For global cuisine-loving foodies, Epcot is a veritable mecca of captivating culinary experiences, especially World Showcase. If that sounds like you or one of your family or friends, then you’re in luck because there will soon be a new addition to this already scrumptious spread of dining opportunities. Intrigued? Then keep reading to learn all the delicious details.
Meet Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya, the New Restaurant Opening Summer 2023 at Epcot
Japanese food fans, this one is for you. Starting sometime this summer, Walt Disney World will get its newest sit-down restaurant, Shi-Sai: Sushi Izakaya. But where exactly will this new Epcot eatery be located? What is it inspired by? And, most importantly, what sorts of dishes will be on the menu? Grab your chopsticks and read on to find out.
Where will Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya be?
As you can probably guess, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will be part of Epcot’s Japan Pavilion, located on the second floor over top of the Mitsukoshi Department Store. Although Disney hasn’t confirmed this yet, our best guess is that it will be replacing Tokyo Dining, one of the pavilion’s current table-service restaurants, as it is currently closed for refurbishment.
What’s more, Shiki-Sai will also be perfectly positioned overlooking Epcot and, specifically, the World Showcase lagoon. Meaning that along with plate after plate of yummy sushi, it will also boast breathtaking views of the Epcot fireworks. This is especially fitting as Shiki-Sai means “color” in Japanese, which, between the beautifully composed fresh sushi and flashy pyrotechnics, is sure to be abundant throughout the restaurant.
When will Epcot’s newest Japanese restaurant open?
Sadly, Disney hasn’t announced a specific opening date for Shiki-Sai yet. All we know so far is that it will be opening sometime this summer. As the restaurant announcement mentioned the months of July and September in particular, our best guess is that it will open either sometime in June or July, at the latest.
What is the inspiration for Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya?
According to Disney, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya won’t just be a celebration of Japanese cuisine but also the country’s seasonal festivals. This means that each month will bring a new festivity and, with it, unique decorations and holiday-appropriate culinary traditions. Think vibrant strips of paper with handwritten wishes for the future, called “tanzaku,” hung in honor of Tanabata, the Japanese Star Festival, alongside the restaurant’s paper lanterns and hand-painted artwork in July. Or, in September, you might dine on sweet, chewy and round glutinous rice mochi known as “Tsukimi dango,” or “moon-gazing dumplings,” which are eaten in honor of the country’s mid-autumn moon viewing festival.
Why? Because oftentimes in Asian cultures, particularly during holidays and other important celebrations, food isn’t just food. It is often filled with symbolism. Since Tsukimi is an autumn festival, the Japanese use the holiday as a time to show their gratitude for the season’s bounty. And as rice has been an integral part of Japan’s culinary heritage for thousands of years, there’s no better way to pay tribute to its harvest than with a rice dish. Not to mention, these ball-like dumplings also resemble the full moon. On top of that, Tsukimi dango is traditionally served with 15 dumplings, representing each of the 15 nights of the festival.
Naturally, the best way to fully appreciate all the nuances of a cultural culinary experience is by dining with someone who can give you context for what you’re enjoying, guiding you through the customs, traditions and stories one bite at a time. Just like the other country pavilions at Epcot, a Japanese cultural representative will be on-hand to fill you in on the importance of and meaning behind each celebration as you fill up on all of the delicious dishes throughout your meal.
What kind of food will be at Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya?
Speaking of delicious dishes, what sorts of food options can you expect on the menu for Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya? Well, as the name suggests, there will be no shortage of sushi. In fact, if its Kobore Sushi (meaning “overflowing sushi”), which comes with nakaochi tuna and negi toro topped with green onion and salmon roe, is any indication, then we think it’s safe to say that the menu will be positively “overflowing” with sushi options. True sushi lovers can even enjoy a front-row seat to their creation at the open sushi bar.
Other sushi dishes coming to the restaurant include the Tokyo Negi Roll, which features tuna tataki wrapped around green onion tempura and crowned with jalapeno aioli and shredded carrot, and the Funamori. This festive sushi spread comes with an assortment of sushi and sashimi, all artfully displayed, as is tradition, on a boat-shaped platter. This eminently shareable option will also honor the Tenjin Festival, which takes place near the end of July in Osaka each year. One of the main parts of this exuberant celebration is a river procession with a parade of boats and plenty of fireworks. So, don’t be surprised if your food makes its way to you in a similarly festive fashion.
Along with sushi, Shiki-Sai also specializes in izakaya-style dining. Written as 居酒屋 in Japanese, the three kanji that make up the word “izakaya” translate to, in order, “stay-drink-place.” In other words, this is a casual kind of spot where guests are meant to kick back, relax and enjoy a drink and good conversation with friends and family over some delicious food. Similar to Spanish tapas, dishes here are small and meant to be shared.
Grilling is another popular kind of cooking in Japan, like what is highlighted at one of the pavilion’s other table-service restaurants, Teppan Edo. So, in addition to sushi, guests will also be able to tuck into a variety of grilled, shareable bites like Okonomiyaki—a savory pancake made with eggs, bacon and shredded cabbage and drizzled with sauces—as well as other favorites like Karaage Chicken (Japanese-style fried chicken).
Well, folks, we hope you’re as excited about Shiki-Sai as we are. Are you planning to check out this new Japanese restaurant in Epcot? Will you miss Tokyo Dining? Let us know in the comments! Still hungry for more? Learn how you can save on your next Disney World vacation (and pay for even more tasty food) with our discount Disney tickets.