A new Japanese restaurant just opened at Epcot in the Japan pavilion, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya. We were there for the first day of soft opening.
Walt Disney World announced back in May 2023 that a new restaurant concept would be coming to the Japan pavilion at Epcot. That new concept, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, soft-opened yesterday. This restaurant replaces the former Tokyo Dining Restaurant at this location.
Guests can find this restaurant on the second floor of the Japan pavilion at Epcot. Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya serves lunch and dinner. The operating hours run from noon to 9 p.m.
We visited on the first opening day for lunch. The procedure involves walking up to the restaurant to get a call-back for the dining opportunity. Until Aug. 28, 2023, this will be the procedure here, according to cast members. If you’ desire’d like to dine here before Aug. 28, you’ll need to follow a similar process.
If you want to dine here on Aug. 28, 2023 or later, you should utilize the My Disney Experience app or website to make an advanced dining reservation. This restaurant should function like the other table-service dining options at Walt Disney World for reservations for those dates.
During the soft opening experience, the restaurant was staffed fully. This pattern fits the opening of most restaurants. We felt the service rated as excellent on this day. Also, we appreciated the effort cast members showed to present Japanese culture. They also helped explain each dish and how to say them correctly.
We suspect this staffing pattern will continue to ensure that the restaurant opens with a good reputation. When we reserved our table, we were told the restaurants intended to run well below capacity during this soft opening. This may lead to a longer wait than expected when you reserve a table.
For example, the cast members told us to expect to wait 40 minutes when the restaurant was mostly empty. However, in fact, we received a text about our table being available at exactly the 40-minute mark. Logic dictates that as more people become aware of the soft opening, tables will take more work to come by at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya. Of course, this could be mitigated by seating people at more tables as the restaurant gradually works through all the new stages to become fully operational.
A vast majority of the cast members working at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya appear to be national speakers of Japanese. Also, the knowledge of Japanese culture by cast members shined through. Many aspects of Japanese culture, such as sounds, images, and mannerisms, can be seen during a dining experience here. The Japanese experience at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya involves more than just the food. As a result, this restaurant continues the legacy of Epcot educating while also entertaining.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya redesign
The exterior of Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya looks very similar to when it was Tokyo Dining. However, the interior showed some changes. Our group thought the new design showed improvement from when this location was Tokyo Dining. The bar area looks inviting. Guests can view some of the preparation of their meals.
The ability for some guests to see the lagoon area from this restaurant has stayed. Several seats remain near the windows from this second-floor location. This presents a reasonable viewing position for the nighttime show on the Epcot lagoon for those lucky enough to sit near the windows.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya menu
The menu at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya presents guests will plenty of options. This may overwhelm some visitors. Still, the staff worked well with us in helping to decide what to order.
The vast menu comes with an attractive cover showing off the four seasons of Japan. Since the restaurant’s theme revolves around the four different seasons, this menu cover design makes sense. Some aspects of this restaurant change based on the season being celebrated.
As Disney stated when announcing this restaurant in May, “you’ll be able to experience the essence of Japan’s seasonal festivals, where each month brings a new celebration to your table. From hanging tanzaku to celebrate Tanabata in July to savoring moon-viewing dumplings in September, a cultural representative from Japan will guide you through each unique festival experience, one bite at a time.”
This menu contains more extravagant Japanese dishes. Also, a picky eaters will enjoy this place too. The menu offerings include starters, chef’s specials, noodle bowls, sushi, donburi, and izakaya classics. For most people, the issue will not be finding something they like, but narrowing it down to one item.
Fortunately, the “Izakaya” style menu here lends towards food sharing. The orders come out of the kitchen in such a way that guests should expect to be sharing. Most of the items we ordered on the first day of operation qualify as sharable. In fact, we did share them this day.
Unique aspects before the meal – little things matter for signature dining
Two aspects of dining here struck us as unique for a table-service Japanese restaurant. One, the chopsticks declare this will be a special meal. The labeling of chopsticks that come branded to the restaurant conveys some Disney style. Two, each guest receives a wrapped oshibori, a wet hand towel designed for cleaning your hands before the meal.
What about the food?
We ordered an appetizer, two entrees, and a bridge on this day (we will explain the bridge in a bit). Also, remember that orders come out of the kitchen as they are prepared, not in a traditional order. We ordered the Kara-age Chicken appetizer and the Ishiyaki-Sukiyaki Rice entrée for our meal. The Ishiyaki-Sukiyaki Rice dish arrived before the starter.
Ishiyaki-Sukiyaki Rice – $28
This entrée provides some entertainment also. This menu item features grilled beef strips in a hot stone bowl cooked at your tableside, along with spinach and rice in a sweet garlic sauce. Our server did a great job of preparing this entrée. He then split the entrée among our group.
We found the dish presented fresh flavors. Some of the group enjoyed the crispiness of the rice being cooked this way. The taste of the beef paired well with the garlic sauce and spinach.
For whatever reason, the saucing of the servings varied greatly. However, we would have enjoyed more sauce with this entrée. Still, the mini-show of tableside preparation and the food quality makes this a solid choice for your visit.
Kara-age Chicken – $12
This Japanese-style fried chicken flavored with garlic and ginger, served with lemon impressed our group. We found the preparation and chicken quality better than similar appetizers. However, guests pay about $3 per piece of chicken prepared this way. That sounds expensive to us despite our enjoyment of the chicken.
Soon after we devoured those two items, our other two items arrived at the table. One of us remembered writing an article about the announcement of the Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya opening. In that promotion, Disney mentioned a type of Japanese pancake known as an Okonomiyaki. That person decided to order the vegetable version of the Okonomiyaki. For the record, the standard version of that dish comes with bacon for $3 more.
Vegetable Okonomiyaki – $25
The Vegetable Okonomiyaki consists of plenty of vegetables, ginger, and a traditional tangy sauce. The savory-style pancake uses flour, eggs, water, and some stock as a base. After that, it is usually filled with some cabbage and meat. Of course, we choose vegetables. Once prepared, the okonomiyaki receives a topping of tangy okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, some seaweed, bonito flakes, and pickled ginger.
We found ourselves surprised by the quality of this dish. The tangy sauce overwhelmed the other components at times. Still, we enjoyed that. Even without the bacon, we found this a satisfying entrée.
Though a more straightforward dish, the combination of flavors earns respect. In addition, the portion could be shared. Once again, the Izakaya-style menu leans towards sharing the food. Though we enjoyed the uniqueness of this dish, the price point looks high even for Epcot.
Hashi (Serves two to four) – $100
The Hashi we ordered was a bridge. Yes, you read that correctly. We ordered a bridge for $100. That might sound impressive. Still, this small bridge came with various sushi and sashimi. The menu description reads, “Bridge presentation featuring an assortment of sushi and sashimi.”
Before you think that is a significant amount to pay for this. You can order a similar entrée containing more sushi and sashimi with a “boat presentation” for $300.
This bridge of sushi and sashimi comes with all types of these items. We found the tuna and salmon options were excellent in terms of flavor and preparation. The shrimp with this looked basic. Still, it balanced nicely with the rest of the sushi and sashimi. Even the saltwater seared eel tasted good to us. One group member earns a reputation as a very particular diner. He even enjoyed the eel and octopus with the entrée.
Of all the food on this bridge, we found only the cucumber sushi roll lacking an almost perfect presentation and texture. However, people unfamiliar with sushi and sashimi may face texture issues as the biggest obstacle to enjoying this entrée. A lack of quality and flavor should not hinder anyone from enjoying this meal at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya.
Final Thoughts about Shiki-Sai
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya makes a great addition to the Japan pavilion at Epcot in World Showcase. The Japan area already has Teppan-Edo and Takumi-Tei. Takumi-Tei qualifies as high-end dining, and Teppan-Edo functions as a lower-priced table service option. Still, a meal at Shiki-Sei: Sushi Izakaya will be more than many guests want to pay during a theme park day.
Still, this restaurant fulfills a need at Epcot. Also, with the bar set up, guests can order drinks and an appetizer or two for an authentic “Izakaya” dining experience.
Expect to pay far more than an average quick-service meal here. Still, the food quality and service amount to a beautiful dining experience.
Is this place for you? Sorry, we cannot decide for you. We would respect criticism of the high price point for some items. Yet, in our experience, the food quality meets the challenge – at least on this soft opening day.
Are you interested in dining here? Let us know in the comments below.