Today, we’re heading to the Far East — or rather, just past Norway and Mexico — for lunch at Epcot’s Nine Dragons!
Are you afraid to venture inside this eatery because you’ve heard less-than-stellar reviews? So were we.
Though we did a review way back when (not bad, not great), this blog is all about second chances; so back to Nine Dragons we went! 🙂 Is it better, worse, or holding steady, you ask? Read on and we’ll explore together.
When you walk into Nine Dragons, it actually feels kind of swanky since the (now long past) refurb. (Remember when it used to be all red shag carpet? No? Yeah, it probably wasn’t, but that’s what it felt like.)
The views through the front picture windows will remind you that you haven’t left Epcot behind. I love the view of the World Showcase Lagoon, and I wonder if this spot wouldn’t be bad for Illuminations viewing… anyone have experience?
This is a beautiful restaurant, and we really enjoy the surroundings here. As I mentioned, there have been some renovations, as well as some changes to the menu, which suggest that you might want to give this spot another look if you haven’t eaten here lately.
Inside, there are three main dining areas separated by decorative wooden screens. The lovely, airy sunroom is flooded with light, and trimmed with dark wood and vibrant shades of red and green.
The inside dining areas are lovely, but I feel that tables are a bit tight together.
The mirrors and square patterns made from dark wood beams on the ceiling give the space a clean structure and sense of order. Note also the different carpeting with its ornate pattern in the two rooms. It’s worth paying attention to, because it’s a lovely detail that shows just how thoughtful Imagineers (Decorators?) are when they are creating a space.
I’m not sure whether they are new, or I’ve just never noticed them, but the round booths are fun and a really nice touch. These would probably be my second choice next to a window table as far as seating goes.
One of my favorite decorative touches are the shaded “lanterns” throughout the entire restaurant, and this grouping in the middle of the inside dining room is especially beautiful. The softly vibrant colors and shape of the shades offer a nice focal point to the room.
One of my favorite things about Nine Dragons are the placemats. I know…strange, but true. They feature examples of Chinese calligraphy, with space to practice your own character drawing. Fun and educational. This place is Epcot, through and through.
But we were hungry, and so are you, so let’s head to the menu.
We started, of course, with beverages.
My husband chose a bottle of Tsingtao, one of his favorite beers. He enjoys it a lot, and frequently orders it when we go to our favorite local Chinese restaurant. Soft and bright, this Chinese lager has a subtle sweetness to it.
There are some really alluring cocktails at Nine Dragons! With names like “Heavenly Clouds” and “Ginger Zinger,” it was a tough choice to make. Ultimately, I settled on the Jade Beauty.
It was fine, but I wasn’t passionate about it. I expected a little more flavor, but I was really left with a lingering impression of melon liqueur. Not unpleasant, but I wasn’t rushing to order a second one.
Nine Dragons offers a really excellent prix fixe option for both lunch and dinner. Their Treasures of the Dragon menu includes three courses for a set price, and is also available to guests using the Disney Dining Plan. (Be sure to confirm this if you have an upcoming Advanced Dining Reservation, however, since the rules of the 2013 DDP say that it doesn’t cover prix fixe options.)
I love the interesting options here, and it may save you a little money.
However, we wanted to try some of the other options, so we ended up making selections from the standard lunch menu, which also includes a combination meal called the “Lunch Box.” More about that in a bit.
We were really interested in the appetizers (as always — when have you known us NOT to order apps?), so we tried a few different options.
I went with the Chicken Consomme with Pork Dumplings. Similar to a standard wonton soup, I really enjoyed this. Both the consomme as well as the dumplings were flavorful.
But perhaps my favorite dish of the entire meal was General Tso’s Dumplings. Omigosh, these were amazing! Steamed dumplings filled with a flavorful mix of chicken savoriness are served with a yummy Chinese barbecue sauce.
The next time, I am a) SO getting this as an entree; and b) SO not sharing.
Next, we sampled the Shrimp and Chicken Egg Rolls. Another hit! Substantial chunks of chicken, shrimp, peppers, and more are wrapped in a perfectly fried wrapper.
Two sauces create ample opportunity for dipping, and the tender crust reminded me of the old fried apple pies from McDonald’s! Remember how yummy those were? Sigh. The good old days.
For my entree, I chose an option from the Lunch Box portion of the menu. Basically, this is a nice way of saying you get a combo-meal. As you can see, my consomme was accompanied by Mongolian Spiced Chicken; and the plate also included a large piece of Sesame Bread.
The chicken was good, but I wanted it to have a little more flavor than it did. This would fall into the category of “perfectly adequate.” It didn’t stand out, but it didn’t offend me, either.
My husband chose the Canton Pepper Beef, which was also “fine.” Neither of us were wowed by it, but for hungry park-goers, it will do.
We decided to skip dessert this go around, because we weren’t particularly tempted by the selections. I had sampled the Caramel-Ginger Ice Cream at a previous Epcot Food and Wine Festival and found that it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Likewise, I’m not a huge fan of the Strawberry-Red Bean Ice Cream, but given the choice of the two, I prefer it. With its big chunks of strawberry, that’s really the flavor that shines through.
Here’s a couple of pics of the ice cream for your viewing enjoyment! Of course, at Nine Dragons, they’ll be served in dishes vs. the containers shown here.
Nine Dragons probably doesn’t top anyone’s “I Must Go There” list, and, frankly, it still doesn’t top ours, either.
But that’s not to say that you should shy away from it. The dining room is beautiful, the service was quite good when we were there, the apps are great, and the entrees are fine, making this a solid choice for a sit-down lunch or dinner while at Epcot. It’s not bad; it’s just overshadowed by the plethora of fantasticness that is dining at Epcot.
So go ahead. If you have a craving for Chinese while at Walt Disney World, or you need a last-minute ADR, give Nine Dragons a try. And order those General Tso’s Dumplings. Because you must.
Have you tried Nine Dragons? Let us know your favorite dish in comments below!