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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Tokyo Dining
May 28, 2011

I recently had my last day at the ice cream cake store I've been working at for the past several months, and I got into a discussion with my boss, Jan, about places to eat in Disney World.  She and her husband, who are huge Disney theme park fans and Disney Vacation Club members, go to Disney every year (sometimes more than once in one year!) and one of their favorite things to do is dining in Epcot.  They've been to all the amazing table service restaurants with the Disney Dining Plan like Coral Reef, Akerhus, San Angel Inn, Le Cellier, to name a few.  She was asking where I have eaten and all I could name was'-Electric Umbrella' and 'the Yakitori House' and all the little quick service places, until I remembered, we actually did get to eat at one of the fancy table service restaurants a few years ago!

For our trip to the World in 2009, my siblings and I wanted to take our parents to one of the fancier dining places of Epcot.  Our first day of park hopping, our parents did not accompany us, so after spending the day in the Studious, we hopped over to Epcot via the Friendship boats to the International Gateway and started hunting around the different restaurants such as the Garden Grill, Le Cellier and others to try and make a reservation.  It was the middle of summer, and we weren't expecting to get a seat last minute, but lucky for us, there was room at the place we most wanted to go: Japan!  Upstairs from the Mitsukoshi Department store are two adjoining restaurants.  While all seats were full in the popular Teppan Edo dining room show kitchens, we were able to score last minute reservations for the next day at the adjoining Tokyo Dining restaurant.  The d'cor was an interesting blend of modern Japanese design and traditional architecture.  There were two main areas of the dining room, with one looking out at the spectacular view of the Japanese pavilion and the World showcase lagoon, and an inner area in front of a large counter and a large video screen.  We were seated sort of in the middle, but closer to the video screen (more on that later).

Tokyo Dining's waiting area

When people think of Japanese cuisine, most think of sushi and the teppanyaki experience (your party sits around a large flat top grill and a Teppan chef cooks, flamb's, saut's, and flips shrimp into your mouth).  While that experience is definitely a lot of fun and quite the show, it is also quite popular and difficult to get into.  The Tokyo Dining, which is right next door, is still a great Japanese dining experience offering dozens of sushi rolls, as well as traditional and modern Japanese cuisine, with enough variety for those with daring tastebuds and others not quite as brave.  I remember being surprised to see NY Strip Steak on the menu, though even with that strange addition, we were still treated to an authentic Japanese experience.

Tokyo Dining place setting, with drinks menu and main menu

After the hostess brought us to our table, the meal started with our waitress bringing us each a hot, moist towel called an oshibon.  It is traditional to wash your hands with the towel before the meal, but it is bad form to use it for anything else like your face.  We go out for sushi often at home, but this was the first time we were offered an oshibon to wash our hands before eating!  Our health conscious mother was quite pleased with this tradition.

After ordering our food, our side of the dining room was treated to a little presentation.  At the aforementioned counter, one of the young ladies dressed in a kimino and cap called our attention to the video screen.  The screen, which was displaying pictures of the natural beauty of Japan, lit up and we realized it was a video feed of the counter she was working at.  It turns out she was a sushi roller and she was going to show us how they make sushi!  I had just been part of a sushi workshop at my university a month previous to this evening, so it was quite a treat to see it done by real Japanese sushi rollers.  Her station was equipped with a bowl of sushi rice (sticky rice with rice vinegar), nori (seaweed), a bamboo roller mat, and various other ingredients for making specific rolls.

The Sushi Rollers at the Sushi counter

Wok and Roll

The finished sushi rolls!

Dad and his Bento box ' an assortment of traditional Japanese dishes

Albert got something Tempura, but I remember he liked it a lot

My sister wanted sushi and an entr'e, so she ordered the children's entr'e, which was actually a larger portion than we all expected!

Enjoying an orange frozen drink, salmon and yam tempura rolls
(Yeah, I know, a little boring for sushi, haha)

Tokyo Dining was a terrific, and unexpected experience.  We were a little disappointed that we could not get into the Teppan Edo show kitchen dining room, but pleasantly surprised at what the Tokyo Dining side had to offer.  Not only did we dine on some delicious Japanese cuisine, we also experienced some traditional meal customs and were treated to a sushi rolling demonstration.  Our family loves eating and after years of the counter service dining plan at Disney, we are looking forward to our next meal at Disney now that we have gotten a taste of what Epcot's fine dining has to offer.


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