We continue from Morocco.
Japan returns waterside across from the rest of the Pavilion.
Japan’s menu is a mix of brand new items, returning items, and slightly different takes on items that we’ve seen from previous Festivals, including this year’s Flower and Garden. They’ve also replaced the Tempura Donburi as pictured on the menu with a Teriyaki Chicken Bun since the Festival opened. We’ll review both.
Teriyaki Chicken Bun – Steamed Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables, and Teriyaki Sauce – $6
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.
(May Not Be Available) Tempura Donburi: Two pieces of Tempura Shrimp and Kakiage (Vegetable Tempura) with Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce served over Sushi Rice – $8
Donburi is approximately “bowl” in Japanese, so it makes some amount of sense that a donburi is what we receive. It’s unusual to see a food item removed from an Epcot Festival part way through, but circumstances are obviously not ordinary circa what I’m still relatively certain is 2020. It’s possible that demand was so low that it wasn’t possible to keep the fried food crispy and fresh considering that it’s carted over from a kitchen in the Pavilion Proper.
It may be a shame because we liked the Donburi a lot. Even after walking the bowl around for some time taking pictures of it in a variety of positions, the food was still piping hot with two large, crispy tempura shrimp and a thick vegetable cake made up primarily of sweet potato. The sushi rice was light and sticky, and altogether, this was like a miniature meal complete with salty seaweed on top. I hope it returns, but it may be unlikely. It’s possible that fried food and the Florida summer don’t go together, but I’m not sure that has ever stopped Epcot before.
Frothy Ramen: Chilled Noodles and Dashi Broth with a Light Foam Topping – $6.25
If you were to ask me how I like my ramen, “cold” and “frothy” would not top the list of adjectives. “Hot” and “spicy” might, though. Here, the froth is almost a foam on top of the soup. Theoretically, it should help to cut the richness of the soup, but I think the froth just adds to the incredibly umami, or savory, quality. Unfortunately, the noodles were gummy and overcooked, like they had been sitting in broth for too long before they were served. There was also a salty soy glaze of some sort over the top, which made the flavor even more intense. I would still recommend trying one of these, even if you share one among numerous people. Some will likely be surprised by how much they enjoy it, while others will immediately swear off soup foam now and in the future. The portion is relatively large for the money and the cup is precious. So hopefully you can at least take a picture of it and increase your social media standing.
Chirashi Sushi Flowerpot: Fresh-cut Salmon, Salmon Roe, and Spinach served over Sushi Rice with Furikake and topped with Poke Sauce – $6.75
See? It’s a flower pot.
It’s also a slightly different take than this version with salmon fashioned into a flower that we saw at Flower and Garden.
We enjoyed this one a lot. It’s $1.50 less than the Flower and Garden Festival version and comes with just about as much vibrant, fresh salmon, in addition to the roe and the same sticky sushi rice that we saw with the Tempura Bowl. The soy-based poke sauce adds some sesame along with the salty seaweed topping. Hopefully the spinach brings some health benefits even as a garnish.
If there is a qualm to be had, and this is still easywdw.com, so there will be qualms, it’s that you’re probably paying for and wasting your money on the flower pot container. It makes for another precious photo, but unless you’re going to bring it home and take shots of Canadian Club out of it like I did, it’s probably going in the trash. There isn’t an Epcot logo on it or anything that would tie it back to the Japan Pavilion or your trip.
Overall, it’s a refreshing dish that I would recommend trying. I’m surprised we don’t see a sushi roll this year as those are always popular. The flower pot is sort of a deconstructed version.
Kirin Draft Beer – $4.25 or $7
Kirin 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, and the draft choices at Regal Eagle or Hops & Barley in the United States Pavilion. This may be the biggest “discount” on the 12-ounce pour versus the 6-ounce version that we’ve seen. You’ll save $1.50 on the 12-ounce versus two 6-ouncers. You might remember that we didn’t see any discount whatsoever on the larger Kronenbourg in France. What a life.
Strawberry Nigori Sake – $7
I’ve sampled 20 or 30 different sakes at the various Epcot Festivals and this one would be towards the bottom of my own list. It tasted almost exclusively of rice alcohol with just a tinge of artificial strawberry. It’s certainly an attractive color, which may be why it was chosen, but $7 for a two-ish ounce pour from a bottle that would cost $11 at the store is a rough proposition. On the plus side, it’s actually 50 cents less than it was during Flower and Garden. It’s possible that the yen has appreciated in that time. You may well like it more than I did, but the Sake Bar inside Mitsukoshi offers the best overall sake experience and a much wider selection.
Furano Martini: Vodka, Lavender Syrup, and Yuzu Juice – $7.50
This was a major departure from what I was expecting. Japan almost exclusively serves sweet cocktails that are refreshing, but very light on the booze. This one was seemingly all vodka, but it tasted more like cheap gin when mixed with the oily lavender syrup and tart, lemony yuzu juice. For $7.50, it’s not a bad value proposition if you’re looking for a strong cocktail, but I didn’t care for the flavor profile at all, even if it’s a pretty pink color. Again, it may be more to your tastes. It reminded me a lot of the Singapore Sling from years ago. Those tasted disgusting, but packed enough of a punch that it was worth suffering one (or more) down. You may or may not be all about that. If you’re wondering where the name of the martini comes from, Furano is the name of a city in the Hokkaido prefecture that’s known for its lavender fields. (And skiing.)
Overall, the Teriyaki Chicken Bun is tasty, if not too straightforward, the Donburi is a good value, if it’s available, the Flower Pot of Salmon is precious, if not slightly small, and the Frothy Ramen may be worth a go, even if it tastes bad. The Kirin is one of the less expensive beers at the Festival, which makes it more attractive than usual. I’m less high on the boozy options for the opposite reason as usual, which may be further proof that I’m not happy no matter what I’m served. It’s a pretty strong showing from a pretty weak Festival year.