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On my March trip my friends and I decided to splurge on a meal. But where to go with so many great options on Disney property? We wound up settling on Jiko: The Cooking Place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge which was a great decision. I was particularly excited about this dinner since I had never been to Jiko before, and I had always heard such great things about it. As an added bonus we wound up going on my friend, John’s, birthday so it was a celebratory dinner! It was the perfect way to start off our trip since we dined there only hours after my arrival.
The decor at Jiko has been inspired by an African sunset with warm, rich tones. The wine cellar is on display for guests to admire while they wait to be seated. The artwork and furnishings pay homage to the restaurant’s African roots, creating a beautiful atmosphere. It was quiet the night we dined here so it was quite enjoyable to get away from the hub bub of the parks and have a great meal with great friends in this setting.
Jiko is a great place to head for a celebration since it is famous for its award winning wine list. They boast one of the largest selections of South African wines so good luck trying them all! Since I know virtually nothing about wine, I asked the waiter to bring me his recommendation based upon my entree. He selected a red wine (whose name escapes me) for me to sip. And what a great choice it was! Like I said, I’m not much of a wine aficionado and I usually prefer white to red, but this was awesome. Most of the vast array of wines are available by the glass or by the bottle and your server will be happy to make recommendations. The guys opted to try some of the African beers available to guests, and they all really enjoyed their drinks as well.
To start, the boys and I decided to try something we would not be able to get just anywhere. We opted to order the seared ostrich filet and each have a taste. It was a lovely dish and fun to eat something new. The filet was served with kamut, mushrooms, and a truffle vinaigrette. It made me look at the ostriches on the Kilimanjaro Safari in a whole new light. Scared to try the ostrich? Well, there are several other yummy sounding options on the appetizer menu as well. I’ve heard many guests rave about the flatbreads here so why not give one of those a try? There is also a selection of soups and salads to choose from.
As for an entree, I tried the famed oak-grilled filet mignon. This pricey, but delicious piece of beef may not be as famous as the macaroni and cheese which accompanied it. I don’t know what they do that mac n’ cheese, but this ain’t your grandma’s macaroni. Additionally, my filet mignon was perfectly cooked to my liking and completely worth the over $40 price tag. Now you may be saying to yourself $40?! But, an occasional splurge on a special meal is totally worth it to me. I certainly don’t eat this way on a regular basis, but every so often I like to live a little while I’m on vacation. If steak isn’t your thing the menu also boasts vegetarian options along with the African inspired pork, fish, and lamb dishes.
Dessert was a great end our meal here. We ordered two portions of Kenyan Coffee and Koeksisters which is homemade ice cream made from Kenyan coffee with spiced donuts. Granted, I love just about anything that has to do with coffee, but this was an awesome dessert. The donuts were warm, the ice cream was rich and creamy, and I would go back just to have it again. Other options to satisfy your sweet tooth include a pistachio creme brulee, the Jiko trio (flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and caramel ice cream), and a roasted apple tarte to name a few. Their beverage selection continued to be impressive all the way through to dessert with several port, brandy, and liqueurs available.
If you have not tried Jiko before I can’t recommend it enough. I loved all three of my courses and the lovely glass of wine. I thought the trip out to the Animal Kingdom lodge and the cost is completely worth the experience. This dining establishment would make for a perfect romantic spot for couples or just a group of friends who love great food. The restaurant does also offer a kids menu for those readers with families and I did see kids at dinner that night. However, Jiko’s neighboring restaurant, Boma, might be a bit more kid friendly. If you are worried about the African influence of the cuisine, just try it! You may surprise yourself and really enjoy something you can’t get at home.
So have you enjoyed a meal at Jiko yet? Let me know what you thought about it!
Next week I’ll take a closer look at the Bellevue Lounge at the Boardwalk Inn…