It is amazing how two characteristics that once were not all that important to me have become invaluable when deciding where to eat in this new age. Outdoor dining is an absolute must for me personally, especially when at a theme park. Online ordering is very important to me too. Although Katsura Grill at EPCOT’s Japan Pavilion lacks mobile ordering, its breathtaking outdoor seating area more than makes up for it.
On a recent visit to EPCOT with my toddler son I found myself craving the tranquility of the Zen garden that surrounds the outdoor dining area of Katsura Grill. I craved the steamed rice and teriyaki sauce here too. The food at Katsura Grill is authentic Japanese cuisine with an approachable leaning towards American tastes.
The Japan Pavilion itself is one of my favorites. It is beautifully detailed, peaceful, and has lots of places to explore. The only Mitsukoshi Department Store in North America exists here. A museum with rotating exhibits highlights Japanese culture and art. And the tranquil Zen garden is multilevel and winds around the left side when facing into the pavilion. Katsura Grill sits at the top of stairs overlooking the Zen garden.
Sounds of the babbling waterfall and koi pond gently welcome guests as they approach the outdoor dining area. There are clusters of tables and chairs, some near the small waterfall, and some across the bridge under the shade of beautiful, blossoming trees. Generally there is plenty of shade in either area. Views of the garden, the Japan pavilion, and the World Showcase promenade and lagoon can be enjoyed here.
When I visited with my son I needed to use the ramp so we could have our stroller with us. Right now one side of the building is labeled as “entrance only” and the other side as “exit only.” Since I was traveling alone with my son, once I had my tray of food I had to go back out the entrance side in order to retrieve our stroller. We ended up sitting on the wrap around platform of the building rather than enjoying the actual outdoor dining area. When you’re traveling with a toddler by yourself you do what must be done to avoid a meltdown.
Over the years the menu at Katsura Grill has changed. Sadly there are some items that I wish were still on the menu. Back in my day they served a “Shogun Combination” which was chicken teriyaki and beef sukiyaki. The chicken teriyaki was dark meat chicken thigh, which is traditionally how it is served, and the beef sukiyaki was tender with savory flavor and succulent onions.
Now they offer the Chicken and Beef Combination. The beef is savory and flavorful, but lacks the unique style of sukiyaki, and the chicken breasts with teriyaki sauce lacks the tenderness and heartiness the chicken thighs offered. Still, I am sucker for the flavorful sauce, especially when dabbing some of the tender steamed rice into it. The steamed veggies are nothing special, similar to steam-in-the-bag vegetables you can buy at any grocery store.
During our visit it was incredibly hot outside, so I decided to also order a side of chilled edamame (steamed soybeans). I knew my son would eat some and I figured it would be refreshing. At $4.00 it is a little pricey for a snack, but it is good quality and nutritious. My son and I shared the Chicken and Beef Teriyaki as well as the edamame (though I should clarify, he has an allergy to beef so he did not have any of the beef teriyaki). I really enjoyed the beef, but I missed the traditional teriyaki chicken thighs immensely. Next time, I visit I would like to try the Ramen or Udon Noodles, or perhaps the Chicken Cutlet Curry.
Even with the disappointing change to the menu, there are still plenty of other entrees that are loved by many Disney visitors. Katsura Grill has an 88% thumbs up rating on our TouringPlans reviews. It is personally one of my favorite counter service locations in all of Walt Disney World. During our meal I felt relaxed, which is a rare treat during meal time with a toddler. I appreciate the tranquil atmosphere and the bright flavors offered here.
Have you ever dined at Katsura Grill? What do you think of it?