REVIEW: New Takumi-Tei Signature Restaurant in Japan at Epcot is Disney World’s Most-Overpriced, Despite Amazing Service
If you’ve ever tuned in on social media during any one of our #WDWNTokyo streaks, you probably know we’re big fans of Japan, home to Tokyo Disneyland, Gelatoni, and some of the cutest, most delicious food we’ve ever had. The Japan pavilion at Epcot has always been a mainstay of World Showcase dining, and ever since the announcement of a new, signature restaurant, we’ve been eager to try it.
Tokyo Dining being one of my favorite restaurants on property, I was curious to see how the pavilion would carry out an ultra-premium dining experience in the park. With the Omakase Tasting Menu starting at $130 and Main Courses trailing not too far behind in the price department, we were somewhat skeptical, but you’re definitely paying for an experience, and if you’ve never been to Japan before, it’s the closest you can get to a traditional omakase dining experience without a passport.
In true Japanese fashion, all aspects of the senses are catered to––the various colors and textures on the walls and decor, the subtle, yet present music playing throughout, the purposely plated dishes and presentation… it’s almost overwhelming at first, but you evolve along the course of the meal, weep a bit once the bill comes, and come out a newer, more relaxed (if only slightly full) person. And now, for the tour.
First off, we’ll set the scene with a video so you can properly take in the vibe of the restaurant. As is consistent throughout the Japan pavilion, the area exudes peace and tranquility, even amidst a bustling Epcot. (And yes, even with a bunch of bloggers camped out on opening day.)
Reflected throughout the restaurant are five themes: Wood, Paper, Stone, Water, and Earth. Each of these themes is reflected in displays featuring haikus.
Each cozy, intimate dining room is designed after one of these themes.
Here’s the Water Room, which you might recall from the concept art that was released when the restaurant was officially announced. The Water Room is a separately-bookable experience that requires a minimum of 6 people and features a special Chef’s tasting menu (the only other one offered besides the traditional Omakase Tasting Menu.) If you can’t spring for the Water Room, don’t worry. We noticed lots of overlap within the existing menus, so you aren’t necessarily missing out on any special menu items, and depending on where you’re sitting, the rest of the restaurant feels just as intimate.
We were seated at the lush Earth Room, with gold velvet accents on the chairs, dark wood paneling, and various layers of earthen strata along the walls.
It was really quiet and romantic back here, and although there was some bustle coming from the kitchen, I love seeing that kind of activity and energy, especially on opening day.
For such a fancy restaurant, I thought the table placements were pretty perfect. The napkins were folded to resemble kimono, stemless glassware for water and such, and a set of premium wooden chopsticks resting atop a glazed stone against a woven mat. If you aren’t too familiar with chopsticks, forged copper silverware is also available upon request. They’re also refreshed after every meal.
The menu here seems expansive at first, but it’s really just a condensed, refined version of the menu upstairs at Tokyo Dining, starting with their signature Omakase Tasting Menu.
Traditional appetizers are also available. For price point references, a traditional miso soup, which is normally anywhere from $2 to $6 everywhere else, starts at $10 here. Whether it’s worth it or not, you’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Main Courses are also available for those looking for something other than Omakase, and features a variety of steaks, seafood dishes, and duck.
On the sushi front, it was somewhat shocking to see such a short list. If you’re used to run-of-the-mill sushi spots with pages upon pages of specialty rolls, you’re in for a shock. Takumi-Tei features exactly one (1) specialty roll. That’s it.
Traditional sashimi and nigiri (and my personal favorite, Temari Sushi) are also available.
The general manager told us that moving forward, they’d like to switch up desserts and make them seasonal. The current offerings are perfect for summer as it is, with vibrant Yuzu flavors and a Japanese Water Cake.
Sake is the main star of the show here, with most of it served cold. (The first two options on the sake menu are also available served warm when ordered in a carafe, but that’s the last thing we wanted in 90-degree weather.)
Specialty Cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), as well as beer and wines are also available.
While the menu does state “No substitutions” in fine print, they will definitely still cater to any food allergies or dietary preferences, so just like at any Disney restaurant on property, make sure you let them know and they will strive to accommodate you.
Takumi-Tei Sake, Wines, and Specialty Cocktails
The Omakase Beverage Pairing includes a tasting of wines and sake, and costs an additional $75 on top of the Omakase price, however all of these are also available individually, so we’ve included prices for reference and value analysis.
The $75 Omakase Beverage Pairing began with this crisp Brut. As you’ll see, the sakes are what really stand out here, but this was a nice welcome beverage to begin with, with a very generous pour. (Thankfully, another common trend we noticed across drinks.)
Yuho “Eternal Embers” Junmai – $17/glass
Sake is one of the few spirits I’ve always liked, from the cheapest carafe of hot sake, to the fancy frosted bottles sold in Asian supermarkets. That being said, this is one of the smoothest sakes I’ve ever had, despite being one of the cheapest on this menu. The glass was also literally filled to the brim, making it a decent value. I’d come back just for a glass (or carafe) of this sake.
Raiju – $15
Haku Japanese Vodka, Spiced Ginger Beer, Lime
If you really need a cocktail, this one is carbonated and extremely smooth and refreshing, but otherwise there’s nothing that really stood out to us about this drink.
Watari Bune Junmai Ginjo Sake (2nd and 3rd Course – Omakase Beverage Pairing) – $20/glass
Another extremely smooth sake. I actually preferred the Junmai to this, but this paired excellently with the foods offered in the Omakase menu.
A solid, smooth cocktail with a fantastic presentation, to boot. The Sakurajima is presented tableside in a smoking glass case embedded with cherrywood and served, still actively smoking, with a set of whiskey rocks inside.
The flavors here were smooth and cherry-forward for the first few sips. As someone who’s somewhat traumatized by whiskey, this may have rekindled my love for it.
A tart and juicy finish to the meal, this citrusy Yuzu sake was another excellent one in the batch. I’d almost recommend this one if you’re in the mood for something vaguely cocktail-y, but still want to try out the sake.
Takumi-Tei Appetizers and Omakase Starting Courses
Otoshi (Omakase Tasting Menu – 1st Course)
Imagined daily by the chefs of Takumi-Tei
This one caught us by complete surprise, as it was not featured anywhere on the menu, and may actually vary based on what’s fresh in the kitchen. The tiny dish presented included sauteed Maitake (Hen-of-the-wood) and Morel mushrooms in a delicate leek sauce, served with a garlic blossom. There’s a reason this is served in such a small portion. The sheer amount of umami packed into this tiny dish is insane. I only wish they’d serve a heap of these over a bed of sticky rice, I’d die happy. This was a great start to the meal.
(Do note that while this is traditionally the first course in the Omakase Tasting Menu, each of us at the table got a small dish of this to try, despite only one of us trying the Omakase. Your mileage may vary!)
Miso – $10
Silken Tofu, Scallions, Toasted Nori
The miso soup is served tableside. You’re first presented with a small ceramic bowl filled with tofu, nori, and green onion, and the warm broth is poured over it from a kettle.
While the presentation (and cute spoon and spoon rest) elevated this humble dish somewhat, it still fell short of its $10 price tag. It really is just plain ol’ miso soup. Reel the price in a bit and I’ll still order this out of sheer habit, but with other amazing dishes on the menu, you can generally skip this one. (Do note that by the time we photographed this, it was starkly cold, so perhaps having tasted it piping-hot would’ve rendered a better review, but my thoughts on the miso still stand.)
Agedashi Tofu – $19
Fried Silken Tofu, Tentsuyu, Brown Butter Black Rice, Shimeji Mushroom, Daikon Tsukemono, Carrot Ginger Puree, Lotus Root
We ordered this to try out something different from what was otherwise offered on the Omakase menu. I’m a fan of Agedashi Tofu generally, but the person who had this had never even tried it, and they loved it. The Shimeji mushrooms are tender and juicy alongside the crispy fried silken tofu, and the short-grained black forbidden rice was wonderfully chewy. (We usually don’t use chewy in a good light around here, but this was definitely a “good” chewy.)
The ginger-carrot puree was up there with Tiffins-quality sauces, and really tied the whole dish together. Also, while billed as an appetizer, I’d recommend this to any vegetarian (vegan, if modified) as an entree, as it was quite filling and well-rounded (carbs, protein, veggies, sauce.) While other appetizers might be more familiar, definitely try this comforting classic.
Temari Sushi (Omakase Tasting Menu – 2nd Course)
Chef-Selected Assortment of Oceanic Delicacies
An adorably-presented set of four Temari sushi pieces – hamachi (yellow tail), sea urchin, tuna, toro, and masago-topped salmon. The tiny streaks of sauces on the side, paired with soy sauce and real horseradish, make for a flavorful experience. This is probably the best sushi at Walt Disney World.
Nikomi Wagyu (Omakase Tasting Menu – 2nd Course) – $27
Compared to all of the delicately-presented dishes up to this point, the bone marrow was a hulking piece of bone with a tender middle and topped with bits of shortrib. I’m not huge on bone marrow, but again, paired with the delicate sauces and other elements of the dish, made for a flavorful (instead of just fatty) bite.
Hashiyasume (Omakase Tasting Menu – 4th Course)
Palate cleansing course
If you end up missing Beverly after Club Cool goes down, you can always pay $130 to experience this sinus-clearing palate cleanser, which includes a cucumber jelly and ginger. This is strong stuff, but it’ll definitely prep you for the strong flavors ahead.
Takumi-Tei Main Courses and Sushi
Wagyu Tabekurabe (Omakase Tasting Menu – 5th Course) – $93
The headlining course of the Omakase Tasting Menu is this well-composed steak dish. A pair of Morel mushrooms, halved baby potatoes, and Cippolini onions round out all the tender, fatty meat. As you might expect, the meal is served in Japanese portion sizes (so small for Americans). Overall, for what you’re paying, the main course simply doesn’t include enough food to satisfy American tastes, and the quality is not high to justify the triple-digit overall price tag.
Japanese steak on one side, American steak on the other. Our servers kept playfully asking which one was better, but neither was really up to the quality of the price tag. The word “Wagyu” gets thrown around a lot at Disney World these days, and this is another case of what feels like “sneaky marketing”. You can find better steak at a cheaper price at Flying Fish or The Boathouse.
Another tender steak dish, I really liked the flavors here. The presentation was also gorgeous, which is hard to do with a slab of meat. Do order this medium rare for the best experience.
What I liked most about it is also the potential detriment to the dish… this tastes incredibly like the steak served upstairs at Tokyo Dining. At some point during the meal, it really became a game of “Did this come from upstairs?” Not that I’m complaining, I loved how it tasted, but it does make you second-guess the higher prices, especially you could basically get the same dish at a more affordable price, within the same building.
Temari Sushi – $37
Chef-Selected Assortment of Oceanic Delicacies
If I were stranded on an island forever and could only eat one thing, it’d be this sushi (or really just any sushi, but this one is excellent). I’d always seen Temari Sushi in viral Japanese cooking videos online, but until now, I’d only ever been able to have the long, traditional nigiri style. All of the fish here is incredibly fresh, and the simple flavors shined without the need of the sauces to carry it through.
I was wary of the sea urchin, seeing as though I’d never tried it before, but it was good. My take on it, though, is that sea urchin tastes like the E.T. Adventure at Universal smells. After reading this, you might not ever be able to un-taste it that way. Try it out and get back to me. I don’t make the rules.
Either way, while pricey, it’s a fantastic sushi option, for Walt Disney World at least.
Mozaiku Maki Sushi – $18
Tuna, Yellowtail, Asparagus, Tobiko, Red Shiso Sauce, Lemongrass Ponzu
We knew we had to get this for most of you coming in here looking for rolls. In fact, I overheard a few patrons flipping through the menu, perplexed at the lack of sushi rolls. The menu has exactly one maki sushi roll on offer, and it’s this Mozaiku roll, aptly made to look like a mosaic of raw fish, vegetables, and rice.
Unfortunately, I’m sorry to announce that this one is the most passable dish in the entire restaurant. Again, I love sushi. Slap some raw fish on rice and I’m there… but the flavors just aren’t here. There’s entirely too much rice built in, and you lose the slivers of fish that are present. The spicy Red Shiso Sauce (a fancy rendition of spicy mayo, it seems) does little to save the dish, too. I ordered this and the Temari Sushi together and it was hard going from the easy, poppable bites of nigiri to these unwieldy squares of maki. Needless to say, if you’re on a date and want to look cute, opt for the former. You won’t be missing out either way.
If you’re in the mood for specialty sushi rolls, just go to Tokyo Dining.
Suiren Dani (Omakase Tasting Menu – 6th Course) – $16
Japanese Water Cake, Rose, Kuromitsu, Kinako Crumb
I was excited to see this dessert as again, I’ve seen water cakes online, but never had the opportunity to try one in person. Here, it’s presented beautifully alongside rose petals, soy milk powder, and black sugar syrup.
The unassuming star of this dessert is the soy milk crumble. It’s nutty and sweet, and paired with the syrup and fresh, gelatinous cake, it made for a spoonful of crunchy deliciousness.
If you don’t squeal at the sight of matcha green tea Mickey, then why are you even here? We had low expectations for desserts here, especially since Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo mainly serve forgettable cakes, but we were swept away by this deconstructed cheesecake.
Each bite is slightly tart and almost yogurt-y, with chewy candied Yuzu pieces and spiced Kabocha squash cream underneath. (I could eat a small pot of just that Kabocha cream.)
As much as it hurts to destroy the Mickey, don’t sleep on scraping up some matcha with your spoon as you scoop up bits of cheesecake. The bitter notes round out the sweetness and pair with the cream to create an almost tea latte-like effect in your mouth. It’s amazing.
Tea Ceremony (Omakase Tasting Menu – Final Course)
Traditional ceremony featuring Matcha Green Tea
The tea ceremony is only included with the Omakase Tasting Menu or the Chefs Tasting Menu offered inside the Water Room, but it’s an immersive experience, despite being an abridged version of a real tea ceremony. A tray with all the components (matcha tin, bamboo whisk, kettle with boiling water, ceramic bowl) is brought to your table, and the full ceremony explained in full detail as it is carried out.
The resulting tea is a perfect ending to your meal, and I was thrilled to see that they actually used ceremonial-grade (or close to it) matcha. It’s Disney World… no one would’ve known the difference between this and culinary grade, which is why I appreciate that they actually brought out the good stuff. We wish you could order this ceremony separately and not only with the set meals.
As a sweet parting gift, you’re also given a small glass vial of sugar candies inside of a mesh drawstring bag. Kawaii!
Overall, as Tom aptly commented, we have a love-hate relationship with Takumi-Tei. It’s extremely authentic in many ways, and the Japanese-style hospitality and service is unmatched. Our servers were incredibly attentive, very knowledgeable, and just about the sweetest people we’ve ever had the pleasure to interact with. However, between the pricing and the fact that we were all hungry within a few hours of dining here, it makes you question whether the prices are really worth it. You are paying for an overall dining experience here, and a cultural one at that, but here’s no getting around that $130 is a lot of money (not including alcohol or wine pairings), even on “the vacation of a lifetime”. Not to mention there are a lot of upscale alternatives around every corner of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. You honestly can do better with that money.
It’s also a lengthy experience, so theme park guests will have to take that into consideration before opting to dine here.
We’d definitely go back for some sake and the more imaginative cocktails, as well as a few rounds of Temari Sushi, before opting for dessert, but as far as the Omakase Tasting Menu and some of the entrees, it’s a hard choice to make given the price. The heavily-advertised steaks fall a bit short of expectations as well, even within the realm of theme park offerings.
The silver lining is that Tables in Wonderland, Annual Passholder, and DVC discounts are all accepted at this location, even though the Disney Dining Plan still isn’t.