Back in September 2016, I reviewed some new offerings in the Japan Pavilion, which included these three “Sake Mists.” Advertised as “Alcoholic Shaved Ice,” I really enjoyed the Blood Orange, but thought the Chocolate Cherry “tasted medicinal” and the Coffee “tasted largely like if you were to make coffee ice cubes and then put them through a sno-cone maker.” In other words, not exactly a raving review.
I was apparently not the only person to come to this conclusion as those two flavors have been switched out for Blackberry and Coconut Pineapple. Since our last visit, the “Box Style Sushi” has been switched out for the “Futomaki Big Roll,” which we’ll try. The Nigori Sake is also a new addition.
I thought the $8.99 Coconut Pineapple Sake Mist was quite refreshing with some natural tropical flavors from the fruit and a mild coconut flavor without any of the oil. In my opinion, the shaved ice base is the perfect sno-cone texture, with soft ice that has some backbone, but almost instantly melts in the mouth. It’s also a shareable portion in the fun jumbo martini cup. It’s tough to say how much alcohol is involved. You won’t taste any. But for five dollars more than your standard sno-cone, the flavor was far more complex than the non-alcoholic options and there is probably an ounce or two of plum wine in there. I’d recommend these as a refreshing afternoon snack that won’t get you buzzed.
The $5 “Futomaki Big Roll – Two Pieces with Crab and Vegetables.”
I’m not typically crazy about Japan’s quick service sushi, which is made in massive amounts with generic ingredients and available at about 50 locations around property. But since this is just available here, the ingredients “felt” fresher with more vibrant flavors. I was slightly miffed that it’s “krab,” or imitation crab meat, rather than the real thing. But the 2.5″ diameter of the rolls is considerably larger than the typical variety. It’s packed with stringy krab, cucumber, masago (capelin fish eggs), tomago (grilled egg), and probably some eel. And I thought it was pretty good, particularly if you have an itch for sushi and don’t want to commit to a meal at one of the two Japanese table service restaurants. It may not be a tremendous value, but it’s a solid six or eight bites worth, all told. The “wasabi flavored paste” seems unfortunate as the main ingredient is horseradish, but if it didn’t appear in a little green packet on the side, you may not notice anything is amiss. Not bad overall.
Kabuki Cafe, which is where these items are available, is found on the left side of the Pavilion.
Nigori (Cloudy) Sake is available here for $8. The flavor is sweeter than your typical sake with a fruity aroma and a mellower flavor, making it a better introduction to rice wine than the hot or cold versions served here and elsewhere around the Pavilion. It’s served nicely chilled, which makes it all the more refreshing.
Katsura Grill, Japan’s major quick service outlet, is probably Epcot’s most picturesque.
Historically, I haven’t been a huge advocate of eating here because I think most people have a much better Japanese restaurant at home. And the menu doesn’t really offer anything unique. The sushi isn’t as good as what’s sold at area Publix grocery stores and in my opinion, the teriyaki sauce is too sweet and gloppy. In somewhat recent memory, Katsura has added a couple of ramen noodle dishes and substituted shrimp for the salmon it used to offer.
But there have been some items that I’ve enjoyed over the years, the unphotogenic Chicken Cutlet Curry being the most satisfying. It’s a sizable hunk of chicken, fried up until it’s golden and crispy, on top of a spicy curry. It’s a particularly good choice in the fall and winter when it’s a little cooler. Very filling.
In my experience, the beef is particularly lousy. So much fat and gristle.
But the past doesn’t necessarily dictate the current situation, which is why we return to so many places time and time again. This is the $12 “Spicy Miso Seafood Ramen
served with Garlic Shrimp and Vegetables.”
And it was really quite good – a lot of corn and broccoli mixed in with the unadvertised imitation krab and three garlic shrimp.
While the shrimp portion might be a little chintzy, there’s a ton of noodles involved. They soak up the salty broth nicely and this should be plenty to fill most appetites up. The $12 price also seems reasonable. This is very basic ramen, but I think it’s a worthy addition to the menu and I would order it again, which is something I’ve rarely said about Katsura’s entrees in the past. Morimoto’s offerings would obviously destroy it if you can get over there.
Here we have the $14 “Shrimp and Chicken Teriyaki served with Steamed Rice and Mix Garden Salad.”
This didn’t really change my mind about the teriyaki, but the food wasn’t bathing in the sauce as it has been in the past. The shrimp were of decent size and prepared well.
The chicken thigh was tough and had a crumbly texture, which was a little strange. With the rice and salad, it’s a decent amount of food for the money and probably healthier than a lot of the other options.
So it isn’t necessarily a colossal mistake to plan a meal here, particularly when you consider how pleasant the outdoor seating area is. And the curry and ramen really are pretty good. There’s also indoor air-conditioned seating, which is rare.
But you might bring along a Kakigori or Sake Mist to the Katsura seating section rather than committing more money to a longer stay. The Coconut Pineapple Mist was really refreshing and the sushi made for a nice little snack.