Emory students arrived back on campus to some new changes this year, such as the Woodruff Library and the Dobbs University Mail Center. However, Emory Village has also shook things up a bit. The restaurant formerly known as Doc Chey’s Noodle House, a Village staple, has changed its name to Doc Chey’s Dragon Bowl. The seating and interior remains almost identical, but the menu has become streamlined and customizable, offering healthier and fresher dishes for about the same prices of old.

Dragon Bowl has now taken on what seems to be a popular business model for upscale fast food.  As you wait in line, you choose an option in each of the four categories (Style, Base, Meat, Veggie) and build your meal before ordering at the counter. It looks like Dragon Bowl is taking notes from Chipotle’s business model by offering a few options in each category, and then letting the customer decide how he or she wants to combine them. That is probably the best part about this restaurant concept, the way you can combine flavors. The main difference is that Chipotle builds the meal as you walk down the line, whereas you order with a cashier at Dragon Bowl, and your food is then brought to your table.

So, enough about the concept. How does it taste? Clearly the quality of the ingredients is an upgrade, but portion size takes a hit. As a whole, the Asian food tastes great and is most definitely fresh.  However, certain items should be changed. The chicken is very fatty and chewy – not what I would expect when everything else is so clean. Also, the dumplings are described as pan-fried but seem to be hardly anything more than steamed. I love steamed dumplings as well, but I, as well as others, were mislead by the description on the menu.

Lastly, I would suggest that Dragon Bowl add some more dishes to the starters.  Currently, it just offers two types of dumplings and edamame. Since you have to wait for your food to come out (unlike Chipotle), I think having more starters would be a great way to expand the menu and create a slightly longer dining experience. The drink menu has been expanded, though, with different beers, sakes and teas to choose from.

Overall, it is exciting to construct the plate by choosing different combinations, but some just do not work together. The cashier will help guide you if you find yourself stuck between two options or are unsure which veggies go best with the style you chose.

The move toward an increasingly streamlined and healthy menu is a smart one for the Doc Chey’s brand. According to their website, they serve locally grown and seasonal ingredients, which is a popular move among a younger crowd of diners who increasingly demand fresher and healthier food. I believe the renovation of the menu will keep Dragon Bowl relevant, especially among Emory students’ short list of frequented restaurants within walking distance of campus.

– By Ethan Samuels