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RESTAURANT REVIEW - Teppanyaki Dining Room @ Epcot

Kevin has eaten at almost every restaurant in the World Showcase section of Epcot. On his last visit, he decided to try out one of Japan's sit-down restaurants.

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: September 25, 2004 at 8:36 PM

From the official WDW website: Gather round large grills and watch amazing chefs perform their culinary feats of magic. In five Teppanyaki dining rooms, fresh fish, meat and vegetables are artfully chopped by master chefs and stir-fried before your eyes. Enjoy freshly prepared sushi made from the finest ingredients. This communal ritual is a trip to the cultural and flavorful heart of Japan.

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.

Readers' Opinions

From Mark Hollamon on September 26, 2004 at 2:50 AM
Thanks for the review Kevin. My wife and I are trying to eat our way around the Showcase as well, but seem to always get stuck at the Biergarten because it is just so good! Can't wait for next weekend to hit the Food and Wine Festival. That is of course if we are not in the middle of another hurricane as we are right now!
From mister johnson on September 26, 2004 at 4:57 AM
Kevin, you missed the best F+B experience in the Japan pavilion: The Matsu No Ma Lounge. Perched up above Showcase Promenade, the place is air conditioned, serves a nice array of appetizers, and drinks. There is NOTHING like drinking Sake Martinis for an hour up here on a hot summer day, watching the poor schlubs below trodding through the 98 percent humidity. Taking in the American Adventure afterwards is optional.
From Jason Lester on September 26, 2004 at 9:01 AM
Sounds great, but I like Benihana just for the knife juggling.
From Anthony Murphy on September 27, 2004 at 10:07 PM
Hmmmmmm....... I think you had a bad exprience there or you were in a bad mood. As seen on TPI, it is one of the Top places in any theme park (9, last time I checked). Yeah, its not for everybody, especailly children who are picky eaters, though they do have good grilled steak. Japan, in my mind, has the best food for all thier eateries. I would give this place another chance!
From chris edison on September 27, 2004 at 11:53 PM
Ive ate there the past couple of times I was at the park...One of the best places to eat at any theme park or resort. Sure, ive had my fill of benihana, but its prety darn good.
From Kevin Baxter on September 28, 2004 at 1:45 AM
Hello??? I rated it a friggin' 8. In case the number system is too mysterious, 9 is right after 8. And that 9 has been reached by a whopping FOUR PEOPLE! Get some perspective.
From Anthony Murphy on September 28, 2004 at 5:09 AM
Sorry, I was too tired to realize that you gave it an 8. I didn't see what you rated it when I wrote the response. An 8 is still high. My apologies!
From andrew greenstein on October 31, 2004 at 8:15 PM

If you live in a rural area that doesn't have much Japanese/teppanyaki/hibachi dining, then definitely use this opportunity to go there. If, however, you eat in these sort of places quite a bit, you will find Epcot's to be average--at best. It has the same menu as most of them...it's busier and noisier than most of them... the staff isn't especially nice...and the chefs don't put on much of a show at all [I also often find some of them aren't even Japanese any more !] The experience of this sort of dining isn't really how it is in Japan at all either -- I've been all over Japan and can vouch for that. Yes-- it is a "good" restaurant--but only offers something worthwhile to those of you who have NEVER had that sort of dining experience before. Otherwise-- I would personally recommend Epcot's restaurants in the following pavillions: MEXICO, CANADA, MOROCCO, and GERMANY-- particularly the last 2 as the food includes great entertainment. Always try to plan your dinner for 6:45 or 7pm or so...to be out in time to see Illuminations at 9


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