TAKUMI-TEI – Japan Pavilion Epcot.
The Japan Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase has long been known for providing not only some of the best dining options in Disney World but also for being home to the amazing Mitsukoshi store. Founded in Tokyo around 1673, the store gives park guests a unique chance to sample all things Japanese.
When in July of this year the Japan Pavilion expanded its dining offerings by opening its newest restaurant, Takumi – Tei we knew we had to give it a try and last week gave us the perfect opportunity. Situated beneath the main building, the almost secret entrance to Takumi – Tei is accessed by walking through peaceful Zen gardens and tranquil surroundings. As you approach the door you are welcomed in traditional style by your Kimono dressed Japanese cultural ambassador hosts who guide you inside and your experience begins, we say experience because this is truly what Takumi – Tei provides, a dining experience.
The host takes you first inside a hallway that displays the elements of the restaurants direction via globes of artisan materials each supported by a beautifully written Haiko (poem) set underneath, the elements depicted being Wood, Paper, Stone, Water and Earth which perfectly complement the design of every individual room in the restaurant, whilst also supporting Takumi – Tie which means “Home of the Artisan”. Your host describes each element and how it relates to the culture of Japan. As we moved further into the restaurant, we felt we had left the park far behind and had been transported through some sort of portal into Japan for real!
We were seated in the Earth room and were soon introduced to our Kimono dressed server Akane, again a cultural representative of Japan. Akane guided us expertly through the menu, explained the dining concept, answered any questions and with a quiet elegance further immersed us in the experience. We cleansed our hands with hot towels and washed away any thoughts that we were in a theme park. From the napkins folded in the shape of a Kimono, to the chop sticks resting on a polished pebble we had no doubt; We were in Japan.
The Omakase (meaning I’ll leave it up to you) tasting menu seemed the obvious choice and turned out to be seven courses of some of the best food and presentation we have ever encountered in any restaurant. Before we get to the food, a quick note about service, Akane maintained refined attention throughout the meal, introduced each course in turn, and gave information about each dish that only enhanced our enjoyment, Akane was a true delight. If you add to this the innumerable other cultural representatives we came in contact with, the personal attention to ourselves and other guests by Chie Tanaka the assistant manager, Tyler Schmitt the executive chef and Garin Williamson the manager of Takumi – Tei, every touch point in this restaurant is an example of how business should be conducted.
And now for the amazing food.
First Course: Left to the imagination of the chef, todays presentation was a delicate morsel of fried Sea Bass with a glaze of reduced bone broth and topped with Wasabi micro greens. A great start to what would become a memorable meal.
Second Course: Chefs selection of Oceanic Sushi delicacies featuring: Masago topped Salmon, Blue Fin Tuna Belly (Toro), Uni, Yellow Tail and Tuna. Never seen this style of sushi before as they were formed into small spheres, Akane told us this design was favored by Geishas due to the fact that the small one bite balls did not disturb their elaborate makeup. We loved them all but if we had to pick a favorite it would probably have to be the Toro.
Third Course: Roasted Bone Marrow, Braised Wagyu Short Rib, Yuzu Kosho, Wasabi Shiso Bavaroise and Warishita. The aroma from the Wagyu short rib as the dish is placed in front of you will tempt you to just dive in, but this is a dish where the tastes should be savored. The short rib on its own tasted amazing but paired with the bone marrow and each other flavor on the plate made this dish a “Showstopper”.
Fourth Course: A palate cleansing spoon consisting of a concentrated Cucumber Cube with Ginger Sorbet. This really hits the spot, a blast of clean sensations getting you prepared for the main event.
Fifth Course: Japanese Tabekurabe A5 Wagyu Strip Steak paired with American Jackman Farms Wagyu Strip Steak, Roast Cippolini Onion, Curried Potato, Seasonal Mushrooms, Yuzu Kosho, Fresh Grated Wasabi, Arima Sansho Pepper Reduction: This dish has been excellently curated by Tyler and consists of many elements in harmony, as all have a reason for being there, perfectly complementing the steaks by creating different flavor profiles. Akane described the Arima Sansho Pepper reduction as having just the right amount of “Tingliness” an adjective we are going to use in the future as it perfectly described the sensation. Eating both steaks side by side highlights the different textures of the meats, both were outstanding, but we have to confess to a preference for the remarkable almost “butter” texture of the Japanese A5 Wagyu .
Our review of the Chefs Table Private Dining, Dessert, Wine, Sake, Cocktails and the iconic “Tea Ceremony “ will follow in another post, making courses six and seven as we would like you to “digest” our meal so far and take it all in.
As you can tell, we really loved Takumi – Tei and that’s an understatement, as we believe the sheer beauty of the restaurant will astound you whilst providing signature dining on steroids and much more. This is a true dining experience, perfect food beautifully presented, the best in service and a unique opportunity to actually experience what it would be like to eat in a Japanese restaurant without leaving the park or the U.S.A.! We have spoken before about cost and value, yes Takumi – Tei is high end in terms of price but the value they deliver we believe more than compensates (have you seen the cost of a ticket to Tokyo?). AP holders should not give it a second thought, book Takumi – Tei now, and anyone thinking of that extra special occasion, date night or holiday treat should look no further than Takumi – Tei.
As we left the restaurant some three hours later and returned to Epcot, we were already planning our return and in true Disney tradition we took a little bit of their magic with us. Please watch out for part two of our review coming soon.