Tokyo Dining, Disney’s Epcot, Orlando

We briefly visited Disney World last summer, and were surprised to find much of the Japanese portion of the World Showcase was closed for renovation…including the two sit-down restaurants. We didn’t originally plan to return to Disney this summer, but it ended up happening, and when we made travel plans I immediately thought about those Japanese restaurants. We eat sushi more often than any other ethnic food, because we love the light, clean feeling we get from eating a plate of rice and raw fish for dinner.

Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo are both in the same space, upstairs above a huge Japanese department store in the World Showcase. I ate at the hibachi restaurant at Japan in Disney as a child, and the meal made a huge impact on me and my perceptions of Asian culture. I have fond memories of food cooked before us and the flashy show our chef put on. Teppan Edo is the current version of this restaurant. I never eat at hibachi restaurants as an adult, but I bet my son will demand we try one when he gets a little older, and Teppan Edo looks like as good a spot as any for sampling this sort of touristy-Japanese food. The space is very bright, with contemporary hard edges and a cheerful vibe. I chose Tokyo Dining because I knew we would be more interested in sushi than in hibachi food.

I don’t know whether or not we made the right choice, because I found our food lackluster. They actually had some cooked fish rolls on the menu (cooked salmon), I suppose for those overwhelmed by the prospect of raw fish. The eel and spicy tuna rolls my husband ordered were rather ordinary; he didn’t even think them significant enough to be worth sharing, so to be fair I didn’t personally sample them.

I selected a Ginza plate, which was an assortment of sushi and tempura with seaweed salad and steamed rice. The seaweed salad was all right–half the same green stuff with sesame seeds you see in every Japanese restaurant, half hijiki with a lotus root chip and sparks of interest from some spicy peppers. The portion of tempura was generous but underwhelming. I thought the batter was a little heavier than I normally see, without that wispy and ethereal crispness I look for in tempura. The mushroom was inedibly greasy, but I enjoyed the three fat sea scallops and my personal favorite, the sweet potato. Then there was the usual little assortment of sushi on my platter. I did appreciate the cut of the fish–it was properly proportioned with the rice and easy to eat. The tuna was easily the best piece, tender and fatty. On the other hand, the shrimp was limpid and a little soggy, and the two pieces of California roll were…excellent examples of Middle American averageness. I think the pickled ginger is made in-house; it’s not pink and it tastes quite fresh. I think the quality of the fish is disappointingly close to what I experience close to home, though. I was hoping for more from this place.

The room is pleasant although a bit loud, with an open counter where sushi chefs work and really pleasant and deferential women from Japan waiting tables. Touches like hot towels before dinner might appeal strongly to somebody unfamiliar with Japanese food, and it occurred to me that this restaurant might be fantastic for such a family. For people with experience, even the minimal Americanized experience I personally have with Japanese food, it’s kinda eh. Spend your centimes at Bistro de Paris down the showcase in France instead.

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