By The Clever Diva
Kimonos is located in the Swan Hotel, a short walk from the Boardwalk Inn and the Beach/Yacht Club at Walt Disney World. If you are leaving Disney’s Hollywood Studios or the International Gateway at Epcot, hop on the boat and enjoy a short voyage to some wonderful Japanese food.
Kimonos offers very traditional Japanese food, and both raw and cooked sushi. Kimonos is different from the many restaurants you’ll find at the Disney Park and resorts. They do not take reservations or ADR’s at all. This makes it a good choice for an arrival day meal, especially if you are flying into Walt Disney World. It can be crowded, if it’s karaoke time, but, when we want to leave the Disney bubble, and take a chance, it’s Kimonos that’s our first choice! To get a table quickly, it’s best to arrive before 8 pm if there is karaoke that evening. Once the karaoke starts, no one leaves so you can wait a long time for a table. It’s best to call the restaurant ahead of time to confirm their karaoke schedule for the day. Because it is not part of Disney, Kimonos does not accept any dining plans, but they do accept the Tables in Wonderland card, for a 20 % discount.
When you arrive you’ll need to weave your way through the Swan Hotel, passing the lovely white swan fountain. The fountain is lovely in its simplicity and a real magnet for kids. You might want to give yourself a couple of extra minutes if you have children in your party. And you may need to ask for directions as you wander the long hallways.
Once you find the restaurant, it’s clearly marked overhead. When you step through the doorway, you’ll be transported to another world. The atmosphere of the dining area is beautiful and serene. The dining room is not large, giving it a cozy, inviting feel. Overhead, there are hundreds of floating lanterns, and yes, many floating kimonos. In the corner, you’ll see a small sushi bar, and that’s where most of the food is prepared.
At our table, we were presented with the type of Japanese menu you often see at sushi bars. It’s a long list of available items, and the diner is expected to indicate the quantity they’d like of each item. If you prefer, you can give talk to your food server, who will gladly take you order verbally. Items on the menu are listed both in Japanese characters, and in English. There is very little description on the menu, but your server will help guide you if you are not familiar with Japanese dining.
The first section of the menu is labeled “Soups and Salads.” We often order a soup, a salad, an appetizer, and sushi for each adult. And that is quite a lot of food! But, it’s so hard to choose which course to leave out! If you have children in your party, you might look at a sushi menu, and wish you had stopped at McDonald’s on the way. But, there are several items that always seem to appeal to kids. First, is edamame, which is boiled soy beans in their shells. Although they are green, they can be appealing to kids because they are an adventure to eat. Each shell must be squeezed to open it, and the bean popped out. The bowl of edamame usually arrives on the table in minutes, so everyone has something to eat quickly. If you are planning to order sushi, keep in mind that it takes quite a while to prepare, so an appetizer, etc, are a good idea.
If your kids like thin soup, miso soup is very good, and is mostly broth. Kimonos also serves Egg Drop Soup, which is similar to Chinese egg drop soup, but has a different broth base. The shreds of eggs resemble noodles, so my children were very willing to try it, and liked it. If you children already eat salad, the Seasonal Asian Salad with its sweet vinegar dressing, is always a hit. And salad is a good way to practice with chopsticks.
But, the true winner for kids, on a Japanese menu, is gyoza, which is a soft pork dumpling, and you’ll find them under Appetizers. My kids won’t put dipping sauce on them yet, but someday, I’m sure they will try it. Meanwhile, they consume many at each meal. Tempura, which is shrimp and vegetables coated in a light, fluffy, crunch batter, makes a good dinner entree for kids, as do the Beef Spare Ribs, but only if they like something with a more flavor. By the time my kids had edamame, soup, salad, and their share of gyoza, they were pretty full.
We enjoyed all of the above items, but we adults were there to eat sushi! At the bottom left of the menu, there is a list of the a la carte pieces. Each order consists of 2 pieces, and you can order as many as you like. The choices are separated into raw and cooked selections, which is helpful if you will consume only cooked food. Each type of fish/food is available nigiri style or sashimi style. Nigiri style is truly sushi. The fish/food is perched on a mound of vinegar rice, and meant to be consumed in one, or perhaps two, bites. Sashimi, sometimes knows as sashimi style sushi, is simply the fish/food without any rice. If you like your fish without the rice, you’d better bring a credit card, because it takes quite a bit of fish alone to fill you up! At this dinner, we enjoyed the tuna, the yellowtail, and the eel. They were all excellent – firm, fresh, and flavorful. If you have never tried eel, you really should. It’s not at all what you might expect. It’s sweet and rich, and there is not even a hint of fishiness. We think of it as a “dessert fish” because of the flavor. The eel is cooked, and comes with its own sauce, so you don’t need to add any soy sauce.
The right side of the menu is a list of sushi rolls, known as maki. Maki rolls are very popular, and menus often list many, many ingredients in each roll. But, at Kimonos, the rolls are simpler, and more traditional, and we liked them very much. We had to have a Dancing Eel Roll – consisting of eel, krab (made of whitefish – not real crab) and avocado, because we love eel so much, and the Dancing Eel Roll did not disappoint. The Spicy Tuna Roll packed quite a punch with the spicy sauce (not too hot), salmon and avocado.
But, the most interesting roll we had was the Vegetarian Summer Roll. This was like no roll I had ever had before. It was a tribute to green! It arrived splendidly on its own plate, a virtual salad in a thin sheath of transparent rice paper. Festive light green sprouts danced on each end of the roll. It was so beautiful, that we didn’t want to eat it! But, we did, dipping it in the accompanying small bowl of ponzu sauce. It was very tasty, and a nice contrast to more complex flavors of the sushi and maki. But, it was also very large, and we could barely finish the summer roll on top of all the other rolls we had ordered. But, we did!
We don’t usually order dessert after a sushi dinner. It just doesn’t all seem to go together. But, we were celebrating a birthday and the kids had been so good during dinner. So, we enjoyed a chocolate bomb with fresh fruit and a candle. To me, the dessert looked better than it tasted, but I don’t think a person with a belly of fish is a good judge of chocolate desserts. By the time my kids were done, there was nothing left.
After dinner, we enjoyed a stroll around the grounds of the Swan Hotel, and a boat ride back to Epcot in time for Illuminations.
Also, I felt that I needed to compare this meal to the meal I had at Tokyo Dining in the Japan Pavilion in Epcot. The dining room at Tokyo Dining is very beautiful, and a different style than the coziness of Kimonos. At Tokyo Dining , we ordered both traditional Japanese food and quite a bit of sushi.
It is the only place that we have ever seen an all-female sushi staff. We enjoyed the Japanese portion of the meal, but, the sushi ended up all looking and tasting the same. It was the only time we’ve ever left sushi on the plate. The kids meals were pretty amazing, and were served in a large replica of the Bullet Train, which looks convincingly like the Monorail at WDW. So, I’d return to Tokyo Dining for traditional Japanese food. But, for sushi, we much prefer Kimonos.