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The Many Pleasures of Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen

I tend to be at the Magic Kingdom either alone with two small children or actually alone – but with a limited amount of time to kill before picking up those same two small children from school. As such, I don’t often have the luxury of a proper meal in the park. It’s more often hot dogs at The Lunching Pad (which, don’t get me wrong, are tasty enough in a pinch) or popcorn or, when I’m feeling a little indulgent, a Nutella (sorry “chocolate-hazelnut spread”) and fruit covered waffle at Sleepy Hollow.

But, as usual, I digress….

Yesterday I found myself spending the rare full morning and early afternoon in the park with my husband, so we decided to take advantage and finally try out the new-to-us Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. So what did this spot have to offer, other than the longest restaurant name I’ve seen in recent memory?

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To start, quite a lot of kitchy fun if you’re into that sort of thing. Nothing as over the top as, say, the ketchup loving cast at Whispering Canyon. But the place has a fun storyline that makes for a good time. According to Disney’s own description, and our fully committed waitress, “[t]he same skippers who guided your steamer down the Nile, Amazon and Congo Rivers have opened the doors and kitchens of their tropical headquarters to fellow adventurers and famished families like your own!” So you’re hanging out with your Jungle Cruise skippers and should expect a campy good time. And they deliver. The waiting area sets the stage with displayed awards and an array of art that looks like Renoir and the love child of Picasso and Frida Kahlo were put in charge of decor and had a blast with it.

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We were promptly seated in the S.E.A. Room–said to be a once-secret meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers–and given menus that had me drooling and utterly unable to choose. The menu is self described as offering the bold and flavorful cuisine of Asia, South America, and Africa.

We finally settled on the Shiriki Noodle Salad, made up of noodles, edamame, mushrooms, green mango, and cucumber, and tossed with sweet chili sauce. It was as pretty as it was delicious. The noodles were thin and light, the mushrooms were chewy, the edamame popped, and the sauce pulled it all together without being overpowering. We made quick work of it.

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For our main dishes, I had the sustainable fish, which was a red snapper, served over Chinese broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and red bell peppers in a lemon grass broth. I cannot say enough good things about this dish. The fish was light, sweet, and flaky and the broth and vegetables were fresh and bright. Digging into this, it was easy to forget that the Magic Kingdom was waiting for me outside.

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I was so glad that my husband was ordering with me, because his dish was, to me, the big surprise. Cheerfully named “‘Tastes Like Chicken’ Because It Is!”, it was a fried chicken with the most heavenly citrus and ginger-scented rice, chili glaze, and veggies. I would never have thought to order fried chicken at Skipper Canteen, but it was so, so good. Crisp and juicy and sitting on a bed of rice that made me want to have its babies. I love me some Homecomin’ – but this chicken is a contender.

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At this point I was fairly certain I’d need to be rolled home, but what’s a restaurant review without a dessert item? We hesitantly asked for menus and scanned for something more to stuff into ourselves.

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Quick Sand!!!??? Hell yeah I’ll take some quick sand!

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Per the menu: Jasmine rice pudding, mango sauce, lemon curd, hibiscus meringue, and pineapple. I need more of this in my life. It reminded me very much of the lovely dish that I often find at Japanese restaurants with soft mango, warm sticky rice, and sweet coconut milk. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

All in all, if you couldn’t tell already, I’ll be back. I love knowing that a meal like this can be found within the gates of Magic Kingdom. I left full and happy, rode Pirates, and went to pick up my kids. An afternoon well spent.

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