We continue from Mosaic Canteen.
What was once Takumi Table returns to this year’s Festival of the Arts as Goshiki, probably in an effort to differentiate it from Takumi-Tei, Japan’s new-ish signature restaurant. Goshiki apparently means “five-colored” in Japanese and it’s also a type of koi fish.
While the Taiyaki and Sushi Donut return in name from last year, both are going to feature slightly different presentations. The Vegetable Gyoza are brand-new, and this is the first time that we’ve seen Nomi Yasui and the Matsuri Cocktail. The Masu Sake is the only item that returns practically the same as last year.
Sushi Donut: Donut-shaped Sushi featuring Salmon, Tuna, Shrimp, Cucumber, and Sesame Seed over a decorated plate of Wasabi Aïoli, Sriracha, and Eel Sauce – $8
Here’s last year’s.
And this year’s, which looks a little zanier with everything going on underneath the rice.
Either way, this is a fun take on sushi that’s sure to make the dish more popular with Festival-goers. There’s a nice ring of densely-packed sushi rice underneath an assortment of raw fish, basically like several different varieties of nigiri pushed together to form a circle. Everything is incredibly fresh and flavorful and it offers an opportunity to try several different kinds of sushi in short order. I liked the various sauces – particularly the citrus-spiked Sriracha, which added a nice, salty, spicy citrus flavor that helped bring out some of the nuance in the fish. The Eel Sauce mostly tasted like soy sauce, which was a welcome addition, and the bright green Wasabi Aioli worked pretty well in this setting, adding more of a creamy texture and less spice, both of which are probably welcome by most. Whether it’s an optical illusion or not, it also “feels” like a lot of food for $8, and the fact that it’s carefully prepared inside the Food Studio as it’s being ordered is a nice plus. Typically, during other Festivals, Japan sees short to nonexistent lines because the sushi is prepared across the Pavilion and carted over to sit until it’s ordered. The good news is that everything is all the more fresh for the Arts. The bad news is you may have to wait a few minutes for it.
Taiyaki: Fish-shaped Cake stuffed with a Sweet Red Bean Filling served with Green Tea Chocolate and Whipped Cream Cheese – $5.75
Here’s what last year’s looked like with Sesame Cream, Sweet Red Bean Paste, and Raspberry Sauce.
And here’s this year’s, which is basically the same idea.
Taiyaki is a popular Japanese treat, and while the fish might look crispy, it’s actually soft and more like a pancake or waffle in texture. The red bean taste is interesting – mostly sweet and artificial-tasting with the consistency of icing inside of the pastry. If you’re not into it, you can sweeten up the profile with the whipped cream, juicy half of strawberry, or the cool flavors of the matcha in the green tea chocolate squiggles. I enjoyed trying it, but I’m not in a big hurry to return. You may enjoy it more.
Vegetable Gyoza: Vegetable and Edamame filled Gyoza atop Truffle-mashed Potatoes, Shiitake Mushrooms, Pepper Strings, and Tonkatsu Teriyaki Sauce – $5.75
There’s quite a bit going on here; it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to order pot stickers alongside mashed potatoes. I liked the Gyoza – the shells were nice and crispy and the filling was satisfying with a nice chew from the edamame and some more crunch from the vegetables. There isn’t a tremendous amount of flavor, which is where the Tonkatsu Teriyaki Sauce comes into play, adding a little bit of a Japanese wine flavor mixed with brown sugar, ginger, and worcestershire. I’m not sure where they came up with Truffle-mashed Potatoes, but the silky texture and earthy flavor works really well against the crispiness of the gyoza and gummy softness of the large mushroom cap. This is another dish where freshness is going to come into play. They taste great straight out of the fryer, but the dish is probably going to be a lot more lackluster if it’s been sitting around for a while. For less than six bucks, I’d give these a try alongside the Sushi Donut.
Nomi Yasui Draft Lager – $5
This sounds like a very Japanese beer, but it’s actually brewed by Deadly Sins, which is a local brewery out of Winter Park. The Japanese rice lager is easy to drink, crisp and clean with a little bit of a spicy, herbal finish. I feel like the menu should indicate the brewery that it’s from, since I’m expecting that everyone assumes that this is a Japanese brew. It’s worth a try if you enjoy beer, because you’ll probably never see it much farther away than Orlando, but don’t expect some sort of an exotic import.
Masu Sake in a Personalized Wooden Cup – $12.50
These wooden boxes were popular as the sake is ladled out of a giant barrel and placed delicately into your masu. Cast members in Japan are among the friendliest that you’ll run into at Epcot, and the experience begins by one of them personalizing your box with your name written in Japanese. It’s a fun moment as they then at least pretend to hook you up with an overflowing cup of middling sake. We enjoyed the experience and it’s a good opportunity to interact with cast members, but the price is up $2.50 over last year for the exact same thing.
Nigori Sake Cocktail: Frozen Nigori Sake and Calpico accented with Strawberry and finished with Cotton Candy – $8.50
Japan’s Festival cocktails don’t typically do a lot for me – they’re typically small in size and low on the alcohol content – but I was impressed by this year’s Nigori Sake Cocktail. It’s served in the same large plastic martini cup as the various boozy Sno-cones available at the Kabuki Cafe next door, and the icy consistency was perfect, making for a smooth, refreshing, ice-cold sip. The Calpico adds just a little bit of a creamy quality and blends nicely with the clean, smooth-tasting Nigori. The strawberry flavor doesn’t taste particularly artificial, and there’s a bit of cotton candy to sweeten the drink up just enough, without making it too sweet. It’s also more than five dollars less than the Frozen French Martini. That drink still packs much more of a punch, but if you’re looking for something light and refreshing that won’t put you on the ground, then this is your best bet at the Festival.
Overall, it’s a strong showing for Japan. The Sushi Donut is a smart buy and the Gyoza and Taiyaki are worth a try as well. We have a unique, albeit not very Japanese, draft beer, and a fun interactive moment with the sake box. Even the frozen drink is above average. This is a good stop.