Selecting a restaurant at Disney is a daunting task, and the challenge is only magnified when looking for that perfect special occasion spot! For all the great options, there are at least as many letdowns or options that just aren’t right for you/your dining party. That’s where we come in. We’re here to provide you with the information and reviews you need to make an informed decision and determine where your Disney dollars are best spent.
If you’re looking for a unique, exquisite—albeit expensive—dining experience, we highly recommend Takumi-Tei, the signature dining restaurant in the Japan pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. Takumi-Tei, or the “House of the Artisan”, exceeded our expectations and enchanted us from beginning to end! Read on or watch our video below to learn what to expect when dining at Takumi-Tei and be certain to prioritize this culinary delight on your next Disney adventure!
Tranquil. Quiet. Personalized. Soulful. Balanced. Peaceful.
These are not typical descriptors of basically any aspect of a theme park vacation at Disney or anywhere else for that matter, but they’re exactly what you’ll experience when you dine at Takumi-Tei, a signature dining option located in the Japan Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.
We’ll be reviewing this incredibly peaceful respite in the middle of Walt Disney World and give you a few tips on how to maximize your experience at Takumi-Tei—or the “House of the Artisan.”
Takumi-Tei’s multi-course, fine dining meals are served with exceptionally devoted hospitality in a relaxing atmosphere. Note though, this isn’t just a place to step away from the commotion of the parks and eat amazing food, it’s an experience featuring unique flavors and delicacies that are hard to find elsewhere and incredibly attentive cast members that are virtually unparalleled.
In keeping with our unique Disney-fied way of reviewing restaurants, let’s get to the highlights, or heroes, of this serene dream of a meal followed by the very weak villains that popped up and finally the moral of this beautiful dining story.
The first thing that caught our attention with Takumi-Tei, was the calm, tranquil atmosphere of the restaurant and the impeccable omotenashi hospitality the cast members facilitated throughout the meal. Omotenashi service is inspired by the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and means to wholeheartedly care for guests by anticipating and fulfilling their needs in advance—it’s proactive not reactive, and that perfectly describes our overall experience at the restaurant.
Waiting to receive us when we arrived, the cast members greeted us and escorted us into the restaurant. As we entered and the doors closed behind us, the energy and commotion of the park subsided, yielding to a placid enclave designed to focus our senses on the taste of the food and the company with which we were sharing it. There, the host described Takumi-Tei’s themes—Earth, Stone, Wood, Washi Paper, and Water—and their importance to Japanese culture.
Once seated, our server went over the menu, providing insight to each option as well as providing her personal recommendations. She walked us through each course, describing the origins of ingredients and details behind certain items’ names. Her attention to detail continued throughout the meal, and we appreciated her guidance on the best way to enjoy certain items. For example, she recommended how to utilize only a small amount of soy sauce when eating the sushi. This was best accomplished by dipping the tips of our chopsticks in the liquid prior to picking up the piece of sushi as opposed to dipping the sushi into the sauce which would cause the rice to quickly absorb excess soy sauce that would overpower the delicate flavors.
Not only was our server knowledgeable about the menu, her timing of when to interject in our dining experience was consistently on point. Going far beyond not asking us how our food was mid-bite, we didn’t feel rushed, nor did we feel like we had to wait. Maintaining this cadence is important as the tasting menu requires around two plus hours to leisurely complete. While this is a long time for a dinner service, it never felt like it drug on. It felt comfortably paced and appropriate for the atmosphere and dishes. One must be prepared for this though when making plans. DO NOT book a fastpass for an hour after the start of your reservation—you’ll miss it. DO NOT plan on having dinner at ten to eight and be done in time to catch the nighttime fireworks at nine—it won’t happen.
Do plan to relax and unwind as you enjoy the calm of the environment and the balanced pace of the meal along with the additional flourishes that enhanced the whole dining experience. One of our favorite little touches was being offered a warm, wet hand towel to freshen up from the hours spent in the heat and humidity prior.
Moving on to the heroic protagonist of the story—the food! Guests have the choice of ordering the pre-fixe Omakase Tasting Menu or items à la carte. We opted to do both meaning Heather ordered her meal à la carte while Brian selected the tasting menu. Notably, the portions for dishes appearing on both options are the same, so you don’t have to worry about receiving a smaller helping of the must get items on the tasting menu or missing out on some aspect of a dish if you select the à la carte option.
The Omakase Tasting Menu was among the best pre-fixe meals we’ve had—not quite French Laundry level but the tier right under it. It began with an umami packed Otashi including mushrooms and greens with a savory sauce and proceeded to a truly unique dessert, and absolutely everything ranged from good to excellent.
The second course was the Temari Sushi, which included pieces of Salmon, Toro, Tuna, Uni or Sea Urchin, and Yellow Tail which are served with a leak/dill sauce, a citrus sauce, and soy sauce. Every bite of the sushi was expertly prepared from fresh ingredients and none presented a “fishy” flavor which has haunted many of Brian’s previous sushi experiences.
We appreciated that our server described each item on the plate and helped guide the order of Brian’s indulgence. First, the salmon was a very pure flavor and quite enjoyable. The bite was not too intense and appropriately set the pallet for the rest of the platter. Going in, Brian thought this would be his favorite sushi since he really likes salmon; however, it was in fact the toro, or tuna belly, that really blew him away. The bite was almost buttery and filled his mouth with warm flavors. The edible garlic flower on top provided a mellow garlic undertone that complimented the Toro exceptionally well; it was hands down the best sushi he has ever had. The third bite was tuna from a different part of the fish. It had an initial mellow flavor that was approachable, but the taste soon developed into a fresh savory sensation that added a deeper dynamic.
Thus far in the meal, the flavors were phenomenal, and Brian was loving it! But…then he reached the Uni which must be described as the anti-hero for him. He could tell it was very well-prepared and likely a great representation of uni, but like it’s orange color, the flavor was intense. The term “briny” is likely the best way to politely describe it. To Brian and his taste buds though, it tasted like fish scrubbed with soap and never rinsed off. He hated it…but he respects what it was. We’ve found that sometimes there are dishes we’ll try and not enjoy, but we get the feeling that we didn’t have the greatest version of the item so we’ll keep trying it to see if we might like it. Now, Brian has tried uni that he trusts to be well made and handled, and he honestly just doesn’t like it.
Thankfully, the Temari Sushi finished on a high note with the yellow tail which gave his palette a delightful reprise as it tasted like fresh fish perfectly accented with scallions. It was an excellent end to a fantastic course!
Heather was a little bummed that she couldn’t try any of the sushi because she’s allergic to seafood. Oh well, it is what it is. She’ll happily stay alive and indulge in Brian’s next course over and over again!
As much as Brian loved most of the sushi, the biggest star of the whole dining experience for both of us was the Nikomi Wagyu. The deep rich flavors of the short ribs on roasted bone marrow were elevated by the wasabi shiso bavaroise and yuzu kosho which provided just a little bit of heat and notes of citrus while the warashita sauce blended everything together. The meat was exceptionally tender, and we unabashedly scraped every bit off the bone.
We found ourselves unintentionally eating the wagyu very slowly to savor every morsel and try the different components individually and together. Heather’s favorite element was the yuzu kosho! She admits, she’s thought about it specifically along with the rest of the dish many times since, and we know we’re both dreaming of the day we can return and have the whole thing again. If it wasn’t clear already, we’re saying you should dine at Takumi-Tei, and, when you do, order the Nikomi Wagyu and don’t plan on sharing it.
Next up on the tasting menu was the one bite hashiyasume which was a very refreshing combination of cucumber, compressed watermelon, and pickled watermelon rind. It was the best pallet cleanser Brian has ever had! It completely reset him for the next offering while maintaining its subtlety.
The main course on the tasting menu was notably better than the à la carte option Heather selected. Brian’s dish was a dual pairing of Japanese A5 Wagyu Strip Steak and American Wagyu Strip Steak served with roasted cipollini onion, curried potato, mushrooms, daikon and watermelon radish tsukemono, more of the tasty Yuzu Kosho, as well as Wasabi, an Arima Sansho pepper reduction, and Matcha Maldon.
Both steaks were great and quite tender, but we have to say, we think the American Wagyu won out that day. It was more flavorful, and the meat was a little more our style. While tasty, neither steak was our favorite or the greatest we’ve had—especially relative to price, but we can discuss that issue later. Both were enjoyable and well prepared.
Thus far, the most notable dishes were all part of the Omakase Tasting Menu, and while it continued to shine by serving up another winner for dessert, this is the first course where the à la carte option that Heather selected actually outshined the offering on the tasting menu.
We both agreed that Heather’s dessert was extraordinary, but loved how unique and strangely beautiful Brian’s was. The tasting menu dessert was the Suiren Dani which is a Japanese water cake with kinako crumbs garnished with white and pink rose petals and a tiny bit of gold leaf. We had never had water cake before, so we were really looking forward to trying it. Texture-wise, we would describe it as the world’s lightest Jell-O, with a very mild flavor. As odd as it sounds, Brian loved the gelatinous consistency of it by itself, but he also thought the kinako breadcrumbs that accompanied it added great texture and substance providing a strong finish with subtle flavors throughout. It would never be a go-to dessert for us, but it was an enjoyable experience.
Jumping over to Heather’s à la carte option, we were somewhat surprised how much we LOVED the hachimitsu castella, which is castella cake, honey meringue, sesame brittle, hojicha custard, and honey caramel. This dessert was a borderline revelation for us. We’ve had Japanese desserts that we’ve enjoyed, but we’ve never been wowed so we usually forgo dessert in favor of more savory Japanese cuisine. We’re so glad we didn’t do that this time though because wow—was it good! The cake was super delicate with a smooth—almost pore-less crumb, and a moist even bouncy texture. It practically melted on our tongues with a light flavor that was offset perfectly by the mild sweetness of the honey meringue and the subtle depth and added bite of the sesame brittle. It rests comfortably in the top tier of desserts we’ve had in our lifetime—no lie. We loved it.
The Omakase Tasting menu concluded with a Japanese Tea Service. Our server described the ceremony as being performed in the spirit that “this moment is once in a lifetime.” The entire Traditional Tea Ceremony contains over a thousand steps, so for convenience, guests are presented a simpler but still elegant, modified version. We really appreciated how the steps of the ceremony were explained to us as the tea was prepared. Brian was shown to grasp the bowl with his right hand while resting it upon his left palm. Then, he raised the bowl to show appreciation and brought it back down in front of him. After turning the bowl clockwise twice, he was invited to enjoy the tea, which was very, very good. It was perfectly warm with a calming aroma that alleviated any tension that remained in his body from a day spent running around the park. It was arguably a perfect end to the meal.
The final two heroes of our meal were a couple of traditional drinks. Brian ordered the Ten to Chi “Heaven and Earth” Junmai Daiginjo sake as our server recommended. It was incredibly smooth, more than any other sake he had previously tried, and he would happily have it again.
Heather was allured by the promised show and ordered the Sakurajima. Named after a volcano in Japan, the drink contains Kaiyo Japanese Whiskey Sour chilled with whiskey stones. Thankfully, the presentation of the drink was as mesmerizing as she hoped. It was delivered, shrouded with cherry wood smoke in a glass case. When our server opened the door, the cloud cleared to reveal the drink, and we were treated to the smoky aroma. Notably, the smoke isn’t just for show; you can taste it in the drink where it blends with the whiskey to add depth and mellow any harsh flavors.
Moving on to the villains of the dining experience begins with a notable technicality. That is, the restaurant is presented as Disney Signature Dining, but it’s sadly not an option on the Disney Dining Plan and does not accept any dining credits. This may change in the future, but it’s important to know that is the current status.
Finding that out at the end of the meal would be an unfortunate surprise so it’s best to be prepared. Thankfully, there were only minor villainous elements throughout the meal, but, as the price tag was so high, so too were our expectations. Yes, Takumi-Tei utilizes some pretty pricey ingredients—such as Toro and A5 Kobe Wagyu that can cost well over $100 a pound—but there were still a few things that could’ve been better relative to price.
Specifically, the A5 Kobe Wagyu was quite good, but it was not the best version we’ve had and didn’t live up to the hype. It was exceptionally tender, but it lacked flavor and depth. We would rather save some money and get the filet mignon at either California Grill or Jiko before shelling out for the A5 Wagyu again.
Another dish that was a bit disappointing was the Kamo Rosa which was marinated duck with spiced kabocha squash, edamame, Japanese mizuna greens, cured duck egg yolk with a grape reduction and leak ash. The presentation was beautiful as it was delivered under a cloche that the server lifted to reveal billows of smoke, but the execution was lacking. The duck was slightly under seared, yet it was perfectly medium rare. Still, the fat needed to be rendered a bit more. More problematic though, was the grape reduction. In small quantities it worked, but it quickly overpowered everything forcing us to scrape off whatever excess sauce we could. Overall, the duck was good but not great and certainly not worth the price.
Moral of the Story
With so few villains and so many heroes, it’s clear the moral of the story is that we highly recommend Takumi-Tei. If it’s not cost-prohibitive, it’s a must-do at least one-time restaurant for anyone interested in exceptional, authentic Japanese cuisine.
The dining atmosphere, the amazing food, and the exceptional service combine to make this relatively new restaurant a major standout in the fine dining arena in Walt Disney World. Moreover, the meal is truly an experience. The moment you enter the restaurant you feel removed from the hustle and bustle of the park. The crowds and the noise melts away, and you’re welcome to enjoy the tranquility of the setting.
Factoring in the price and noting the high-quality menu—including the à la carte and tasting menu, the excellent service, and the relaxing environment, we give Takumi-Tei a 9.5 out of 10 and place it in the upper echelons of dining at Walt Disney World.
We hope you found this review helpful, and we really, really hope you get the chance to try Takumi-Tei for yourself! If you have dined there, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Either way, we welcome your questions and feedback.
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Until next time, remember to hug your loved ones, cherish the memories, and always continue Seeking the Magical.