Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lunar New Year Foodstivities

It seems like Disney California Adventure has really embraced the seasonal specialty food scene.  The introduction of the Lunar New Year Marketplace means that three times over the past eleven months, DCA has held some sort of festival event that includes limited-time dishes for food lovers to sample.  For the current event, which runs through Sunday, February 5, the offerings are less and focused on Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisine (to connect to the Lunar New Year, which falls on Saturday, January 28 this year).  Guests can find the eats at three booths along Paradise Pier, near the Little Mermaid ride and Golden Zephyr, and also at the Paradise Pier Garden Grill.

Lets take a look at some of the offerings!

At Paradise Grill, the tastiest dish (in my opinion) is the Kalbi Beef Short Ribs ($14.99 + tax), with steamed rice and kimchi.  The short ribs are tender and flavorful but also smoky, just like at a Korean BBQ restaurant!
Also at the Garden Grill: Beef Pho Noodle Soup ($11.99 + tax).  Unfortunately, this was rather disappointing, especially compared to pho I've had at many authentic Vietnamese restaurants.  The broth lacked flavor, and the noodles seemed stringy.  Not really recommended, given that the same dish is about half the price at a regular pho place.
Vegetable Japchae ($10.99 + tax) with sweet potato noodles, onion, shitake mushroom, carrots, spinach, snow peas, broccolini, and tofu lightly sauteed and tossed with sesame oil and a sweet and spicy sauce topped with toasted sesame seeds.  This had a clean and sort of watered down soy sauce flavor.  It wasn't particularly savory but functioned well as a healthier alternative to the other food offeriings at the Garden Grill.
Whole Fish Served Family Style ($24.99 + tax), with a citrus-chili dipping sauce, steamed rice, and Chinese water spinach (ong choy).  I didn't have a chance to try this, but the fried tilapia certainly reminded me of familiar Chinese/Vietnamese dishes I've had.  It looked quite delicious!
The Garden Grill was also selling Almond Milk Iced Tea ($4.99 + tax) with a souvenir glow lotus.  Sweet but tasty!
And the last Garden Grill item... the Cassava Coconut Cake ($3.99 + tax), which had a mellow sweetness and a nice creamy flavor.  Despite the coconut flakes (which I normally dislike due to the texture), I actually enjoyed this!
Nearby, one of the food carts was selling this pork bao (steamed bun) with sweet chili dipping sauce.  The bun was okay, but it was far from Tokyo Disney's exceptionally high fluffy and rich standards
At the Lunar New Year Marketplace Vietnam booth, guests could get Chạo tôm Với Nước chấm chua ngọt -- Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer with Sweet and Sour Sauce ($7.00).  With the garlic ginger vinaigrette, this was pretty savory, but obviously expensive for just three pieces.
The Purple Sweet Potato Mont Blanc Macaron ($5.25) and Vietnamese Ice Coffee ($4.25) were two sweet treats from the Vietnam booth.  The macaron was fantastic, with a sweet, tart berry filling in the center that was a sugar spike but still delectable.  The Vietnamese coffee, however, was relatively run of the mill by Vietnamese coffee standards.  Plus, condensed milk on the bottom made it hard to stir evenly.
At the Lunar New Year Marketplace China booth, the Xiao Long Bao, or Pork Soup Dumplings with Black Vinegar and Ginger ($7.00), was tasty, with a great tangy dipping sauce, but I couldn't get over paying that price for three dumplings when I could get twice or three times as many at an actual dumpling house.
Finally, at the Lunar New Year Marketplace Korea booth, I tried my favorite snack sized serving, the Kimchi Bokkeumbap, or Kimchi-Vegetable Fried Rice ($6.00).  Garlic filled, hearty, and absolutely delicious, this was my pick for the best value and most filling item.  The Yachae Mandu, or Steamed Vegetable Dumplings with Sesame-Garlic Soy Sauce ($6.50), was also quite good, but could have been $1 - $2 cheaper.
The prices remain my biggest gripe with this otherwise great event.  Even compared to the Food and Wine Festival in EPCOT, the prices at DCA are elevated for the portions provided.  Each of the dishes would be more palatable for a dollar or two less.  But for many people, this is a great opportunity to sample more exotic foods with which they may not normally come into exposure.  And it's certainly pretty tasty, so go ahead and check it out!  You've got two more weekends to go (plus weekdays)!

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