We continue from Greece.
Japan returns waterside across from the rest of the Pavilion.
The Teriyaki Chicken Bun is the only returning item from last year.
And it actually wasn’t an original item. Disney switched out the Donburi above about a week into the Festival in favor of the less expensive Bun. But never fear, Japan is giving shrimp another go. We’re just trying to use a hot dog bun instead of a bowl this year. It certainly sounds promising.
Teriyaki Chicken Bun – Steamed Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables, and Teriyaki Sauce – $6.50
The bun is soft and fluffy and, in a departure from past offerings, not so thick that it overwhelms what is a sizable filling of chicken and vegetables slathered in a sweet teriyaki sauce. My personal tastes tend towards the spicy, but this is a quality offering and comes recommended. It’s still probably a dollar overpriced.
Tempura Shrimp Sando – $6.25 or $6.75
Food and Wine Festival menu release day is always one of the tenser days around easywdw.com headquarters as the website hopes for as many returning dishes as possible. I don’t think I’ve had to rewrite the review for the Cheddar Cheese Soup with a Pretzel Roll from Canada more than two or three times in the last ten years because it’s the same offering. You can probably imagine that all of the yelling when we saw “Shrimp Hot Dog in Japan Probably During the Hottest Part of the Day Outdoors in Florida in July” was not in celebration.
The “Sando” had two different price points depending on which menu you happened upon. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, you can be assured that the price on the receipt will be the higher of the two. This dish was probably the biggest departure from the menu picture provided by Disney we were served all day, where the Yuzu Crab, Green Onions, and Eel Sauce look to play a much more prominent role on top.
But any of our toppings were underneath the single Tempura Shrimp, and consisted of little more than fake crab soaked in an overly acidic, watery citrus sauce. It was almost like if Japan had a giant Yuzu concentrate squeeze bottle akin to those squeezy plastic limes you see at the supermarket for people who can’t quite be bothered to add a fourth step to their Gin and Tonic preparation. Yuzu is a citrus fruit of East Asian origin, so a plastic squeeze bottle in an authentic shape really isn’t out of the question. Maybe producing them could be my “Jump to Conclusions” mat idea that finally makes me that million. And I could review Shrimp Hot Dogs for fun instead of absolute necessity.
Anyway, we were sorely disappointed with our dish as it was at least 90% bread. If you’ve ever seen one of Disney’s Festival Lobster Rolls, this is basically the same size. I’ve seen much better looking Shrimp Hot Dogs pass by me in the days since, which is an odd thing to say out loud, but will review our original offering as pictured. And conclude that it has no real redeeming qualities unless you pull out the shrimp and eat it by itself. And you’re probably only doing that if you invented the lime squeezy bottle and have a cool million in the bank already.
But you ought to do better. Just check out what they’re handing other guests before committing. If the Sando looks like this, steer clear. If the other toppings are more generous, you’ll be much closer to in business.
Spicy Hako Sushi – $6.50
This is Spicy Tuna and Salmon served Box-style with Red Tempura Crunch and Volcano Sauce. It’s certainly more vibrant than our beige shrimp of thirty seconds ago.
We’ve seen sushi served here in a number of different ways – from cantaloupe and whipped cream “Frushi,” to Hand Rolls, to your traditional slices. The Box-Style is an interesting one, but you end up with far more white rice than you would in a traditional roll with just a thin layer of Spicy Tuna and Salmon as the main ingredients laid on top. The Volcano Sauce adds a mild spice and you have your usual tempura crunch for texture. It largely comes down to being a bowl of rice with a little fish and spice, but the presentation is on the elegant side and most guests should find the flavors accessible, while “feeling” like they’re trying something new. It’s also probably the most food and the best overall value at the booth. But people do disagree with me so you can always get that Shrimp Hot Dog. It’s not my six bucks.
Kochi Lemon Drop: Vodka, Yuzu, and Lemon Juice garnished with a Lemon Jelly – $8
This is the third or fourth Festival in a row that Japan has opted for a short, stout, sour drink poured from one of those machines that endlessly cycles the liquid around. Since we’re in Japan, it should rotate to the left.
I thought the Flower and Garden version was nearly undrinkable with its heavy lavender aroma and big gin flavor. This was still on the tart side, but it was so heavy on artificial lemon flavoring that it tasted more like a sour gumdrop that had already been in somebody else’s mouth for a while. So you only get the stickiness and artificial lemon with a distant sour flavor. The Lemon Wedge Gummy is cute at least. And there’s no bun, which seems positive. But I’d probably save my money. Or for eight dollars, you’ll receive about six sips of premade lemon water that’s going to warm up in a hurry and probably has an alcohol content close to the Lagoon water that sprays off the barges in the middle of the day now. When it’s open, the outdoor Garden House Bar has a more interesting assortment of drinks and they’ll take the best care of you inside Mitsukoshi Department Store at the Sake Bar straight back.
Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company Urayasu Rice Lager – $5 for six ounces or $9.50 for twelve ounces
I would imagine Ivanhoe Brewing is on the Japan side of Orlando, making it the obvious choice. This is a very light, refreshing beer with a dry finish that you’ll probably be happy you sampled exactly the one time. I’m not sure you’d regret going for 12 ounces out of the gate, but the savings isn’t particularly substantial if you want to start easy. The brews up at Block & Hans are more plentiful, just as on draft, and probably more Japanese.
It looks like we get to try the Festival-Funnel Cake next.