We’re sharing our full review of the new Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya restaurant that replaced Tokyo Dining at EPCOT’s Japan Pavilion.
Climbing the grand staircase of the Japan Pavilion’s Imperial Palace in EPCOT, I had expectations. I knew that the former Tokyo Dining space had been transformed into a brand-new restaurant. I knew that it shares the same building as the longstanding Teppan Edo. I even knew that this new restaurant was operating under a completely new design and dining concept.
Yet, my expectations were exponentially exceeded when I stepped into Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya. The brand-new, multi-room restaurant looks nothing like the space its predecessor occupied. In fact, it is a shocking change. Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya offers a dual dining space combined with a brand-new story concept that are immediately apparent upgrades from the moment you enter.
A Celebration of Japan’s Festivals
Japan’s seasonal festivals are a longstanding piece of time-honored culture, celebrated at the turn of each new season. During the spring festival, the Japanese celebrate the rebirth of nature, writing poetry and drinking sake under the blooming cherry blossom trees. For summer, the fireworks light up the night skies as friends and families gather to watch. In autumn, the colored leaves invite the Japanese outside as they head into the season of change.
Each of these unique festivals is celebrated at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, starting with a gorgeous, three-panel mural that welcomes you as you first enter the space. Story, time, and place are all equally important to making the dining experience unique here. As you continue to move through the restaurant and are brought to your table, look up at the hanging lanterns and the painted ceiling: each flower and animal element represents a different season!
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya was designed after Japan’s original capital, Kyoto. Steeped in history and tradition, the restaurant strives to offer guests a unique and interactive dining experience that is completely unique to the World Showcase.
Two Unique Dining Spaces at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya
While Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya is new, the space in which it inhabits has been around since the Japan Pavlion’s inception. The space formerly housed Tokyo Dining, which was designed as one big, open floor space. Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya took that same space and divided it into two very unique dining rooms.
The first room features a huge, open-concept sushi bar that allows guests to watch as the chefs create their meals! While booths in the sushi bar room may not have outside-facing windows, they do have digital screen ‘windows’ that overlook realistic Japanese landscapes. These landscapes will change over the course of your meal, reflecting the three seasonal festivals the restaurant celebrates. Keep a close eye out; you might just catch a Mickey-shaped firework during the summer festival scenes!
The brightly-lit, window-side dining room offers diners sweeping views of the entirety of the World Showcase and World Showcase Lagoon. These window-side tables are already very popular among Disney fans. That’s because they grant some of the best- if not THE best- fireworks views in the entirety of EPCOT!
The Menu at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya
A heavy, leather-bound menu is immediately impressive as it is placed in your hands. The gorgeous floral design on the front represents the four seasons, and the very first page offers further insight into the festivals Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya embraces. The menu features high-quality photographs, which are meant to help guests easily navigate cuisines that they may not be otherwise familiar with. Each dish is pictured near its description, and the incredible service team was happy to answer any questions my dining party had.
The back of the menu features a brand-new specialty cocktail list curated specifically for the restaurant. Sake and Japanese whiskey are the two mainstay liquors here, along with a variety of Japanese beer or wine options.
Elevated Izakaya-Style Dining
In Japan, Izakaya restaurants are known for offering inexpensive cuisine that comes to your table as it’s prepared in no particular order. For $20, you could find yourself sipping a beer in a very casual, smoke-filled restaurant while course after course of food is brought to your table to be shared among friends and family. That same Izakaya style has been reinvented here at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, keeping the basic idea but elevating everything from the food to the dining space itself.
The food at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya is all meant to be shared. The idea is that when you order, you are ordering for everyone at your table! The service staff here are all a part of the EPCOT Cultural Representative program, meaning the entire staff is made up of Japanese representatives! During my meal, our server, Kaori, was not only a joy, but she was so excited and happy that we had questions about the menu and about the Japanese culture she grew up in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
The Food at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya
I got to try a huge number of menu items when I visited Shiki-Sai! The highlights included four different types of melt-in-your-mouth Japanese A5 Wagyu: traditional wagyu, wagyu gyoza, wagyu steak, and wagyu nigiri.
The Kara-Age chicken was a surprise favorite at my table. The chicken had been marinated and brined before it was batter-dipped and fried, allowing it to maintain its juiciness. The batter dipping and frying gave it a fantastic crunch that created an excellent textural contrast.
The vegetable udon was another surprise. The hot soup-style dish was very light and refreshing, even on a warm summer day! Its brightness comes from the addition of the citrus-y yuzu that is added to the salted broth base.
The ($300!) sushi boat was the standout star of the meal. The boat features nigiri, fried branzino, vegetarian sushi, tuna sushi, Uni, marbleized sashimi, and an entire volcano roll. This massive boat had more than enough for a party of four to six to share. The service staff paraded the sushi boat from the sushi bar to our table, complete with bells, claps, and a big ‘ooohh ahhh’ from our table when the chef proudly placed it before us.
A Parting Wish
The end of each meal at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will culminate with a special wish. Each guest is presented with a piece of ‘bamboo’ (paper), reflective of whatever festival is currently being celebrated. In my case, I received the summer wish paper design. Each guest is invited to think of a wish, hope, or dream they hope to come true. The guest is encouraged to write their wish on the paper and then hang it on a bamboo tree near the exit.
My wish moment was made even more special because my incredible server, Kaori, offered to write my wish in Japanese! As I hung my wish on the tree, I felt a sense of community that is rarely felt in a Disney World eating establishment. During the meal, I made great connections with the staff as they taught me about the restaurant, Japanese culture, and the food. These made it so the wish moment felt like a true culmination of a dining experience rather than just the end of any ordinary meal.
Want to learn more? See our full review of the Shiki-Sai Sushi experience below:
Thank you to Disney and Mitsukoshi for inviting us to experience a meal at the new Shiki-Sai Sushi: Izakaya at the Japan Pavilion in EPCOT. We were able to experience the atmosphere and selections from the menu for review. And thank you to our incredible server, Kaori, for the wonderful experience!