We continue with our trip into China with a review of Nine Dragons, the Pavilion’s table service restaurant that serves lunch and dinner.
So far, we’ve taken a look at the Inside Shanghai Disney Resort exhibit, which included more than 150 pictures of the models, concept art, souvenirs, costumes, and more that you’ll see in the expansive gallery. We also walked around the Pavilion to see what’s new and to check out what’s going on for the Flower and Garden Festival. And there was a merchandise update with pictures of hundreds of items available in the House of Good Fortune, among other outlets.
My love of Nine Dragons is a minority opinion, but I will tell you exactly what I like about it:
- The ease of the experience: Nine Dragons will almost certainly have a reservation available and upon arrival, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to wait more than three minutes to be seated. When you’re hot and tired, this goes a long way compared to walking around World Showcase asking about walk-up availability or having to wait a while to be seated at something like San Angel Inn.
- Friendly, efficient service: I go to Nine Dragons a lot and service is almost always courteous and prompt. You’re probably going to see your server nine or ten times throughout the meal as they refill beverages and make sure everything is okay. At Via Napoli, you’ll probably see your server four times – at some point after you’re seated, to take your order, to deliver the bill, and then to make sure it’s signed.
- Relatively inexpensive prices: The average cost of a dinner entree is $21.77. Lunch is even cheaper with an average entree price of $18.79. And you can start with Sweet & Sour Soup or Chicken Dumplings Consomme for $5 or less. At Tutto Italia, the average dinner entree costs $29.21, which is 34.2% more. At Teppan Edo, the average lunch entree will run you $33, which is 75.6% more money than Nine Dragons. I’ll be reviewing both of those restaurants on our tour around World Showcase as well.
- The atmosphere inside the restaurant is pleasant. Request a window table and enjoy watching the people make very bad decisions by not going to Nine Dragons.
Of course, none of that may matter to you. There are far better “values” on the Dining Plan. It may be worth the wait to sit by the water under the perpetual twilight of Mexico at San Angel Inn. And if you’re planning a table service restaurant for lunch, there probably won’t be too much trouble finding availability no matter where you’d like to dine.
But if you’re planning a quick service meal in World Showcase, Nine Dragons may be a good substitute. And if you find yourself unexpectedly back at Epcot without dining reservations, then Nine Dragons may just come to the rescue. Let’s see how things shape up.
Nine Dragons’ interior is probably not what’s going to draw you in, but it’s more elegant than you might be expecting. The window table request is a smart one and you may also prefer a table with bench seating along the wall to get out of the main dining area, which can be a little congested.
Here’s a look at the current lunch menu:
The appetizers, soups, and sides are the same for both lunch and dinner, while the Nine Dragons Lunch Box, Happy Family, and Moo Goo Gai Pan are exclusive to the lunch menu.
The $5 “Hot & Sour Soup with Shredded Chicken” is a great, filling way to start the meal. The soup is served piping hot and is full of stuff with a little bit of heat. Very satisfying.
The $10 “General Tso’s Chicken Buns – Fried with Famous Sauce” are just about enough food for an entree, particularly if you were to add a $4 side of “Egg and Vegetable Fried Rice.” The chicken is incredibly crispy with just a little bit of the sweet and spicy sauce in between the soft bun. The red onion adds even more crunch with a little bit of a piquant bite. I definitely recommend sharing these and you might request a side of the sauce. They’re a good value as a pair for ten bucks.
I’m less enthusiastic about the $10 “Treasure Spring Rolls – Chicken, Shrimp, Fish,” which used to be called the “Shanghai Spring Rolls.” They’re far less substantial than the Chicken Buns and most of the flavor comes from either the sweet and spicy chili sauce or the creamier sriracha aioli. I’d recommend them more if they came with a third roll or if they came in at eight bucks. You might not let that stop you.
My last visit was Erin’s first – much like you, she had little interest in visiting Nine Dragons, but was so annoyed at my overtures that she finally relented. Or we were standing around China hungry without any discernible lunch plans. I prefer these $13 “Sichuan Dumplings – Chicken, Chili Oil Suace” to the $7 “Potstickers – Pan-Fried Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings served with Soy Dipping Sauce.” It’s a similar idea, but the Sichuan version arrives with seven potstickers instead of four underneath a crunch vegetable topping and on top of a deliciously spicy, sticky sauce. The dumplings are tender and packed full of spiced chicken. Very shareable.
Here’s your standard $7 Potstickers if you’d like to avoid the spice. There isn’t a tremendous amount of value here, but the delicate dumplings are nicely prepared with just a little bit of a crispy exterior.
Exclusive to the lunch menu, I recently tried the $19 “Happy Family -Stir-fried Beef, Shrimp, Chicken, Vegetables,” which I found to be on the bland side of things. On the plus side, it’s probably more healthy than a lot of the deep-fried, oilier options and it’s quite a bit of meat, even if it doesn’t appear that way zoomed in so far on the plate. And it was prepared surprisingly well – the broccoli retained a nice crunch and the shrimp had a nice snap to each bite, in addition to the tender chicken and beef. Sharing this and another entree might be smart, but I thought it was on the under-seasoned side of things. Looking back, a pinch of salt would have probably helped.
Here’s a look at the dinner menu:
The most popular entrees appear again with what is typically a $2 upcharge over lunch.
The same is true for the Chef’s Selection, which is currently Spicy Honey Chicken that will set you back $18 for lunch and $20 for dinner.
On a recent visit, I ordered just that “as spicy as you can make it.” While this is probably a death wish at your local Chinese takeout, I figured we were probably safe in the comfortable confines of Nine Dragons and that turned out to be true. But the chicken was different than the typical deep-fried variety with a spicy chili rub and a surprisingly flavorful, nuanced sauce. I missed some of the crispiness of the standard Honey Chicken, but this was more food than any of us could eat. You can also upgrade your standard white rice to the vegetable fried rice for $2 and you’ll come away with a larger bowl of tastier rice. I’d consider that upgrade.
On our last visit, Erin and I shared the Honey-Sesame Chicken, which is $18 for lunch and $20 for dinner. It’s a sizable pile of fresh, lightly-battered, deliciously-crispy chicken tossed in a slightly sweet honey sauce.
It’s about twice as much food as the $11 Orange Chicken that’s served at the Lotus Blossom quick service outside.
Here’s what the Spicy Honey Chicken looks like by default – it’s very similar with just a little bit of a chili spice.
The drink menu focuses on fruity, refreshing drinks, in addition to beer and wine:
You can always ask for a double Canadian Club.
Here’s the $10.50 “Jade Beauty – Vodka, Honeydew Melon Liqueur, Pineapple Juice, Lemon-Lime Soda.” The melon flavor is strong and probably overpowering, but the soda does a nice job of making it drinkable. It’s very sweet.
Overall, Nine Dragons is not the one restaurant that I would recommend in World Showcase, but it does make for a good substitute if you were planning on quick service somewhere. Service is fast and efficient and the food tastes good and is served in large portions at lower prices than other restaurants. Erin and I split the $13 Sichuan Dumplings and $18 Honey-Sesame Chicken and each ordered a $3 soda. After tax and 18% tip, that comes out to $46.07, or about $23 per person. A burger and a soda at Liberty Inn in the United States will set you back $18.31 after tax. For less than five dollars more, it seems like Nine Dragons is a no-brainer. We left full, but not uncomfortable, which is probably what you’re looking for from lunch in World Showcase. There’s no shortage of goodies.
We’ll move on to Germany.