Many of the best restaurants in Epcot are not open yet. Of the Walt Disney World restaurants that have reopened, the overwhelming majority have reduced their menus. This is all totally understandable given operational realities, low park attendance, and supply issues.
However, there’s one World Showcase restaurant that has gone the exact opposite direction, expanding its menu, doubling down on a mix of familiar and bizarre additions. In this post, we’ll take a look at Katsura Grill’s trio of new menu items, reviewing each, sharing food photos, and more.
Since we realize this post otherwise offers minimal value for most of you, we’ll also offer some details and share photos of the real world inspiration for this Japan pavilion restaurant, what other items we recommend in the Japan pavilion right now, and background about one of the new dishes…
I’ve had recent success with Regal Eagle Smokehouse and Sarah has done well at Choza de Margarita (we’ve never reviewed the food there, but it’s generally fairly tasty), but we keep returning to the Japan pavilion. In particular, Katsura Grill.
Part of this is that Katsura Grill is the best counter service restaurant presently open in Epcot now that Tangierine Cafe has re-closed. A bigger part is the transportive atmosphere in the outdoor seating area nestled high up in the Japan pavilion, below White Egret Castle.
It’s no secret that we’re Japan enthusiasts. Over the last few years, we’ve spent months in Kyoto, which is the ancient capital and cultural heart of the country. Kyoto is also our favorite city in the world. Much of Epcot’s Japan pavilion, including Katsura Grill, is modeled after Kyoto.
The real world inspiration for the restaurant is Katsura Imperial Villa (pictured above), an exemplar of traditional Japanese architecture and garden design in Kyoto. Katsura Grill appears to be an amalgamation of the teahouses and main buildings at Katsura RikyÅ«, which is a bit ironic since the real place itself melds different styles, from traditional to modern.
Above is a look at the trio of new menu items, which cost us a total of $25.03.
Here we have the Menchi Katsu Slider, Yuzu Miso Wings, and Okonomiyaki Fries.
Let’s start with the Menchi Katsu Slider: Breaded and fried All-Beef patty topped with Sesame slaw, and served with Fries.
This was a colossal letdown. We love katsu sandwiches and tonkatsu, but this totally missed the mark. This isn’t simply a matter of us having unrealistic expectations, either. Imagine taking a standard Walt Disney World hamburger patty, reducing it to half the size, breading it, and then deep frying that for way too long. The portion was also entirely too small for the money, which would’ve been a disappointment if the slider was even remotely good.
Next, the six piece order of Yuzu Miso Wings.
These were not as big of a disappointment, but still nothing special. This is the type of dish you might find at an actual Japanese izakaya–fairly straightforward bar food. A mildly tangy and sweet flavor thanks to the yuzu miso, but only noticeably so. You could do worse, but you could also do better.
Finally, the Okonomiyaki Fries topped with Tonkatsu Sauce, Mayonnaise, Bonito Flakes, and Aonori. If you’re unfamiliar with okonomiyaki, these might sound bizarre, but the flavors actually work pretty well together. We wanted to love these fries. As it turned out, we didn’t love them…or hate them. They were decent–better than normal fries–but not particularly ambitious or as toppings-heavy as you might expect loaded fries to be.
The Okonomiyaki Fries reminded us of pizza potato chips: vaguely emulating the flavor of their inspiration and good as a fun snack, but still falling well short of the real thing. We suspect these might fall totally flat for those who have never had actual okonomiyaki–a big part of our reaction was the memories they evoked.
Real okonomiyaki (pictured above while being cooked) is also known as a savory Japanese pancake…by people who have, presumably, never had normal pancakes. In actuality, okonomiyaki is more like an omelet (sometimes with noodles) and a variety of other stuff, like vegetables, seafood, and meat.
We eat okonomiyaki frequently because it’s cheap (under $10), fun to watch being prepared right in front of you, tastes great, and is highly customizable. We’d love Teppan Edo to do an okonomiyaki lunch menu; it’s approachable, fun, and Walt Disney World could overcharge for it without most guests realizing it. (We’d gladly overpay for the okonomiyaki experience!)
We would not recommend any of these new items at Katsura Grill. To the contrary, we’d actively recommend avoiding the Menchi Katsu Slider. As for the other two, they’re not awful. The wings are decent if you’re in the mood for those, and the fries are fine so long as you don’t have high expectations.
We credit the team at Katsura Grill for trying new things, but there are so many better options on the menu from quality and value for money perspectives. There are also superior new items at the Japan pavilion, in general.
As covered in our Japan Booth Menu & Review, the Tempura Donburi offered at the pavilion’s Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival is really good.
The portion here is surprisingly large, and value for money is way better than the new items at Katsura Grill. We’d definitely recommend this if you want to try something new. To a lesser extent, the Chirashi Sushi Flowerpot is also a solid pick.
While not new, we also ordered the KakigÅri with Sweet Milk Topping from Kabuki Cafe for dessert after dinner one night.
I’m admittedly not a huge fan of shaved ice anywhere. The distribution of syrup to ice is always too much or too little, and it always just strikes me as an inferior take on ice cream. It’s like what our forebearers would’ve enjoyed centuries ago before scientific and technological innovations allowed for the invention of ice cream.
In any case, this KakigÅri–specifically with the sweet milk topping–is about as good as shaved ice can possibly be. There was plenty of syrup and the sweet milk provided a creamy quality that made it resemble bootleg ice cream.
L’Artisan des Glaces is exponentially better, but for those who can’t find the France pavilion, this’ll do. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Ultimately, Katsura Grill is still one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World–and our top pick among the handful that are operating at Epcot right now. However, the trio of new items has nothing to do with that, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they end up being a short-lived test.
For the sake of very important research, we’ll continue to dine at Katsura Grill over the course of the next several months, thoroughly testing the legacy menu items to ensure they’re still delicious. Once we’re finished with that, we’ll report back again.
Have you dined at Katsura Grill? What did you think of your meal? Have you tried any of the new items, or Japan’s Taste of Food & Wine Festival booth? Where do you think Katsura Grill ranks among the counter service restaurants that are currently open at Epcot? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!