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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.