If you were going to make a list of things that will never happen, other than seeing another easywdw.com update in this lifetime, “Walt Disney World restaurant ridding itself of its reputation, good or bad” would be near the top. I guarantee you that just hearing the words “Nine Dragons” together causes thousands of people reading this to instantaneously think “never again” after an unfortunate pair of pork egg rolls arrived at their table during a particularly unpropitious afternoon back in June 2007. Never forget.
And that’s okay. With over a hundred restaurants on property alone, there are few opportunities for most guests to give a restaurant a second opportunity, even if it was Hanukkah and they were feeling remarkably forgiving. And with the ease of leaving reviews anonymously, again and again and again, there is nothing stopping a handful of people from recounting the same traumatic egg roll experience on every internet forum for years to come.
I’ve probably written more positive reviews about Nine Dragons than anyone else on the planet. There’s this one from about this time two years ago, which covered items like the Sweet and Sour Pork, Canton Pepper Beef, Chicken Consomme with Chicken Dumplings, and Potstickers.
Then from the year before, this dinner review that included items like Hot & Sour Soup, Shrimp and Chicken Egg Rolls, Honey-Sesame Chicken, and Zha Jiang Noodle Sampler.
Earlier this year, I ran a lunch review that included the General Tso’s Chicken Buns, Vegetable Spring Rolls, Nine Dragons Lo Mein, and Moo Goo Gai Pan.
Interestingly, the two items that we didn’t really like – the Zha Jiang Noodle Sampler and Shrimp and Chicken Egg Rolls, are no longer on the menu, while everything else remains.
But there are two things Nine Dragons does unmistakably well. The first is to be available. We’ve probably all worked down our list of acquaintances on a Friday night only to have to go out with easywdw because all of the other blogs are busy. If it’s late and you’re unexpectedly looking for a sit-down restaurant at Epcot, then Nine Dragons is probably going to have a table ready in 15-minute increments all night. As always, you want to make a reservation so you can guarantee that they will seat you. The restaurant can be half full but if they are only accepting reservations for half of their capacity then they may turn you away. They can’t if you have a table booked.
The second is price. Nine Dragons is Epcot’s least expensive table service restaurant. The dinner menu is below or check Disney directly: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/epcot/nine-dragons-restaurant/menus/dinner/.
That’s a 3-course dinner for $25 and eight entrees under $20. La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico doesn’t have any dinner entrees under $25 and the least expensive appetizer+entree+dessert is $39.50 or 58% more money. Granted, the appetizer is going to be more food than the soup at Nine Dragons. The only restaurant that could give it a run for its money is Rose & Crown in the UK, which like Chefs de France, did away with its lunch menu earlier this year. There, you’ve got four entree choices under $20.
I typically only recommend booking a dining reservation with plans to see IllumiNations from where you’re sitting if it’s okay if you don’t have a good view. In other words, if it’s your one and only opportunity to see IllumiNations then you probably don’t want to risk hoping that a window table will be available at La Hacienda. Rose & Crown will get you in front of the show, but it’s not always the best view or the ideal circumstances. But Nine Dragons does dim the lights and play the music for the show. So if you are of the mind that it would be kind of fun to see the fireworks, but don’t need to be front and center or outside, then it’s an interesting perspective.
Back to money, lunch is an even less expensive proposition:
That’s comparable to what a lot of quick service entrees + desserts will run you and Nine Dragons throws in a couple spring rolls or potstickers. At Liberty Inn at Epcot, the fast food hamburger is $14.49 and the Peach Cobbler is $4.29.
Drinks follow a similar pattern:
Is there another specialty cocktail on property priced at $8 or less?
I was at Morimoto Asia last Saturday to try their late night bar menu, where the drinks are $15. Is whatever this was a better cocktail? Yeah. 87.97% better? Nah.
There is $36 worth of food sitting on that table. Yes I know your face got a little closer to the screen after reading that. But we’ll get to Disney Springs once we plow through the rest of World Showcase.
Now that “Nine Dragons History 101: The Hard Sell” is behind us, we can move on to a fresh meal.
I tried the $7.98 Shangri-La Blend Frozen Daquiri, which is a frozen mixture of the non-alcoholic Strawberry and Mango smoothies topped with Rum.
I am not usually a Frozen drink person, but I had arrived at 7:40am for the first day of Frozen and well…when in Rome or whatever. It might have had something to do with the fact that I had been out in RealFeel 100+ degree weather for 14 hours, but this was surprisingly refreshing. I think it was the fact that it was a frozen version of their “smoothies” rather than the sugar bombs that are typically Disney slushes that helped carry it. There is not a whole lot of rum involved? Maybe 1.25 ounces? But at a $3 upcharge, that’s not bad. Disney is charging $5-7 for the same amount of rum in a Dole Whip or ice cream elsewhere. Either way, very refreshing with a nice natural fruitiness to the cocktail. You almost never see that.
If I was going to complain about something, and considering the url of this website you know that it’s coming, it’s that their soft drink/tea/water glasses suffer from RaglanRoad-ism. They only hold maybe ten ounces at most? On the plus side(?), it means your sever is going to be back at the table every few minutes to fill glasses.
Appetizer-wise, there’s a variety of relatively inexpensive appetizers that you’ll find in any restaurant that serves food from anywhere in Aisa. These are the Pot Stickers –
Pan-fried Chicken and Vegetable dumplings served with Soy Dipping Sauce that come four to an order for $6.98. I think it’s evident from the picture that they are perfectly prepared with a crispy exterior and meaty interior. With that said, they are almost certainly defrosted, but at $1.75 each in a restaurant setting, perhaps not the worst way to start a meal.
A more interesting option is the Dumplings in Chili Sauce – Classical Sichuan Chicken Dumplings in a spicy chili sauce with a bouquet of fresh vegetable toppings. Tell us your choice of spiciness.
Six arrive with an order here and the menu asks you to stipulate how spicy you’d like the sauce, which is a nice touch. These are the same potstickers as the other dish with the spicy chili sauce underneath and some vegetables that add some crunchiness and an astringent flavor that contrasts nicely with some of the peppery citrus from the sichuan. I think it’s the standout appetizer here.
For $4-$5, you can start with a cup of their hot-and-sour soup or chicken dumpling consomme. If you’re one of those people that brings a sweater along in July because of the air-conditioning then it might be a nice choice. I like them both but neither is out of the ordinary.
I’ve been plugging Nine Dragons’ Buns since trying the General Tso’s variety back in May.
The portion size on these is substantial for $9. Back in May, I had been whining about the diminishing size of the Flower and Garden food samples, but if something like this had been served for $5 each, you wouldn’t have heard a peep out of me.
This is the Braised Pork Belly Steamed Buns – Steamed Chinese Buns filled with braised pork belly served with our original chili aioli. I was a little concerned that the dish would be a little on the slippery side with pork belly usually being tender but fatty, but somebody figured out how to fix that by adding the crunchy chow mein noodles and some red onion, which again contrasted nicely with the spicy sweetness of the aioli. I wish they would send these over to Joy of Tea or Lotus Blossom because they would be a slam dunk quick service option with a side of rice for $12. So good and you could make a small meal out of them, particularly if you started with a soup or added a side of rice or noodles. That’s actually exactly what I did on one go around.
A more recent look at the General Tso’s version. Trust me. A ton of food for nine bucks. So good.
Entree-wise, this is the $24 Kung Pao Shrimps – A saucy favorite – With peanuts and dried chili peppers. It’s always nice to know that you’re getting more than one. I will agree with the description in that this is incredibly saucy – too thick for my tastes – I would have liked something a little more subtle with more depth of flavor. There was also like eight or ten servings of peanuts underneath – more than anybody could feasibly consume. Overall, this is exactly what it says it is – saucy peanuts and shrimp. And a lot of it. But I don’t think I’d order it again – very “one note.”
The $18 Kung Pao Chicken, which is the exact same idea – a ton of food. But again, I would have liked to see a more complex flavor and something in addition to just chicken and peanuts – water chestnuts or green/red peppers or something.
But what’s served is exactly as described so maybe this is like ordering Kung Pao Chicken and complaining that they didn’t serve me steak.
The $19 Honey-Sesame Chicken – Chef Wei’s Specialty served with Asparagus.
Perhaps there has been a fire sale on thin pieces of asparagus after THe BOAThOUsE has gobbled up all of the larger stalks thanks to my Twitter header because it “feels” like all of Nine Dragons’ entrees arrive with a couple pieces thrown on top even if literally only two actually do.
Anyway, the Honey Sesame Chicken has a nice, light, crispy exterior that gives way to tender, flavorful chicken inside underneath a sweet sauce that doesn’t “feel” as heavy handed as the kung pao. The portion size isn’t as substantial as it would have been a few years ago, but it’s more than most people will be able to eat. Especially after one of those Buns as an appetizer.
The $22 Peppery Shrimp with Lightly Spiced Spinach Noodles.
This is a good choice if you’re looking for something that isn’t fried with fresher flavors, but it is a little chintzy with just six smallish shrimp. “Lightly spiced” in the name of the dish is again strikingly accurate – there isn’t a lot of flavor here and the mostly raw vegetables on top of a bed of cooked noodles is a little strange. But the noodles, which used to be served as a side with a lot more entrees, provide a lot of heft and are quite filling, even if there isn’t a lot of protein coming from the shrimp.
So that’s Nine Dragons for you. Like Lotus Blossom, the Chinese quick service arm, I think it’s a better restaurant than most people give it credit for, but it still isn’t the restaurant I would pick with just one or two meals at Epcot. There are a lot more unique experiences to be had, whether underneath the perpetual twilight of San Angel Inn, Oktoberfest amidst a Bavarian village at Biergarten, dining inside of a Moroccan palace while being entertained by a belly dancer at Marrakesh, etc. And for those on a budget and with the ability to share a larger pizza, Via Napoli remains the best bang for your buck.
But Nine Dragons does offer a relatively inexpensive menu, particularly at lunch, and the portions are large enough that you should be able to easily share and still fill up without being uncomfortable. With the abundant number of snacks and drinks available around World Showcase, sharing a $9 General Tso’s Chicken Buns and an $18 lunch set would set you back $32.40 with 20% tip. That’s less than two hamburgers and a single piece of pie at Liberty Inn.
So I think that’s where Nine Dragons should fit into your plans.
But the website does strive on negativity so if you have a particularly funny story about how bad your experience was from June 2007, by all means. Here’s Nine Dragons’ most recent review on TripAdvisor:
Something tells me those spills might not be an accident, Charles.
Amusingly(?), Nine Dragons is ranked 263rd out of all Orlando-area restaurants, while Morimoto Asia is just five spots higher at 258th. So perhaps the tides are turning.
We’ll take a look at some shopping in China along with some skipped over pictures from around the Pavilion next.