Aloha Cousins!

by Deb Wills

This article appeared as part of the
April 15, 2003, Issue of ALL EARS (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


'Ohana Sign

Long before Disney's animated sensations Lilo and Stitch taught us that, "'Ohana means family... nobody gets left behind," 'Ohana Restaurant at Disney's Polynesian Resort was celebrating family and bringing cousins together for dinner.

Located on the second floor of the resort's Great Ceremonial House, 'Ohana is well-themed with Polynesian decor and ambiance. Servers address all guests as "cousins" and you get a quick tour of the open kitchens (grill and dessert area) before you are actually seated. The atmosphere is very upbeat, lively and, well, Disney!

There is always a great deal of activity at the check-in podium, making 'Ohana easy to find. On a recent Sunday evening, we checked in at 5:30 -- it was already so busy, we were given a pager for our wait. Luckily, the cozy Tambu Lounge is adjacent to the restaurant and we were all able to kill the wait time by enjoying before-dinner beverages. Images of the NCAA tournament flickered across the big-screen TV, viewable from the lounge tables or from a seat at the bar.

Ohana Fire PitDinner at 'Ohana is an all-you-can-eat "feast" served tableside. The dining room is rather large, featuring a "main section" that houses the fire pit, as well as other, less prominent areas. If you want to be in the midst of any entertainment, be sure to request the main dining area -- conversely, request the quieter, smaller areas if you want to be less in the center of attention.

During our recent visit, our server promptly took our beverage orders while another server brought the starters and bread. A large six-sided lazy susan placed in the center of the table contained: stir-fried vegetables, salad with honey lime dressing, shrimp and vegetable wonton, honey coriander chicken wings, and stir-fried rice. The portion sizes were just enough to go around the table once and our server quickly brought whatever refills we desired.

'Ohana Laxy Susan Appetizer TrayThe overwhelming favorite starters of everyone were the Honey Coriander Chicken Wings and the Stir-Fried Rice. The chicken wings were very tasty, glazed in a tangy sweet honey sauce. (The Kona Cafe restaurant next door serves a similar item.) The Stir-Fried Rice, garnished with chopped scallions, was cooked perfectly -- a basic soy sauce and rice with a great texture. The stir-fried vegetables included baby corn, broccoli, pea pods, onions, red peppers and mushrooms. While they were too overcooked for my tastes, everyone else seemed to enjoy them. The one disappointment of all the starters was the shrimp and vegetable wontons. All but one diner thought they were rather wilty and there was no shrimp taste at all.

As we finished our starters, someone began talking on a microphone, welcoming all the "cousins" to 'Ohana -- it was the start of 'Ohana's entertainment segment. Soon there were children galloping around the dining room to music for the famous Coconut Races. Those seated at tables hooped and hollered or twirled their napkins, watching the young'uns make their way around the room. And, although we missed them on this particular evening, we know that hula contests are normally held here as well. If you are celebrating a special event, be sure to let your server know -- 'Ohana is the kind of place that is sure to do something special. It is also definitely a place for families looking for a fun dining experience.

Server bringing Food SkewersDuring a lull in the entertainment, our server brought the main course -- grilled meats and shrimp prepared at the open oak fire pit. Long skewers of Grilled Tiger Shrimp, Marinated Sirloin Steak, Mesquite Seasoned Turkey Breast and Barbecue Pork Loin are served and served and served, until you are full. The favorite was the Grilled Tiger Shrimp, with a spicy coconut grilled flavor that everyone enjoyed! The Marinated Sirloin Steak was tasty, but nothing special. The turkey breast and pork loin, though, were disappointing. While both had very good seasoning, they were also very dried out. Of course, it has to be hard grilling hundreds of skewers of food each night, and perhaps that's why dipping sauces are offered, too. The peanut sauce was a nicely done satay that went well with the turkey. The barbecue sauce was tangy and tomato-based with a little Tabasco and lots of brown sugar.

We each pushed back a little from the table, full from the feast. Plates were quickly removed and dessert, sliced fresh pineapple with caramel dipping sauce, was served. This was a nice, light touch after eating so much heavy food for dinner. If you are so inclined, ala carte desserts are available for $4.99 each: Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Pave and others.

A limited number of tables are alongside windows facing the Seven Seas Lagoon -- some even have a view of Cinderella Castle. If the Magic Kingdom's Fantasy in the Sky fireworks are showing you'll have a nice view. Or you can do what we did, and walk down to the beach to watch the fireworks from there.

Table Photo'Ohana is perfect for folks looking for a lot of food, but not a regular buffet. We would not, however, recommend 'Ohana as a place for a romantic and/or quiet dinner, nor is this a place for vegetarians. And if you have shellfish allergies, as some in our group, be sure to let your server know. Our food arrived with a skewer of shrimp resting against the skewer of pork. Upon request, the server served everyone else, then returned with meat-only skewers. Afterward, he remembered and brought the shrimp back separately.

Conversation levels often need to be raised to hear over the general noise of the open dining room and kitchen, as well as the entertainment (especially if you are in the main dining area). Diners are sometimes included in the entertainment, so if you want to avoid that, be sure to request a table off the main dining area.

Expect to wait for a table even with your priority seating. During the busiest times, those without a priority seating may have to wait an hour or longer for a table.

ALL EARS NET TIP: "Kudos to the podium CMs at 'Ohana! We couldn't have asked for a better table for the needs of our party. While it is never possible to guarantee special seating requests, podium CMs are very gracious and helpful if you'll just work with them a little bit. If you'd like a window seat or a fire pit seat, you can significantly improve your chances of getting what you want by arriving at the restaurant approximately 15 minutes ahead of your PS time and approaching the podium with a smile. Remember that Magic is a two-way street! Politely state your request and assure the CM that you "understand how many guests must ask you for this every day..." Finally, let the CM know that you have no problem waiting a few extra minutes to get what you want. Then have a seat, order a drink, and let a little Disney Magic happen to you!"

Dinner Price: Adults, $23.99; children 3-11, $9.99. Includes coffee, tea and soda. Tax, gratuity and ala carte desserts are extra.

For more information, visit the 'Ohana menu