We’ll visit Epcot on the afternoon of Friday May 8th. I think it’s been a while, but don’t worry…you haven’t missed anything. We’re headed into the last weekend of the Flower and Garden Festival, which means Mickey and his fake topiary friends are headed back to the warehouse on Sunday.
Disney had installed these green grassy blobs in the fountain in front of Spaceship Earth at the end of last month.
And removed them just a few days later, probably because they resemble what Disney spent so much time clearing out of the swamp when they built the place 40+ years ago.
Like most things Disney-theme-park-related-in-2015, the most bloggable thing happening at Epcot is a building closure – this time most of Innoventions West on the Soarin’ side.
Inside is pretty depressing as Where’s the Fire? The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, and whatever the IBM thing was called have all closed.
What’s left is this wall of PS3 consoles.
“Sure, Universal might have bought the rights to Nintendo, but we have NCAA Football 2014 daggamit@” Keep in mind the PS4 came out over a year and a half ago and Electronic Arts stopped publishing NCAA Football due to a multitude of lawsuits.
The Disney Visa Meet and Greet is also still open with Innoventions operating daily from 12pm to 7pm.
There were only a couple holes in the garbage bags blocking the view further inside, but everything looked to be intact. There’s some chatter that this area will become the new Festival space, which would potentially open the Wonders of Life Pavilion up for a “re-imagining” as Disney likes to call it. The safe money is on nothing happening.
Disney talking up tobacco use.
A preview for the movie “Tomorrowland” replaced Captain EO last month and will run through May 24th. The “Inside Out” preview begins in the same location on May 30th.
We’ll see if Captain EO returns after. Disney swears up and down that it is, but all signage has been removed, the projector inside the theater has been replaced, various effects hardware has been torn out, etc. It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney’s Parks and Resorts Division is overcharging the Studio Division for running the promos and that will be the catalyst for some major changes here. The safe money remains on nothing happening.
The previews run continuously through 7pm with a short introduction in the waiting area.
The previews are not a must do by any stretch of the imagination, but it is air-conditioned and kind of a neat look at an extended clip from the movie. And Michael Jackson isn’t involved. There are a few distracting “4D” effects. but it’s mostly relegated to the theater shaking a little bit. It will be interesting to see if the Disney marketing machine can successfully hype up a move that doesn’t have a numeral after it after commercial failures like J*** C*****. Tomorrowland is pretty out there.
The Harambe Market expansion, which will finally fill the corn dog void at that Park, is scheduled to open around the 22nd of this month. I bring this up because the area will serve two soft drinks from Africa that are currently available here at Club Cool at no additional charge – Bibo and Sparletta. Poor BEVERLY in the corner could use a new graphics design team. It’s basically the Mission: SPACE Orange of Club Cool.
We’ve got a runner.
Flower and Garden Season is always a pretty time of year at Epcot.
Bad panoramas are my new thing.
This kiosk outside Test Track hasn’t been open since Easter.
The menu is still up.
At least as of last week, the Test Track showroom at the ride’s exit was the only place most people could see the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. Not that fact is very exciting. They are also distributing Tomorrowland pins here – you have to ask the person at the desk about them. They should ask for some information like your email, address, and four cars you’re interested in buying. I recommend falsifying this information, which shouldn’t be very difficult since it only asks about Chevy models you might be interested in.
Longer walls are up in between the Mexico and Norway Pavilions for the expected construction of the Anna/Elsa Meet and Greet building.
From the walkway to the Norway bathrooms to the Mexico margarita stand.
And extending all the way down. All of the trees have been removed and there are a few pieces of heavy machinery back there.
The “outdoor kitchens” again proved exceedingly unpopular. That’s the China one on the right side of the frame. For whatever reason, whatever pixie dust Disney uses in the fall to convince people to spend $9 on six ounces of Stella and a quarter of a waffle doesn’t seem to work in the spring. Also the whole vegetables thing.
Apparently the Africa Outpost section of World Showcase is a good enough tie-in for Disney’s latest nature movie.
Most Festival merchandise was discounted 50%+ nearly two weeks before the end of the run.
I’m being a little hard on Epcot here…there are in fact new additions. This expanded seating section for Katsura Grill is a prime example.
So you don’t get lost.
Coincidentally, we’ll visit Tokyo Dining for lunch. Or not so coincidentally since this meal goes back to March.
It and Teppan Edo share a waiting area up the stairs above Mitsukoshi Department Store.
It might not look like it here…but Tokyo Dining is the sleeker, more vibrant cousin to Teppan Edo, which is a hibachi grill experience. I have a review of Teppen Edo here and a past dinner review at Tokyo Dining in the middle of this post.
Lucky diners, or more probably those that request it at check-in, are seated at the windows.
Tokyo Dining offers a largely unadvertised 3-course lunch menu, which is actually $3 less than it used to be, if you can believe that:
The rest of the menu is offered all day:
Sushi pricing here isn’t particularly outlandish compared to what you’d pay off-site.
This is what the $16 Volcano Roll looks like.
Considering none of the regular entrees are under $25.95, the $19 lunch price seems like it might have some value.
Considering Miso Soup is ordinarily $3.95 and the ice cream is $4.95, we only have to get about ten bucks worth of value out of the entree to come out ahead.
There have been very few changes to the menu in the last couple of years.
Lisa ordered a Green Tea Martini – Honey Infused Matcha Green Tea, Shochu Green Tea Vodka – it had a pleasant sweet flavor that helped mask the flavor of the alcohol.
We’re joined by Kendra and the venerable Brian P Miles. Brian ordered the Tokyo Sunset – Coconut Rum, Creme de Banana, Peach Schnapps, and Pineapple Juice. The Tokyo reference must be to the one in Papua New Guinea, as I’m not sure the peach schnapps falls under the purview of the “true cultural experience through the harmony of traditional Japanese food and hospitality” that the restaurant advertises. But then again, it doesn’t say anything about drinks. Anyway, if you like banana rum drinks, you’ll probably like this one.
Kendra ordered the Cherry Blossom Martini – Sake, Plum Wine, Cranberry Juice, and Soda. Like a lot of cherry-flavored drinks, I think it has too much of a medicinal quality to be truly enjoyable.
If you’re not in the mood for a soft drink, the iced green teas are unlimited here for the same $2.95 price. The green tea flavor is very subtle.
I think this drink is the Samurai – Vodka, Plum Wine, and Lime Juice. Considering I can’t remember what it was called, it must not have been very memorable. I’d expect something that’s more refreshing than boozy.
Miso Soup is served without a spoon and you’re expected to pick it up and put it back. The soup is otherwise hot with a salty, earthy flavor spiced up a bit with the green onion.
We ordered the $8.95 Karaage – Marinated pieces of crispy Chicken Breast with Onion Sauce appetizer. For less than an order of quick service chicken nuggets, you get more, higher quality chicken with a sauce that keeps the chicken juicy and has more of a soy flavor than anything else.
The $5.95 Edamame – Young Soybean Pods, served chilled was kind of disappointing.
It’s the same stuff as they serve outside at Kabuki Cafe.
It also paled in comparison to the pile we were served at Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge for $3 more. Anyway, I’d probably skip the edamame here in favor of something else – kind of boring and a lousy portion for the money.
The $16.95 Spicy Combination – Combination of Dynamite and Volcano Roll – Four pieces of each is the dual-sided plate to the left. For $1 more than it would cost for eight pieces of one or the other, you can try a half-order of each. I would describe Tokyo Dining’s sushi as “pretty good.” It’s significantly better than Katsura Grill and on par with what Kona Cafe serves over at the Polynesian.
For entrees, Lisa chose the Chirashi Zushi – A colorful combination of fresh fish, seafood, omelet, and seasonal vegetables served over ice. It ended up being a ton of seafood – shrimp, salmon, tuna, roe, scallops, and a couple other things I can’t identify – all fresh and flavorful. She enjoyed it so much that she ordered a similar dish at our local sushi place for around $16 and after opening the takeout box, said, “This is pretty sparse” compared to Tokyo Dining’s version. Highly recommended and a terrific value.
Brian and Kendra each ordered the Beef Yakiniku – Strips of center cut sirloin lightly fried and served with fresh vegetables and garlic ginger soy sauce. The tender beef arrived with a slightly crispy quality to it with flavors of soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame once the sauce is added. The entree arrives with a side of sukiyaki rice, a noodle and fake crab salad, and a couple bites of seaweed/cucumber to round out the meal. Altogether, very good for the money.
Kendra paired her beef with the $9.50 Tempura Roll – Tempura Shrimp, Kanpyo (Cooked Gourd), and Sesame Seed.
I ordered the Bento Box – Traditional Japanese “Lunch Box” which holds panko chicken cutlet, California roll, salmon tartar salad, and sukiyaki beef, here served with a side of teriyaki sauce and sukiyaki rice.
The panki chicken was lightly fried and flavorful, but the chicken was a little tough.
The California roll resembled the quick service variety more than something carefully put together at the restaurant, but it was a refreshing couple of bites of straightforward sushi that would be a safe introduction for someone that’s unfamiliar or uncertain whether they’ll like it. You probably will.
I am not a Japan Pavilion beef sukiyaki person – the shaved beef always seems a little slimy – not unlike what you might expect in a “Philly Cheesesteak” at your kid’s middle school cafeteria.
I also found the texture of the salmon tartar salad unappealing, but I did order salmon tartar salad so I can’t really complain that that’s what it came with.
I like that they don’t serve simple white rice here – the sukiyaki-style is a lot more flavorful.
The small bowl of soft serve is a nice, relatively light way to end the meal without a lot of guilt, particularly when you’re about to exit the restaurant into 95 degree heat.
Overall, we enjoyed lunch at Tokyo Dining. Service is among the sweetest and most attentive you’ll find anywhere. I always laugh when the server comes back after 30 seconds profusely apologizing for the delay with a friendly, “Thank you for your patience.”
I’m a big proponent of visiting the restaurants for lunch that offer a less expensive menu, when you can enjoy a similar atmosphere as dinner for considerably less money. San Angel Inn, Nine Dragons, Biergarten, Restaurant Marrakesh, Les Chefs de France, and Rose & Crown Dining Room all run a less expensive lunch.
Downstairs at Mitsukoshi, there’s a sake bar in the corner of the room with all the food, candy, and drink options, which also serves a $10 bottle of Ginga Kogen.
What completely missing focus looks like.
I am not usually a $10/beer person, unless it comes with 17 other beers in a box, but the Ginga Kogen Weizen is an exception. Like most beers of this style, it arrives a little cloudy with the most obvious flavors being banana and clove, here with some lemongrass and a very mildly sour aftertaste. Even at ten bucks, it’s a decent value in World Showcase for a beer that’s very difficult to find in most places. With tax, a bottle of the vastly inferior Sapporo or Asahi would run you a much less reasonable $9.25 with tax, which is insane. In other words, you’re going to be spending eight or nine bucks for a beer in Japan anyway – you might as well spend the extra dollar and get something unique.
Cranes are visible as construction on the third theater at Soarin’ ramps up.
Photobombed by the monorail beam.
Moving on with a stock image of Sunshine Seasons, the highly rated quick service on the lower level of The Land Pavilion in between Soarin’ and Living with the Land. The full menu and most of the other items I’ve tried are pictured and reviewed in this post.
Most of the Kids’ Zone choices have moved over to their own station in the middle of the ordering area with the various side items located to the left. Picking out the various sides and drinks is confusing for a lot of people and I think the centralized location helps mitigate that confusion.
The big exception is the Asian station, which you’ll need to visit for the Kids’ Mongolian Beef.
I’ve been interested in trying the $6.79 Pizza Panini for some time now, since there isn’t an adult equivalent.
The panini is served with a side of marinara and your choice of side – I stuck with the green beans. The panini is a little sliver of bread and cheese, not unlike a cheese stick with another breadstick pressed on top to sort of make a cheese sandwich. I was expecting pepperoni or something inside, but it’s just cheese. This might satisfy kids with basic tastes, but it’s probably not the best choice for adults looking for a smaller version of a satisfying meal. There isn’t much to the panini.
Jello is one of the side options – like most, it’s going to be a little slimy with an artificial cherry flavor. Not “bad” by any stretch of the imagination, but again, nothing that’s probably going to bring a smile to most parents’ faces. Unless of course Junior eats it with relatively few complaints.
On a previous visit, Lisa tried the $11.99 Power Salad with Oak-fired Chicken, Quinoa, Almonds, and Honey Vinaigrette. While a couple dollars more expensive than your typical quick service salad, it’s more intelligently put together and packed with protein from the quinoa, in addition to the freshly sliced chicken from the rotisserie. The salty goat cheese pairs nicely with the subtly sweet, light dressing over the reliably fresh lettuce. The shaved almonds provide some crunch. Altogether, it’s a strong contender for best quick service salad.
I ordered the $12.29 Oak-grilled Rotisserie Chicken with Black Beans and Yellow Rice, or, if you prefer, any of the other sides available.
The chicken is tender, juicy, and flavorful and there’s a lot of it, which helps cement Sunshine Seasons as your best quick service option in Future World, if not the rest of Epcot and the rest of Walt Disney World. Just about everything here is going to be fresher and more flavorful than like dishes anywhere else. You do pay a couple more dollars, on average, but I think it’s worth it.
That’s what’s going on at Epcot.