Pandora — The World of AVATAR officially opens in Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 27th!
But the DFB was able to attend a Pandora Passholder Preview over the weekend. And you know what we learned?
That exploring all the gorgeous scenery and taking in two brand new attractions makes an interplanetary traveler awfully hungry.
And that’s where Satu’li Canteen — Pandora’s own fast-casual restaurant — comes in.
Now, don’t forget… we also have a full review of Pongu Pongu, Pandora’s drink station.
But for now, it’s time to say WELCOME, ACE eco-tourists, to Satu’li Canteen!
When you trek through Pandora, you are officially a guest of ACE: Alpha Centauri Expeditions. Though Pandora has a bit of a rough history due to the war with the RDA (Resource Development Administration) over the attempted exploitation of the land’s resources (unobtanium, specifically), those days are thankfully in the past.
ACE now leads eco-tourists through Pandora’s Valley of Mo’ara.
And one change they made was taking what was previously the RDA Mess Hall and turning it into Satu’li Canteen.
Along with the function of providing meals to travelers visiting Pandora, the Canteen also serves as a cultural hub showcasing Na’vi items and artwork.
Of course, you’ll still spot evidence of the RDA’s previous presence here and there.
Both indoor and outdoor seating are available. The indoor offers space for up to 330 guests.
And an additional 190 seats are outside.
We also just received some AWESOME news about the Mobile Order process. This new program is anticipated to be offered at additional fast-casual and quick service restaurants as the year goes on.
This pre-order and pre-pay option will allow guests to bypass the ordering queue and will be available via the My Disney Experience app, and you can read all about it on our Mobile Order Page.
And this just in: if you update your My Disney Experience LIKE RIGHT NOW, you can use Mobile Order at Satu’li! Sweet!
For purposes of our Preview, though, it was pretty much business as usual with the standard dual-sided ordering queues and counter pickup.
Now let’s check out what they’re preparing for all the space travelers visiting Pandora.
Satu’li Canteen is serving up breakfast (surprise!), lunch, and dinner in anticipation of LOTS of guests spending plenty of time exploring Pandora! In keeping with the story of the land, the options are meant to reflect “Pandora’s natural abundance,” with a focus on whole food grains, veggies, and proteins.
Our Passholder Preview began at 12:00 noon, but we were able to get a look at the Breakfast menu, where unique options such as Vegetable-Goat Cheese Frittata and Scrambled Egg, Bacon, and Spinach Steamed “Pods” (Bao Buns) are offered alongside more traditional items like Cinnamon French Toast. (Just click the image below to enlarge.) FYI, we’re hearing you can’t go wrong with the french toast!
We’ve explored the Lunch and Dinner options in previous posts, with the spotlight falling on the Create-Your-Own Satu’li Bowl and more Steamed “Pods” (Bao Buns) with both a meat (Cheeseburger) and vegetarian option.
The specialty drink of Pandora is the non-alcoholic Pandoran Sunrise, which is available with or without the souvenir Na’vi Flute Cup.
Allergy-friendly options are also on offer for all the day’s meals, with notes regarding which choices are safe for which allergies (and, as always, concerned guests are welcome to speak with a Disney chef).
Simply ask a Cast Member if you don’t see the allergy-friendly menu readily available!
As for what we ordered, let’s start with our drinks. We grabbed pretty much all the specialties of the Canteen: the Pandoran Sunrise, the Dreamwalker Sangria, Hawkes’ Grog Ale (that’s the green beer), and Mo’ara High Country Ale.
Now, the Pandoran Sunrise has met with some controversy. Early reviews from Cast Member previews were not positive, to say the least. In fact, they were so unfavorable that we have since been informed by a Cast Member that this non-alcoholic blend of tropical juices combined with Powerade Melon was reformulated just prior to our Preview. (Same ingredients, different amounts.)
Whatever the new mix is, the melon flavor is definitely dominant, though it wasn’t as sweet as I anticipated.
Either way, I didn’t find it to be horrible, but it’s still not something I would run back to get, unless I was really in need of some of those electrolytes.
Next up are three beverages for adults only, starting with the Dreamwalker Sangria: a white sangria with a bit of Blue Curaçao to create the drink’s hue.
Okay, I get it. We’ve entered into a whole new planetary realm in Pandora, so things should look a little different. Enter: the Blue Curaçao. But I’m sorry. It just doesn’t work. The syrupy sweetness of this addition only detracts from — and even overpowers — the white wine, and you’re likely much better off giving the Banshee Chardonnay or Pinot Noir a go.
Things start looking up, though, once you realize you’ve got your pick of two draft beers including the Mo’ara High Country Ale.
This one carries a mild fruitiness, and is simply a pleasant, light selection.
Even so, I’d still say go for the green one by checking out the Hawkes’ Grog Ale !
Despite the unique color, this is just a good, basic beer without too much “extra” going on. Either beer is a nice choice for those not wanting anything too heavy.
Moving on to entrees, the Create-Your-Own Satu’li Bowl presents the opportunity for some customization at Satu’li Canteen.
You’ll find the process and options listed on the menu. They are as follows:
Step 1: Select your protein from Beef, Chicken, Sustainable Fish, and Chili-Spiced Crispy Fried Tofu.
Step 2: Select your base from Quinoa and Vegetable Salad, Red & Sweet Potato Hash, Mixed Whole Grain & Rice, and Romaine & Kale Salad.
Step 3: Select your sauce from Charred Onion Chimichurri, Black Bean Vinaigrette, and Creamy Herb Dressing.
So, allow us to present our Chopped Wood-Grilled Chicken, Red & Sweet Potato Hash, and Black Bean Vinaigrette Bowl, and our Slow-Roasted Sliced Grilled Beef, Quinoa & Vegetable Salad, and Charred Onion Chimichurri Bowl.
No matter what you choose, the Bowls are topped with crunchy vegetable slaw and yogurt boba balls (boba balls are a recurring theme in Pandora, as you’ll notice when we pay a full visit to Pongu Pongu in tomorrow’s review).
Each of the Bowls had their highlights, and lowlights. Of the two proteins we tried, we recommend the beef over the chicken.
Even though the charred chicken was nicely seasoned, the beef was prepared on the rarer side (which works for us!) and tender; not something you typically encounter in a quick service location. Thumbs up!
That said, we have to give the Red & Sweet Potato Hash base (from our Chopped Wood-Grilled Chicken) the higher score over the Quinoa and Vegetable.
And we’re not the only ones — early reviews of this particular base are getting high marks almost across the board. It’s that subtle hint of sweetness that makes this heartier base stand out from the others.
As far as the sauces go, it’s nice to say that not a lot can go wrong here. The Charred Onion Chimichurri (and, based on reader reviews, the Creamy Herb Dressing) is flavorful, if not particularly outside the norm.
If you’re looking for a slightly more unusual flavor addition, go for the Black Bean Vinaigrette.
Other protein options for the bowls include tofu and fish. The fish is a decent-sized portion, lightly breaded.
The tofu bowl is neat. There are lots of lightly breaded tofu chunks, making it easy to eat and mix into the other bowl components.
The other option for entrees at Satu’li Canteen are the highly anticipated Steamed “Pods” (aka, Bao Buns!). Like the Bowls, there is a choice for both carnivores and vegetarians, with the Vegetable Curry Steamed Pods and the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods.
Both come with root vegetable chips and crunchy vegetable slaw. (A note: since we already had the sides with the Vegetable Curry Pods, we ordered our Cheeseburger Pods without. This is always one of our favorite tips for saving money on food in Disney World.)
We found that the chips could use some more seasoning, but that tang of the slaw remains a nice accompaniment, as it does with the Bowls.
The Vegetable Curry Pods are stuffed with chopped bits of eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrots, and a shallot cilantro cream. The filling is finished off with a hefty dose of curry powder.
And that’s, I believe, where the discrepancy stems from in the opinions regarding the Vegetable Curry Pods. “Curry” is in the name for a reason; it’s not merely a hint of curry.
Opinions differed even among our small group, with the non-curry fans giving the Veggie Pods a thumbs down, while the curry lovers (and you do have to love it for these pods) gave a thumbs up.
Making the grade all the way around, though, were the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods.
What makes this such a fun choice is that the filling is more than ground beef and cheese. You’ll also pick up on ketchup, mustard, and pickle (yes!!), all stuffed into that same Boa Bun that’s super soft without being too moist.
It’s a fun twist that’s tasty at the same time.
Now, here’s one for the kiddos… and frankly, I’m a bit jealous. When I read about the Teylu All-Beef Hot Dog Wrapped in Dough on the menu, I assumed the dough in question would be steamed as it is with the pods.
But if you aren’t certain about how your kids might react to a steamed bun (which they would receive with the Kids’ Cheeseburger Pod meal), they may very much like the nice, toasty, golden brown Parker House Dough surrounding this Dog!
It truly makes the meal, and no joke: this was one of my favorite items of the WHOLE DAY. By the way, other options for Kids’ Meals include smaller servings of the Bowls and the Cheeseburger Pod, along with a Cheese Quesadilla option. The Pod meal comes with a single pod, some chips, and grapes.
The interior is identical to the grown-up version. Lots of squishy cheeseburgery goodness.
The quesadilla is likely one for the very picky eaters: simple cheese quesadilla. It’s a substantial portion.
Inside you can see it’s just cheese. Simple and basic — great for kids who don’t like any extra food flash.
Allright now, who’s up for some Ber’ri?!?
Not so much? Okay, what if I told you “Ber’ri” is Na’vi for “dessert”? I thought that might change your mind… . Your choices here are Chocolate Cake and a Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse.
The Chocolate Cake is surrounded with a crunchy cookie layer and topped with a bit of banana cream.
Though not quite a ganache with its solid base, the cake itself definitely has a soft, moist texture that I wasn’t prepared for. Kind of a mousse rather than a cake. Overall, it’s okay, but the dark chocolate flavor carried too much of a baking cocoa taste for me.
I much preferred the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse, which is topped with a passion fruit curd and is — let’s face it — all sorts of colorful and pretty.
The highlight for me was actually the passion fruit curd over the mousse, but I really enjoyed the overall fruity flavor and light texture of the whole thing.
Consider yourself warned, though: even though this dessert is Instagram-ready, YOU might not be after eating it . A little of that blue coloring stays with you a little while even after you finish the dessert, folks. But it’s worth it! Just grab some water to go with it and have fun!
And now, we’re off for some more trekking…
Check out our video of Pandora here!
Much like the rest of the land (you can check out more of our pictures here), Satu’li Canteen is quite immersive when it comes to bringing guests into the story of Pandora. But what’s even more noteworthy is that the experience is carried over into the food with some unusual options that you really won’t find elsewhere in Disney World. The fact that much of it (with the exception of a few misses, as noted) is pretty well-executed makes the Canteen a welcome option for Pandora trekkers. True, this is probably not your stop for picky eaters (except for that hot dog!). But that’s also something I appreciate about it: while it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the menu offers a definite — and refreshing — change of pace where they could’ve played it safe in what is bound to be a popular area of the park for some time to come.
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What would you order at Satu’li Canteen? Please let us know with a comment!