Review: Jiko, The Cooking Place

Jiko, The Cooking Place

I have to admit, this is a restaurant I had wanted to try for quite a while. I had heard many good things about it, and it did not disappoint. It was a safari for your taste buds. While the flavors are more exotic than some other Disney fare, it was a great experience and one I will want to have again.

Jiko is located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is a fun experience in itself. The four story lobby is a breathtaking open space with African inspired art and sculpture. You enter the lobby on the third floor, so you will need to walk down to the first floor where the restaurants are.

We had an ADR, but the hostess told us they were running a few minutes behind, so they gave us a buzzer to alert us when our table was ready.

Of all the restaurants on Disney property, this is one you won’t mind waiting a few minutes for a table because of the animal viewing area. A Disney employee is there to hand out night vision goggles after dark. We were able to see a few antelope and a giraffe on the savannah behind the hotel.  After a few minutes of acting like Jeff Corwin, our buzzer went off and we handed in our night vision goggles and rushed back to Jiko.

Jiko is a wide-open restaurant, and there did not seem to be a bad seat in the house. From every table, you can see the huge wood-burning oven and chefs working around it making the delicious African fare, and the appetizing smell hits you right away. The restaurant décor uses a lot of earth-tones and the decorative lamps that look like birds make you feel like you are on safari. It is a very warm and inviting space.

As we sat down, the hostess brought us hot hand towels infused with rosewater. They smelled amazing and it was a really classy touch to begin the meal.

Our server Kay brought us our menus and the wine list. Although we did not sample any this trip, the wine list was impressive and they had some great looking wines from South Africa. Kay was ready and able to offer suggestions for food parings, which is something we will have to try next time!   The restaurant was busy, so we had to wait a little longer than usual to get our drinks.

We decided to start with an appetizer Kay suggested: Taste of Africa. The dish had four different African-inspired dips with different breads.  I really enjoyed three out of the four dips.

The red one, Bhuna Masala, was the most exotic and very delicious. It tastes very sweet at first, then turned hot and spicy, with a flavor similar to yellow curry.

The dark red with green specks, Moroccan Chermoula dip, was milder and would have been really good on chicken.  The menu suggested it is often used as a marinade, and I agree that would be the best way to enjoy it.

I did not enjoy the green sauce, Sagh Dahl, at all, though my dining partner did. It was a very heavy and strong flavor that I found bitter, but someone who enjoys Indian food a lot might like it more.

The tan sauce, Kalamata hummus, was the most mild and something that anyone would enjoy.

The Naan bread was very good, along with the Poppyseed crisp bread. The Pappadam crisp is flavored with onions and chutney, and left an aftertaste in my mouth that I did not enjoy at all; though again, my dining partner, who is a much bigger fan of Indian food than I am, did like the Pappadam. Taste of Africa was a fun appetizer and at $9.00, is not too expensive to get you into an exotic food mood.

For our main course, we ordered the Peri Peri Roasted Chicken Flatbread and the Inguday Tips in Brik.

The flatbread was delicious! It was very rich and savory, and the chicken had a small hint of curry. The chicken was mostly dark meat, which gave it a meatier flavor. The cheese was the best part. There were four types of white cheese, with goat cheese on top of that, and it was mouth-watering. The sweet peppers paired well with cheese, and everything balanced really well. Kay told us it was a brand new menu item, and I hope they keep it around because I will definitely get it again!

The Inguday Tips were yummy and perfect for sharing. It reminded me of spanakopita, which is a savory Greek pastry with spinach and cheese in phyllo dough. It came with a creamy curry sauce that brought out the sweetness of the spinach and little pieces of green apples with spicy curry on them that added a tangy flavor. It was a little messy to eat, but the presentation of the dish was really pretty. All together it was scrumptious.

Overall, Jiko was an excellent dining experience.

Food: Exotic and flavorful. Lots of Indian and Mediterranean influences. Might not be the best place for picky eaters, though I did see kids items like cheese pizza and mac and cheese. If you are open to new flavors, Jiko blends African and American food superbly.

Atmosphere: Classy and warm. I would not go straight there after a day at the pool, but jeans and a nice top are fine.

Service: Very friendly service, though a little slow at times due to their business.

Tips: Make a reservation! There seemed to be a lot of people waiting in the lobby, and when we made a reservation, the dinner hour spots were few and far between.

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About Kaitlin Martinez