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Guest Review: Nine Dragons Restaurant in Epcot

Our Guest Reviewer today, Derek Newton, shares a critical review of Nine Dragons in Disney World’s Epcot. Let us know your own personal experiences at this restaurant in the comments below!

As a restaurant in one of Epcot’s original countries, Nine Dragons at the China pavilion is often overlooked. It should be. I wanted to write that Nine Dragons deserves a second look, but one look was enough.

Atmosphere
We chose Nine Dragons because it was one of perhaps two or three restaurants in Epcot we had not tried. Our reservation was for 7:30 pm on a Friday and we arrived early (by a good 20 minutes) to find the undersized reception area literally overflowing with guests.

After finally making my way to the check-in desk and having my name located on the reservation list, I was given a light-up, vibrating coaster similar to those guests receive at suburban chain restaurants like Chili’s or Friday’s. The comparison was truer than I knew.

To the staff’s credit, we were seated in fewer than five minutes – still 15 minutes before our reservation time. And in general, the staff from reservation desk to wait staff did their best to accommodate a cramped, uninspired décor and predictable, bland menu.

Before being seated it was clear Nine Dragons was no place for serious foodies, romantics or even those seeking respite. The entire dining area was choked with patrons, many of whom were large families with small children resulting in a dining area that was equal parts crowded and loud.

Nine Dragons Dining Rooom

Wall to wall, the design and feel offered no more than any of a hundred cement block Chinese restaurants within a few dozen miles. There was no view, no clue that Nine Dragons was anything beyond ordinary – far below what an experienced Disney diner has come to expect.

One of the few bright spots of the evening was the placemat. As you can see in one of the photos, it was a fun opportunity to practice Chinese characters. The friendly server provided crayons and graded our work – we did not fare well.

Placemat with Chinese Characters

Eats
Unfortunately, the menu was not as engaging as the staff.

We ordered the pot stickers as an appetizer. They were served way too hot – scaling to taste – too hot in fact to taste at all. But they were unremarkable even with the watered-down sauce. We had to ask for chop sticks.

Our two entree choices were Sweet and Sour Pork and Zha Jiang Noodles Sampler.

Much like the pot stickers, the pork was nearly tasteless – almost as if the recipe called for removing the taste by design. I chose the Zha Jiang Noodles Sampler because the menu said it was “fun and interactive.”

Sweet and Sour Pork

If by “interactive” they meant mix your own noodles, check. But no definition of the word “fun” I know applies. Giving credit, chicken was spicy as advertised. But the mixing options (cucumber, cabbage, peas and carrots) didn’t offer nearly enough variety to alter the basics of spicy chicken and watery noodles. The pork mix-in was far better because it didn’t overpower the vegetables. Even so I wouldn’t order it again. How much can you really do with noodles, pork and four vegetables?

Zha Jiang Noodles Sampler

We shared a dessert – a strawberry, vanilla bean ice cream, which was surprisingly good. But by the time it arrived we were so pleased to be done with the Chinese food, it was a welcome change. On its own though, it held up well and was quite pleasing.

Strawberry, vanilla bean ice cream

Overall
Overall, if Nine Dragons is your only sit-down option in Epcot, go to any of the better snack carts (Germany and Italy are personal favorites) and find a curb or waterside table. At least you know what to expect and can still feel and experience Epcot. At Nine Dragons, you may as well be at any Chinese restaurant you’ve ever wandered into — where you’ll be less crowded, spend less money and enjoy better food.

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28 Comments

  1. Marilea says:

    While I agree that tasteless food should not be expected or tolerated, I think it’s a bit unreasonable to expect almost any WDW restaurant not to be full of families and kids. That was Walt’s dream; families having a wonderful vacation together. There are certainly options for quiet, romantic dining, but I wouldn’t expect it at many of the Epcot choices.

  2. Pudge the Fish says:

    I’ve only eaten at Nine Dragons, once 15+ years ago. I’ve always felt that eating at the China Pavilion was a step down from the myriad of excellent Chinese restaurants that I have close to home. And at home I have over 150 different reasonably priced menu choices compared to maybe 12 overpriced options at Nine Dragons. (This also applied to my opinion of Alfredo’s/Tutto Italia in Italy.)

    Don’t get me wrong because I still love many of the restaurants at EPCOT, but some of the luster is gone for a few of them because of the proliferation of theme and ethnic restaurants in America. 25 years ago when EPCOT was new, my town didnt have a hibachi or mexican restaurant, and now it has a half dozen of each. Therefore while I once loved Teppan Edo and San Angel Inn, now I rarely visit either one.

  3. Monique says:

    I was most disappointed with the menu. I am used to Epcot restaurants offering authentic food from the countless they represent. I lived in China and can atest that the food at Nine Dragaons was not authentic. It was American-Chinese, not much different than what you can get at Panda Express.

  4. Galloping Gourmand says:

    To their benefit, I love the cocktails here. They have a sunset martini that was to die for. It wasn’t really a martini, that’s just the way they sold it. Melon flavors – delicious!

    I ate at Nine Dragons three years ago. It’s the most disappointing of the Disney style of international food. Chinese food has 7 regional cuisines outside of Guangdon (which is what most American “chinese” restaurants serve) that Disney doesn’t touch. Sichuan’s bold flavors, Jiangsu’s textures, Jiangsu’s rich history. I would love a tasting menu of each, or even one representative dish from each province. Sadly, they go the easy way and serve up what people expect, blandly boiled down.

  5. Jeana says:

    I also had a disapointing experience there. We seated almost one hour after our reservation time, the staff was very grumpy (specially the server) – which is not a common thing at Disney. We we’re there in december 2010 and they didn’t have noodles. Call us beginners, but we wanted noodles! The kids menu wasn’t very attractive either. I don’t know, maybe it’s just not our kind of restaurant.

  6. Jonesey says:

    It’s a shame that Disney does not hire someone like Peter Chang (one of the best Chinese chefs in America) to come in and oversee the operations of a new Chinese Restaurant. We have never chosen to eat at Nine Dragons because we have been fortunate enough to have fantastic Chinese food at home, and we know that we would be disappointed if wasted one of our meals in Epcot.

  7. Heather says:

    We ate there last April. It wasn’t our favorite, but we didn’t have a horrible experience at all. We had some chicken dumplings that were pretty tasty and the honey sesame chicken was pretty good too.

  8. Dana says:

    Maybe with the crowded feel they were going for the “authentic” China experience?

    This is dissapointing to hear- I’ve never actually eaten in Nine Dragons (there are too many other good places to eat in Epcot!), but I have had a few things from their counter service place that were decent. And the pot stickers at the Food and Wine are always very good!

    Good to know I’m not missing anything by passing up this resturant!

  9. kirsten says:

    I have never eaten at China and I also dont eat at Japan, because I have so many of these types of places by my house I would rather go to restaurants that are different than what I can get at home. I have 3 hibachi restaurants within two miles of my house (one of which is way better than Teppan Edo) and at least 10 Chinese restaurants within 5 miles. They could make it a more upscale restaurant and then I might consider it.

  10. Katie says:

    The problem isn’t that Nine Dragons has lots of families, it’s that those families are about 6 inches from your table on all sides. Removing 20% of the tables would go a long, long way toward making the restaurant tolerable.

  11. James says:

    The food at the Chinese pavilion has definitely been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. Worse yet is the quick-service option a few doors down; when you’re screwing up egg rolls and pot stickers, it’s seriously time for a refresh. I understand that not everyone wants “authentic” Chinese food, but surely Disney could find a middle ground between “authentic” and “processed meat covered in neon-colored sugary sauce”

  12. Jenn says:

    I’ve never done the sit down, but I had the same sentiments on the counter service in the China Pavilion. Disgusting and greasy.. worse than mall food. It is a shame it’s slid so far – Chinese food can be really delicious!

  13. Samantha says:

    I don’t mean this to be incendiary, but, of the restaurants at all of the pavilions, do we think there are any that a local would truly call authentic and not “dumbed down” to some degree? I honestly don’t know the answer to this, I’m just wondering.

    When I was a kid I used to love Epcot, but since I’ve moved to New York City and, as others have pointed out, had great, pretty authentic Mexican and Middle Eastern food from the carts down the street, I am more skeptical of what we consider authentic when we’re at the pavilions.

  14. Samantha says:

    Just to follow up– not that I don’t LOVE these restaurants or the experiences they provide. I’m a BIG Epcot fan. : )

  15. Shayne says:

    We have eaten at Nine Dragons many times. Several years ago, they made changes to the menu, I believe in an attempt to make it more upscale. In my view, all they did was make it worse and more Americanized.

    Some menu items we tried on our last visit in 2009 were good, like the five-spice fish, while others were really not good at all, such as the Canton Pepper Beef.

    The desserts here are actually quite good and a welcome change from the typical homogenized Disney dessert offerings. As many have noted, we have a number of places within 3 miles of our house that serve much better Chinese food. It’s just a shame they can’t improve the quality of this restaurant.

  16. I have to agree with the reviewer – on a better note, if you go next door to the quick service Chinese, you can get almost a similar meal for 1/3 the price and I found the Orange Chicken quite good.

  17. That is certainly disappointing. I’ve never eaten at 9 Dragons but it doesn’t sound like something I will do. I agree with the other commenter who think Disney should spring for a really excellent Chinese chef to oversee the process. Cryin shame Disney can’t have better tasting Chinese. @chef BigFatPanda sounds like the quick service is the way to go if you must get Chinese in Epcot.

  18. Katie says:

    No, the quick-service place is dreadful. If you must get Chinese food in Epcot, you’re probably best off calling a local delivery place, having them meet you at the Beach Club, and bringing it back in through the International Gateway.

  19. Pam Johnson says:

    I totally agree with the review. If you’ve got a good Chinese restaurant at home (Chicago is home for me, Chinatown & lots of local restaurants with better food, cheaper prices), you’re better off eating there then at the one in EPCOT. Take your money and spend the time at one of Disney’s other restaurants. The quick service place isn’t much better.

  20. Jeff Sampson says:

    After hearing so many mediocre to bad things about this restaurant I had to try it for myself. All the reviews are spot on. It’s not just uninspired and bland, it’s just plain bad Chinese food. You can literally get much much better Chinese food from just about any takeout place along International Drive. Much better.

    It’s sad that visitors might go away thinking that this is representative or the best cuisine that China has to offer.

    Disney really needs to do something about this. It’s gone on for too long.

  21. Jen says:

    My boyfriend and I did not enjoy it at all. The food was basic and bland. I enjoyed the quick service food next door much better. The orange chicken was pretty good there and it was mostly empty the day we went. In my opinion, skip the Nine Dragons and head next door if you are craving Chinese in Epcot.

  22. Jamie in Jax says:

    This review is a bit unfair. While I do agree with the seating issue, the experience is not as bad as this review states. I think your choice of food was a bad one. If you had picked the honey sesame chicken, you not only could have shared it (more than enough food and you save money), you would have been very pleased with the taste. Throw a few egg rolls in there and you have your meal. Those of you that have never been, give it a try… BUT… get there when it opens for lunch and pick the table you want to sit at (there are windows if you can get a table by them). Although it may not be the most “romantic” venue, you can still have a nice lunch with your loved one(s). :)

  23. Carrie says:

    I have to agree with Jamie. We’ve eaten at Nine Dragons several times in the last few years and always had a great experience! You have to ask for a seat at the windows—I’d never want to eat in the interior seating area cuz it’s too dark and crowded.

    While the food is Americanized versions of Chinese food, it’s always been fresh, well prepared and never greasy—especially if you’re willing to stray from the usual sweet and sour pork. Also, unlike the reviewer, I like my food to arrive hot, something that almost never happens at WDW restaurants. I’d rather wait a few moments to eat it than get something that’s already cold. I do agree that the prices are high for what you get, though.

  24. Randy says:

    My wife and I have only eaten at the quick service counter in China and were thoroughly disappointed. After seeing that Nine Dragons had closed for a “refurb”, I was hoping to hear…after it re-opened…how great it was. Doesn’t look like that’s the case. I’m a Chinese-food-aholic (ask my wife) and could eat it 7 days a week…and I don’t mind that it’s not “authentic” Chinese cuisine(most Americans wouldn’t eat the real thing)…but would have a hard time wasting a table service credit on it unless it was spectacular.

    However, if you really want to find some tasty chinese food at Disney World, head over to the Yak and Yeti counter service in the Asia area at Animal Kingdom. It’s great!

  25. Regarding the Quick Service next door, I have only tried the Orange Chicken (3 times now to be exact). I think it was around $7.99 but I could be mistaken. Each time, it was HOT, tasty and a generous portion. I always do a “check” of the white meat inside and it was good quality real chicken breast although I would like less breading and more chicken. The White Rice was fresh, hot and fluffy each time. So, for around $10 with a drink, I felt that I had a decent chinese dinner. I can’t comment on any of the other items but I think this is a good alternative to the restaurant.

  26. CrazyDisneyMom says:

    I too must agree with Jamie on this one. Especially the part about the food being hot. I don’t mind waiting since I know it just came out fresh. :)

    While I cannot speak for other dishes on the menu, when my hubby and then 9 month old son were there in Oct. 2009, we quite enjoyed our meal. There were record-breaking temps during our visit (110 with heat index) and we were melting. We couldn’t get in at San Angel Inn so we figured we would give Nine Dragons a try. We had read numerous times about how it wasn’t any good, but we were on the deluxe dining plan and had plenty of credits to spare. When we got there it was empty and we were seated immediately. We had the chicken egg rolls first. I thought they were great (and I don’t even like egg rolls). Then we shared the honey sesame chicken, which I thought was really good as well. The jasmine iced tea was tasty too. We liked the honey chicken so much we brought my parents back on a different day so they could try it and they liked it as well.

    I would love to know if the honey sesame chicken at the Yak and Yeti counter service is the same (or similar). If so, that will be on my list while at Animal Kingdom. :)

  27. John G says:

    I agree that Nine Dragons deserves a BIG yawn as far as the food taste and quality. I expected much more Peppery Shrimp (with hardly any pepper) and Spicy Spinach noodles (no spice noted and looked like linguine noodles, not Chinese!). The pot sticker appetizer was tasty but barely luke warm in temperature (must have been a cold pot).

    All the staff however were cheerful, friendly and wonderful to deal with. So overall like many others have said, this restaurant is not even worth the moderate prices, whether for small or large groups. Better to use the food carts outside or some other restaurant.

  28. Elise says:

    We visited Epcot for only on day expecting a wonderful dining experience. The menu choices where not what we expected and limited to say the least. My daughter, who is 15 and not a huge chinese food eater, ordered fried rice. The chicken was like rubber and the shrimp were totally under cooked. She sometimes can picky, but my husband tasted it and said he wouldn’t eat it. If you knew my husband, that really tells you it was bad. He did not like his meal either. I ordered the make you own noodles dinner and what they gave me to put on the noodles was horrible. Not only that, the bowls were so small I couldn’t mix the noodles. Also, I feel it was completely and hugely overpriced. Not a good experience at all.

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