We got cleaned up after our afternoon stint at the Big Blue Pool and mounted the Red Grand Caravan for the drive north to the Polynesian resort. In the post-9/11 world at Disney resorts, you have to either use your room key to open the checkpoint gate into the parking lot, or show your ID to the guard who will let you through. Since we weren’t staying there, I had my ID ready as we pulled up to the guard, who greeted me and I said “We’re having dinner at ‘Ohana”, which caused him to ask for my ID. I started moving my hand out the window to show him my license, and he waved me through with a “Have a nice dinner” before my hand was even above the door. Comforting security practices, but I suppose we don’t look all that threatening in our embarrassingly Red minivan with two squawking girls in the back seat.
The Polynesian is one of our favorite resorts to visit at WDW, though we were not impressed with the rooms in our one stay there – they seemed quite dated and a bit grungy, but I’d give them another chance because we like the grounds and atmosphere so much. It was bordering on dark as we parked and walked into the resort, which means the torches (actual fire, not a Disney visual effect) were burning throughout the outdoor grounds. Leah thought that was awesome and wanted to reach up and touch them. I did not let her.
She was equally thrilled when we got into the main lobby and she discovered that there are several waterfalls amid the lush vegetation. We hiked up the stairs and checked in our for reservation at ‘Ohana, and both girls immediately disappeared to watch a nearby TV showing an episode of Phineas and Ferb, which Aly declared was “one of my favorite episodes” – Aly lives in the world of superlatives.
‘Ohana is a (you guessed it) Polynesian-themed restaurant that has a large central grill, an open kitchen, and serves food family-style. On the way to your table, the host takes you by the open kitchen, retrieves a loaf of pineapple bread, and tells you that “Ohana” means friendship. Or something like friendship – I’m always dazed at this point by the food spectacle ahead of me. The pineapple bread is actually quite good, but I never eat it, because it takes up too much valuable room in my food storage facility. If I could chew it and spit it out, perhaps I would partake, but that seems to be frowned-upon for adults at Disney dining establishments.
We got a decent table near the bar, with a somewhat obstructed view of Cinderella Castle. Aly dug into the bread right away while we ordered drinks (Water+Sprite for the adults, apple juice for Leah, chocolate milk for Aly). The large salad was delivered right away, and the honey vinaigrette was delicious as always – one of our favorite parts of the meal, going back to our first visit there in 2001. We have the recipe for this dressing and make it at home sometimes – it’s easy and fantastic, and partially reasonably healthy-ish.
more food arrives
Next up, our favorite parts of the meal arrived. They brought us two large platters, each with two dishes. The first one has “asian noodles” which are skinny like spaghetti, but both Aly and Rachel could eat only those and be happy. The second is stir-fried broccoli which is also tasty, but got almost no attention at our table on this trip. The second platter contains pot sticker dumplings with an orange glaze sauce, and honey coriander chicken wings, which is my favorite item of the ‘Ohana experience. We’ve made these at home several times as well, but they are not quite as easy to make as the salad dressing. Thankfully, steamed hot washcloths arrive with the wings, so I can devour them (and I mean devour them – Aly looked at the platter of wings to see what it was, and I growled at her to warn her away. She then returned the favor when I asked how the noodles were) without worrying about how to clean up from sticky wings.
more food arrives
We also requested mac n cheese for the girls, and they brought us a massing serving that I fed to Leah while trying to feed myself. They also bring you three dipping sauces: a peanut Asian-y sauce, a sweet & sour sauce, and a garlic-something sauce, which are all tasty. This is a warning sign that more food is coming, and it does, by way of the grill. One of the servers (each table gets two) brings a pair of skewers to the table every so often, with tasty meats from the grill. The choices have changed a bit over the years, but now the four grilled meats that will come to visit you are steak, chicken, pork, and shrimp. We don’t eat any shellfish, so I can’t speak to the quality of the shrimp. We’ve found the chicken tasty but a bit dry on nearly every visit, but this is easily cured with one of the three dipping sauces. The pork has a different set of spices, but it was quite tasty on this visit. The steak was clearly the best grill offering on this visit, though we typically don’t eat many of the meats at ‘Ohana, since we love some of the appetizers so much.
There is also live entertainment periodically throughout the dinner hours at ‘Ohana. On this night, they had a guy playing ukelele and singing Hawaiian (I guess?) songs. He also calls the kids to join him, gives them all plastic-flower leis, and teaches them how to Hula dance to the “hookie lau” song. Leah and Aly both enjoyed this, which gave me a chance to catch up on the eating, before sneaking over to try and get some pictures of them dancing (they were in the middle of a pretty big crowd). They also have had coconut races in the past, where the kids get to push coconuts around the restaurant with brooms, but they didn’t do this while we were in the restaurant on this visit.
The service, while fast and furious early in the meal, became very slow and notably absent later in the meal. The server at the table next to us had actually been our server pre-kids in 2004/2005 and also on Aly’s first trip. Rachel and I both remembered her and a few things about her, so we said hi and she laughed and said “Yeah, I’ve been working here for twelve years!”
back to food
Despite the fact that we had been eating for a solid hour at this point, there was still more food to come. You didn’t think this meal would forego dessert, did you? It arrives in the form of a massive bread pudding topped with vanilla bean ice cream, accompanied by a miniature pitcher of banana caramel sauce. Kids also get their own dessert – Aly got three massive scoops of the vanilla ice cream (enough for a teenaged boy) covered with Mickey-shaped candies. The dessert was fantastic, and we had more or less succumbed to the food coma around this time.
This is when service really slowed down, and Leah left the confines of her high chair (not for the first time during this meal) and basically went hilariously crazy, jumping on the booth while sort of behind Rachel, whacking Rachel on the back, with both of them slap-happily giggling. It was quite hilarious – you can clearly see the complete loss of normal sense on both their faces in the pictures towards the end.
After we finally got our check and paid, we headed downstairs to the gift shop, where we purchased a couple of t-shirts (me: retro ringer tee with Mickey & monorail shirt; rachel: retro minnie shirt) and a few other souvenirs for our kids and a few people back home (sorry, if you haven’t gotten anything by now, you didn’t make the cut). We stopped on the way out for the girls to play the giant drums at the entrance to the resort, before driving back to our resort.
Rachel took Lele upstairs to get her ready for bed while Aly and I took our rental stroller back over to luggage services for them to return to the rental company. We had to stop in the shop on the way back to grab a little something, and Aly proposed that she would like to buy a Simba plush instead of the DS game that she had “earned” with her bravery on Splash Mountain a few days back. I agreed that this was a good idea, and told her she could come back in the morning to buy it, because I didn’t have anything with me to pay for it.
Aly and I walked back to the room, where we said goodnight to Leah and then Aly did homework (she did that most nights while we were there, alongside me working on photos and blog posts, lol) while I got our stuff packed for the morning departure.
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