OHANA RESTAURANT REVIEW

INTRODUCTION

‘Ohana is a large restaurant at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. This restaurant is one of several Table Service options at the Polynesian. I will not bury the lede, I think ‘Ohana (on its night) is one of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World. We first heard about this eatery from our close friends who visited during the family trip in September 2015. They came back raving so we decided we needed to try it.

We visited during our November 2017 trip and from there we have decided that it will be a regular stop for us whenever we return to Disney World. For us, it is not just the food (which would almost be enough by itself), but it is the entire experience.

During our December 2018 trip, we came to the conclusion that it may be time for a break with ‘Ohana. We will get more into that in the following review, but I wanted to make sure that I stated that at the beginning. What I have continued to read (and now experience) is that it is incredibly inconsistent.

I am beginning to form an opinion that I prefer to dine outside of the parks. My reasoning is two-fold: variety and change of pace. First, I think there is significantly more variety at the different resorts and Disney Springs. Do not get me wrong, I think there are some amazing options in the parks. World Showcase in Epcot, alone, contains several unique and amazing dining options.

The change of pace is a major reason why I love dining outside of the parks. First, it can be significantly easier to get an advance dining reservation at resort or Disney Springs restaurants. Second, the feeling completely changes when you leave the parks. You can experience time slowing down which I think is a nice perk. We spend days at a time sprinting around the parks, it is a nice change to not have to sprint through a dinner.

ATMOSPHERE

After that lengthy introduction, I will actually get to the business of reviewing ‘Ohana. It is difficult to understand the atmosphere inside the walls of this restaurant without understanding the atmosphere of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The Polynesian opened in 1971 as one of two onsite resorts. It sits serenely next to Seven Seas Lagoon.

When guests enter the resort, time seems to slow down. Island time takes over and every care seems a bit less significant. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating slightly.

The Great Ceremonial House is the central hub of life at Polynesian. It houses the front desk, a gift shop, and several restaurants. Disney even pipes in “the smell of the Islands” to immerse guests in the tropical mindset. To tell the truth, this is why Polynesian is not very high on Sarah’s list. She cannot stand the fake smell.

You enter the restaurant and are greeted by a score of tiki figures. After you pass the tikis, you walk into the grand dining room with the kitchen sending out delicious-smelling food right next to the entrance. As your server grabs you some ‘Ohana bread, you look out over Seven Seas Lagoon and see Cinderella’s Castle glimmering in the distance.

Strangely, I think that where you are seated in the restaurant massively impacts your experience. During our November 2017 trip, we sat in the corner next to the windows. I remember getting feedback that people could not understand how I categorized this dining room as quiet.

I fully understood their feedback once we sat in the middle of the restaurant next to another family sweating and consuming massive amounts of alcohol and meat.

So hot tip: make sure you ask to be seated on the exterior of the restaurant.

FOOD

Speaking of food at ‘Ohana, it is incredible. The Walt Disney World website categorizes ‘Ohana as American, Polynesian Cuisine. Fortunately, the menu is much more Polynesian than it is American. The important thing to understand is that this is a prix fixe menu. It begins with ‘Ohana Pineapple-Coconut Bread and Mixed Greens Salad with a Lilikoi dressing.

The bread was great for two different reasons. The first was that it was delivered fresh to our table while our server walked with us there. The second was because it was a really nice starter. We expected the pineapple and coconut to overtake the bread and for it to be too much, however, it was subtle and delicious. Neither Sarah or I wasted much of our stomach space on the salad, but it was above-average.

We went ahead and threw some alcoholic beverages that were INCREDIBLY strong during our December 2018 trip. Like, seriously, we took one sip and almost could not stand finishing them. BEWARE! These will get you!

Next came the appetizers that we were really interested in. The shareable platter of goodness came straight from Heaven and dropped onto our table. It included Noodles tossed in a Teriyaki Sauce, Pork Dumplings tossed in Garlic-Ginger Sauce, Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings, and Stir-fried Vegetables.

If I had to rank the items on the platter, I would go: dumplings, noodles, wings, and vegetables. These dumplings have convinced Sarah that she loves dumplings. My main problem with the wings was that some of them were undercooked. That is a very rare occurrence at Disney World. We loved the food so much, we asked for another platter.

After starters and appetizers were done, it was time for the meat. Our friends have an expression for menus like ‘Ohana’s. We say that restaurants like these are so amazing because they give you a chance to experience the glory of “meat sweats”.

‘Ohana has several different types of meat to induce meat sweats. There is Sweet-n-Sour Chicken, Szechuan Sirloin Steak, and Spicy Grilled Peel-n-Eat Shrimp. All of these meats are presented to guests on massive skewers that were recently removed from an open flame. Man, these are amazing. Sarah is a massive fan of shrimp, so she claims that as her favorite. I am more of a steak person, myself, so I will call that my favorite meat.

We sat and ordered meat, after meat, after meat. This was fine during our 2017 trip, but during our 2018 trip, our server was incredibly inattentive. We would see her once and then she would not come back for a very long time. This meant that we were not able to trick our stomachs into continuing to fill. They left room for us to eat sensibly! Shame on them!

These meats came with several interesting dipping sauces. There was a peanut sauce and a sweet and sour sauce. Both Sarah and I could probably drink the peanut sauce with no accompaniments. It was really good. I thought that the sweet and sour sauce was too sweet. I made a remark that it tasted like melted Jolly Ranchers. At first, Sarah thought this was nonsense (probably because it was), but she started to see what I was saying.

Then came the dessert. I believe that there was actual divine intervention when we visited ‘Ohana on November 12, 2017. Sarah and I looked at the menu and we were not really feeling the dessert option.

The ‘Ohana Bread Pudding a la mode was not appealing to us at the time. I needed to go to the bathroom so I tasked Sarah with asking if we could skip dessert. This is where God stepped in and saved us, poor sinners. Sarah missed the opportunity to ask and our server delivered the bread pudding to our table.

Since it was there, we decided we might as well give it a try. We may not have made a better decision since we have been married. It was amazing. As Sarah put it in our small, Moleskine journal: “it was amazeballs.”

This is very high praise! It was sweet, but not too sweet. It was warm, but balanced nicely with the ice cream. The warm caramel sauce was the figurative cherry on top. We wanted to ask for another one, but neither of us could breathe enough to request it.

COST

According to the Disney World website, ‘Ohana is classified with “$$-$$$” which means adults should expect to pay roughly $15-$59.99, per adult. If you are paying out-of-pocket, you can plan on paying $21.30 for children and $36.21 for adults for breakfast and $26.63 and $48.99 for dinner. That makes it a fairly expensive Disney meal.

For the Disney Dining Plan users, this restaurant requires one Table Service credit per person. This is one of the better uses of a Dining Plan credit on property. The food is amazing and all-you-care-to-enjoy. The atmosphere is laid-back and relaxing. But most importantly, that bread pudding!

Hot tip: If you really want to squeeze as much value as possible out of ‘Ohana, book during the nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom! You may need to get there fairly early to snag a table, but you get a remarkable view of the show from across Seven Seas Lagoon. For the Tables in Wonderland users, ‘Ohana has a 20% discount.

WHO SHOULD EAT HERE?

Sometimes I grow tired of roundly proclaiming that every person should eat at every restaurant that I review. There are just so many great choices at Walt Disney World! The best problem to have is to choose between two (or 15) great options. However, I would advise you to prioritize ‘Ohana very highly. It is a wonderful place to eat. Specifically, I think there are a couple of groups that may especially enjoy ‘Ohana.

First, I would recommend this restaurant to families who want to have a semi-interactive experience. There are activities for kids to enjoy while their parents are drinking fruity, but surprisingly strong drinks. If you are wanting a quieter experience, make sure to ask to be seated away from the center of the dining room.

Second, I would recommend this to anyone who loves meat. If you are a vegetarian, you will not experience the fullness of this eatery. This meal is centered around the skewered meat. If you are a full-blooded carnivore, you will be very happy at ‘Ohana.

 

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