Kimonos, Great Sushi at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotelby Donna Fesel, contributing writer
No way around it: My family—my husband son and I—love Japanese cuisine. Before our son was born, my husband and I enjoyed many nights out at our local family-run Japanese restaurant, where my husband introduced me to sushi. For a long time, I was too nervous to try any sushi that involved raw fish. I would eat sushi rolls with vegetables and cooked shrimp, and I loved the umami of the seaweed and soy, and the heat of the wasabi.
Fast forward a year or two, when my husband studied in Japan as part of a teacher program. While there, he learned more about, and fell in love with the customs of sushi and the respected art of preparing sushi, and tried all sorts of sushi (including horse!). He returned home so full of enthusiasm, and was eating sushi so regularly that I became bolder in my own sushi adventures, eventually trying and loving more and more varieties—even trying sashimi (small slices of very fresh fish).
We are avid eaters in our home, and enjoy a wide variety of cuisines, and with my son now growing into a sushi lover as well, we’ve sought out and enjoyed a variety of sushi experiences at Walt Disney World. We’ve enjoyed all the sushi the Japan Pavilion at Disney’s Epcot has to offer (Tokyo Dining is a particular favorite, they were so fantastic with my son when he was small), indulged in the wonderful sushi at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and eaten all good things at Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs. Heck, we’ve also eaten some tasty rolls while rolling a spare or two at Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Disney Springs (twice).
The one place we’ve wanted to go for years, but avoided because they don’t take reservations (and I have control issues) is Kimonos at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel. Kimonos has even been chosen by the Orlando Sentinel as the best sushi in the Orlando area. On our last visit, no reservation in hand (yikes!), we took the short walk from our hotel at Disney’s Beach Club Resort over the bridge to a terrific meal.
If you’ve been to the WDW Swan, you know it's full of bustle when you walk in the front doors. You’ve got your convention folks, your families, your business folks; it’s quite a crowd. However, as you enter under the Kimonos sign, the bustle slows to a whisper. We visited shortly after the restaurant opened (they open daily at 5:30 p.m.), and there were a handful of folks eating.
We were seated right away, and were immediately taken by the lovely interior of Kimonos. The set-up is really quite ingenious. There are small groupings of seats, and tables are strategically placed so that each dining party has some privacy. The room is full of beautiful teak, delicate lanterns, and features kimonos as clever room separators. There is a compact sushi bar that you can sit at as well near the entrance, and although we didn’t stay for it, Kimonos regularly features karaoke (just in case someone wants to belt out “Let It Go” for a crowd at WDW).
We began our meal with sake for my husband. Although we’re not sake experts by any means, but he ordered a dry one by Kitabaru, which we enjoyed cold, and it was very crisp and delicious. I enjoyed an Orange Lychee Martini (lychee is native to China, popular in Southeast Asia, tastes a bit sweet and bit tart and to me has the texture of a ripe pear); it features Ketel One Oranje, lychee and lime juice, and a few lychees. It was ice cold and a wonderful start to dinner.
We ordered a few small plates, including Kobe beef tartare with lotus roots to dip (tartare is the highest possible grade of a diced meat with seasonings and I love it), tempura (lightly fried veggies and shrimp), and gyoza (Japanese potstickers). I was very partial to the tartare, but the tempura was just right—crunchy but not greasy—and my son loved the gyoza.
We also ordered some sushi, including tuna, and yellowtail sashimi (we let my husband eat those), and a slightly spicy Jalapeno roll (for my son and me). If you’re on the fence about the whole raw fish thing, there lots of other options on the menu that looked terrific, including satay (an Indonesian dish of meat threaded and grilled on a skewer), katsu (a cutlet in panko bread crumbs), and a whole slew of sushi rolls featuring veggies and cooked proteins.
We had plenty to eat, but didn’t feel like we were going to explode after dinner. The food was just right, and the portion sizes were great to order a bunch to share. We are Kimonos converts for sure, and will make it a regular WDW stop moving forward. I’m only sad they don’t serve lunch.
Kimonos accepts Tables in Wonderland (Disney’s Discount Dining Plan). I thought the staff was really terrific, and was happy to answer all our questions. We highly recommend Kimonos; it’s a great place to grab an affordable (for WDW) and delicious bite, spend a bit of time, and still have the entire evening to enjoy.
Do you love sushi? Japanese cuisine? Have you been to Kimonos? I’d love to hear all about it.