We’re back at Kona Cafe to try the newly revamped menu since January. Yes, that’s right, they’ve already had to overhaul the menu since last time, and unfortunately as you’ll come to read, things have not necessarily improved since. While Kona remains a casual favorite for resort guests and those looking for a relatively easy reservation, it still leaves much to be desired when it comes to its attempt on Asian-fusion cuisine. Let’s dive in and check out the newest additions (and returning favorites) to the menu.
For an in-depth analysis of the full new menu, including price increases and more, click here.
Do note that the new menu also includes the new leaf icon denoting vegan, plant-based options that was recently rolled out across property.
Crispy Pork-Vegetable Pot Stickers – $10.00
While at first this might seem like some nondescript mass, it’s nice to see that the potstickers are actually made the traditional way, with steaming and then frying taking place in the same pan sequentially. The potstickers are then plated all together, which makes it look like one big clump, but they break away into crispy, seared morsels of goodness.
The potickers are garnished with sliced green onions and a soy-vinaigrette dressing.
These are way better than they used to be. While many might not be used to having them plated all stuck together (it’s uncommon in most American restaurants that serve them), they tasted much better, and the consistency of the exterior was less rubbery.
Glazed Chicken Wings – $12.00
Sticky Wing Sauce
The wings are served in three, two-wing stacks for a total of six wings, doused in sticky sauce and covered in toasted sesame seeds, sliced green onions, chopped peanuts, and hot chili peppers.
It’s great to have the wings back, really. They’re better than ever and the addition of peanuts, which is shocking in this day and age, adds flavor and a nice crunch when paired with the chicken and the tangy sauce.
Seafood Pu Pu Platter – $18.00
For $18.00, the Seafood Pu Pu Platter definitely sounded fancier than the fried seafood you actually get. It’s essentially a heaping of fried fish (some Mahi-mahi chunks), with a crab leg thrown in for good measure, and salsa.
The Pu Pu Platter isn’t a great value, and it’s pretty much “just okay.” The overall flavor profile of the appetizer is just salty… and fried. The crab was the best part, honestly, as it was really well prepared.
Between the weird sweet chunky salsa it’s served with and the lack of any real flare to this dish, you’re better off skipping this one.
Asian-marinated Airline Chicken – $24.00
Sticky Rice, Bok Choy, Asian Glaze
As beautifully and artistically as the Airline Chicken is served, it falls flat in the flavor department, but it sure looks nice once it arrives at the table.
The whole plate is smeared with a bold stripe of sauce, with the chicken piled neatly and garnished with green onion, and onigiri-shaped sticky rice rolled in black and toasted white sesame seeds. There’s a stalk of celery for some crunch, and some peppers as well.
While the chicken was tender and well marinated, the rice was overcooked and just… tasted off. Perhaps there was too much rice vinegar in it? We’d be wary of recommending this since such a crucial part of the dish wasn’t good.
Beef Pho – $24.00
Garlic Shiitake Noodles, Pho Broth
Despite how disappointing all of the Dashi Bowls were last time we reviewed the menu, we figured we’d give the new Beef Pho a try, but Walt Disney World is simply incapable of creating a good, accurate noodle bowl. (With the requisite exception of Morimoto Asia and Tokyo Dining, of course.) First off, there are soggy ramen noodles in place of traditional rice noodles. I balked at the angel hair pasta used in the vegetarian pho at Hollywood Brown Derby, and this is 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) strips of grilled beef.
At least with the Pork Belly Noodle Bowl we had last time, the pork belly was crisp and flavorful, so we managed to get a few bites out of it. With this “pho”, you don’t even get the thin strips of beef that would normally come with the Vietnamese classic. Instead, you get tough, thick slices of stringy beef that don’t mesh well with the other flavors in the bowl. Definitely avoid this.
Kona-braised Short Rib – $36.00
Kona Coffee-braised Short Rib, Creamy Mashed Potato, Roasted Broccolini
Everyone’s doing short rib now, and this dish harkens back to when they attempted to turn Kona into a steakhouse. Amidst all of the Asian cuisine, you have a meat and potatoes dish, with the short rib topping a pile of mashed potatoes and garnished with fried green onions and a sprig of overcooked broccolini.
This particular short rib was not of great quality and the coffee rub wasn’t what we expected. The gravy that coats the entire dish is almost too thick, and it doesn’t deliver much flavor.
The mashed potatoes and crispy fried onions were good, but it’s nothing you couldn’t make at home.
The general sentiment across all of us who’ve dined there is that the Kona Cafe we know and love is gone. The move towards steaks was a mistake, but these entrees are even worse, and while plating has been stepped up, there’s no overcoming cheap ingredients or poor execution.
If you’re set on dining at Kona, go for breakfast (review coming up soon)… or don’t go at all.