Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: September 25, 2004 at 8:36 PM
I couldn't argue with them until that last line. Is this really a "communal ritual"? Regardless, it certainly isn't "a trip to the cultural and flavorful heart of Japan." Is Japanese stir-fry REALLY the cultural and flavorful heart of that country?
Anyhow, this is a restaurant I have been wanting to try out for years, and had planned to on our last visit... the visit of DEATH! The horrendous September humidity kept our appetites to a minimum then and we bailed on our Priority Seating reservation - which can be made 90 days in advance via 407-WDW-DINE - and there are no penalties for not showing up!
So on this last visit I asked my two traveling companions if they had ever been to Benihana (the American chain that specializes in Teppanyaki style cooking) and none of us had. So I called up and we were on our way.
The restaurant itself is lovely, if you can find the damn thing. When we went they were still calling it the Mitsukoshi Teppanyaki restaurant, or what have you, but Mitsukoshi is the name of the long building on the right side of the pavilion. After walking all over the bottom floor looking for the restaurant, we eventually found it upstairs. Hopefully just calling it the Teppanyaki Dining Room will help people find it, and will increase the number of diners who know what Teppanyaki actually is.
The blurb up there mentions five dining rooms, and that's exactly what you get... all in a line. We sat in the first dining room and were able to see down to the last one. All dining rooms contain four cooking stations and each seats eight. Normally I would complain about having 32 diners and 8 or so workers in such small rooms, but they have a great rotation system. One of the tables is almost always empty as they get ready for the next group, and meals never last that long here.
After ordering our drinks, our chef arrived. We knew what to expect by this point as we had watched the routines at two other stations. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to hear our chef speak mostly unaccented English. I guess citizenship of the host country is all that is required to work in the Epcot pavilions.
At this point, the chef ensures our orders are correct, then gets to work. Now many people have images of Teppanyaki cooking involving knife juggling and flying food. Maybe that is the case in some places, but certainly not here. Not that you won't get a show; there's just no threat of getting your arm cut off or getting your head hammered with an errant shrimp.
There is a bit of flying food, but it is mostly directed at the chef himself. Our chef caught the shrimp tails in a cup, but the guy next to us caught them in his hat. The food-flying is mostly replaced by some funny shtick. Our chef had a motor mouth, which was very welcome, because most of his creations were already old hat as we had already seen two other chefs do them. Still, they do make for a fun dining experience.
As for that not-too-flying food... It was fine. It's not like there is a whole lot of stuff going into these dishes. You get whatever main ingredient you order, and then veggies. Those ingredients are generally shrimp, scallops, chicken, steak and lobster. (You can get just the veggies, if you are a veggie-tarian.) There are also combinations of the above items.
My one companion and I ordered the Seto, which features shrimp and scallops. It was quite good, but I'm not fond of a lot of vegetables, so half my plate disappeared down the garbage can. My other companion - the aforementioned garbage can - had the Hatamoto, which contains chicken and shrimp. Even though you get way more chicken than shrimp or scallops, garbage boy finished off his plate and mine. Still, this is a decent amount of food and none of us had room for dessert.
Which is a good thing, since desserts here did not interest us slightly. Ice cream (many flavors) or fresh fruit? Yawn. How about chestnut mousse or chestnut cake? I mean, honestly!
The only other thing you should know about the Teppanyaki Dining Room is that they seriously jack up prices between lunch and dinner. We're talking eight or nine bucks. Certainly you aren't getting that much extra food or entertainment at night. Had I known how ridiculous the difference in prices was, I would never have gone for dinner. So be warned.
All in all, it was a fun and tasty experience. This certainly isn't my favorite Epcot restaurant, but it is up there. I wouldn't visit every time, but it does make for a good quick sit-down lunch on occasion. On the TPI Scale, I give it a 8 - Commendable.