It has been years since I have been to ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and I have been looking forward to a return for a long time. Getting dining reservations at this popular restaurant can at times be as frustrating as Cinderella’s Royal Table or Anna and Elsa at Fairytale Hall, so when Tim Grassey – my co-host of the E-Ticket Report podcast – scored a dinner reservation and asked me to join him, I jumped at the chance to see if ‘Ohana was as good as I remembered it being. (Please note that all pictures in this article can be viewed at full size by clicking on them.)
I met Brandon Glover, the official staff photographer of the SATURDAY SIX, at the Poly’s Grand Ceremonial House, and we proceed to go upstairs to check in for our 8:20 PM reservation.
Once we checked in we were told that the restaurant was running about 15 minutes behind schedule. It was currently 8:00PM, so we were looking at a half hour or so before we would be called into the restaurant. There is a large area between the check-in desk and the restaurant with a good amount of seating while you wait. There is a lot of construction going on right now at the Poly, with so many construction walls around the area that Downtown Disney is becoming jealous. The Grand Ceremonial House has make-shift walls everywhere, including the area near ‘Ohana. These particular walls are covered in concept art for the renovation and look really neat.
We decided to hit the Tambu Lounge, which is located directly next to ‘Ohana. It has stools circling the bar and limited seating next to it.
We decided to try the Kona Longboard Island Lager and the Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale. Both were decent, and the price ($6.75 each) didn’t seem too bad for the size. We’re gonna need to come back and try some of the options on the bar menu, including the pulled pork nachos and the pork sliders.
At 8:45 PM our buzzer went off, and it was time to head into ‘Ohana. I recommend that you do whatever you can to make sure you are seated in the main dining area and, if possible, ask for a window seat. ‘Ohana has large windows with a gorgeous view overlooking the Magic Kingdom. What’s more, during the nighttime spectaculars such as Happy HalloWishes, the lights of ‘Ohana dim, and you can watch the fireworks display outside the window while the soundtrack plays throughout the restaurant. This was awesome. As if getting a reservation wasn’t hard enough, if you want to plan your dinner experience around these fireworks, try to schedule your ADR for about an hour before the start of the nighttime spectacular.
The main dining room is also home to the impressive pit at the center of the room where you can see various meats being grilled. There is a lot of fire going on here, making a great visual.
Once the food starts coming, it doesn’t stop. First up is the ‘Ohana Pineapple-Coconut Bread. I was informed by several of my dining companions that this bread is Fool’s Gold and that I should not fill up on it. However, I consider myself a true bread man and basically ate a whole loaf by myself. Very tasty.
The regular mixed green salad has been taken off the menu (although as of this writing it is still on Disney’s ‘Ohana online menu). Earlier this year ‘Ohana was serving the mixed green salad along with a new Lettuce Wrap. The lettuce wrap is all that is served now, but I believe you can ask the server for a salad as well.
Next up were the Pork Dumplings tossed in Garlic-Ginger Sauce and Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings. The pork dumplings are essentially pot stickers, something I am not a fan of anywhere else I have ever been, but these were great. A crispy shell and large piece of spicy pork are in the center. The wings may have been the hit of the table, as we had at least three refills on them alone. These were some of the best wings I have had anywhere. The sauce they are marinated in is honey-coriander. Now I always thought a coriander is what you strain spaghetti in, so don’t ask me exactly what it is, but I can assure you it tastes great.
Before the meat skewers started arriving, the server brought over cups of sweet-n-sour sauce along with a peanut sauce. I’m a big fan of the peanut sauce and ended up dipping everything into it: meat, chicken wings, bread, you name it.
Then came the meats. First came the steak, then pork, and finally the spicy grilled peel-n-eat shrimp. Chicken has been taken off the rotation. I thought both the steak and pork were cooked perfectly. I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp, but enjoyed the couple servings I had. For the people who did like shrimp at our table, these were the highlight of the night. What’s great about ‘Ohana is you can ask for more of whatever you want at any time. Don’t like a particular piece of meat because you feel it has too much fat on it? Stop eating it and ask for another one. I asked for more peanut sauce, and almost immediately there were two full cups brought over to me.
While you are enjoying the meat they also bring along plates of noodles and fresh vegetables. This dish was tossed in a teriyaki sauce and was very flavorful.
In the last year I’ve discovered that I really enjoy two desserts that I had spent most of my life avoiding. The first is Baked Alaska. I actually thought this was a fish dish my whole life (I’m sure you’re shocked, shocked to find out I was not raised in a family of foodies), but I ended up trying it on a Royal Caribbean cruise I took last fall. Loved it. I always assumed bread pudding was some awful dish from the U.K. that would rate high on my list with haggis and blood pudding as Things I Never Need To Eat. Now, I still may not know what regular bread pudding is, but ‘Ohana Bread Pudding is one of my favorite desserts on WDW property.
Two gigantic slices were delivered to our table, served with vanilla ice cream, and had a side of bananas-caramel sauce which you could pour over it. Basically it was like eating warm french toast with ice cream and an unbelievable syrup poured on top. This knocked my socks off. In my lifelong quest to develop adult-onset diabetes, the ‘Ohana bread pudding gets an A+. As with every other item on the menu, they will bring out as many slices as you want. If I hadn’t had a two hour drive home afterwards, I may have shut the place down and just passed out in a food coma in front of the fire pit.
At the end of a meal a stack of warm towels is delivered to the table.
Upon leaving the restaurant we took a quick tour around the Grand Ceremonial House for me to find all the pressed penny machines. On some of the walls there are fun photo ops with the Disney characters.
The main gift shop downstairs always has a lot of cool items, and now they also have a wide selection of merchandise that made its debut at the Marketplace Co-Op at Downtown Disney. I always enjoy seeing the painted coconuts that you can also get at the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop.
I found two pressed penny machines. The first was upstairs and strangely contained characters such as Pocahontas and Bruce the Shark from Finding Nemo. I liked getting pressed pennies of the various resorts I’ve visited and figured there has to be one for the Polynesian. The second machine is located in the main gift shop on the first floor.
This is what a dummy I am. There are five slots for coins in the machine so I tried almost every combination of two quarters and one penny, but it would never work. After I was about to lift the machine up and throw it out of a window (channeling Chief at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Brandon pointed out to me that it was a pressed quarter machine and took five quarters. The pressed quarter, itself, has Lilo on it and “Disney’s Polynesian Resort” at the top. If I had my druthers, when the Poly refurb is all done it will contain a couple more pressed penny machines with ‘Ohana, Kona Cafe, the bungalows, Stitch, and Bread Pudding, to start. Disney merchandising can write me at Derek@TouringPlans.com at any time to get my 30-page pressed penny wish list.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: I went into the evening hoping ‘Ohana was as good as I remembered it and – for me – it more than delivered. The service was impeccable. Our main server, Cathy, never made us feel rushed and always seemed to be around at the right time for refills of food or drinks (non-alcoholic drinks are included with the meal). In fact, in a playful way she encouraged us to be as gluttonous as possible. She’s a woman after my own heart. I mentioned earlier that the Tambu Lounge has a limited menu, and two of the items it offers are the Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings and a slice of the ‘Ohana Bread Pudding. So if you don’t get the ‘Ohana reservation you are looking for, you can always just stop by the bar and at least get a sampling of this incredible meal.
I know some consider ‘Ohana overrated, but even at $32.99 per person I felt it was a great meal and didn’t feel ripped off at all. The food quality from beginning to end was fantastic. Seeing (and hearing) HalloWishes was a nice surprise, and the entire experience ranked right up there overall with my time at Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue (which is one of my favorite things at WDW). To steal an idea from my friend Billy Hirsch, I now have a dry erase board in my house with two things written on it: Days Since My Last ‘Ohana Meal and Days Until My Next ‘Ohana Meal. And the latter can’t get here soon enough.
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All photos in this article are courtesy of Brandon Glover.