China returns in its usual waterside spot across from the rest of the Pavilion. We’re continuing on from Mexico.
The Xi’an Pancake with Beef replaces last year’s Spicy Chicken Bao Bun and what has been called “Chicken Potstickers” forever now arrive in the form of “Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw” for a dollar more than last year. Tsingtao is also out in favor of Jasmine Draft Beer and we add another cocktail based on Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit with the Honeydew Bai Jiu Cocktail.
- Xi’an Pancake with Beef — $6.75
- Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw – $4.95
- Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce – $6.75
- Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles – $6.75
- Jasmine Draft Beer – $4
- $8.95 Happy Peach with Dekuyper Peach Liqueur and Myers’s Dark Rum
- Kung Fu Punch with Vodka and Triple Sec – $8.95
- Byejoe Punch with Chinese Bai Jui Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice – $10.50
- Honeydew Bai Jiu Cocktail: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit and Honeydew Syrup — $10.50
Xi’an Pancake with Beef — $6.75
This is probably larger than it looks in the picture, filling the tray and weighed down considerably by the amount of beef inside.
The pancakes are probably not quite as crispy as they would be if they were actually served on the streets of Xi’an, but the fluffy dough does a nice job of transporting the marinated, slightly-spicy beef to wherever you might carry it; the pancake also isn’t as intrusive as the thick bao buns that we’ve seen in the past where the immense amount of dough overpowers the meager filling that we typically see from the World Showcase Marketplaces. I would have liked some bolder flavors – the beef is reasonably tender and certainly looks the part, but Disney reliably backs off from the spice, often to the detriment of what could have been. What we end up with isn’t quite novel enough to recommend on its own, I don’t think. It was one of the items that I was really looking forward to trying and if you look at the picture of the pancake on the menu above, you’ll see that it’s filled with peppers and the pancake is thinner and probably considerably crispier. But you could do a lot worse.
Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw – $4.95
Pan-fried pot stickers are among my favorite things and I was excited to try a new take on a venerable, if not overpriced, favorite. But this year’s “Chicken Dumplings” are exactly the same as the Pot Stickers that have been served here for years and that minuscule amount of cabbage and carrot on top increases the price by a dollar, which is ridiculous. They were also a little undercooked for my tastes, making for a softer, limper couple of bites.
Here’s what China has served for years. You can see that each dumpling has a little bit of a darker char, making for a much more satisfying, much more crispy bite. Renaming the item and raising the price by a dollar just to add a few strands of carrot that nobody’s going to touch anyway “feels” a bit insulting and we now have an item that was previously a poor value cost even more money. It’s unfortunate.
Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce – $6.75
The duck is sweet and salty covered in the crystallized hoisin sauce and the vegetables provide a nice crunch in between the soft, chewy, largely flavorless steamed bun. It’s on the expensive side, but the flavors are unique and we don’t see a lot of duck offered at the Festival this year, which potentially raises the value. It’s an interesting bite.
Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles – $6.75
The noodles are largely soft, rubbery, and slightly spicy underneath what is now a disappointing number of shrimp with just two adorning the top of each pile of noodles. There’s a decent amount of heft to the dish, but it’s largely one-dimensional and the shrimp don’t have a ton of flavor on their own.
This ends up being a relatively filling dish that would do a nice job of soaking up the alcohol from the relatively strong drinks served here, but it’s hard to look past the price point given the number of shrimp and overall quality.
Mango Bubble Tea with Assam Black Tea and Milk – $6.75
This is a cold and refreshing drink that’s creamy without being heavy and sweet without being overwhelming. It’s one of my favorite non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy in the lingering afternoon that will continue into the middle of October.
Jasmine Draft Beer – $4
One of these is the Jasmine Draft Beer from China and the other is the Godfather Beer from India, which is our next Marketplace visit. I’ll admit that I was excited to see a replacement for the bottles of Tsingtao that we’ve seen served here for years.
I was much less excited when I saw that it was just another lousy Orlando Brewing Company beer that’s just as skunkily below average as the majority of the rest of their offerings. I’m guessing that the flavor is supposed to balance hops with a floral effervescence, but it tastes largely of peat moss and vermiculite. Who would have thought we’d be begging for Tsingtao’s return.
If you’re looking for a more interesting beer in the area, try the Foo Beer from the Joy of Tea stand to the left of the China Marketplace. Even the Tiger Beer from Lotus House is better. Very troubling.
$8.95 Happy Peach with Dekuyper Peach Liqueur and Myers’s Dark Rum
China’s drinks end up being among the strongest at the Festival thanks to what are usually heavy pours. You might scope out who is doing the mixing and see how it’s looking before committing as the non-alcoholic juices are poured first with the alcohol following, so you can get a better idea about how much is actually poured versus the many pre-mixed concoctions. The Happy Peach is sitting to the rear and the fruit juices do a nice job of masking a lot of rum flavor. It’s not as nuanced as what you might enjoy in Mexico, but the drinks are typically stronger and easier to drink.
Kung Fu Punch with Vodka and Triple Sec – $8.95
The Kung Fu Punch is a refreshing, sweet, orange-flavored drink with a healthy pour of vodka on top.
It’s always one of the smarter cocktail buys at the Festival.
Byejoe Punch with Chinese Bai Jui Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice – $10.50
This is perhaps the most refreshing cocktail at the Festival, tasting faintly of pineapple, lychee, and sweet coconut while still maintaining a surprisingly thin, easy-to-sip consistency.
It packs a considerable punch as well. Note that the drink has proven to be so popular that it’s now available year-round from the Joy of Tea.
Honeydew Bai Jiu Cocktail: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit and Honeydew Syrup — $10.50
This new drink is too heavy on the sugar and artificial-tasting syrup for my tastes. If you really like the fake flavor of honeydew melon then you are in luck though, because that’s all that it tastes like. The Byejoe Punch is a smarter buy for the same money in most situations.
Overall, China offers some highs and lows. Most of the food tastes good, though I didn’t think the Pancake delivered on its promise and it’s a bummer to see the price of the potstickers rise 25% in exchange for a bite of slaw that’s going to be pushed to the side. It’s a surprisingly good stop for a mixed drink (or two), though.
India comes next with a review here.