On August 11, 2015, I attended the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau at Disneyland Resort as part of the 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration. It was an event featuring food, drinks, entertainment and merchandise. I wrote about my entire experience here: Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau Review. This article will concentrate on the food.
The Disney Parks Blog proclaimed the luau would feature “distinctive bites inspired by favorites from the original menu” from the Tahitian Terrace Restaurant. After seeing the dishes being served, I would politely disagree. Below you can see a picture of one version of the original menu:
When guests first entered the venue, cast members greeted them with a tray full of non-alcoholic drinks. One was the famous Tahitian Terrace punch (I forgot the other drink since I was so psyched to see the punch!). This was a great touch and instantly brought back childhood memories. We received a souvenir recipe card which outlines the ingredients. Basically, it is a combination of pineapple, grape, and lemon juices with grenadine, sugar and Tang orange powder. It was a bit sweet for my adult taste buds, but I certainly liked it in my younger days.
As for the cuisine, I’ll start off by stating that the food wasn’t bad. It’s just that what was advertised by Disney and what was actually provided were very different. Two buffet stations offered a selection of Coconut Glazed Shrimp, Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Sauce, Polynesian Vegetable Cone and Barbecue Pork Belly Sliders. At another table, dessert was Butterscotch Pineapple Coconut cupcakes.
The Coconut Glazed Shrimp had a nice flavor. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of coconut with meat due to contrasting textural issues. Even crispy coconut can get chewy, which is disruptive. In any case, this was more along the lines of coconut flavoring. Only bits of the real stuff was added. The sauce was sweet and creamy. The shrimp was cooked perfectly as the sauce did not soften the breading too much.
I also liked the Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Sauce. My guess is that the balls consisted of beef and pork. They were cooked nicely and it had a softer texture, which is a good thing. As for the sauce, it was more skewed toward the sweet side. The viscosity was nice, not too thick and not too thin.
My least favorite dish was the Polynesian Vegetable Cone. I think this was mostly due to the fact that I don’t like bell peppers. To be honest, the filling reminded of a minced up version of the tropical slaw you get on the side at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. The cone was basically a rice cracker with bits of black sesame.
The best thing served at the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau was the Barbecue Pork Belly Sliders. It had a small slice of pineapple atop. The tropical barbecue sauce was tangy and sweet. My only wish is they put more of it on top or made some available on the side. I liked the pork belly meat, although one of the pieces I had was extra fatty. In an ideal world, it would have been great if there was char on the meat as well. Nevertheless, it was my favorite of all.
There were also two bars located at opposite ends of the venue. Guests were provided a pair of vouchers that could be exchanged for an adult beverage. The list of beers included Budweiser, Coors Light, Kona Big Wave Golden Ale, and Hinano. Wine drinkers had a choice of Benzinger Chardonnay and Villa San Juliette Cabernet Sauvignon.
I was thrilled to see the Hinano beer. Although not my favorite beer, it is from Tahiti and added a nice touch in keeping with the Tahitian theme. The beer was crisp and light, but had a malty flavor with grassy hop notes at the end.
For dessert, there was an impressive display of Butterscotch Pineapple Coconut cupcakes. This was better than I expected. The cupcakes were moist, flavorful and perfectly sized for me. Butterscotch and pineapple were seeming made for each other. I’m surprised more people aren’t using this combination in baked goods. Adding a bit of textural contrast was a sprinkling of toasted coconut. I enjoyed this so much, I snuck a few home so my wife could try them (don’t tell Disney!).
When I think of a luau, I have certain expectations. And, when I’m told a menu will be “inspired by” something, then there is a certain image I have in mind. The food at the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau was different than what was advertised and anticipated. This doesn’t mean that the food was bad. Overall, the flavors were good. But at a cost of $150 for the event, I wished there was more.