05 September 2017

Pandora's Natural Abundance

When I first heard the menu offerings for Pandora’s quick service restaurant, Satu’li Canteen, it goes without saying that I was most intrigued by the bowl offerings. Mix and matching proteins, sauces, and bases just seemed like a culinary undertaking I wanted to get it on. What I was a little less enthusiastic about were the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods – Bao Buns. It seemed like a simple, yet creative, way to get less adventurous entrees on the menu to appease a wide variety of diners. While that may very well be what they Steamed Pods are, but there’s more to the story.

The official menu description of the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods reads: “Steamed Cheeseburger Pod stuffed with Ground Beef, Ketchup, Mustard, Pickle, and Cheddar Cheese served with Crunchy Vegetable Slaw and Vegetable Chips.” The tale of how that filling came to be, however, takes us back to the storytelling expertise of the Executive Designer and Vice President, Creative at Walt Disney Imagineering. Surprise, surprise; that is Joe Rohde. According to Rohde, the cheeseburger pods filling based upon a hamburger hash that has been served up at Joe Rohde’s house for a while now. His wife had wanted their boys to learn how to cook, and hamburger hash was the first attempt with all of the components, bread, condiments, cheese, etc., being scrambled together in a skillet and served up hot. Leave it to Joe to have a hand in everything from the way moss covers a wall to what they’re service up in Pandora’s main eatery!

For me, however, I tasted another memory when I bit into the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods. For me it took me back to La Tropicana in Ybor City. This Cuban restaurant has been a staple of the Latin community in Ybor City, and the larger Tampa Bay area since 1963. For me, I grew up on their devil crabs, Cuban sandwiches, and, what I tasted when I bit into the pods, stuffed potatoes. Now, let me be clear, the stuffed potatoes from La Tropicana are mashed potatoes, stuffed with a picadillo filling, that are breaded and fried. The Cheeseburger Steamed Pods are not that, but the meat mixture found inside them was reminiscent of the stuffed potatoes of my youth.

The filling of the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods, with all of the condiments mixed in and some well-placed spices, tastes less like a cheeseburger than one would expect. The filling is good and a fun way to present the dish. The pod, or bao bun, is a lot of breading to partake in. As many I was with noted, some sort of dipping sauce for the pod would be great to make it a little more palatable. The other components of the meal, the crunchy vegetable slaw and vegetable chips, were both fair side dishes. The chips could have used a bit more something, whether that was crisping them up a bit more or some other form of seasoning, they were utilitarian, but nothing to write home about. The vegetable slaw, meanwhile, stood out with its vinegar dressing and fresh vegetables. It didn’t send sparks through my mouth, but it was definitely a noticeable improvement over some of the other slaws around Walt Disney World.

I went into my first dining experience at Satu’li Canteen thinking it was going to be a rather unmemorable experience, but what I found instead was a trip down my own personal memory lane. I’m certain that a majority of guests will not have that same experience during a meal of the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a try. If you like burgers around Walt Disney World, then you will enjoy these pods. Think of it this way, these pods are just a new delivery system, where none of the condiments will slip off of the bun and onto your shirt!

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