Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dining at Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa's Ama Ama

Ama Ama entrance. (photo credit: Star Adverstiser)
View of Ama Ama from the beachside of the restaurant.
(photo credit: MattGeneral/flickr)
Outdoor seating at Ama Ama. (photo credit: HawaiiLogue)
The obvious attraction of Ama Ama, Disney's Resort & Spa's Aulani fine dining restaurant, is the atmosphere. The restaurant's dining room is open air and offers expansive vistas of the beach at Ko Olina and the view made even more striking at sunset when our party dined there on Friday night.

Thatched roofs shelter guests in three seating areas. One section allows guests to enjoy drinks and pupus at the bar. We were greeted by a pleasant hostess and after a short wait (but long enough that we had to sit down on the benches just inside the entrance) we were escorted to our table.

Again it's the view that counts wherever you sit and it's unlikely there is a bad table in the house but guests should request if they specifically would like indoor or outdoor seating. My understanding is that hotel guests normally have any priority for reservations and seating choices.

The menu itself is a lumbering wooden thing with the hotel name etched into the cover. I noticed several guests enjoying an Aulani Wave ($13), one of Ama Ama's signature cocktails. It's striking not for the coconut rum, mango and passion fruit liquor, pineapple juice mix but for the souvenir multicolored glow cube in the cocktail itself. Fun but I opted for a glass of white wine (King Estate Pino Gris, Oregon $12) and its subtle fruity tone.

Walnut bread with butter and black and pink Hawaiian sea salt.
(photo credit: TheHopefulTraveler)
Chicken firecracker with pineapple sauce.
(photo credit: TheHopefulTraveler)
An appetizer of chicken firecrackers (four pieces, $17) is a spicy take on the spring roll and pineapple dipping sauce started our dinner accompanied by walnut bread with black and pink Hawaiian sea salt to sprinkle on the butter. It was unusual to have the extra salt but nevertheless it was an interesting start.

I can't say how my guest enjoyed the rack of lamb ($45) but I was less than enthused for my entree, the seared ahi tuna shrimp with Kamuela tomatoes, basil and Nicoise olives garnished with eggplant caviar ($36). The ahi was overcooked so the sear which is usually in stark contrast with the bright fresh uncooked part of the fish was lacking. At least the remaining ingredients helped to make the dish partially satisfying.

Rack of Lamb (photo credit: TheHopefulTraveler) 
Seared ahi tuna and shrimp (photo credit: TheHopefulTraveler)
Although the Hawaiian chocolate cake with Ka'u coffee cream and caramel chard ($10) did look delicious, my choice was the lighter flavor of the coconut panna cotta with chilled passion fruit broth and green tea tulle ($10). Dessert did not disappoint especially when accompanied with table-side pressed coffee ($9.50)

As characteristic of Disney hospitality the server was attentive without being overly so. Musicians traveled through the restaurant entertaining diners which adds to the atmosphere or becomes distraction if that's not your thing. For the fine-dining prices, Ama Ama should be reserved for special occasions especially if you live in Honolulu and making the long trek to Ko Olina.

Ama Ama is named after a local mullet fish popularized in Hawaiian songs.  Click HERE for online reservations, menu samples and more information about Ama Ama and Aulani's other restaurants. Located at 92-1185 Aliinui Drive in Kapolei, self-parking is validated for four hours with a $35 dining purchase. Hours: breakfast 7am-10:30am; lunch 11:30am-3pm; dinner 5:30pm-10pm. Reservations strongly recommended. Attire not permitted: tank tops, swimwear, men's hats, cut-off pants and torn clothing. See specific restaurant attire info online.

Coconut panna cotta (photo credit: TheHopefulTraveler)
Hawaiian chocolate cake (photo credit: TheHopefulTraveler)


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