Walt Disney World has announced a new restaurant coming to EPCOT in 2023. This post covers everything we know about the dining location, with food photos, tentative timeframe, and our commentary about this addition to the culinary landscape of World Showcase.
For starters, this new restaurant will be located in the Japan pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase, and will be called Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya. This table-service restaurant will offer a festive dining experience in a sharable Izakaya-style for you to create memories and good times through flavors.
At Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, 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.
The atmosphere at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will embrace the festivals of Japan, with the atmosphere featuring beautiful, hand painted artwork and lanterns highlighting some of the natural wonders of Japan. Each visit is designed to create unforgettable memories that capture the spirit of Japan’s vibrant seasonal festivities.
In addition to a full menu filled with Japanese cuisine, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will feature an open sushi bar and grill. Located on the second floor of the Japan pavilion’s Mitsukoshi Department Store, Shiki-Sai offers stunning views of EPCOT, World Showcase Lagoon, and fireworks.
Sushi lovers will enjoy the first-hand look at sushi being made right before their eyes by the chefs when sitting at the bar. This unique spot provides a unique dining experience along with a trellis inspired by the roof of the Phoenix Hall at Byodoin Temple in Uji, Japan.
If you fancy yourself a sushi aficionado or you’re looking to expand your palate to a new bite, the Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya menu has no shortage of dishes for you to try. Highlights from the sushi bar include the Kobore Sushi, Tokyo Negi Roll, Funamori, and The Monster Roll.
Kobore Sushi translates to “overflowing sushi” and this item features negi toro and nakaochi tuna elegantly paired with salmon roe and green onion. The Tokyo Negi Roll combines green onion tempura rolled with tuna tataki and topped with jalapeno aïoli, shredded carrot, and sliced jalapeno for a delightful roll.
The Funamori features sashimi and sushi arranged on a boat-shaped platter. This iteration of Funamori is even served with the festive pomp and the boat procession of the famous Tenjin Matsuri.
You’ll also be able to sample dishes from the delicious world of Japanese Izakaya, a type of casual pub-style restaurant. One of the main highlights of Izakaya culture is the emphasis on sharing plates of food while enjoying drinks and conversation with friends.
The menu at an Izakaya typically features a wide range of small dishes, and Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya at EPCOT is no different. From savory Karaage Chicken to succulent Salmon Misoyaki, even a refreshing Tomato Salad with Avocado, Izakaya cuisine is all about offering a variety of delicious small plates that can be indulged in a social and relaxed atmosphere.
Not only can you get dishes from the sushi bar, but the grill will also be serving up delicious options commonly found in Japanese cuisine. Among the grilled items at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, okonomiyaki is a highlight. This Japanese savory pancake is made with a batter of flour, eggs, and water, and then filled with shredded cabbage and bacon, and topped with tangy okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, aonori, bonito flakes, and pickled ginger.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya is tentatively scheduled to open at EPCOT in Summer 2023. Walt Disney World has not announced a specific date, or if/when Advance Dining Reservations will open. Currently, the schedule shows “no times available” through mid-July 2023 at Tokyo Dining, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We’ll update this accordingly once we learn more.
Although unstated in the official announcement, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will necessarily be part of or a replacement for Tokyo Dining. That restaurant has been closed since last November for a major remodeling and reimagining, and it would seem that Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya is the fruit of that project.
Our initial inclination was that Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya would take over a portion of Tokyo Dining, as it’s already a bit subdivided with an open bar area and the table service restaurant on the other side of that. However, the suggestion that Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will offer lagoon and fireworks views suggests otherwise, as you can’t see much of anything from the lounge area–it’s nestled in the middle of the building, between the seating for Tokyo Dining on the window side, and Teppan Edo on the other side (separated by a wall).
We are totally fine with Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya replacing Tokyo Dining completely. We ate at Tokyo Dining last fall a few weeks before it closed, and it was easily one of the worst meals we had at Walt Disney World in the last year. (And I say that as someone who has been recently revisiting counter service options that I hate in Magic Kingdom, consuming more hot dogs, burgers, and flatbreads than anyone should eat in a lifetime!)
That’s not us being snobbish about Japanese cuisine, either. We’re big fans of Katsura Grill, and even like Teppan Edo for what it is. But it’s been a while since we’ve had anything that impressed at Tokyo Dining. The restaurant itself was nothing memorable, especially if you were seated away from a window and stuck in the middle of the large and boring room.
To that point, it’ll be interesting to see how the interior of the restaurant changes. There was nothing necessarily bad about the look of Tokyo Dining before–it had an authentic but basic ‘modern’ look similar to what you’d see on the upper levels of department stores. It wasn’t good or bad…or memorable.
A more visual engaging style for Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya would definitely be welcome. Imagineering did a great job with Takumi-Tei (below), and this sounds similarly promising. Drawing inspiration from Byodoin Temple (above) is a good move, and suggests that Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will use styles that evoke a more traditional Japan. (The festivals mentioned in the press release also reinforce this.)
We also love the idea of a restaurant with a menu that promises to change with the seasons. Throughout Japan, but especially in Kyoto, seasonality is huge. Many restaurants serve omakase menus comprised of seasonal vegetables and fish obtained from the wholesalers around Nishiki Market.
The presentation is also incredibly important, from the colors of the ingredients and garnishes right down to the dishes. We’ve dined at some restaurants in Kyoto that change the menus–and plating–on a weekly or even daily basis. We’re not expecting that level of attention to detail at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, but celebrating festivals and following general seasonal trends would be a huge win. (Although it started out promising, I don’t think Takumi-Tei even does this anymore.)
As for the menu at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, color us intrigued.
It should go without saying, but the sushi counter will probably be expensive. Both because that’s the trajectory of new things at Walt Disney World, and given the photos and descriptions. However, the typical izakaya cuisine should be relatively inexpensive and approachable, as this is basically bar food. They usually offer delicious homestyle cooking and comforting cuisine.
Personally, I’m much more excited about the Karaage Chicken than the sushi.
There are few foods I love in Japan more than chicken. I always order the karaage at ramen shops and izakaya, and convenience store fried chicken has become a go-to breakfast when eating at 7-11 or Family Mart. (No joke. Famichiki and Seven Chicken are both top-tier; if the options at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya are half as good as those convenience stores, Walt Disney World guests are in for a treat!)
We’re also excited that okonomiyaki is finally coming to EPCOT. We eat okonomiyaki frequently because it’s cheap, fun to see being prepared right in front of you, tastes great, and is highly customizable. During our last visit to Japan, we dined at an okonomiyaki restaurant and only paid about $5 for each of our entrees. Granted, we had to cook them ourselves (a comedy of errors) and the exchange rate is very favorable right now, but still. The point stands that it’s an incredibly inexpensive meal.
We’ve been begging for EPCOT to do okonomiyaki (and ramen) for years. In a post a couple summers ago, we wrote this: We’d love Teppan Edo to do an okonomiyaki lunch menu; it’s approachable, fun, and Walt Disney World could overcharge for it without most guests realizing it. (We’d gladly overpay for the okonomiyaki experience!)
It now sounds like we’ll be getting the opportunity to eat and overpay for an okonomiyaki experience at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya!
Ultimately, we are really hyped for Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya opening at EPCOT in Summer 2023…as you can probably tell. Tokyo Dining was long overdue for a refresh to both the menu and interior, and this will hopefully give the restaurant a shot in the arm. The concept of a sushi counter and izakaya is a great one, especially if Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya follows through on the promise of seasonality. If all goes well, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya could transform a middling World Showcase restaurant and turn it into an asset–one that is both a memorable culinary and cultural experience.
Our only real concern is pricing. Obviously, there’s going to be a significant Walt Disney World premium; that much goes without saying. It’s also likely that the sushi bar will have some absurdly expensive options aimed upmarket; that also seems like a given. However, our hope is that the restaurant stays true to the izakaya concept and offers affordable and shareable dishes, with prices much closer to Spice Road Table than Takumi-Tei. Our fear is that it’ll skew more towards the latter, aiming for a higher-end audience across the board. Here’s hoping that Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya delivers on its promise and potential without breaking the bank. We cannot wait!
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What do you think of the concept for the new Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya coming to EPCOT? Think this could be a good replacement or supplement to Tokyo Dining? Did you dine there any time in the last couple of years? What did you think of your meal? Excited for a sushi counter and pub-fare coming to the Japan pavilion? Agree or disagree with any of our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!