Dear 'Ohana, I've Been Wrong About You....A Review

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....

The Tambu Lounge outside 'Ohana

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.
Ohana Disney PolynesianThe Enormous Open Grill

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.

Ohana Disney PolynesianThe Dining Room

The first round of food made its way to the table about the same time the Hawaiian entertainer began to enhance the theme with some native melodies. The 'Ohana of my memory featured a somewhat scary performer that couldn't get to the end of their set fast enough for me. But this time around, the absence of a jackhammer inside my head allowed me to enjoy his almost charming songs, and perhaps more telling, had me wondering what else I'd been wrong about with 'Ohana. The answer to that question came with my first bite of food...
Ohana Disney PolynesianThe Famous Pineapple Drinks

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...

Ohana Disney PolynesianThe Noodles and Vegetables

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.

Ohana Disney PolynesianThe Chicken Wings And Other Less Important Stuff

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?

Ohana Disney PolynesianHis Belly is Happy After 'Ohana Too 

Just because a restaurant brings me something in unlimited portions, however, does not automatically make it good. In fact, most of the time I'd say that sort of set up all but guarantees a less enjoyable food experience. Nothing could have been further from the case with 'Ohana. The beef, while no filet mignon, was tender and perfectly cooked. The shrimp were amazing, and yet again the chicken was a hit. The pork was the only slight blemish in that it was overcooked, but I was able to disguise this with one of the several dipping sauces provided for the table. In a nutshell, I was blown away by the quality of the food at 'Ohana, especially for a place that seats what I would estimate at several hundred people in one evening.

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~

Deej

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