Written by: Bridget Virden, Senior Travel Planner

Located in the heart of Epcot’s World Showcase, Shiki Sai: Sushi Izakaya in the Japan pavilion offers visitors a delightful journey through Japanese cuisine. Our sushi-loving family couldn’t resist the temptation to sample the flavors of Japan during our recent visit, and Shiki Sai did not disappoint.

The Japanese word izakaya (居酒屋) is made up of three kanji with the meaning, in order, “stay-drink-place.” A spot to grab a drink, settle in, and get comfortable – and this is Shiki Sai exactly! The restaurant’s interior is tastefully adorned with elements that pay homage to Japanese culture, including beautiful wooden accents, lantern-style lighting, and soothing traditional music in the background. The setting is both friendly and serene, making it an ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle of the theme park.

From the moment we were greeted at the entrance, the staff at Shiki Sai were exceptionally attentive and welcoming. Our server was extremely knowledgeable, and took the time to explain the menu, answer our questions, and offer recommendations. The service was prompt and courteous throughout the entire meal. We were so impressed that we submitted a Cast Compliment My Disney Experience app so our server could be recognized. If you are hesitant about eating here because you’re intimidated by the menu, don’t be! Your server will walk you through the different options.

Something that I think makes Shiki Sai unique is that the menu and decor change throughout the year to highlight and celebrate the cultural and emotional significance of the four seasons to the Japanese people. Our reservation was during summer and we learned more about the Tanabata Festival. Tanabata celebrates the story of two celestial lovers, Orihime (represented by the star Vega) and Hikoboshi (represented by the star Altair), who are separated by the Milky Way. They are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month during the Tanabata festival. One way Japanese people celebrate Tanabata is by writing heartfelt wishes on colorful paper strips and hanging them on bamboo branches. We were given paper strips at the end of our meal and invited to write our wishes and hang them on bamboo trees just outside the entrance to the restaurant. It might have been beginner’s luck, but my daughter’s wish came true!

Now, on to the star of the show: the food. Shiki Sai boasts an extensive menu (literally pages!) that showcases the diversity of Japanese cuisine. We took our server’s recommendation and ordered the Rock Shrimp Tempura for a starter. This is not something I would have ordered without his suggestion, and I’m so glad we did! The crispy shrimp was tossed in a creamy yuzu sauce that was light and had a hint of lemon flavor. It was very good and not heavy like some tempura dishes can be. We also ordered the Spicy Crunchy Roll and Sashimi Moriawase. The fish was impeccably fresh, and each piece was expertly crafted. The presentation was a work of art in itself.

I think Shiki Sai is a fabulous addition to the Japan pavilion and fits perfectly with Epcot’s mission to entertain, inform, and inspire. The combination of impeccable service, learning about aspects of Japanese culture, and a diverse menu of delicious dishes makes it a must-visit for food enthusiasts and anyone seeking a culinary adventure while visiting Epcot’s World Showcase. We look forward to visiting during every season of the year!