We were in for a real treat this past visit to Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House. Luckily, we were already staying at the Lodge and only needed to take a few steps to this Signature restaurant, and in my opinion, one of the finest offerings that Disney has. The Animal Kingdom Lodge opened in 2001, providing guests the unique opportunity to be able to view animals from just outside their resort windows. Jiko features African style cooking with influences including European, Indian and Mediterranean flavors. The restaurant is very similar in design to the Lodge itself, it features deep, dark carved woods and muted, earth coloring. It is laid out as part restaurant, part bar, part wine room and offers a counter where guests can watch the chef’s do their magic. Jiko translated means “a cooking place” and if you are looking for a delicious meal, look no further!
We arrived to our 8:45 advanced seating reservation and the place was absolutely packed. We were asked to wait for just a few moments, and we were impressed that a Tuesday night could draw such a crowd! We were seated toward the front of the restaurant and noticed just how dark the lighting is kept in the restaurant. While it is a little tough to see the menu, it is very romantic! Our server was over in just a few minutes to offer us our menus. While he was not much of an upseller and did not recommend anything to us, I more than made up for it with a whole slew of questions that he was happy to answer. My husband ordered a glass of South African wine and I opted for water after a long day in the sun. We also decided on the flatbread Roxanne’s Kitfo Leb Leb (Beef Carpaccio, Feta Cheese, Pistachio-Basil Pesto, Berbere, Tomatoes, and Rocket $14.00) and Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin ( Mealie Pap, Chakalaka, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Cilantro $18.00). Other choices included our server’s suggestion of Inguday Tibs in Brik (Mushroom, Spinach, and Cheese in crispy Tunisian Filo with Apples and Curry Vinaigrette $10.00) and Taste of Africa (African-inspired Dips with Pappadam, Poppy Seed Lavash, and House-made Naan $9.00) or Crispy Duck “Bobotie” Roll (Cucumber Raita and Green Mango Atjar $12.00). Our appetizers were out within ten minutes and we loved both of them. The flatbread was amazing; with more Carpaccio than I had anticipated and the mixture of the feta cheese with the pistachio-basil pesto was incredibly delicious. The boar tenderloin was one of the most tender cuts of meat I have ever tasted and the truffle oil was a perfect compliment. Our server also gave us a basket of rolls with a side of African butter; I wish I had passed on the butter as I found it to be pretty overwhelming with a very earthy spice.
Our choices for dinner were Oak-grilled Filet Mignon (Grass-fed Beef, Local Organic Pole Beans, Spoon Bread, and South African Red Wine Sauce $49.00) I did ask for macaroni and cheese instead of the beans and spoon bread and they were happy to oblige! Hubby had the Spice-crusted Berkshire Pork Loin (Braised Greens, Coconut Sadza, and Peri Peri Butter $36.00) and would not share. He did allow me the bite to share my experience with you and the pork loin was well seasoned, perfectly cooked so that it was very juicy and the peri peri butter, whatever that is, melted in your mouth.
My filet was absolutely beautiful, like a work of art. It melted in my mouth and the macaroni and cheese, though not a sophisticated pairing was creamy and delicious. The red wine sauce added the adult kick and I was having so much fun making my “perfect bites” consisting off all three foods. Our server told us that the filet is the most ordered item on the menu and I would have a very hard time trying anything else! Other dinner options include; Lamb Two Ways (Spaghetti Squash, Kohlrabi, Pumpkin Seed Duqqa, Grilled Olive Ciabatta, and Mango Demi-glace $39.00), Maize-crusted Monkfish (Vegetables of the Moment and Tomato-Butter Sauce $40.00), Wild Coho Salmon (Stuffed Squash Blossom, Plantain Fufu, Baby Zucchini, and Cactus Pear Broth $45.00), Seared Scallops (Senegal Black-eyed Pea Salad, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Roasted Seafood Demi-glace $40.00) and the very enticing Spicy Botswana-style “Seswaa” Beef Short Rib (Cassava-Potato Purée, Sambal, Mushrooms, and Fava Beans $46.00).
Though we were stuffed, we were not leaving without trying some of the interesting dessert options. I was pleasantly surprised by the Malva Pudding (Toasted Meringue, Lemon Curd, and Wild Strawberries $12.00) Though, I am not much of a pudding or even meringue fan, I did like it. Honestly, I only ordered dessert because we were celebrating and I couldn’t really find another dessert that struck my fancy. Hubby enjoyed the Ghanaian Chocolate and Kenyan Coffee Pot de Crème (Almond Crème with Almond Crunch and Raspberries $11.00). I absolutely did not enjoy it because it tasted like coffee, and I hate coffee. So, if you love coffee, you’ll love this! Other sweet endings were Peach Mousse Sphere (Brown Sugar Sablé and Spiced Peach Sauce $11.00) and our server’s favorite, Avocado Custard Cake (Blood Orange Sorbet, Honey-Sage Sauce, and Pumpkin Brittle $11.00).
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Our dinner was more than just enjoyable, it was exciting to taste some items that we do not have much access to in local places and we really enjoyed the pairings of interesting spices and accompaniments. Jiko is in the top 5 best restaurants on Disney World property in my opinion, and I urge you that if you have not visited yet, to make sure it is included in your plans for your next trip. Every bite of food was perfectly cooked and every new dish was a tour of the exciting, different flavors of Africa!
Review: 5/5 stars: food was cooked perfectly and delicious, server was attentive and knowledgeable, and atmosphere was romantic and beautiful. Dinner was served in reasonable 1.5 hours, allowing enough time to enjoy wine, food courses and company.
Food: Choices that will intrigue and excite your palate, with some really different pairings that seem to be perfect matches. If you are unsure of what an item is, ask your server. Safe choices like chicken, filet and pork are on the menu, as well as more adventurous duck, wild boar, lamb and monkfish. Vegetarian choices and kid’s menu are available. Desserts are not traditional sweet desserts, but will peak your interest!
Atmosphere: Dark, earthy and muted, you may want to bring your reading glasses or ask for a small flashlight for the menu. Make sure you look for the Wine sculptures, which hold the bottles of wine. Our favorites were the trees, located near the kitchen. Make sure you look up at the birds flying overhead and notice the hidden mickey above the three ovens!
Service: Our server was attentive and had extensive menu, food and wine knowledge. He was not pushy, but offered suggestions, and got to know us during the meal. Jiko prides themselves on having an excellent wait staff and the manager came by the table to make sure that service and food expectations were being met. They were being exceeded!
Tips: Advanced seating reservations highly suggested, as this is a very popular location. Booths are available and seating is a bit more private if you ask for a table near the back of the restaurant. You can dine at the food bar and watch the chef’s preparing your dinner. If you are on the Disney dining plan, this will cost 2 meal entitlements per person, as it is a Signature Dining location.