Ok, so before we really dive into this one, somebody has got to tell me why Disney leaves the apostrophe before the “O” for the My Dinsey Experience listing of this restaurant! lol That has always confused the life out of me when looking for this one on the app!
Nonetheless, this is, without a doubt, one of my all time favorite meal experiences at Walt Disney World. Ohana, in the simplest of descriptions, is what very well could be one of the most relaxing table service meals you’ll ever have at Disney. From the casual atmosphere, to the picture perfect views of Magic Kingdom in the distance, to the soft notes of the ukulele being played just steps away, it’s a multi-sensory experience to say the least before you even get to the food!
In many ways, it is worth noting that Ohana is an incredibly difficult reservation to secure if you’re not dead set on booking it. Personally, I’ve had more luck fielding the cancellations the day before and day of when looking for reservations for this than I have trying to book it months in advance. Part of that is its inherent popularity, but another part of it is simply the reservation system and the cancelation fee coming into play in that last day before your dining experience.
In the big picture, this is one of the rare places I would say that the hype and grandiose cult-like following of a restaurant is warranted. Sure, there are better places to eat at WDW, but very few rival the family friendly nature, kid and adult balanced food offerings, and ultimately the feel of the experience overall. As much as I hate to admit it, this is a dining offering I will gladly pay the high price for time and time again and that price comes in at near $50 per adult. It’s not a budget friendly meal by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a huge value for the dollar here even beyond the food.
As soon as you walk into the Polynesian, the experience hits you like a ton of bricks. If you’ve been to the resort, you know the feeling and it really is indescribable in words. It’s as if you step through a portal and are instantly surrounded by new sites, sounds, and even smells that you cant find anywhere else. I genuinely believe a repeat guest could be blindfolded and walked into the lobby and they would know exactly where they were!
From the moment of meal check-in at the upstairs stand, that all encompassing experience goes a step further and the simple greetings from cast put you in the spirit of the meal. As your waiter or waitress approaches, they quickly offer up a soft bread with a sweet flavor and brief coconut aftertaste to it that truly sets the tone for the flavor palette of the meal. I’m a simple person when it comes to dining so I really enjoyed this as the brief starter to an incredible meal.
Before we really dive into the rest of the food, it’s important to note the set up of the restaurant. Families are each provided a large circular table and a vast majority of the tables have a window view out towards the resort property or even Magic Kingdom. Cinderella’s castle is even within eye shot in the distance. I reiterate that because it is something that really sets this place apart.
Throughout the meal, the location hosts special birthday announcements (coupled with a ukulele rendition of the classic song), coconut races for kids, and even some special surprises along the way.
The Food (What You All Came Here For Anyway)
Let’s be honest, you all clicked on a restaurant review to hear about the food more than just about anything else! The question is where to begin!?
The first series of items brought to your table include the aforementioned Pineapple-Coconut Bread but also a Mixed Greens Salad with Lilikoi Dressing. I am somewhat picky about salads, but I have to say this salad tastes far better than it looks and is a near perfect way to start this meal. Even if you just want to try it and save room for other items, it’s well worth the stomach space!
After that start, they bring what they call a series of appetizers. In all reality it’s essentially a “first course” featuring some of the highlights of the meal including Pork Dumplings tossed in Garlic-Ginger Sauce and the purely delightful Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings! If the meal stopped at the chicken wings, I would be thrilled. They truly are incredible and have a nice sweet flavor to them but they’re unlike any “sports bar” style wings you could get elsewhere and instead move into a much more diverse flavor profile. It is a huge welcomed change for wings in my opinion. Pair each of these with the Teriyaki style noodles and you are set to start the meal off right! The noodles look simple but they are in a sauce that is sweet and quite flavorful that may shock you when you take the first bite. I had low expectations for this portion of the meal but kept goin back for more of the noodles!
As the official main entrees start rolling around it’s important to note that each of them are bottomless. The items are carried around the room on massive skewers and at first you get two to three of everything and then as the staff rolls back around or you request more, they tend to drop off two to three additional items at a time. For some reason they don’t seem to like leaving just one more piece of your selected “seconds” so you’ll almost always get two or more of anything you ask for as it comes back around.
The giant skewers are the highlight of the meal in my humble opinion and arrive in style as Sweet-n-Sour Chicken, Szechuan Sirloin Steak, and Spicy Grilled Peel-n-Eat Shrimp. All of which are incredible. The steak steals the show and is probably the best “all you can eat” style entree I’ve had on Disney property. It’s not going to compete with top their steakhouses, but it has a very distinct flavor profile to it that is genuinely one of my favorite items to eat at any table service location on property. Plus, the fact that you can eat as much of it as you want is simply awesome in every way.
At the end of the meal, there’s one final aspect of the dining experience that has often been called the best dessert on Disney property. While that statement seems a bit bold in my opinion, I have to say it is the perfect way to cap off this meal.
The dessert is called Bread pudding a la mode, and the description does this meal item no justice whatsoever. The dessert is a soft bread pudding style base topped with two massive scoops of ice cream and coated at your table with a large container of warm caramel sauce. It’s a feast for the eyes and quite the presentation, but also one of the tastiest aspects of the entire meal.
If you’re hungry at the end of this meal, you’ve done something hopelessly wrong. You will be full for hours on end if you really make the most of the offerings. This is the near ideal example of what I talk about time and time again as “meal bridging.” For me, this is the ideal budget saving tactic to eat table service meals and not break the bank.
If you are really concerned about the price, think of it this way. If you eat this meal, you can likely skip lunch or eat a snack lunch and make this an early dinner to essentially replace two meals. Typically I’d recommend eating a late lunch and in doing so cover both lunch and dinner with one meal so that you don’t feel the need to spend money on another table service or counter service meal during your day. If you can do so effectively you’ll buy one high priced meal rather than two average meals.
In the case of Ohana things are a little different because they only serve breakfast and dinner. Either way, you can still book a really early dinner and use it as a late lunch and dinner at the same time to save a few dollars.
Ultimately, the question I always ask myself when doing these reviews is, “Does the experience rationalize the cost?” Our family spent $199 on this meal after a 10% annual passholder discount. That’s nothing to brush under the rug because it is a lot of money to say the least. Dining is a huge part of our trips though and that is ultimately what works for us. As a result, it is more than worth it for us to have that experience despite the cost. It’s not going to be a meal for everyone, and there are many other comparable experiences at a lesser price point, but this is a very unique experience. I whole heartedly recommend it.
As always, I look at dining at Disney from a different perspective than many others. To me, a good meal surrounded by friends and family is hard to put a price on. So often in life we find ourselves in 10 different places or without the necessary time to sit around the table and set aside the worries of life to simply enjoy a meal and talk as a family. There’s a shockingly simple joy to the experience of setting the world aside for a few minutes to enjoy those mealtime moments at WDW where we really can shut off the outside world. To me, that more than rationalizes the cost and this likely one of my favorite places to do just that! Give it a shot and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
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