Japan’s Global Marketplace is our next stop at the 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.
As regular readers of the blog probably know, we’re fans of Japan–both the country and the pavilion. However, 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, we absolutely love Takumi-Tei, and we even like Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo.
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. Thankfully, there are some signs of modest improvement for the 2023 Epcot Food & Wine Festival…
Let’s start with a look at the Japan Global Marketplace menu for the 2023 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival:
Fire Taiko Roll: Sushi Roll with Spicy Tuna, Cucumber and Pickled Daikon Radish served with Spicy Sauce (NEW)
Beef Wa-Gyu Don: Traditional Japanese Rice Bowl with American Wagyu Beef over Steamed White Rice (NEW)
Teriyaki Chicken Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and Teriyaki Sauce
Sake Passion Cocktail (NEW)
Moon on the Water Sake (NEW)
Brew Hub Momo Amber Ale, Lakeland, FL (NEW)
Now our photos and reviews of each item from the Japan Global Marketplace at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. (Note: these have not yet been updated with fresh reviews of the new items at the 2023 Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Stay tuned for that!)
Tempura Shrimp Sando ($6.75) – Epcot Food & Wine Festival debuted with Tempura Donburi that we raved about for its portion size and quality, calling it one of the best dishes of the event. It was removed from the menu within two weeks.
This year, the Japan booth debuts a tempura shrimp sandwich that’s ~$1 less expensive and maybe one third as much food. The sandwich is rounded out yuzu crab, green onions, eel sauce, and served on a bun.
There’s a lot to quibble with about this dish–too much bread, too little shrimp and crab, not enough soy sauce, etc–but I enjoyed it in a “warts and all” way.
Admittedly, it’s possible that I’m giving it too much of a pass because this reminds me of memorable 7-Eleven sandos, but this is something I’d buy again. Your mileage may vary, though. Regardless, I’d say it’s a bit overpriced for the size and quality.
Spicy Hako Sushi: Spicy Tuna and Salmon served Box-style with Red Tempura Crunch and Volcano Sauce ($6.50) – This dish is going to be another that’s more a matter of perspective. Personally, I prefer sushi that allows the fresh fish to largely speak for itself. I almost always buy nigiri or sashimi over elaborate rolls.
Here, the predominant flavor is the volcano sauce, with the tempura crunk giving texture to the tuna and salmon. It’s not bad sushi by any means, just not a standout. Of the three items at the Japan Global Marketplace, this is probably the biggest crowd-pleaser and what most people will enjoy.
Teriyaki Chicken Bun ($6.50) — One of my favorite breakfast “traditions” 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 nevertheless a decent option. Additionally, even by Walt Disney World’s premium pricing standards, this feels a dollar or two overpriced.
Ultimately, the Japan Global Marketplace is one of the pleasant surprises of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Japan should be one of the perpetual standouts (Paris is routinely considered the culinary capital of the world, but Tokyo actually has over double the number of Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris, and Kyoto also edges Paris in the Michelin star department), but that has never been the case.
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. Thankfully, at least now there are a couple of options on par with Japanese fast food and convenience stores like Lawson and 7-Eleven!
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!