My wife and I recently returned from a few days of R&R at Walt Disney World. Our trips to the World are usually pretty casual, in that we don't tend to plan much of an itinerary. This trip was a little different, however, in that we decided to purchase the Disney Dining Plan (more on that later) which required we do a bit of planning, as last minute reservations at Disney restaurants can be a challenge at best. We had a great lineup of restaurants in place, however on the last two nights of our trip our taste buds didn't exactly cooperate with our selections, as we were both hit with a craving for Japanese food. Thankfully, Disney's Epcot park has two options available where we could get our fix...Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo.
Located within Epcot's World Showcase is the Japanese pavilion, which pays homage to the culture, architecture, and food of our friends across the Pacific. Inside a scaled down replica of an Emperor's palace are the two table service restaurants for the pavilion. Teppan Edo, which features traditional teppanyaki style service and menu, as well as Tokyo Dining, which offers a wide array of sushi and tempura dishes, in addition to several options from the grill.
When our craving for Japanese food hit us, what we really wanted was the teppanyaki menu of Teppan Edo. However given a reservation was not available, we decided to see if Tokyo Dining offered some of the same teppan dishes. The restaurants share the same space and kitchen, so it seemed to make sense that the menus would cross over, the only difference being the grill side tables of Teppan Edo. When we checked in with the hostess, we inquired if the "Grill Specialties" listed in the menu were the same as those found at Teppan Edo, and we were assured the dishes were in fact the same. Content that our craving was soon to be satisfied, we made our way to a great table, which featured a view of the World Showcase lagoon, and the Illuminations fireworks display.
Thanks to our last minute change in venue, we were seated an hour after our original reservation elsewhere, and by now I was quite hungry. I started with a spicy tuna roll, and despite having heard good things about the sushi at Tokyo Dining, I was a bit disappointed. There was certainly nothing "spicy" about the dish, as I found it lacking in flavor and freshness. Perhaps the most disappointing thing was not the sushi itself, but the fact that our entree arrived before I had eaten the second piece of the eight piece roll. It was clear that scoring the last reservation before close had it's drawbacks, in that was we were to be rushed out as quickly as possible.
For my main I selected the steak, which based on the confirmation I received from the hostess, should have looked something like this...
Needless to say I was quite disappointed when this was what arrived...
Now, if I'd wanted a lousy steak and a few frozen vegetables, I would have visited my local Ruby Tuesday's. But we chose Tokyo Dining for one reason, and one reason only...we wanted teppanyaki. Sure it would be easy to fault the hostess for giving me inaccurate information, however I mostly blame myself for the let down, because as often as we visit Epcot, I should have been more familiar with the menu at Tokyo Dining.
I'd hoped that perhaps dessert would salvage some of the evening, but those hopes were soon dashed also. I'm accustomed to finding soft serve ice cream on the decks of cruise ships, or buffet restaurants one is taken as a kid because they're cheap, but certainly not at a table service restaurant. Our dessert of vanilla and chocolate swirl seemed to fit right in with the rest of the meal... The experience was a total bust, and while we walked away completely disappointed, most of that was not the fault of the restaurant, but rather the voice inside my stomach which still craved steak smothered in soy sauce...
The following evening we found ourselves back at Epcot, and yet again we faced a dilemma when it came to dinner. Earlier in the day, we managed to score a last minute reservation at Le Cellier Steakhouse, which was pretty unbelievable given this restaurant tends to fully book six months in advance. However, my stomach was not as excited with this score, as it still craved Japanese teppanyaki. So we decided to do what many Disney enthusiasts would consider an outrage, and canceled our reservation at Le Cellier, and instead try our luck at Teppan Edo.
When we arrived in "Japan" the hostess told us the wait would run around an hour. Given that we had nothing but time, we decided to wait it out, as by now we were in full blown withdrawal. To our surprise, our pager went off after only thirty minutes, and we soon found ourselves at our grill table, with satisfaction was soon to come.
Before the grilling festivities began, I started with the "Tuna Sensation." This appetizer featured sashimi tuna, avocado, and wasabi, and was served in a chilled martini glass. While "Sensation" might have been a stretch, it was a fun and tasty start to the meal.
For my main I selected the "Asukasa," which was a combination of shrimp and steak, served with steamed rice along with noodles and vegetables from the grill. Once everyone at our table selected their entree, our teppan chef arrived for the traditional grilling show. Having been to a number of these style restaurants, it's clear that once you've been to one, you've then been to them all. From the twirling of the utensils, to the smiley face of cooking oil, and of course the onion volcano, it seems these chefs have not come up with any original material in quite some time. But that said, they always make for a fun experience, and I still laugh at the corny jokes every time.
Finally, with the "show" complete, we were able to satisfy the craving for teppanyaki which had now built over two full days. Our meals were as expected, with my only minor disappointment being they are served with white steamed rice as opposed to fried. Granted, I'm sure the steamed rice is saving me a few grams of sodium, but given I'm already consuming a bottle of soy sauce, what's a little more gonna hurt?
Having now experienced both restaurants in the Japan pavilion, it's safe to say that we will certainly return to one, and the other, maybe not so much. While Tokyo Dining is a nice experience, there is nothing on the menu to draw me back, as I don't get excited about tempura, and their sushi was a disappointment. On the other hand, I'm confident we will be returning to Teppan Edo quite soon, as I've never been known to decline teppanyaki.
Oh and special thanks to my friends at The Disney Food Blog for letting me steal a picture, when mine turned out lousy.
Enjoy Your Stay