REVIEW: New Kona Cafe Menu Brings Back Old Favorites, But Sinks The Ship At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
We’re back at the Kona Cafe to try the newly revamped menu since January. Yes that’s right, they’ve had to revamp the menu already since last time around, and unfortunately as you’ll come to read, things haven’t necessarily improved since. While Kona remains a laid back favorite for resort guests and those looking for a relatively easy reservation, it still leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to its attempt at Asian fusion cuisine. Let’s dive in and check out the latest additions (and returning favorites) to the menu.
For an in-depth analysis of the full new menu, including price increases and more, click here.
Note that the new menu also includes the new leaf icon indicating plant-based vegan options which was recently rolled out throughout the property.
Crispy Pork and Vegetable Jar Stickers – $ 10.00
While at first it might seem like an indescribable mass, it’s nice to see that potstickers are actually made in the traditional way, with the steaming and then frying taking place in the same pan sequentially. The potstickers are then plated all together, making it look like a big block, but they smash into crisp, pan-fried pieces of goodness.
The potickers are topped with sliced green onions and a soy-vinaigrette dressing.
They are much better than before. While many may not be used to sticking them all together (this is rare in most American restaurants that serve them), they tasted much better and the consistency on the outside was less chewy.
Glazed Chicken Wings – $ 12.00
Sticky Wing Sauce
Much like potstickers, sticky wings are coming back as favorites. These replaced the pig’s wings that had been on the menu since January.
The wings are served in three two-winged stacks for a total of six wings, dipped in a sticky sauce and topped with toasted sesame seeds, sliced green onions, chopped peanuts and hot peppers.
It’s great to find the wings, really. They are better than ever and the addition of peanuts, which are shocking these days, add flavor and a nice crunch when paired with chicken and hot sauce.
Pu Pu Seafood Platter – $ 18.00
For $ 18.00, the Seafood Pu Pu Platter definitely looked fancier than the fried seafood you actually get. It’s basically a bunch of fried fish (a few pieces of Mahi-mahi), with a crab leg thrown in for good measure, and salsa.
The Pu Pu tray is not good value for money, and that is about “just right”. The overall flavor profile of the aperitif is just salty… and fried. The crab was the best part, honestly, as it was really well prepared.
Between the weird, sweet salsa it’s served with and the lack of real flair for this dish, you better skip this one.
Asian Marinated Air Chicken – $ 24.00
Sticky Rice, Bok Choy, Asian Glaze
As beautifully and artistically as Airline Chicken is served, it falls flat in the flavor department, but looks great once it hits the table.
The entire plate is smeared with a bold strip of sauce, with the chicken neatly stacked and topped with scallions and sticky rice shaped like an onigiri rolled in black sesame seeds and toasted. There’s a stalk of celery for the crunch, and some peppers too.
While the chicken was tender and well marinated, the rice was overcooked and just… tasted. Maybe there was too much rice vinegar in it? We would be careful to recommend this as such a crucial part of the dish was not good.
Beef Pho – $ 24.00
Garlic Shiitake Noodles, Pho Broth
Despite the disappointment of all Dashi bowls the last time we looked at the menu, we thought we would try the new Beef Pho, but Walt Disney World is simply unable to create a good, accurate noodle bowl. (With the required exception of Morimoto Asia and Tokyo Dining, of course.) First, there’s soggy ramen noodles instead of traditional rice noodles. I balked at the angel hair pasta used in the Hollywood Brown Derby’s vegetarian pho, and it’s up there with that offense. The bowl is topped with a bunch of enoki mushrooms and a sprig of broccolini, as well as three (3) grilled beef strips.
At least with the bowl of pork belly noodles we had last time, the pork belly was crisp and tasty, so we managed to squeeze a few bites out of it. With this “pho” you don’t even get the thin strips of beef that would normally accompany the Vietnamese classic. Instead, you get thick, tough slices of beef that don’t pair well with the other flavors in the bowl. To be avoided absolutely.
Kona Braised Short Ribs – $ 36.00
Kona Coffee Braised Short Ribs, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Broccolini
Everyone’s making ribs now, and this dish is reminiscent of when they tried to turn Kona into a steakhouse. In the middle of all the Asian cuisine, you’ve got a meat and potato dish, with the short rib topping a bunch of mashed potatoes and topped with fried green onions and a sprig of overcooked broccolini.
This particular short rib was not of great quality and the coffee rub was not what we expected. The sauce that covers the whole dish is almost too thick and doesn’t impart much flavor.
The mashed potatoes and crispy fried onions were good, but it’s nothing you can’t make at home.
The general feeling among all of us who have dined there is that the Kona cafe we know and love is gone. The move to steaks was a mistake, but these entrees are even worse, and while the plating has been stepped up, there is no solution to cheap ingredients or poor execution.
If you’re planning to dine in Kona, go for breakfast (review coming soon)… or don’t go at all.