Kids’ fun, adults’ prices, no mess
If, like me, you live in an apartment the size of a postage stamp, doing it at home is not an option. (“Jeremy, you sit in the broom cupboard like a good boy. And Katie, I want you to perch up there on top of the bookshelf, O.K.?”) How about a picnic, then ― along, say, the banks of the Han River? (“Let’s see: We’ll need a cooler for the chocolate cake, umbrellas in case it rains, sunscreen in case it shines, and?”)
No, no, no. Birthday parties bring out the worst curmudgeons in parents at the best of times: The additional stress of organization has to be minimized. A restaurant is the only choice. True, you end up coughing up a bit more, but at least you don’t have to worry about space and food preparation, not to mention clearing up the inevitable chaos of spilled drinks, squashed cake and ketchup stains.
One restaurant with a rep for being sprog-friendly is the family dining franchise Kahunaville, a big, colorful establishment a stone’s throw from the Marriott.
So on a recent Saturday afternoon, three wary adults and a half-dozen excitable little tykes tumble in. There is a children’s playground on the left ― so far, so good ― and more ominously a video game arcade and gift shop on the right.
While the tiny ones amuse themselves/terrorize the rest of the patrons, we enter the main dining area. After walking past a rock-wall waterfall, the huge dining room is revealed. At the end is a faux bamboo bar, in the center are faux palm trees and holding up the roof are faux totem poles. Walls are hung with faux creepers and garish murals of South Pacific sunsets. More noticeable are the fetching threads worn by the waitresses: Colorful sarong-type dresses, which reveal plenty of shapely shoulders and fine figures. Nothing faux there, I trust.
The menu? While decor is faux Hawaii/South Seas, the bill of fare is barely distinguishable from that of TGIF, Bennigan’s, Tony Roma’s and the rest: A handful of salads, large chunks of chargrilled cattle, a few pastas, a sprinkling of Tex-Mex, etc, etc, etc.
The kids get an all in-deal for 11,800 won ($12.30). This comes on a canteen-style tray with chunks of fried chicken, spaghetti bolognese, a large dollop of ketchup and spuds. The latter are cunningly designed: Mash in a light fried coating and cut into animal shapes. Cue a few minutes of messy wheeling and dealing among the little dears: “Can I swap my mammoth for your crocodile?” “No, no, no, I want to keep the crocodile, but I will swap your warthog for my anteater.”
The real issue, though, is the wallet damage. Prices of 12,300 won for the quesadilla and 11,200 won for the chicken are, I suppose, not too ruinous, but 28,800 won for the ribs and 17,800 (yes: 17,800 won) for the salad are, well, verging on the ridiculous.
Of course the real pleasure for parents of coming to one of these “family diners” is the dependable cocktail lists. I order a Long Island ice tea (5,800 won) and am not let down: It is long, strong and cool. While the kids scream and yell, I hurriedly duck down behind the menu and enjoy a long swig. Just what the quack ordered.
But relief is short-lived. “Daddy, may I try a little bit, pleeeeassse?” “Absolutely not - drink your orange juice and behave!” The juice, by the way, comes free with the kids’ sets.
Then it is time for “Happy Birthday.” The tune comes over the speakers, a couple of waitresses come over, grin and shake rattles, and that’s it. Granted, they probably have to do this a dozen times a day, but I am a bit underwhelmed at this unenthusiastic and frankly uncreative display.
Even so, the best comes last. The kids’ sets include ice cream cones, filled with some really creamy, strongly vanilla-flavored ice cream. This kept them quiet for a few precious minutes, and, judging by the mess they all made, the little darlings enjoyed it. At the very least, they trooped out with smiles as well as ice cream plastered across their sweet little mugs.
Verdict: Kids’ grub, adults’ prices. The general lack of enthusiasm/creativity on the part of the staff left me cold, but the little ones seemed to enjoy it. “Daddy, may we come here again tomorrow, pleeeaaase?” “Absolutely not. You don’t get another birthday for another year.” Thank God. Should any readers wish to recommend restaurants for children’s parties, please let me know by next year.
by Andrew Salmon