Dining Review: Makahiki – Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa (Oahu Hawaii)
Aulani has several restaurants on property and typically Makahiki is a buffet style dining room for breakfast and dinner with character experiences. Due to COVID, the buffet and characters have been removed. It is currently operating for dinner only as a three course pre-fixe meal for $60. As the nicest offering at the time of our visit (Ama Ama was closed), we were excited to dine here and made reservations for the evening we arrived at Aulani. I had read some great reviews of Makahiki since it had opened in this capacity so I certainly went in with high expectations – we adore Disney dining and it’s one of the reasons we continue to visit Walt Disney World.
The space itself was very nice. Tables were spread out and there was no separation to the outdoor lanai space. In fact, our table was right in the edge of the indoor/outdoor line and that was great for us. I just love that about Hawaii – the pandemic has been really hard in the winter months but a pandemic in a place like there where the weather is nice all year round – definitely a plus. Makahiki is the new year celebration of the harvest and the decor inside reflected just that with a beautiful mural that expanded the entire wall.
Bottle of the Trefethen Chardonnay, Napa Valley
After having cocktails earlier in the day, it was nice to come back to a bottle of wine. We wanted something refreshing and this bottle of Chardonnay did the trick.
Corn Soup – locally sourced Kahuku sweet corn, cream, herbs
Kevin commentary: Soup was delicious and I highly recommend it. This dish was packed with plenty of corn kernels to – maybe that sounds obvious but many corn chowders you have some corn flavor with a ton of dairy that makes you feel really heavy by the end, not this one. Sweet and hearty, cream wasn’t overdone, I would eat three bowls every day.
I tried it as well and I love how they were able to capture the fresh corn flavor. I wish I got this one! It could have used a bit of crumbled bacon on top but that’s just my love for bacon talking.
Caesar Salad – hearts of romaine, white anchovies, herbed croutons, Reggiano Parmesan
Basic Caesar salad, nothing exceptional here but it was a giant portion which I appreciated. Certainly not a as fun as the soup but it was green which can be a tough sell on vacation.
Local Catch of the Day – Ahi Ahi with black forest rice
Kevin Commentary: Perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and a touch rare in the center – very flavorful fish. Black forest rice, bell peppers, and cilantro were delicious accompaniments. No strong impressions from the sauce but I know I finished it all. Really well done dish.
Fettuccine and Shrimp – garlic shrimp, local farm roasted vegetable, chili oil, Reggiano Parmesan (minus the chili oil and i think they forgot the cheese)
I was excited for this dish – asked them to hold the chili oil which was not an issue (phew!). When it arrived it looked pretty bland – I could not taste any Parmesan cheese and was not I offered any to add. The shrimp were pretty small but they were not over cooked. This dish did not give me the feeling of a $60 entree. While I asked for the chili oil to be held, it was still a very bland dish leading me to think they forgot to add the cheese or something. Quite a let down!
Kokoleka Chocolate Entremet – Kokoleka chocolate mousse, macadamia nut Feulltine crunch, raspberry hibiscus reduction
Well at least the dessert was a winner for me! It was beautiful and I loved the hidden Mickey touch. The mousse was very well done. I thought it was funny that they added a “raspberry hibiscus reduction” as it was barely noticeable on the plate, I would have enjoyed an amount that was able to complement the chocolate but the mousse was lovely.
Kona Coffee Cheesecake – Oreo cookie crust, macadamia nut whipped cream, toffee sauce
Kevin commentary: Just as it sounds. Not too dairy heavy or smooth like most cheesecakes. Otherwise no big impressions, really enjoyed it.
We like to ask our servers for wine recommendations – they know the wine menu the best and even though wine menus have descriptors, it is nice to hear it from the servers perspective. It took a few times explaining to our server that we were asking for her opinion – perhaps we were unclear in our messaging but eventually we got to where we needed to be – one Chardonnay was fresh and acidic, the other was more oak and butter forward. That’s all we needed to know! We went with the fresh and acidic Chardonnay.
Our appetizers arrived before the wine which is usually very odd – we ordered the wine first before all the food and it is just the order of operation in a multiple course meal. It was only a few minutes behind the appetizers but we had the intention of drinking our bottle while we dined so it was feeling like we had to rush our bottle a bit since we were already behind.
Before we were done our appetizers, the main course was placed on the table. Now it was not like we were almost done our meals – we were still very much actively eating. The server just put them down and walked away. So they sat at our table getting cold while we finished our appetizers.
I looked around and there was no one else in the dining room but another couple. We had the first reservation time at 5PM so I was unclear what the rush was. We also ordered a full bottle of wine so I would think we communicated that we would be enjoying the bottle throughout the meal – we barely had a glass each at this point! Sigh.
We started our entrees and maybe half way through the desserts came out. I had to say something so I kindly asked them to bring it back to the kitchen until we were done our entrees. I did not think that was a new concept for the nicest restaurant currently operating on property but it really felt like they did not want us lingering there! All the staff we interacted with were very friendly so it was just a confusing situation. I was starting to worry about what to do with the bottle of wine if we were handed the check before we were done the bottle and dessert – would have been par for the evening. Fortunately, we were able to finish the bottle and desserts before paying the bill.
I do not really have an explanation for the service… I read reviews of people having fantastic meals here so I left pretty baffled. I understand that they do not want people to wait for their food, people want quick service, or want to turn tables over. But this was a night in the middle of the week and it was not busy and also very early in the service. I was really looking forward to this meal and unfortunately, it left us both a bit disappointed. Hopefully things return back to the way that others report and we had an off experience.