I’d heard great things about the Kona Café at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. I was excited to book our first visit there for the night of our arrival for the Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Next door to the wildly popular ‘Ohana, I’d been told that Kona’s Pan-Asian menu and service were both excellent and we would have a new favorite restaurant to add to our list.
The food was good. The service, once we were seated, was also good. What happened to us upon arrival at the Kona Café might keep us from going back. “Fair and Balanced” is my motto when writing reviews (unless otherwise noted) and I’m going to strive to keep this one to that standard.
We were excited to visit the Polynesian since we’d only seen the updated lobby in pictures. After reading wildly varying reactions to the Great Ceremonial House’s new look, we were pleasantly surprised by how colorful, open, and welcoming the atmosphere was in the newly renovated space. Yes, I’ll admit the new water feature is rather compact, but our overall first impression was overwhelmingly positive.
We got there early on purpose so we could look around before enjoying a glass of wine at the Tambu Lounge. Mission accomplished, we checked in at Kona Cafe’s front desk 10-15 minutes before our official ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) time. Buzzer in hand, we stood a few feet away – careful not to stray too far since the hostess had indicated we would be seated immediately. This is where things went awry.
At first I didn’t notice what was happening because I was taking pictures of the beautiful lobby from above. Raymond had been paying attention, though, and after quite a while had passed made mention of the dozens (no exaggeration) of people who had walked up to Kona Café and been seated while we were waiting for our buzzer to go off. They were probably late for their reservations while we’d been early, but I’d go to the desk and check on our status – honestly, we were starving and had been waiting a long time. Plus, we had been told we’d be seated right away.
A first for us at Walt Disney World – we had a buzzer/pager thing, had checked in for our reservation, and were now nowhere in the computer system at Kona Café. Clearly we’d been checked in, I pointed out, as I had a buzzer. “You remember checking us in, right?”, I asked the young lady. She did remember us, we did have a buzzer…she needed to consult with someone for assistance. Still, at this point, we were not angry (just hungry). That’s when the situation deteriorated to “un-magical” status. The check-in girl confessed that somehow we had not been “arrived” in the system, so we’d “disappeared”, but she was working on getting us seated right away. Still we waited. Three or four minutes later, a hostess came and showed us to our seats. I indicated we’d like to speak to a manager (another first for us at Walt Disney World). Unless you speak up when something goes wrong, nothing can be done to correct the problem.
While any and all of what had happened up until this point was certainly annoying, we still weren’t angry, but what the manager did next, soured our first dining experience at Kona Café. She didn’t seem to care one bit. Dismissive, insincere, and clearly believing we were somehow out to get something for nothing, she quickly informed us of two things: Computer problems happen and she’d do some research to make sure our situation didn’t happen to anyone else. Then she dropped a plate of “free” wings on our table and we never saw her again. In theory she did everything right, but she did it with a bad attitude. What was needed: A sincere apology, explanation about what happened and genuine concern over keeping it from happening again in the future. Better than a plate of wings, she could have been nice and perhaps convey some realization or concern about how the unnecessarily long wait we experienced would negatively impact our impression of the restaurant she manages.
Our server, Brenda, was very friendly and efficient. She was happy to help us with menu choices and kept our orders arriving at a good pace. The bread and butter was delicious! We love sushi and, upon Brenda’s recommendation, chose the Lava Roll (“Togarashi-spiced Tempura Shrimp, Bay Scallops, spicy Mayo, and Chives”) as an appetizer and were very happy with our choice.
For entrees, Raymond ordered the Grilled Kona Coffee-Rubbed Pork Chop (“Curry-roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel with creamy Mashed Potato”) and I opted for the Pan-Asian Noodles with Shrimp (“Yakisoba Noodles, Wok-seared with Vegetables in a Ginger-Garlic Sauce”). A bottle of Newton Claret was our wine choice for this meal. We ended up being too full for dessert.
Once at our table, dining at Kona Café was everything we’d hoped it would be. Entrees range in price from $20 to $33 and include seafood, pork, beef, chicken, and vegetarian options. The flavors and preparation of the dishes we ordered were great! Will we eat there again? At this point I’m not sure. There are many other restaurants to be explored. We also have a half-dozen favorites where we know we’ll get consistently delicious food and great service. Also, I’ll be honest, with regard to bad service, Raymond tents to have a particularly long memory. The next time we eat at the Polynesian, we’ll probably be back at ‘Ohana.
Have you tried Kona Café? What meal did you have there? What was your experience like?