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‘Ohana vs. Sebastian’s: A Family-Style Dining Challenge

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*DIS Contributors review meals, resort stays, and entertainment that they have paid for during their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and offers if they are available to the general public, such as annual passholder discounts or DVC membership discounts. They receive no additional compensation for dining experiences or events, so they may give their honest opinions about price and value.




Sometimes, a quick trip to Walt Disney World to visit your student in the Disney College Program results in a stay of only 24 hours. Recently, this was the case for us. Wanting to make the most of our short time together, we booked two different restaurants on two consecutive nights. Thus, the contenders were ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort on night one and Sebastian’s Bistro at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort on night two. Both advance reservations were made on the My Disney Experience app.

Let the battle of the family-style meals begin!



Atmosphere

‘Ohana is located on the second level of the beautiful Polynesian Resort. This upper floor is the perfect place to view the vibrant tropical colors and variety of flora that makes this resort truly one of a kind. The Polynesian is popular and can oftentimes be quite busy, but the relaxed ambiance and gorgeous surroundings always put visitors in a good mood.

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Sebastian’s location cannot be beaten, situated on the water along the Old Port Royale promenade at the Caribbean Beach Resort. While waiting for your table after check-in, look for turtles and fish swimming near the surface of the large 45-acre lake (a big hit with kids). Other terrific views to take in include the Skyliner gliding by and, of course, a gorgeous sunset.


Service, Bread & Starters

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Unfortunately, once seated at ‘Ohana, we immediately sensed a bumpy ride ahead. Our server was welcoming and kind but announced, “There will be four courses in total, and everything will come out quickly, one after the other.” I’m sure he was trained to give guests a clear signal that tables will be turned over quickly. Before we had even decided on a beverage of choice, a basket of bread and accompanying mixed green salad arrived at the table. The rolls were disappointedly on the dry side. The flavor was fine, especially with honey butter, but expectations were much higher for a signature item that has received so many glowing reviews from patrons in the past. The salad with citrus dressing was passable, but in no way memorable or special.

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In stark contrast, the initial contact with our server at Sebastian’s was welcoming and jovial. Even though the restaurant was bustling, she made it clear that our meal would be comfortably spaced and not rushed. The basket of bread included warm house-made pull-apart rolls. They were buttery and delicious. The accompanying guava butter and caramelized onion jam took the already delightful rolls to another level. There was even a Mickey-shaped parmesan crisp atop the bread (an unexpected and enjoyable surprise). Sebastian’s mixed green salad has long been one of my favorites anywhere on Disney property. The greens with added spiced candied pepitas, tropical fruit, and a zingy key lime dressing proved to be a wonderful start to the meal.


Main Meal

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Next at ‘Ohana came a skillet of pork dumplings, chicken wings, ‘Ohana noodles and roasted vegetables. Much to our chagrin, it arrived just as we had barely even plated our salad and bread. The presentation, just like the pace of the meal, looked and felt rushed. The pork dumplings, tossed in a garlic-chili sauce, were very one-note, as if merely heated up from frozen. We enjoyed the chicken wings, marinated in a zesty honey-coriander sauce, however a crispier texture would have made them more satisfying. The vegetables were lackluster and too soft to pass as properly stir-fried. The star of the skillet was definitely the ‘Ohana noodles, irresistibly on the border between savory and just enough sweetness. The perfectly textured noodles provided layered flavors in bursts of ginger, garlic, soy, and pineapple.

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Our favorite of the ‘Ohana entrees was the grilled chicken with chimichurri sauce. The brightness and punch of the freshly made sauce highlighted by parsley, garlic and olive oil paired quite nicely with the char on the chicken.

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The lackluster appearance of the grilled teriyaki beef didn’t inspire confidence, but it tasted much better than it looked. The meat was tender and flavorful, but a more pronounced sear on the outside was needed. The spicy peel-n-eat shrimp was devoid of any spice and the texture was mealy and mushy.


Main Entrees

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The Main Course at Sebastian’s is known as the Taste of the Caribbean. Firstly, the plating was lovely. Our favorites included the grilled chili-rubbed beef and slow-cooked mojo pork. The beef was nicely grilled, packed a bit of heat and remained fork-tender. The pork struck just the right balance with the savory flavors of garlic and cumin with zesty orange and lime undertones. The roasted chicken was tasty, but could have used more pronounced citrus flavors. Sustainable fish, this day a cod, was also part of the platter. Although served with a robust stewed sauce of tomatoes and bell peppers, the fish was a bit overcooked and dry. The accompanying mango sauce and pickled vegetables were fantastic additions to mix and match with the variety of proteins.

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Three side dishes, including cilantro rice and beans, vegetable stew and grilled seasonable vegetables, were served with the meal. The rice, representative of the West Indian Caribbean Islands, was so unique and herbaceous. The vegetable stew was reminiscent of a curry. It was rich in taste, but mild in spice level. I’m often frustrated with the lack of vegetable options at most Disney restaurants, the standard green beans served almost everywhere. Therefore, it was wonderful to see this stew filled with a variety we don’t often see often including carrots, cauliflower, spinach and more. The seasonal vegetable of the evening was broccolini. It was served properly grilled, fork tender and slightly caramelized.


Desserts

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‘Ohana’s final course was delivered with the same quick pace that had plagued our entire evening. The famous bread pudding arrived to the table warm with the ice cream already melting. The large slice for us to share (alas, fight over) proved quite tasty, both with and without the caramel sauce. The pineapple and coconut flavors were pleasant, but the dessert was a bit too dense and dry to be a home run.

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It is absolutely apparent why Sebastian’s menu describes its dessert as “our celebrated house-made coconut-pineapple bread pudding.” Based on its sensational taste, celebrated may not even be a strong enough endorsement. As with ‘Ohana, the coconut and pineapple flavors were present, but Sebastian’s pudding was also moist and gooey in the most marvelous way. This dessert is one that I dream about upon returning home.


Final Thoughts

Our 24-hour challenge is now complete. Which restaurant won this epic showdown? Sebastian’s was the stronger of the two in just about every way, from start to finish. Service was relaxed, not rushed. The bread was deliciously soft and accompanied by a wonderful butter and decadent jam. Sebastian’s salad was far more interesting and complex. The family platter was distinctive and definitely conveyed Latin and Caribbean flavor profiles. The bread pudding won out as well, with a fabulous taste and consistency. In addition, the price cannot be beat at $38 per adult and $20 per child.

‘Ohana gave us a few highlights, especially with those famous noodles, but fell short in too many instances. At $62 per adult and $40 per child for dinner, currently, it does not come close to measuring up to the cost. My heart literally aches for this restaurant. ‘Ohana has always been a popular destination dining spot for so many visitors since it opened in 1995. The Polynesian Resort, one of only two original Disney World hotels from 1971, deserves better. I hope that management gives this long-standing gem of a dining establishment the time and attention it deserves to return it to its former glory.

Have you been to either ‘Ohana or Sebastian’s lately? If so, how was your experience?

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Finding fun and informative ways to provide Disney goers a unique perspective on the information they seek about the parks, resorts, food, history and so much more. Been bringing kids to Disney from toddlers to teens, so plenty of parent tips will be given.

Happiest with a pineapple Dole Whip float in my hand and an Orange Bird hat on my head.






















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