As you may be aware given past reviews like this one and this one and this one and this one, I may be the world’s largest Nine Dragons brand advocate. There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, it comes down to the ease of the experience. Nine Dragons will have a reservation available. They will seat you virtually immediately. Service is prompt and efficient. The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxing. The food is good quality served in large portions. And it’s less expensive than most other restaurants.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best choice for a single lunch or dinner at Epcot, where there’s a diverse selection of offerings, many of which offer unique settings and potentially “better” food. With a group of four people who can all agree on one or two sets of pizza toppings, Via Napoli is my favorite Epcot restaurant. Their largest pizza will set you back around $48 and is plenty of food to share among four people, which means each person pays quick service prices for an elevated experience with some of the best pizza on property.
At Nine Dragons, the lunch and dinner menus are similar, though in a strange turn of events the lunch menu actually offers two more appetizers, each of which sounds good. At least according to the online menu, you’ll find $9 “Shanghai Xiaolongbao – Steamed Shanghai-style pork soup dumplings served with our house dipping sauce” and $8 “Chinese Shrimp Dumpling (Har Gow) – A traditional Steamed Dim Sum favorite” for seatings between 12pm and 3:25pm. Beginning at 3:30pm, dinner is served with slightly higher prices on most entrees.
This time around, we tried the $9 “Shanghai Spring Rolls – Two hand-crafted Spring Rolls filled with Chicken, Shrimp, and Fish.” These were not your typical defrosted rolls that always seem to fry up soft and greasy.
Instead, they were stuffed mostly with chicken and vegetables inside of a nice crispy wrapper with the shrimp adding some crunch and the fish providing additional heft.
Much more substantial than the spring rolls, though those will only set you back five bucks.
But the $9 “General Tso’s Chicken Buns – Steamed Chinese Buns with Battered Fried Chicken Breast and General Tso’s Sauce” are arguably the best value on the menu. These along with the rolls above were officially added for the “Year of the Monkey” and were supposed to glow away back in January of 2k17, but still remain on the menu. That’s a good thing because for nine bucks, you get two terrific soft steamed buns packed with a large, crispy piece of fried chicken, and a flavorful sauce along with the crunchy onions. Very good and very filling. A set of these is substantial enough to work as an entree in a lot of situations. You probably won’t want two to start your meal with an entree after.
On our most recent meal, we returned to some favorites, including the $13 “Dumplings in Chili Sauce – Classical Sichuan Chicken Dumplings in a spicy chili sauce with a bouquet of fresh vegetable topping. Tell us your choice of spiciness.” These were ordered “extra spicy” and that request was largely obliged, though we are not talking “Thai Thani hot” here. Six filling dumplings arrive with an order on top of the chili sauce, which has a nice peppery quality to it, sweetened up with some citrus notes. The assortment of vegetables do a nice job of soaking up the flavors of the sauce along with a typically astringent crunch. They are $6 more than the standard $7 “Pot Stickers,” but you do get two more dumplings along with the vegetables, making it a reasonable investment.
Another great value, the $4 Hot-and-Sour Soup is a mildly spicy, flavorful way to begin the meal for less money than you’d pay for a couple of carrot sticks with ranch dressing at an outdoor kiosk. It’s the sort of thing that’s made in large batches and sits, but the broth is appropriately thick, with some rice vinegar and pepper notes. And there’s a lot of tofu, bamboo shoots, and egg mixed in to keep each bite interesting. It’s basically free by Disney standards, so you might as well.
The $5 “Chicken Dumpling Consomme” is more straightforward with the al dente dumplings swimming in the chicken broth underneath, spiced up a bit with the green onion. It’s not a bad way to start a meal, but you might consider the Pot Stickers instead, where you’ll add two dumplings and the sauce for two dollars more. But the soup is hot and comforting.
With 15 entrees spanning a lot of different styles and flavors, the menu is surprisingly vast. It’s not just the same deep fried chicken with your choice of 17 sauces.
The $19 “Spit-Roasted Beijing Chicken – Perfectly seasoned Rotisserie Chicken served with Egg Fried Rice.”
This was a large, meaty section of chicken that arrived with a crispy skin and a soy-dominant flavor profile with a little bit of sugary sweetness. It was on the dry side, unfortunately, which leads me to recommend one of the other options.
But the Egg Fried Rice is a nice accompaniment, again with the soy and pepper and quite a bit of egg and other vegetables. Served hot, it added a lot of heft to the dish, creating a very filling meal for the money. The crunchy vegetables to the rear were too vinegar-forward for me, but I had a couple of bites whenever I was in the mood for a zing. Which is often.
At $16, the “Nine Dragons Fried Rice – Stir-Fried with Chicken, Ham, Eggs, and Vegetables, topped with Grilled Shrimps” is a steal.
Six grilled shrimp top a heaping pile of rice with a generous mixture of ham, chicken, and vegetables. A very filling meal or a great item to share among a few people. This would be four large sides of shrimp fried rice for $4 per person.
The $25 “Nine Dragons Spare Ribs – Hoison-braised ribs with stir-fried cabbage” entree has been on the menu for about a year.
I enjoyed Morimoto’s version, though not as much as some. Above is $14 worth and I think you can see just how little meat is hugging the bone on the rib closest to the camera.
Nine Dragons’ version comes with six far-meatier bones, but they are also a lot fattier with flavors a lot less nuanced. But you get a similar punch of sweet and spicy hoisin sauce with a nice crispiness to the pork. It was actually more food than I could eat, which virtually never happens. The rice is served appropriately sticky and the same vegetables as we saw with the chicken are served on the side. A definite kimchi vibe there. Also easily shareable as you can pass off a rib or two without much effort.
Tom “Unbloggability” Corless ordered the $19 “Honey-Sesame Chicken – Chef Wei’s Specialty served with Asparagus,” which I think I now have 47 different pictures of. At least the presentation is a little different.
In the past, the chicken has been piled up!
With that said, the portion does look to be smaller than in the past, when an overwhelming amount of chicken was served. The picture immediately above is from a couple of years ago. Otherwise, the chicken has a nice, light, crispy exterior that gives way to tender, flavorful chicken underneath the sweet sauce with some honey and sesame notes. It’s a good value for less than $20.
A couple of specials are usually offered at the table.
But it may be wiser to stick to the mainstays. The pork belly was not very good.
The Banana Cheesecake Egg Rolls were back on the menu for a brief time, though the dessert du jour is an $8 “Coconut Rice Pudding – Nutty and Creamy – Sticky Red Rice Pudding infused with Coconut Milk and touch of Cinnamon served with Wonton Crisps.”
And they were probably removed for good reason as the overwhelming flavor was wet sock. The “cheesecake” had a terrible mushiness to it that wasn’t helped by the artificial-smelling bananas. Truly horrific. Though it’s worth noting that the portion is enough for at least 40 people as only half will get close enough to take a bite of this anyway and everyone will retreat soon after.
Overall, you might consider a relaxing Nine Dragons lunch, when prices are also a little lower than dinner. A soup, entree, and ice cream dessert will set you back just $17 or $18, which is just three dollars more than the hamburger from Liberty Inn. Will it be the most memorable meal of the trip? It seems unlikely, but it’s a good opportunity to recharge and prepare to get back out there.
Back in August, I walked you around the Shanghai Disney Resort exhibit in this post, which includes more than 150 pictures.
Since then, they’ve filled out the various displays with additional stuff:
It’s worth dropping by to see a bit of what they’re offering in Shanghai.
We’ll continue the Asian Zing tour with a new Yak & Yeti lunch review.