As my wife and I arrived with some friends at Disney's Polynesian Resort, I went to great lengths to put on a happy face. Under normal circumstances, putting on a happy face at Disney wouldn't be a challenge, but the four of us were set to join more friends for dinner at 'Ohana, which had long been perhaps my least favorite place to eat in all of Walt Disney World. To intentionally subject myself to a restaurant I hate is the kind of masochistic activity I tend to avoid, but on this evening, I was mostly along for the ride, so I prepared myself for two hours of self inflicted torture. Or so I thought....
We were greeted by the hostess with the customary background story to the meal, that 'Ohana means family, and all of us were brothers, sisters, and cousins for the evening yada yada yada. With my jaded distaste for this largely beloved restaurant reaching its crescendo, I made my way past the giant open grill, and took my seat at the end of the table, with my eyes comfortably secured in the back of my head.
As I sat sipping my mojito and enjoying the conversation around the table, I thought back to my previous two visits here, where the seeds of my disdain for 'Ohana were planted. After a few moments of reminiscing, I started to realize that up till now I hadn't given the restaurant a fair shake. Our only visit for dinner came after an epic night at Jellyrolls, where more alcohol was consumed by our group than the cast of Sex and the City on a tour of the Grey Goose distillery. The next time we came to 'Ohana was for breakfast, where 100 kids were armed with Hawaiian music shakers, which was no doubt fun for them, but since none of the kids enjoying themselves were my own, my brain wanted to explode after about 47 seconds. Needless to say, the baggage I brought to the table didn't set 'Ohana up for success on these visits, and I'd held it against them ever since.
The meal at 'Ohana starts off with salad, noodles, vegetables, Asian style pot-stickers and chicken wings all served "family style." I'm not exactly a fan of "family style" dining, because when I'm in a restaurant, the last thing I want to do is manage the logistics of passing a giant bowl of food from person to person, while trying to avoid spilling one of the 9 glasses of water on the table, or anything else deemed embarrassing in a public place. If I wanted to do all that, I'd just stay home, but in a restaurant, "family style" is for the birds. But I digress...
My annoyance was soon forgotten, however, as I started to enjoy each of the items. The salad, vegetables, and noodles were all good but the chicken wings...oh the chicken wings. Served in an Asian citrus sauce with just the right amount of spice, they were, in a word, awesome. As I enjoyed the wings, I had a flashback to our recent trip to Disney's Vero Beach resort, and my tastebuds confirmed what I'd already been wondering...these wings tasted the exact same as the ones I'd loved there. I was convinced in that moment that if the meal ended right then, I'd walk away perfectly happy and content. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind, when our server arrived holding three giant, dripping skewers in his hands.
The main event at 'Ohana, and the reason why they can pack it in night after night, is well, the meat...lots of meat. They serve pork, chicken, shrimp, and steak in a "rodizio" style, much like Fogo de Chao, or other Brazilian steakhouses which are growing in popularity of late. In contrast to my feelings on "family style," I absolutely love "rodizio." Servers make their rounds through the dining room carrying freshly grilled portions of meat on skewers, and just as soon as you find yourself with an empty plate, poof...more appears as if conjured by Hermione Granger. I mean, really, what's not to like?
As the meal drew to a close, I sat back in complete and total satisfaction. So much so, that I skipped the bread pudding and ice cream dessert, knowing that no amount of sugar would make me happier than I was in that moment. It was an all around great evening of friends and food, and from this moment on, it's safe to say that 'Ohana finds itself near the top of our favorite places to eat while at Disney.
To 'Ohana, I'd like to offer my sincere apology. I'd wrongly judged you for many years, and for that slight, I'm deeply sorry. I hope to make it up to you whenever our paths cross again in the future.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~