May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month), celebrating the cultural and historical contributions members of those communities have made to the United States. Since food is an important part of Asian and Pacific Islander cultures (or really, any culture!), there’s no better way to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month than with a delicious meal, whether dumplings, noodles, sushi, curry or barbecue.
Fortunately, no matter if you’re traveling to the Most Magical Place on Earth this May or you simply have a craving for some ramen the rest of the year, there is a veritable cornucopia of Asian-influenced cuisine at Walt Disney World Resort, offering everything from grab-and-go dishes and desserts to buffets and teppanyaki to elegant, multi-course meals. So, bust out your chopsticks (or a fork—no judgment here!), and let’s dive into the best Polynesian and Asian restaurants Disney World has to offer.
The Top Polynesian- and Asian-Inspired Eats at Disney World
The month of May is of particular importance to Asian Americans, as it marks the day when the first Japanese people immigrated to the U.S. on May 7, 1843. It also falls in line with Golden Spike Day on May 10, 1869. This day honors the final day of construction of the transcontinental railroad, which wouldn’t have been possible without an army of Chinese laborers.
That said, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month pays tribute to Americans that hail from the entire Asian continent—including East Asian countries like China and Japan, Southeast Asian nations like Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, and places in South Asia like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan—as well as across the Pacific Islands of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.
As a result, there is a vibrant kaleidoscope of flavors and ingredients just waiting to be savored this AAPI Heritage Month, and you’ll find many of them at restaurants and lounges around Walt Disney World. Best of all, you don’t need to be visiting Disney World during the month of May to enjoy these Asian and Polynesian restaurants. Disney World cooks up a tantalizing array of Pan-Asian- and Pacific Islander-inspired dining options all year round, making for an especially delicious departure from your standard theme park fare.
Caravan Road in Animal Kingdom
Snow cones drenched in colorful and sweet syrups have long been a staple of theme parks, carnivals and fairs. However, this sweet treat, known as kakigōri in Japanese, actually dates back to Japan’s Heian period in 794 to 1185, when the Japanese aristocracy would cool off with the icy dessert during the hot summer months. Fluffier than a typical snow cone, enjoy a taste of this traditional Japanese treat at Caravan Road in Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Doused with watermelon syrup and sweetened condensed milk (and, for all the adults out there, an optional shot of Snow Leopard Vodka), this kakigōri is especially refreshing after facing the Yeti on Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. Other flavors to enjoy include Mango Passion Fruit, Piña Colada and Tropical (watermelon with mango).
Kabuki Café in Epcot
Looking for even more kakigōri? Then be sure to swing by Kabuki Café near the entrance to the Japan Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. Here you’ll find the classic Japanese shaved ice offered in a variety of flavors—such as blue raspberry, cherry, melon, strawberry, tangerine or rainbow—with the option to add a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk on top. Turn your snack into a Japanese street-food feast with bites like chilled edamame and sushi rolls. Then, wash it all down with some Japanese beer, plum wine, hot or cold sake or a Sake Slushy, a fruity, boozy take on a kakigōri.
Katsura Grill in Epcot
You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy amazing food when walking the streets of Tokyo or Kyoto, and the same goes for the Japan Pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot. Nestled amid the trees, rocks and hanging lanterns on a hillside overlooking the rest of the pavilion, not far from a gently flowing stream, Katsura Grill serves up popular Japanese dishes like sushi, curry, teriyaki, tonkotsu ramen and udon noodles alongside sides like edamame, miso soup and salad with ginger dressing, all at cheap and cheerful prices. Along with the tasty eats, the serene setting makes this an excellent quick-service dining option, with air-conditioned seating inside and shaded seating in the shadow of tall trees outside.
Morimoto Asia Street Food in Disney Springs
For high-quality Asian food at affordable prices, don’t miss Morimoto Asia Street Food in Disney Springs. This counter-service eatery is attached to the larger signature restaurant that shares its name, offering Pan-Asian favorites hailing from both China and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s homeland of Japan, like flavor-filled ramen, takoyaki (those are octopus fritters, for the uninitiated), pork egg rolls and baby ribs slathered in sweet chili and hoisin sauces. Wash whatever you choose down with Popping Boba Tea. While limited seating is available, this quick-service spot never seems to get too busy, so you can still typically find a table without much trouble.
YeSake in Disney Springs
Wanting something Asian-inspired that you can eat on the go? Then head over near Planet Hollywood, the Coca-Cola Store and the Orange Garage to stop by YeSake. This food kiosk features refreshing poke bowls and street food snacks like a bun filled with teriyaki chicken, karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) and taiyaki (pastries filled with red bean and Bavarian cream). Or try a Pizza Bun, which puts an Asian twist on popular pizza toppings like sausage, cheese and marinara sauce. No seating is available, so be prepared to take your haul elsewhere if you’d rather not eat and walk.
Runner-Up: Lotus Blossom Café in Epcot
As someone who was fortunate to spend two years of my life living in Beijing, I love Chinese food. So, it pains me that Lotus Blossom Café at the China Pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase doesn’t live up to its full potential. For those who are content to dine on Americanized Chinese dishes like orange chicken and egg rolls, this affordably priced eatery will be more than passable. However, for Chinese food snobs like me who prefer authentic flavors to those that have been sanitized to appeal to American taste buds, you’re going to be disappointed.
Runner-Up: Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes in Animal Kingdom
This is another Asian-inspired quick-service restaurant that falls firmly in the “meh” pile for this writer. Although you will find plentiful options here that are, admittedly, more interesting than what you can find at the Lotus Blossom Café, Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes in Animal Kingdom is still very much in the realm of mediocre Asian food. Think bland Vegetable Tikka Masala (when is Indian food ever bland??) and basic Chinese takeout dishes like Honey Sesame Chicken and Sweet-and-Tempura Shrimp. Is it more interesting than a burger (they have one of those, too)? Absolutely. However, if you’re craving authentic Asian flavors, you’re much better off splurging on something from Tiffins Restaurant or Nomad Lounge over on Discovery Island.
Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom
This next dining option isn’t just one of the best Disney World restaurants cooking up Asian flavors. It’s arguably in the running for the best restaurant at Magic Kingdom Park, period. Located just a short walk from the attraction that inspired it, Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen offers a globally inspired menu, including several dishes with Asian inspirations. Perfect for both picky eaters and more adventurous diners alike, the menu runs the gamut from Skipper Dan’s Dan Dan Noodles, “Hardy Har Char” Siu Pork and Curried Vegetable Crew Stew with pineapple tofu and coconut rice to fish, fried chicken and hanger steak with quintessentially Asian ingredients like ginger, soy sauce, sweet chili, lemongrass and lotus root. Add in Skipper Canteen’s adorable Jungle Cruise-inspired theming, and this is one hidden gem of a Magic Kingdom restaurant that is well worth checking out.
Kimonos in Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
Do you love the fine art of sushi? How about the not-so-fine (but equally enjoyable) art of karaoke? Then Kimonos in the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel is for you. Offering a delectable spread of sushi options, from sashimi to nigiri to maki rolls, as well as karaoke in the evenings from Wednesday to Sunday between 9:30 PM and 1:00 AM, this is the place to be for those searching for a more authentic Japanese dining experience. After all, Japan is where karaoke originated. So, round up some friends, order up some rolls to share, sip on some sake and sing your heart out in true Japanese fashion. Kanpai!
‘Ohana in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
If it’s Polynesian-inspired flavors you’re after, then be sure to book a table at ‘Ohana in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. If you can, anyway—this all-you-care-to-enjoy eatery also happens to be one of the most in-demand restaurants at Disney World. So, if you want to score a seat, you’ll need to plan ahead. Although ‘Ohana is also open for a character breakfast with Lilo & Stitch and Mickey & Pluto, the most popular meal here is dinner, when guests tuck into a bounty of family-style dishes overflowing with island flair, like pork dumplings, teriyaki beef, peel-n-eat shrimp with a spicy kick, pineapple-coconut-flavored bread and the fan-favorite ‘Ohana Noodles. And be sure to save some room for dessert: ‘Ohana Bread Pudding with homemade caramel sauce.
Sanaa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
For those looking for an especially adventurous meal, Sanaa in Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas is not to be missed. Effortlessly fusing Indian flavors with African-style cooking along with sweeping views of the Sunset Savanna, which teems with wildlife like zebras and giraffes, there isn’t any other dining experience like it at Disney World. While breakfast features morning favorites with just a kiss of Indian-African fusion, lunch and dinner bring the flavor with spice-filled curries, tender tandoori chicken, samosas and an Indian-style bread service with accompaniments like chutneys, cooling cucumber raita and zesty pickles. Sure, it might be a little remote compared to some of the other options on this list. But trust us, this South Asian-inspired hotel restaurant is definitely worth the trip.
Teppan Edo in Epcot
For a quintessentially Japanese twist on a classic steakhouse, don’t miss Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion of World Showcase. Offering teppanyaki-style cooking, one of several kinds of barbecue in Japanese cuisine, this entertaining meal features an array of steak, seafood and veggies grilled on a large iron cooktop with a side of culinary razzle-dazzle courtesy of your personal chef. We’re talking jaw-dropping knife skills and plenty of flame- and steam-fueled pizzazz that will leave you on the edge of your seat and your stomach full. Needless to say, this is one sit-down meal in Epcot that you’re sure to remember.
Yak & Yeti Restaurant in Animal Kingdom
Can’t decide what kind of Asian food you’re craving? Then consider Yak and Yeti Restaurant in Animal Kingdom’s Asia. Sure, most of what you’ll find here isn’t close to what we’d call authentic. However, the Pan-Asian dishes on offer sure are tasty and just as diverse as the continent itself, from Korean beef and hibachi steak with tempura-fried shrimp to chicken tikka masala to Malaysian seafood curry. Needless to say, there’s something for everyone. Not to mention, the atmosphere of the restaurant, which is immersively decorated like a Nepalese eatery with statues and artwork, is almost as much of a selling point as the food itself.
Runner-Up: Nine Dragons Restaurant in Epcot
You already know our less-than-fuzzy feelings about Lotus Blossom Café, the quick-service restaurant in the China Pavilion at World Showcase in Epcot. Sadly, the neighboring Nine Dragons Restaurant doesn’t fare much better. While certainly beautifully designed both inside and out, with lovely lanterns and ornate wood carvings setting the scene, the food here is only slightly better than what you might find at your hometown Chinese restaurant. There are so many gorgeous dishes and interesting flavors that come from China that it’s unfortunate that they haven’t really included them here at all. Hopefully, Disney will catch on sometime in the future and start sharing some of them with the world.
Runner-Up: Tokyo Dining in Epcot
Similar to Kimonos at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, Tokyo Dining in World Showcase’s Japan Pavilion also specializes in sushi, as well as a smaller assortment of grilled proteins and rice and noodle dishes. That said, given that they’re both in the Epcot area and serve the same kind of cuisine, we’d say that you’re better off going to Kimonos instead. Sure, it doesn’t have the fireworks views of Tokyo Dining, and it does require a short walk to get there. However, it has been crowned the Best Hotel Bar and Top Sushi Restaurant in Orlando, something that Tokyo Dining definitely can’t claim.
Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs
Disney World boasts an impressive 13 restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs, and one of them is spearheaded by one of the most recognizable Asian chefs in the world: the 26-time winner of Food Network’s Iron Chef America, Chef Masaharu Morimoto. The award-winning Morimoto Asia is filled to the brim with delicious Pan-Asian dishes from Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisines, all served in an elegant setting. Here, diners can enjoy prepared-to-perfection Peking duck, savory ramen bursting with umami, Japanese A5 wagyu beef grilled tableside and so much more, making it a must-do for Asian food fans.
Takumi-Tei in Epcot
As you can see, there is a smorgasbord of Asian eats and eateries available at Disney World. However, without a doubt, the cream of the crop is Takumi-Tei. Like some of the other restaurants on our list, Takumi-Tei is Epcot’s World Showcase in the Japan Pavilion. Unlike the others, however, this signature restaurant elevates Asian cuisine to something you won’t find anywhere else at Disney World. Priced at a spendy $250 per person, this prix-fixe meal features a multi-course omakase menu, which means “I leave it up to the chef.” The dishes are both delectable and beautifully plated. The setting is intimate and thoughtfully designed. The service is wonderfully attentive. If you have room in your budget, this is a winner.
Tiffins Restaurant in Animal Kingdom
For fine dining that feels slightly more accessible, make your way to Tiffins Restaurant on Discovery Island in Animal Kingdom. Similar to Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom, Tiffins’ menu is globally inspired. Only, instead of taking inspiration from the places traversed throughout Jungle Cruise, Tiffins Restaurant explores the cuisines of the cultures featured throughout Animal Kingdom. As a result, you’ll need to dig through the different offerings a bit to find the Asian flavors. However, if you can avoid being tempted by the restaurant’s equally tasty African and Latin dishes, options like Szechuan Noodles, Butter Chicken, Whole-fried Sustainable Fish and Gobi Manchurian are sure to satisfy. And whatever you do, don’t miss the Tiffins Signature bread Service to start.
Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom
Don’t have time to sit for a full meal? Perhaps you’re looking for high-quality food at budget prices? Then skip over Tiffins Restaurant and head to the adjoining Nomad Lounge instead. Not only is Nomad Lounge one of our favorite spots to kick back and relax with a cocktail, but it also boasts a petite selection of yummy small plates with amazing Asian-inspired flavors, like the Tuna Poke Bowl and Chicken Manchurian Nomad Bowl. Or, keep things simple with the Tiffins Bread Service and thank us later.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto & Tiki Terrace in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
In our opinion, there’s no better way to toast to AAPI Heritage Month than with a cocktail at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. After all, nothing says Polynesia like a tiki bar. While the kitschy and immersive setting and delightfully fruity drinks are the real stars of the show here, the island-inspired bar bites like dumplings, sushi rolls and lettuce cups are nothing to snuff at. While the indoor Grog Grotto can get super busy due to the bar’s theming, the same dishes and drinks are available outside at Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace, which tends to be considerably less busy.
Well, that brings our guide to the best Polynesian- and Asian-inspired Disney World restaurants to an end. Have you had a chance to try any of the eateries on our list? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments! Then, learn how you can save some cash (and enjoy even more Asian flavors) with our discount Disney World tickets.