Welcome back to the world of Pandora for the second part in our ongoing coverage. In Part 1, I discussed the overall theming and world-building Disney employed to make Pandora really come to life. This time, I’m taking you on a culinary tour across the alien planet, so strap in and get your tastebuds ready.
Please note: this is not a review. Since Pandora is still in previews and not open to the public, not everything was open or working properly. As such, it would be unfair to give you more than my initial thoughts at this time.
If you’re eating in Pandora, you’ll probably be heading to Satu’li Canteen. Tucked into the right side of the land, the Canteen is themed to a repurposed military mess hall with curved, open ceilings and plenty of seating inside and out.
When we walked in, we were promptly greeted with an enthusiastic “Kaltxí, Travelers!”, and handed a menu. Unlike most other quick service eateries around Walt Disney World, Satu’li Canteen offers a “build your own entree” style of ordering. Think of a very simplified version of Chipotle and that’s what was on offer.
The main entrees had me choosing a ‘base’ for my food (a variety of salads, potatoes, and rice options), a protein (chicken, beef, seafood, or tofu), and a dressing/sauce. Even though there are only a handful of options for each step, it’s entirely possible for everyone in a family to get a totally different meal.
The bowl that we tried, potato hash base with chicken and I-forget-which-one-we-chose Sauce, was a bit disappointing. The flavors were fine, but I thought it needed more greens, as the only vegetables beyond the potato base were part of the vegetable slaw placed on top. The slaw mainly acted as decoration and a base for the boba placed on top; I was not overly impressed. The meat itself was very well prepared and easily the best part of the dish, but I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if Disney offered more options for vegetable toppings.
If a bowl isn’t going to fill someone up, Satu’li also offers “Steamed Pods” in cheeseburger or vegetable curry flavors. I tried the vegetable curry pods and, while the pod itself was a little dry due to being kept warm, it was surprisingly tasty. The included “vegetable chips” (potato chips) tasted good and added a much needed crunch to the meal. Unfortunately, the pods are also served with the same vegetable slaw that I was so disappointed with in the bowl. Sitting on the plate by itself, I can’t say the slaw fared any better when eaten alone than it did mixed with the contents of the Bowl.
The Boba Effect
Wherever the vegetable slaw was featured, we found the first of Pandora’s omnipresent boba toppings. These small balls are filled with various flavors of liquids and serve primarily as decoration for much of the food and drink in Pandora. Generally, I like boba, they’re fun and add fun flavors and textures to your food.
Sadly, the boba included with the slaw were repulsive. When popped, they immediately tasted bitter and strongly of vinegar; not an altogether pleasant taste. After a few seconds, the flavor would start to have a more berry flavor, but that wasn’t quite enough to wipe my palette clean from the horrible vinegar assault.
On the plus side, the strawberry boba offered on the Mo’ara Margarita from Pongu Pongu were much better; they reminded me of a very sweet candy like Jolly Ranchers. Heads up, Disney, not all boba are created equal!
On the dessert and drink side of the menu, I tried the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse and the Pandoran Sunrise. The mousse was, shockingly, very good. It looked suitably alien and tasted sweet, but not overpoweringly so. The Pandoran Sunrise, on the other hand, was extremely sweet and not terribly enticing. The acid green color, no doubt courtesy of the melon Powerade base of the drink, certainly looked alien, but the drink mainly tasted of pineapple and coconut. The Sunrise wasn’t a bad drink, but it certainly wasn’t as special as Disney seems to think it is.
I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t mention one of the best features coming to Satu’li Canteen; mobile ordering. While the system wasn’t testing during our preview, guests will soon be able to order their food through the Walt Disney World app, and bypass the undoubtedly long line to pick their food up right at the counter. No word yet on how well this will work in practice, but I’m excited for an easier way to get my food on busy days.
Nextdoor, in the shade of a humanoid mech suit, I found Pongu Pongu, the resident bar on Pandora. Pongu Pongu means “Party Party” in Na’vi, and was created by an Expat who decided to set up shop on Pandora. As I mentioned in Part 1, the bar uses repurposed war equipment as decoration and seamlessly combines both human and Na’vi cultures.
Overall I found Pongu Pongu to be quite pleasant. As a quick service window with no actual seating, calling this a fully-fledged bar might be overselling things, but it still had signature alcoholic drinks for guests to purchase so it gets a pass from me.
The bar offers two types of signature beer, one of which is a startling green color, a non-alcoholic slush called the Night Blossom, and a frozen Mo’ara Margarita. Both frozen drinks come with boba as a garnish and taste decent enough for the price. The margarita wasn’t the strongest drink I’ve ever had, but for $9 it wasn’t a terrible choice in the evening sun.
Beyond Pongu Pongu, Satu’li Canteen, and a typical Disney drink cart, there really isn’t much else to eat in Pandora. Sure, Windtraders, the Pandoran gift shop, offers a bunch of ‘alien’ snacks and candy, but I’m not sure I’d classify them as unique or very filling.
While I wasn’t a fan of everything I ate and drank in Pandora, I can at least say many things were different from typical park food. I have no doubt the menus will change over time, probably become more plain to cater to the unimaginative tourist crowds, but for now, Animal Kingdom has some of the most varied food choices outside of Epcot. I definitely think Pandora could use a full service restaurant in the near future, but I’ll settle for a good margarita and blue mousse in the meantime.
Now, go have a day!