You’ll find Hanami waterside across from the Japan Pavilion.
The popular Frushi returns alongside the Beef Teriyaki Udon while the Ahi Tuna Poke Sesame Ginger replaces last year’s Edamame Chicken Bun. Sapporo Premium Black Lager is new and the Kirin is back here, though it’s available in a number of other locations around the Pavilion. The other drinks are new.
Fresh Pineapple, Strawberry and Melon rolled with Raspberry Coconut Rice, sprinkled with Toasted Coconut and Whipped Cream on the side is basically a light, fresh, fruity dessert that a lot of people seem to find a lot of fun. This is sort of like China’s candied strawberries in that you either love it or hate it and I’m not sure where to come down on the ratings. It does not beckon a second purchase from me, personally.
$8.00 Ahi Tuna Poke
With Sesame Ginger.
After having enjoyed the tuna poke at the Hawaii booth at the last several Food and Wine Festivals, I was looking forward to trying Japan’s version. Unfortunately, what we were served was disgusting – the tuna was lukewarm, soft, and flavorless with an off-putting fishy smell. And the sesame ginger sauce was disgustingly sweet and artificial tasting with an overpowering stench. The greens underneath were limp and had obviously been dressed a long time prior to being served. I’m hoping it’s a dish that’s improved over the course of the Festival, but I can’t recommend what we received, especially at one of the highest price points of the entire Festival.
$6.20 Beef Teriyaki Udon
Thin-sliced Beef, Onions and Noodles tossed on the grill with Soy and Ginger.
Another disappointment, it was a battle between the beef and the noodles to find out which would prove to be slimier, tougher, and more bland. The sizable chucks of wet onion weren’t doing the dish any favors either.
This was last year’s version – certainly more attractive with the ginger on top providing color and flavor and while the beef was similarly slimy, the noodles tasted better and didn’t “feel” like they would slide off the plate even when they were sitting firmly on the plate horizontally on the table. Your local mall outlet that has been shut down by the health department three times in the last year does a better job and even if the execution was a little better here, it’s still a rudimentary offering. These were really the only two obvious misses of the Festival food offerings.
$4.25 Sapporo Premium Black Lager
Amusingly perhaps, Sapporo’s “Premium” Black Lager would run you $3.49 at Total Wine for a 22-ounce can versus $3.99 for a 22-ounce can of the regular rice lager. A 20-ounce draft of Sapporo would run you $8 at several kiosks around the Pavilion. Here, 20 ounces of the Black Lager would cost you $14.17. Anyway, this is a very malty, very artificially coffee-y flavored beer that’s best skipped in virtually every scenario.
$4 Kirin Ichiban Pale Lager
Kirin “Pale Lager” tastes better on draft at Epcot than it does in a can at home, but there are still better selections all around, including the Ginga Kogen at the Mitsukoshi Department Store Sake Bar.
$7.50 Matcha Sake Cocktail
Kind of murky, the Matcha Cocktail adds a creamy sweetness to the sake, which is going to make it more drinkable for a lot of people. There isn’t a lot of alcohol involved, but it is quite refreshing.
$8.50 Ozeki Shin
This Junmai Sake, which is actually brewed in California, is dry and fruity at the start with the ever-present smell of alcohol up front. The fact that it’s so light-bodied makes it easier to drink than some, but I don’t think it’s unique enough to attract aficionados and those trying to get into sake for the first time are best headed to the Sake Bar for the flight or inside Mitsukoshi for more options.
Overall, I thought this was a down year for Japan unless the quality of the tuna improves. The beef there has never been high quality and I think just about anybody is best served checking out the Carne Asada if they’re interested in beef in this area. The beers are pretty lousy and the sakes are unlikely to impress. The Frushi is fun though and lines are typically short, so at least you won’t have to wait long to be disappointed.