The Ultimate Review of Kona Cafe
Welcome to a tropical hideaway. You’re invited to cast away with me to the Polynesian Islands! From what I hear about this tropical paradise, sandy beaches, views of volcanoes, and pineapple-flavored everything are pretty much guaranteed. I can’t wait to escape the cold winter weather and work on my tan while floating in the pool and eating my fill of fresh caught fish and ripe fruits.
Sounds like the real Polynesia, doesn’t it? Well Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort does the pacific island theming so incredibly well it’s hard to tell the difference. I’m thankful it’s connected to the resorts monorail loop; so even when I’m visiting Disney World and not staying at the Polynesian Resort it’s simple for me to stop by and pay one of my favorite resorts a visit! On my most recent trip, I stopped in for dinner at Kona Café. Did the restaurant sweep me away to a tropical paradise, or leave me disappointed? Read on and find out!
If you’re on the monorail platform at the Polynesian, you can spot fellow guests enjoying festive drinks and island appropriate eats at cozy looking tables right inside the hotel; this is Kona Café. I’m not sure if it were the countless times I’ve looked at the restaurant when I’ve passed by on the monorail, its open-to-the-lobby construction, or its eclectic menu, but I’ve been dying to try this place for quite some time now. Since the friend I was traveling with is as game for new dining experiences as I am, we booked a reservation!
When my friend and I checked in at the host desk we were immediately seated at a table with a monorail view (I secretly loved the fact that I was finally on the other side of the window!) and we were presented with menus. Our waiter came over rather promptly and we placed a drink order…Lapu Lapu’s of course!
Now, I never like to start things off negatively, but I’m afraid the service leaves me with no choice here. The drinks took a long time to come, especially considering the restaurant was not very crowded. Maybe it was a hold up at the bar, but a drink should never take 20 minutes to arrive. I didn’t let it get to me, though, and as soon as I (finally) took a sip from my hollowed out pineapple beverage, the strong rum made me forget the wait.
After the long wait for the drinks, we were pretty hungry, so we placed an order for the Kona Salad to start us off. The salad featured an abundance of fresh, island-inspired ingredients like greens, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, goat cheese, goji dressing, and of course macadamia nuts. Its plating- layers of vegetables highlighted the natural colors of the fresh ingredients- made for a very impressive presentation. Served with Hawaiian sweet rolls and macadamia/honey infused butter sure didn’t hurt the appetizer course! The soft, pillowy rolls melt in your mouth making it nearly impossible to stop at just one. Luckily, the addictive quality of the rolls was not overlooked, and my party of 2 was served 6 of them! The salad’s ingredients combined together beautifully. I’d recommend it for its freshness and lightness.
The sushi is what this place is known for, and the long list of sashimi, nigiri, and roll options on the menu make it very very difficult to choose! The Kona Sampler seemed like the best option for my friend and I since we both love fish and wanted a little taste of everything! With three pieces of nigiri, four pieces of sashimi, four pieces of California Roll and tuna poke, this was the clear choice for us. Again, the plating here is aesthetically pleasing and artfully executed. The fish sat atop a wooden board, further emphasizing the restaurant’s many nods to freshness.
Where I live, the sushi is very high grade. What I’m trying to say is; Kona’s fish had some big shoes to fill. Well, they did not disappoint, as the tuna and salmon we were served were richly colored (a sign of good fish) and odorless and flavorless (not at all fishy). So far, so good! The one thing that surprised me about the fish was the lack of white stripes, especially in the salmon. All other high quality salmon sashimi I’ve eaten has had its fair share of white fat stripes marbled throughout, but this one didn’t. I couldn’t believe this fat-free fish packed the flavor punch without any of the fat! Overall, the fish in the sampler were the standouts. The tuna poke was good and the California Roll was standard at best. But if you’re a fresh fish fan, you won’t be disappointed here.
My overall experience at Kona was a great one! True, the drinks took an eternity to arrive, but that’s all I have to groan about. I really enjoyed the salad and would recommend it as a precursor to any of the sushi or sashimi entrees on the menu as it sits lightly and its crisp texture contrasts wonderfully with the smooth fish. The Kona Sampler platter was the star of the show- the sweet rolls are a close second- and everything served on that beautifully plated bamboo board were tasty and exactly what I’d hoped for. I would return to Kona again in the future, and probably order the same exact meal, Lapu Lapu’s included. What do you think? Will you try Kona Café on your next vacation? Let me know in the comments below!
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Special thanks to Maria Salerno for writing this article: Hiya pal! I am a NYC-based writer/musician thrilled to be bringing you all things Disney! I’m a WDW Annual Passholder, so you can find me in the parks regularly throughout the year. In addition to being a Disney Parks loving girl, I’m also a Disney toy and merchandise collector, a runDisney enthusiast, and Disney music and movie aficionado. You can follow me on Instagram: NYCtoAP and find me on YouTube: NYCtoAP. Thanks for reading, hope to see ya real soon!