Uyematsu explained to Nancy how to eat pork and butterfish Lau Lau, which is kind of like a onion-shaped tamale in presentation if not taste. You peel off (but don’t eat) the outside tea leaf to find the meat and fish on the inside. Most people skip the pork fat, which is added just for flavor.
"My husband always tries to eat the fat, but I don’t let him," Uyematsu said.
Hannah tried all the desserts. Her favorite: the coconut bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce.
At $43, the Makahiki was more expensive than any buffet we've ever had in Las Vegas. And Hannah paid the full adult rate, since the $21 kids price was only for children 9 and younger.
On our last full day, we grabbed a continental breakfast in the 'Olelo Room, the resort’s etymological-themed bar.
If dinner at the Aulani was pricey and lunch was limited, breakfast proved to be one ($32 buffet in the Makahiki) or the other (a la carte muffins, danishes and cereal in the 'Olelo bar). Breakfast service starting in November doesn't hold out much promise of improvement.
Breakfast server Alohalani Reola-Yocor turned out to be the most interesting part of the 'Olelo continental breakfast service, greeting every hotel guest with chatty banter about her personal Hawaiian experiences that Disney wants every employee to exude.
A resident of Waianae by way of Cerritos and the Philippines, Reola-Yocor told unsolicited stories about her family, remembered the names of hotel guests and offered sightseeing recommendations.
"Do you have a car?" Reola-Yocor asked. "I'll tell you where to go."
At lunchtime, Hannah was heading to Aunty's Beach House kids club so I grabbed her a quick bite at the One Paddle, Two Paddle takeout stand hidden from sight behind the 'Ama 'Ama.
Hannah went for the reasonably priced ($6.75) kids meal box lunch that came with two cheeseburger sliders, chips and a drink, while Nancy and I headed off-property for lunch after exhausting all of our choices at the Aulani after only three meals (two at the same restaurant).
We ended up at the Hawaiian barbecue fast-food restaurant in the Ko Olina Center across the street, dining on loco moco plate lunches, which proved delicious and affordable.
The largely vacant shopping mall also features Just Tacos Mexican restaurant with a tequila bar and an ABC Store with a deli sandwich counter and an extensive wine selection.
On our last night at the Aulani, Hannah watched "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" under the stars with another cheeseburger box lunch while Nancy and I went to the 'Olelo Room for pub grub.
At the 'Olelo Room, Hawaiian for "word," bartenders provided pointers on Hawaiian pronunciation in a cocktail lounge covered floor to ceiling in the local dialect.
The most Hawaiian room in the resort and one of my favorite spaces at the Aulani, surprisingly offered the least Hawaiian fare: Nancy went for the Kobe sliders ($15) while I went for the cheese plate ($17).
We would have eaten every meal at the 'Olelo if they offered more than five things on the menu (and were open at lunch).
And as the bartender said: "The more you drink, the better you speak Hawaiian." After a few sangrias, even I could almost pronounce humuhumunukunuku apua'a.
Overall, we found the food options lacking at the Aulani. It may come with the price of admission at a $400-a-night hotel, but we quickly grew weary of dinner tabs for three in $200 range. What the Aulani lacked most was a fast, casual sit-down restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I hope that's on an upcoming menu.
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