We return to the beautiful Polynesian Village Resort for a fresh take on ‘Ohana dinner.
Previously, we’ve also considered the Disney Vacation Club Studio rooms.
I have a review of the Polynesian Luau here.
Finally, back on the ‘Ohana front, you’ll find a review of the breakfast experience featuring Mickey Mouse, Lilo, Stitch, and Pluto here.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed dinner at ‘Ohana. As a “known entity,” I think most people are familiar with the atmosphere, food, and service – the website usually focuses on new things with a publish date of a couple of months after whatever it is actually happened and minor quick service menu changes.
Here’s how Disney describes the call of the conch shell:
One important note is the fact that dinner begins at 3:30pm, which has made it easier to book a reservation. Checking for a same-day reservation as I type this up at 1:10pm on Friday October 19, 2018, there’s actually a reservation available for 4pm. It might be a little early for dinner, but you might also appreciate the extra digestion time before bed.
‘Ohana is an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal with the three meats – shrimp, chicken, and steak – delivered to the table on long skewers in as large of quantities as you’d like. I recently posted a list of exactly how much these fixed-price meals cost here. With tax, the current cost for ‘Ohana dinner is $55.38 for anyone over the age of nine and $30.89 for kids between the ages of three and nine. That’s up from the ~$42/adult and $~20/child I paid in 2014 in this prior review.
While Tambu Lounge is currently closed for renovations, you can still order a delicious Lapu Lapu at ‘Ohana, from a takeaway bar behind the ‘Ohana check-in area, and usually from the other bar on the second floor to the right of the Moana Mercantile store. The $14 cocktail is a mixture of Myers’s Original Dark Rum and Tropical Fruit Juices served in a fresh Pineapple topped with Goslings 151 Rum. You can save a couple of dollars by ordering it in a regular cup, but you should really go Full Pineapple – it makes things a lot more fun, particularly amidst the rambunctious atmosphere of the restaurant. It’s also available without the alcohol for around $10.
After checking in, your host or hostess will grab a loaf of the delicious Pineapple-Coconut Bread on your way to the table.
The plating is perhaps a little bland these days as the soft, sweet bread used to be served on these metal plates. There’s just a little bit of a tropical vibe as you’ll find a lot less actual pineapple in the dinner version as compared to breakfast.
Here’s the morning bread as a comparison with a sweet layer of pineapple underneath the iced top.
Very shortly after being seated, we were brought a fresh bowl of the Mixed Greens Salad with a Lilikoi Dressing. With so much heavy food on the way, the light, fruity tropical vinaigrette is welcome and the salad is vibrant and deliciously crunchy, particularly with the addition of the crispy wonton strips along with the lettuce, edamame, and fruit. Lilikoi is better known as passionfruit around these parts and you get a little bit of the puree in the salad as well.
While this is a bowl of “appetizers and accompaniments,” it’s actually the main event as far as I’m concerned. The Pork Dumplings tossed in Garlic-Ginger Sauce are delicious, fried to a perfect crispiness and stuffed with plenty of spiced pork, cabbage, and onion in the sweet and tangy garlic-ginger sauce. It’s really easy to eat a lot of those things.
In the middle is where you’ll find the delicious Noodles tossed in a Teriyaki Sauce with soy, pineapple, brown sugar, and ginger notes. The Yakisoba Noodles are thin and soft with the flavor of the sauce showing through nicely. It’s really easy to eat a lot of them.
Up front are the Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings, thick, meaty, tender and served piping-hot here. We lamented for a moment the lack of more drumette-style wings, but that may be a personal preference. The table next to us received 95% drumettes – perhaps we could have orchestrated some sort of trade. It’s really easy to eat a lot of them.
To the rear is a mixture of Stir-fried Vegetables – big pieces of broccoli, lots of mushrooms, peppers, and onions. I think most people are going to have between zero and one bite, but they’re prepared pretty nicely for the most part. The broccoli probably could have used some more seasoning. If you do have three or more bites of vegetables then it negates all of the calories in the other stuff, which is nice.
This is perhaps the worst picture of sauce of all time (of all time), but there is at least a drop of the Peanut Sauce visible on the spout on the left with the Sweet and Sour Sauce on the right. Of course, it could be the other way around. Both sauces are quite good – I like to dip the Dumplings in both and the Peanut Sauce tastes particularly good with the chicken that we’ll see in a moment.
It’s virtually impossible to take an attractive-looking picture of the three meats as your plate is inevitably going to be covered in sauce and noodles upon the arrival of the Sweet-n-Sour Chicken, Szechuan Sirloin Steak, and Spicy Grilled Peel-n-Eat Shrimp. But I did what many thought was impossible and managed to wait for all three options to arrive before plating them carefully on the tray that once held the bread.
The steak was tougher than I would have liked, but it was cooked and seasoned nicely with just a little bit of an Asian zing from the Szechuan Sauce. The chicken was “nicely blackened” I suppose you could say, but probably a little dry without the help of one of the two sauces. The Peel-and-Eat Shrimp are a messy endeavor as they arrive slathered in sauce and then need to be peeled.
It’s an easy process, but you’re going to appreciate the hot towels with that one. I was a bit surprised by how little of the sauces were on the various meats – I suppose it offers more opportunity to customize the flavor with the two provided sauces. The Shrimp carry just a little bit of spice and a touch of oak from the roasting process. I appreciated their firmness – nobody likes a floppy crustacean.
On the first go-around, I must have been served a solid ten ounces of steak across three thick pieces along with three sizable chunks of chicken and about six shrimp. It was certainly plenty to get started, but by the time the server came around a second time, the food had settled in my tum-tum and I wasn’t really in the mood to stuff more down. That probably ended up being a good thing considering how unwell I still felt later that night. I would offer one tip that everyone will probably ignore, but you don’t have to overdo it at ‘Ohana, no matter how easy it is to eat those dumplings. But we were offered a second and third helping of everything and found ourselves the proud owners of another tray full of far too many potstickers, noodles, and wings.
I’m not typically a Bread Pudding person, but the version served at ‘Ohana is delicious, served with a huge scoop of dense vanilla ice cream along with Caramel Sauce and Bananas.
What you’ve all been waiting for… THE OHANA BREAD PUDDING pic.twitter.com/noicmIhivI
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) October 6, 2018
Over 23,000 people have watched Erin pour the sauce over what “feels” closer to cake than pudding to me.
And here it is in all of its glory – the Bread Pudding is surprisingly light and airy given how dense it appears and the caramel sauce complements it nicely – sugary and sweet with just a tinge of banana flavor. They also have a “Children’s Dessert” in the “Brownie with a Marshmallow Topping and M&M’s.” Even if your party doesn’t consist of any young children, you can still ask for one to be delivered at no cost if somebody doesn’t think they’re into Bread Pudding. But I think you will be – it’s certainly worth giving it a try.
This time around, we were seated off to the side, away from the roasting meats and the majority of the action, which was probably okay given the makeup of our group. Erin in particular was disappointed that Aunty Lipoa is no longer at the restaurant playing her soothing ukulele songs. Her male replacement was just fine and part of the charm of the experience is listening to the live music in between the kids running around the place. On the plus side, we were seated just a couple of minutes after checking in, which was nice considering the restaurant can get backed up at times. The restaurant offers a limited view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from a few of the tables, but I don’t typically recommend booking a meal around fireworks time if you “have” to see the show. You’re certainly not guaranteed one of these tables and during the couple of meals where we were seated there, a dozen or more kids have always come over to crawl under the table and press their faces up against the glass right next to where you’re sitting.
I like to schedule my ‘Ohana dinner about two hours before the nighttime fireworks, particularly on holidays or Mickey’s Party dates where perimeter fireworks are featured. We like to grab a couple more Lapu Lapu drinks for the road and then head down to the beach to enjoy the show.
Overall, our experience at ‘Ohana was a pleasant one. I love the starters, but for the price you’re now paying, you’d think the steak could be higher quality and it wouldn’t kill them to peel the shrimp for you. For a more relaxing meal featuring similar food, you can always try Kona Cafe next door. The restaurant currently offers:
You could order Pot Stickers, Sticky Wings, a Kona Coffee-rubbed Filet, Grilled Chili-dusted Shrimp, and a Chicken Asian Stir Fry for $96.92 after tax and probably be able to take about half of the food home with you. Two adults at ‘Ohana will set you back $110.76, so you’d still have another ~$15 to spend on sodas and a dessert to split. Of course, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison even given the fact that the two restaurants are right next to each other and serve similar food. Kona’s Pot Stickers, Sticky Wings, and Yakisoba Noodles differ from the ones served at ‘Ohana. Once Tambu Lounge reopens, we’ll see what they’re serving there.
With ‘Ohana’s relatively high cost, it may also be worth comparing the experience there with the one at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge as reviewed here. The buffet offers much more variety for about $3/less per person.
The dinner buffet price at ‘Ohana is also identical to most character meal dinners, including Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios, where you’ll have an opportunity to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy in precious seasonal attire.
But ‘Ohana continues to stand on its own, offering enough variety to appeal to most demographics and it “feels” like a meal there is almost a rite of passage when it comes to visiting the Walt Disney World resort. I think the only issue you’ll run into is service, which is more hit or miss than most.
We’ll check in on Trader Sam’s downstairs next.