The Painted Panda is located in the usual waterside spot across from the China Pavilion.
Both of the food items are new, replacing last year’s trifecta of travesty, which averaged a two out of ten on value. The Sea Butterfly joins the list of drinks, replacing last year’s Plum Tomato Cocktail.
Seriously, they used to serve a scoop of white rice for five dollars.
Spicy Beef Shumai – $10.50
This was one of my favorite dishes of the day with each of the three steamed dumplings packed full of spicy beef and perched on top of a briny, sweet slice of crunchy pickle.
The spice is far from overwhelming, so even those somewhat adverse to a little heat should enjoy the bite, which also features a lot of soy. The plating is one of the most attractive that we’ve seen and I wouldn’t be put off if I was served something similar at Nine Dragons or Morimoto Asia. At $10.50, these are a great use of a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan, but they’re two dollars overpriced out of pocket, even compared to other Festival items. You probably still want to give them a try.
Char Siu Pork Bun – $7.50
China always seems to offer one of these bao buns, filled with everything from hoisin duck to Mongolian beef over the last few Festivals.
This year, we have Char Siu Pork, which should be nicely-marinated, juicy, and carrying a slight smoky flavor in between the sweet and sour notes. Our pork was bone dry, which meant there was no saving the dish, even if the rest of the flavors were on-point. Since this is the Festival of the Arts, seeing the sauce spooned out onto the tray was an attractive touch, but it really needed to be spooned onto the pork itself in higher quantities. The unruly, long strands of herb didn’t help, particularly when they’re overflowing off the bun and touching what is one of the many stained tables that you’ll see dotting the World Showcase landscape. On the plus side, this is about the most substantial bao bun that we’ve seen from China, stuffed with several pieces of thick pork. But the meat would need to be juicier and more flavorful for it to be worth picking up. Of course, you never really know what you’re going to get at these Festivals, but my confidence level in these buns being served with juicy, flavorful pork is not high. You might still risk it with a spare snack credit, but I’d be more liable to pick up a second Shumai.
“Panda” Bubble Tea: Classic Milk Tea with Black and White Boba Pearls – $7.25
If you’ve purchased a drink like this in China over the last year or so, then you might have seen it served in this precious Panda cup. While I usually like China’s Milk Teas, this one fell flat due to the odd texture of the squishy boba balls. You may have better luck than we did and the drink is appropriately sweet and creamy. I wouldn’t order another one with these particular balls, though.
Jasmine Draft Beer – $5
This Orlando Brewing Company beer, that’s just as skunkily below average as the majority of the rest of their offerings, debuted at the 2018 Food and Wine Festival. I’m guessing that the flavor is supposed to balance hops with a floral effervescence, but it tastes largely of peat moss and vermiculite. You might try it if you’re into the unique, but there are better beers around.
Fortune Cookie: ByeJoe Spirit, Amaretto, Coconut and Pineapple – $11
I’m glad that there’s not a spirit called “ByeJosh” as I have heard a number of times from women. This is a refreshing drink that reminded me a bit of Horchata – creamy, milky, and sweet with coconut and pineapple in the place of cinnamon. It’s actually pretty good, even if it doesn’t pack much of a punch.
Kung Fu Punch: Vodka, Triple Sec – $10.50
This is a refreshing, sweet, orange-flavored drink with a healthy pour of vodka on top.
It returns from its usual spot on the Food and Wine Festival menu and is one of the better cocktail values at the Festival, even if it’s up $1.50 over last year.
Sea Butterfly: Butterfly Pea Flower infused Cocktail with Lychee Syrup, Vodka, Light Rum, and Magic Boba Pearls – $12.50
It’s the Butterfly Pea Flower that turns the cocktail the pretty purple color. Otherwise, you have a refreshing, easy-drinking cocktail that’s heavy on the tropical lychee syrup, which helps wash away the flavors of the vodka and rum. It’s fun to try to suck up the little boba pearls along with the rest of the drink, which actually packs a pretty sizable punch. Skip it if you don’t like the flavor of lychee.
You may intermittently also have the opportunity to order one of these candy sugar paintings.
Most animals are $15 and they can make practically anything out of the melted sugar.
The dragon will set you back $22.
As usual, the cocktail lineup is the strongest part of China’s menu, and you may consider pairing a couple of the selections along with a Beef Shumai.