasted taal chicken would be gutsier choices.

Mmmmmmmmmm Kona sweet bread is my second favorite bread service on property, behind only the onion rolls at Yachtsman.

Airy, light, and slightly sweet, it pairs excellently with the macadamia nut butter.

The website will have a full review of the new resort bar menu shortly. This is a Moscow Mule (Russian Standard Vodka, fresh Lime Juice, and Agave Nectar topped with Ginger Beer) in front and a Fireball Cocktail (Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and RumChata Cream Liqueur) behind. The Mule is a refreshing, slightly sweet cocktail, while the Firecracker is reliably creamier with some spice on the back end.

We started with the Lump Crab Cakes with Jalapeño-Lime Cream – $12.49. These are a bit strange – the exterior is pan fried crispy, while the inside is creamy to the point where the cakes might seem mushy and undercooked, even though that is how they are supposed to be prepared. They have more of a potato pancake quality than your typical “lump crab” cake. While they have a seafood quality to them, the batter is blended so thoroughly that there aren’t really any crab chunks to speak of. The jalapeno cream on the side adds some zip if that’s your preference. Overall, I wouldn’t put these into the “must get” category, but they are a nice, shareable appetizer while you wait.

Several of the sushi rolls are on display inside the restaurant where they make the sushi:

Kona sushi is reliably high quality – we’re not talking Jiro Dreams of Sushi here, but it’s on par with any local place Lisa and I tried here in Orlando, including staples like Seito, Kobe, and Nagoya (our favorite). California Grill is going to be a little more innovative for twice as much money. Epcot’s Tokyo Dining quality is similar at slightly higher prices.

Lisa ordered the Caterpillar Roll – Inside out Tuna Roll, Shrimp Salad Tempura Crunch topped with a layer of Avocado – $12.99 which looks sort of creepily like a caterpillar here.

Not much better. This is a proficient roll consisting of ten sizable, fresh pieces of sushi. I’m not sure there’s much more to say – it tastes like it should and is a good value for the quality and amount of food. It would destroy any of the quick service sushi available at Epcot’s Katsura Grill or any of the resort quick services.

I ordered the Beef Tataki – Beef Lightly-seared then Marinated, Thin-sliced, and served with Ginger Dressing and Sesame – $10.99 which is about a third of the cost of the steak for a similar number of bites. The beef arrived rare in a slightly spicy marinade, topped with green onions. The texture of cold, spicy beef may not appeal to everyone, but it’s a lot of beef for the money and comes recommended.

For the sake of snacks-for-later, I ordered the Kona Combo Plate – California Luau Roll, Salmon Sashimi, and Tuna Poke – $13.99. Ordering at sushi restaurants is always difficult for me because everything sounds the same. What is eel sauce? Do I care if it comes with scallions? Are tempura flakes going to make a difference? Do I make Lisa order the Orgasm Roll over the phone? What is the difference between white and red tuna?

The Combo Plate offers some variety. The California Luau Roll sounds a little more promising than what’s delivered – it’s supposed to be jumbo lump crab, pineapple, and avocado, but it’s instead much heavier on the rice portion. There’s a little sweetness from the little pineapple chunk and some flavors of the sea from the crab, but it’s not a particularly intense or flavorful roll and I was glad to have about a third of the regular size.

The flavor profile of the tuna pokes is similar to what’s served at the Hawaii booth at Food and Wine. Only each one of these is about three times as much tuna as you’d get at the booth. The regular $11.99 version comes with one more Poke, so they are worth about $4 each. Anyway, the crisps underneath add a nice crunch to the ahi tuna, which has a bit of a kick from the spicy sauce on top. Very good. The salmon sashimi to the left was fresh and flavorful.


Kona is a nice stop for a casual, relatively inexpensive sushi dinner or you can opt for some of the more expensive entrees. Restaurant menus at WDW have become so homogenized (everybody is serving the same $33 steak, the same $25 pork chop, the same $29 lamb chops, the same $20 chicken breast, etc.) that I’m not sure Kona stands out for its unique variety of dishes anymore. Even the steak loses the teriyaki sauce preparation that it has offered for the last 10+ years. But Kona is relatively convenient to Magic Kingdom and the other resorts on the monorail and is unlikely to disappoint. It will be interesting to see what the landscape looks like once Trader Sam’s opens next year.

Should have Magic Kingdom and Epcot updates on the horizon.


  1. Jacky says

    Omg….why did they change the steak? That steak at Kona was one of the best dishes at WDW. I think I’m canceling my reservation for this weekend.

  2. Liz says

    Disney loves to mess with things that are perfectly fine (and in many cases, cherished)…and then they take forever to do it. The most heartbreaking example of this is the demolition of the beautiful Poly lobby waterfall. I’ve read ‘reasonable explanations’ and they all seem hollow. The soul of the Poly was that waterfall…not just the aesthetics but the sound and that wonderful smell, all gone. Really a shame.

  3. JenniferS says

    “Mmmmmmmmmm Kona sweet bread is my second favorite bread service on property, behind only the onion rolls at Yachtsman.”
    I agree 100%.
    Yachtsman just barely edged out Narcoossee’s as the best meal on our recent trip; largely due to the onion rolls. I might have eaten three of them!

  4. GrumpyDad4 says

    Nagoya is good. Dropped in once to grab lunch and was pleasantly surprised. I will also miss the waterfall and wonder if the new look will have that instant impact. As I look at your construction photos all I think of is someone yelling: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”

  5. IndyND says

    We haven’t eaten at Kona since 2012 and it looks like most of what we had is off the menu. Is that what the Kona Kone looks like now? My daughter is going to be mad. It was a lot more fun to order when it was a full cone with cotton candy at the base.

  6. Tricia says

    We loved our meal at Kona Island. It was great that we could walk up and have a great meal without having a reservation. We sat at the bar facing the monorail/window and no one was sitting near us so it was like our own little area. I would absolutely eat here again!

  7. andrew says

    The wonderful smell of the waterfall? I loved the lobby the way it was too but the smell was of dank mold, certainly not wonderful to me, but to each their own I guess. After making my first trip to Disneyland last month I’m excited to see what Trader Sam’s will bring to our coast. Like everything a Disneyland, it was over run with the entitled locals so a seat at the bar was impossible. We went 3 times during our trip and the same 10 people occupied the same 10 bar stools all 3 times and they shared 3 drinks between all 10 of them. Either way, my wife and I still had a good time, but I was a bit underwhelmed, maybe it was hyped too much. Hoping for more interactive elements when it makes it’s WDW debut!

  8. Huey says

    @Josh….we are planning trip to WDW on Nov 14,2015. How much of WDW parks and resorts will have Christmas decorations up ? I’m figuring maybe 50% would this be a correct estimate? TIA

  9. Jen B says

    I was at Kona in November for lunch. It was a nice break from MK and gave us a reason ro ride the Monorail loop around (my kids 1st visit). I remember going to eat at the Poly as a kid and I had so many good memories of it. Sadly my kids saw it as all walls without all the wow factor, but we’ll go back eventually. My lunch at Kona though was awesome. I chose this restraunt mainly so my kids could get the Mickey Ravioli, and I had the fish tacos which were awesome. The desserts were great too. We went at an off time for the cafe with the sushi bar part closed. Next time we go back all the hotel construction will be done by then (hopefully).

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