Morimoto Asia and Takumi Tei have some new competition at Walt Disney World with the arrival of Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya which is now open at EPCOT at Walt Disney World. The options for upscale Japanese table service dining at Walt Disney World grew with the soft opening of Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya which replaced the former Tokyo Dining option at EPCOT.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya started serving Epcot guests recently in a soft opening phase before its official opening on August 30, 2023. If the first few days of operation indicate anything, this place presents many positives for guests looking for upscale table service dining at Epcot.
I love Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs. Morimoto serves as my current favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World. Comparison between Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya and Morimoto Asia ran through my head the entire time we dined during the first day of the soft opening of this new restaurant concept. During my dining experience, I kept comparing Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya to Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs. Some of those comparisons might be unfair. Thus, we felt the need to place this disclaimer.
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Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya – The Basics
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya provides guests with various Japanese cuisine options. As implied in the restaurant name, this restaurant focuses on an “Izakaya” experience.
The Japanese term Izakaya references a style of dining that focuses on staying to enjoy company, beverages, and shared food. Izakaya-style restaurants differ from a bar since guests remain seated. Also, the emphasis of the experience focuses on shared food. Yes, this shared food pairs with alcoholic beverages creating the izakaya experience.
As a result, most of the menu items are intended to be shared with a group. Izakaya dining happens best with a larger group. Most izakaya restaurants serve a general mix of drinks and food. However, these styles of restaurants often have a specialty item or two. The menu at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya contains many items. However, based on Walt Disney World’s promotion of this restaurant, we suspect the large “Boat” and Bridge” sushi and sashimi entrees, along with the Japanese savory pancake, okonomiyaki, might become the signature dishes here.
For example, the Walt Disney World website describes Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya like this, “Enjoy an array of tantalizing dishes crafted with the finest ingredients, reflecting the flavors of each season. Sushi lovers will marvel at a first-hand look at sushi being made behind the counter.
For an authentic izakaya experience, select from a variety of mouthwatering izakaya-style delicacies, including savory skewers, crispy tempura, succulent sushi rolls, and hearty okonomiyaki.”
Shiki-Sai: Sushi-Izakaya offers plenty of seating. A bar area also resides in the center area of this restaurant. From this bar, guests can view some of the sushi dishes being prepared.
This table service option targets larger groups for a full dining experience. The bar area offers an excellent place to enjoy drinks and a few appetizers.
How to Get Reservations at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya uses Walt Disney World My Disney Experience for reservations. Also, you can call the Disney Dining phone reservation service at 1-407-939-5277. However, we recommend using the My Disney Experience system on your mobile device or computer to make reservations.
Reservations open 60 days in advance, starting officially at 6:00 a.m. Florida time. However, at this point, we are still determining the demand for advance dining reservations here. Thus, the need to be ready 60 days in advance may be less than higher in-demand table service options.
Like Tokyo Dining in this location before, all the seating is indoors. Some of the seating overlooks the lagoon area. If you are lucky enough to get one of these tables near closing time at Epcot, you can view the spectacular nighttime lagoon and fireworks show. The tables and chairs provide a comfortable place to enjoy a meal no matter where you sit.
Atmosphere at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya
We can only make an educated guess regarding the eventual daily atmosphere here based on our experience at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya. On the first day of the soft opening, very few people were seated. Also, due to that, the place remained quieter than we would expect for this style of restaurant. Still, when some signature items arrived at the table, some pomp and circumstance accompanied the arrival.
Also, when guests move to their table from the check-in stand, a mini celebration occurs to create a positive atmosphere at this izakaya restaurant. We suspect that, on a busy evening at Epcot, a far livelier dining experience will occur.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya might not be the best choice for those looking for a quiet romantic dinner. Fortunately, Epcot offers several other excellent table-service dining options for a romantic date.
The cast members at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya enhance the atmosphere. Most cast members working at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya appear to be national speakers of Japanese. Also, cast members’ knowledge of Japanese culture shined through during our dining experience.
Many aspects of Japanese culture can be seen during a dining experience here. The Japanese experience at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya involves more than just the food. The dining experience here involves pleasant table service dining with the opportunity to learn about Japanese culture.
Operating Hours and Advance Dining Reservations
Guests can find this restaurant on the second floor of the Japan pavilion at Epcot. Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya serves lunch and dinner. The operating hours run from noon to 9:00 p.m.
We visited on the first day of operation for lunch. The procedure currently involves walking up to the restaurant to get a call-back for the dining opportunity. Until August 28, this will be the procedure here, according to cast members. If you desire to dine here before August 28, you will need to follow this process.
Cast members tell us that this system may be adjusted. Still, the walk-up procedure for dining here will be a standard pattern until August 28. If you want to dine here on August 28 or later, you should utilize the My Disney Experience to make an advance dining reservation.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya – The Menu
The substantial menu comes with an attractive hardcover showing off the four seasons of Japan. Since the restaurant’s theme revolves around the four different seasons, this menu cover design makes sense. Some aspects of this restaurant change based on the season being celebrated.
As Disney stated when announcing this restaurant in May, “You’ll be able to experience the essence of Japan’s seasonal festivals, where each month brings a new celebration to your table. From hanging tanzaku to celebrate Tanabata in July to savoring moon-viewing dumplings in September, a cultural representative from Japan will guide you through each unique festival experience, one bite at a time. The atmosphere also embraces the festivals of Japan, with the atmosphere featuring beautiful, hand painted artwork and lanterns highlighting some of the natural wonders that Japan offers as well. Each and every visit is designed to create unforgettable memories that capture the spirit of Japan’s vibrant seasonal festivities.”
The menu at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya might overwhelm some guests. If you need help deciding what to order with so many choices, the menu here might present an issue. At least from our experience, the staff at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya worked very well, showing patience with our inability to decide what to order.
Choices, Choices, Choices
The menu presents guests with several extravagant Japanese dishes. However, the menu contains dining options that even the most particular diner will enjoy. For example, the menu offerings include starters, chef’s specials, noodle bowls, sushi, and izakaya classics. We think that the bigger problem at this Japanese table service restaurant revolves around deciding what to eat.
Yes, the izakaya-style dining lends towards sharing food. Still, decisions must be made. Most people will not want to order everything, right?
In addition, in izakaya style, the dishes arrive at your table as they are prepared. In other words, something that might be an appetizer in your mind could arrive after an entrée. During our experience, we had this happen.
Fortunately, the izakaya food items come designed for sharing. As a result, those opposed to sharing food at restaurants will dislike Shiki-Sai- Sushi Izakaya. The orders arriving from the kitchen in a non-traditional United States dining pattern could stress out some guests. For your planning, expect all items to be intended for sharing, whether listed as a starter or entrée.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya Dining Experience
When you arrive at your table, you will notice some specially branded chopsticks waiting for you. We appreciate this touch.
Also, before your meal begins, you will be presented with a specially wrapped oshibori. An oshibori is offered to guests dining before meals to clean their hands.
You will be asked if you would like a fork or other utensils, depending on the items you order. During our experience, we went with a fork and chopsticks.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya Dining Review
Since our group could not possibly eat everything during a recent visit, we focused on items Walt Disney World promoted before the opening. Also, with this being the day that two of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival booths open, some of us had already consumed a significant amount of food.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya Beverages
We should mention the beverages here before looking at some of the food. This restaurant offers an extensive list of beers, sake, specialty cocktails, wines, and Japanese craft spirits. Along with that, some interesting non-alcoholic beverages can be found on the menu.
One of us ordered the Gari Gari Soda non-alcoholic beverage. This cost $12. The menu description reads, “Soda with Japanese ice popsicle.” This drink makes a nice change of pace. We thought the popsicle tasted good. Still, we have concerns about the potential mess at a table service restaurant for those ordering this. For those desiring a creative, non-traditional drink, this works nicely. The soda tasted like an Asian version of Sprite.
Vegetable Okonomiyaki – $25.00
One of the menu items Walt Disney World heavily promoted before this restaurant opened was the Okonomiyaki entrée. An okonomiyaki is a savory-style Japanese pancake. When we write savory, we mean savory. No syrup should be used for this pancake.
The promoted version of the okonomiyaki includes bacon. We ordered the vegetable version. The standard okonomiyaki costs $3 more.
The Vegetable Okonomiyaki consists of vegetables, ginger, and a traditional tangy sauce. The savory-style pancake uses flour, eggs, water, and some stock as a base. After that, okonomiyaki traditionally consists of a filling of cabbage and meat. Of course, we choose vegetables. Once prepared, the okonomiyaki receives a topping of tangy okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, some seaweed, bonito flakes, and pickled ginger.
Though the price point for such a simpler style dish concerns us, we enjoyed this entrée. In fact, some of us thought it was the best menu item we ordered.
We found ourselves surprised by the quality of this dish. The nature of the tangy sauce dominated the other ingredients at times. After speaking with one of the managers, she explained the why and how of those flavor combinations. Even without the bacon, we found this a satisfying entrée.
Though a more straightforward dish, the combination of flavors earns respect. In addition, the portion could be shared. Once again, the Izakaya-style menu leans towards sharing the food.
Kara-age Chicken – $12.00
Another menu item promoted by Walt Disney World was the Kara-age Chicken. This common Japanese appetizer consists of Japanese-style fried chicken flavored with garlic and ginger. This usually comes served with lemon. All our group enjoyed this chicken starter. We found the preparation and overall chicken quality better than similar appetizers. However, the price point of four or five pieces of chicken for $12 might cause guests to feel overcharged. Still, for this izakaya experience, the Kara-age Chicken fits nicely on this menu.
Ishiyaki-Sukiyaki Rice – $28.00
At this point, comparisons to Morimoto Asia become inevitable. Our group ordered the Ishiyaki-Sukiyaki Rice. The comparison to Iron Chef Morimoto’s signature dish, the Buri-Bop, became obvious all around. This rice dish contains grilled beef strips with spinach and rice in a sweet garlic sauce.
Like the Buri-Bop at Morimoto Asia, this entrée is cooked in a hot stone bowl table side by your server. Our server performed well preparing this dish. He then split the entrée among our group. Once again, the izakaya nature of this restaurant, with an overall theme of shared food, should be considered when ordering this.
The beef tasted excellent. However, we would pay more for the Buri-Bop at Morimoto Asia. Still, the Ishiyaki-Sukiyaki Rice brings good flavor. We pondered if this price point was too high. However, you do get to experience tableside cooking with this entrée. Also, based on the nature of this dish, you should expect this one to arrive at your table quickly since your server makes it. If you want to enjoy other food before an entrée like this, you should select another entrée for your group.
The Bridge at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya -$100
In fairness, this entrée goes by another name. The menu calls this bridge presentation – Hashi. The Hashi costs $100 and is supposed to feed two to four people. We feel it would serve three to four people easily. The combination of sushi and sashimi (with other items) comes on a plastic bridge for presentation purposes. The menu description for the Hashi reads, “Bridge presentation featuring an assortment of sushi and sashimi.”
If you want to be extravagant, you can order a similar entrée containing more sushi and sashimi with a “boat presentation” for $300. Based on seeing the boat version and the bridge version, we thought the bridge made a safer choice. Most people who ordered the bridge on the opening day felt it was overpriced. In contrast, we thought the bridge was expensive but not overpriced for the quality of sushi and sashimi received.
This bridge of sushi and sashimi comes with all types of these items. The Shiki-Sai menu leaves off specifics and the additional items with the Hashi. We suspect that this was done to allow changes and the use of better seasonal options.
During our visit, we found the tuna and salmon options were excellent in terms of flavor and preparation. The shrimp did not amaze us in terms of taste. However, it balanced nicely with the rest of the sushi and sashimi.
Even the saltwater-seared eel tastes good with his Hashi. One of our group members earns an indisputable reputation as a very particular diner. We expected him to be averse to many of this bridge’s “fishy” items. However, he enjoyed the eel and octopus with the entrée. If you want to visit Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya with concerns about picky eaters, this might work as something to share. Of course, the texture issues will cause struggles.
Of all the food on this bridge, we found only the cucumber sushi roll lacking an excellent taste and texture. Poor quality and flavor should not hinder anyone from enjoying this Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya meal. Still, if someone in your group faces texture issues when dining, expect to overcome that. However, we were successful with our picky eater.
Compared to Morimoto Asia, we thought the sushi and sashimi at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya tasted of equal quality. This surprised us. If your group loves sushi, this restaurant deserves consideration during your Walt Disney World Resort vacation.
Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya Conclusion
The addition of Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya enhances the more upscale table service dining options at Walt Disney World Resort. The Japan pavilion at Epcot already has Takumi-Tei. However, Takumi-Tei presents guests with a far more upscale dining experience. As you might expect, that fabulous dining experience starts at $150 per person. Also, Takumi-Tei serves dinner and not lunch.
If you are looking for authentic Japanese cuisine at a lower price per person, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya fits the bill. Also, with food reaching the quality of Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs, this place offers an excellent dining experience.
Sure, we want to express concerns that many guests visiting Epcot will not wish to order such extravagant entrees at these higher price points. However, this makes a good option if Takumi-Tei falls outside your dining budget.
Another thing to consider would be treating this place as an option for drinks and appetizers. Though too early to tell, the bar area could become very popular for that. Also, after the rush of excitement for this new restaurant opening, the demand for reservations may drop, allowing guests to enjoy a relaxing dining experience without so much advanced planning.
Though we love Morimoto Asia, we found the experience at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya positive. If you desire this style of cuisine, we feel comfortable recommending this place.
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