Japan’s Global Marketplace is our next stop at the 2019 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, as we continue our reviews around World Showcase. In this Walt Disney World dining review, we’ll share menu prices & info, food photos, and thoughts on what’s worth the money and Disney Dining Plan snack credits.
The Japan booth changes up its menu pretty frequently, but usually offers a sushi option, bun, and something else that’s weird or fun. That all remains the case in 2019, thanks to the introduction of the Frothy Ramen. Not to get ahead of ourselves here, but we were really excited when this new item was announced.
As regular readers of the blog probably know, we’re fans of Japan–both the country and the pavilion. We are also bigtime Ramen Heads. Look no further than my Our Favorite Ramen in Tokyo, Japan or Best Ramen Restaurants in Kyoto, Japan, the latter of which mentions that “we’ve selflessly dined at over 50 ramen restaurants in Kyoto.” (That’s outdated–it’s now more like 75.) Suffice to say, we love ramen…
We aren’t snobs about Japanese cuisine, either. We know compromises are made in Americanizing cuisine for World Showcase, and we generally enjoy the pavilion’s offerings. Katsura Grill has been one of our go-to counter service restaurants in Epcot, and we also like Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo. While we’ve yet to do it, we’re also very curious about Takumi-Tei, and plan on dining there soon.
Unfortunately, the Japan Global Marketplace during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival has, typically, been a different story entirely. It’s been a perpetual home to mediocre, grocery store-caliber sushi, with only the spicy roll standing out in recent years as something worth ordering. But we’ll get to all of that.
Let’s start with a look at the Japan Global Marketplace menu for the 2019 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival:
Teriyaki Chicken Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and a Sweet Teriyaki Sauce (KA)
Frothy Ramen: Chilled Noodles and Dashi Broth with a Light Foam Topping
Spicy Roll: Tuna and Salmon Sushi topped with Volcano Sauce
Now our photos and reviews of each item…
Teriyaki Chicken Bun ($5.75) – One of my favorite breakfast options in Japan is visiting Lawson or 7-11 and ordering a couple nikuman. These convenience stores have a variety of envelope-pushing options, from ones that look like Kirby to curry and pizza flavors.
The teriyaki chicken bun at the Japan Global Marketplace upholds this “rich” convenience store tradition, offering a thick and doughy steamed bun filled with chicken and vegetables made sweet by the teriyaki sauce. It could use a little more meat and less bun, but it’s a good option, nonetheless.
Spicy Roll ($5.75) – A simple and straightforward hand roll with a light kick thanks to the volcano sauce, this is going to be more to just about everyone’s tastes.
Not the best item for sharing, but it’s the best choice if you’re wanting something from the Japan booth. It’s a decent use of a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan, but we’re disinclined to recommend it if paying out of pocket.
Frothy Ramen ($6) – Finally, the ramen that had us so excited. For those unfamiliar with the modern ramen scene, let’s start by clearing up misconceptions. If you’ve dismissed ramen as the domain of poor college students, we’d implore you to get past your preconceptions. Today’s ramen is not just enjoyed by college students, but also by serious foodies and everyone in between.
Ramen restaurants in Japan have won Michelin stars, and locations all around the globe are doing interesting and inventing things, bringing tremendous cuisine to the masses at an affordable price point. I could go on and on about the greatness of ramen, but I’ll spare you that. Suffice to say, this Frothy Ramen had the potential to push the envelope and do something great.
Awa-kei Ramen, or frothy ramen is currently becoming trendy in Japan’s Kansai region. Throughout the country, hiyashi ramen/reimen (cold ramen) is likewise becoming a popular summertime dish, prepared in a variety of ways. Walt Disney World had the opportunity serve something trendy, fun, and inventive with Frothy Ramen.
Opportunity squandered. Instead of a nuanced and umami dashi broth, what’s present here is flavored mostly by soy and salt, and those are so strong that it’s difficult to ascertain anything else. The noodles taste like they’ve been soaking in the broth, and are soggy as a result. The froth is the only interesting part of the dish, but it’s hard to get past everything else.
Not recommended when paying out of pocket, perhaps if you have Disney Dining Plan snack credits to burn and want to try something different. (However, if you’ve never had good ramen, please don’t form your opinion of it based upon this mess.)
And the alcohol in Japan:
Kirin Draft Beer
Nami Sake Cocktail: Sake, Gin and Blue Curacao
Ultimately, we again find ourselves disappointed with the slate of offerings at the Japan Global Marketplace. While Paris is routinely considered the culinary capital of the world, Tokyo actually has over double the number of Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris, and Kyoto also edges Paris in the Michelin star department. Obviously, the Japan booth is not going to be dishing out Michelin-caliber cuisine. The point is that the country of Japan is a food mecca, and its Global Marketplace should reflect this. Beyond the high end dining, Japan has a plethora of delicious fast options, and even the convenience stores like the aforementioned Lawson and 7-11 are doing incredible things with grab and go dishes. That Epcot can’t do better than sushi and nikuman is a letdown.
What do you think of the Japan Global Marketplace? Have you tried any of the food items at this booth? What did you think of them? Would you like to see Japan try something more ambitious and different than the standard sushi? 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!