Let’s all take a minute and be impressed that the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival was up and running for a full 6 days before I hit the Japanese kitchen.
I am a hardcore Japanophile and absolute Japanese food junkie. So I tend to be on the edge of my seat at the start of each Epcot festival to see exactly what Japan is offering.
This year, you’ll find that the Japan booth, set just outside the Japanese pavilion, is offering three food items, all savory, as well as a number of drink options. Perhaps most notable of all: EVERY food item is different from last year. Bravo, Japan.
- Teriyaki Chicken Bun: Steamed bun filled with chicken, vegetables, and a sweet teriyaki sauce (kid friendly) ($5.50)
So to be fair, I’d heard good things about this and went in with high expectations. And I was picturing something really different. I expected chunks of chicken and vegetables in a typical teriyaki sauce. This was more of a shredded meat in a very, very sweet sauce. In all honestly, it took me a second to place the taste – before I realized that I was basically eating Sloppy Joe in a bun. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a pretty little thing. Pretty kid friendly and not exactly a bad taste. The bun is soft and good…but the filling is…quite sweet. And I would have loved to see bigger pieces of chicken (not to mention some sign of the supposed veggies). All in all, not my favorite but I wouldn’t necessarily kick it out of bed for eating crackers.
- Beef Nigiri topped with Shrimp Sauce and Diced Pickled Jalepeños (gluten free) ($5.95)
So this is Japan’s swing-of-the-year at an interesting / non-traditional sushi. And I’ll say, they got it right this time. Being cooked beef on nigiri, it’s certainly different. But the meat is thinly sliced and well prepared, the rice is made perfectly, the sauce is mild and creamy, and the pickled jalepeños are really interesting. Sort of channeling wasabi but not wasabi. I really, really enjoyed it and will be back for more.
- Spicy Roll: Tuna and Salmon topped with Volcano Sauce ($5.75)
This is basically what I’ve been wishing for at the Japan booth for ages. A good, straightforward bit of quality sushi. Not frushi. Not some weird BLT mashup. But actual sushi. And this is it. Good tuna and salmon wrapped in properly prepared rice with a drizzle of not-overly-spicy sauce. The form is basically an uncut inside out (i.e., rice on the outside, seaweed wrapper on the inside) maki roll with a tidy little strip of seaweed on the end so that you can hold it cleanly. The effect is a texture somewhere between a normal maki roll and a temaki, or handroll. It’s good stuff.
- Fuji Apple Cocktail: Sake, Peach Schapps, and Green Apple Syrup ($8.50)
Ugh. This is like a giant cup of Midori. Or melted snow cone. If you’re drinking your way around the world and feel the need for a huge cup of Jolly Rancher-ish sort-of-alcohol, knock yourself out. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and walk a little further down for a caipirinha.
And there you have it! Japan: Check.