Tucked away in the beautiful Animal Kingdom Lodge is a fine dining restaurant unlike any other on Disney property. Jiko, meaning “the cooking place,” is constantly the focus of many dining reviews that you’ll find online. With its unique African fusion menu, stunning simple decor, and incredible wine list, it’s clear to see why the praise keeps pouring in for this establishment.
During my recent solo trip to Disney World, I decided to allow myself a night of indulgence at a restaurant of my choosing. Initially, I was really stoked about trying Flying Fish Cafe, but, when I put the question of “Jiko vs. Flying Fish Cafe” out on the world of Twitter, my Disney friends spoke, and a good 90% of people suggested I try Jiko. Even after reading reviews I knew that Jiko was probably going to blow me away.
After a fun day spent in the parks, including Animal Kingdom, I headed over to the Lodge via Disney bus transportation. I snapped a couple of pictures inside of the resort itself and then proceeded downstairs to check in at Jiko. I asked to be seated up at “The Cooking Place,” which is a bar style seating overlooking the chef’s preparation of many appetizers and flatbreads. I waited less than five minutes without having an Advanced Dining Reservation before I was led to a seat in the stunning restaurant. The two chefs working almost immediately welcomed me. I admit, being the only person sitting up at The Cooking Place was a little uncomfortable at first since I felt like I was intruding on what the chefs were doing. It was almost like they were in the fishbowl and I was sitting there tapping on the glass observing.
Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long once I was greeted by my wonderful waiter, Marty. He went over the wine list and menu with me and helped me decide what would be best for me given that I’m pescetarian. I was thrilled when Marty suggested the Maize-Crusted Corvina with vegetables and a tomato-butter sauce. It was exactly what I had been eyeing online when browsing the menu. To make the start of the evening even better, he suggested a chardonnay to pair with it. I… love… chardonnay.
While I was enjoying conversation with the chefs, Joshua and Lindsey, my waiter brought some bread and butter out to me. We’re not talking about traditional steakhouse bread and butter. Presented in front of me were Dabo Bread, an Ethiopian Honey-Wheat, Flaxseed Focaccia, and a Tandoori Butter. Oh my heavens was this butter phenomenal! I know I was in a classy place, but I was tempted to devour that butter with a spoon alone. The focaccia didn’t really do anything for me, but I really loved the Dabo.
Even though I didn’t order an appetizer (this girl was on a budget), Joshua and Lindsey put together a sample plate for me with Roasted Beet Salad and Mitmita Spiced Ahi Tuna Tataki. I thanked them up and down and then stopped yapping and started eating. I had high hopes for the ahi tuna, and it did not disappoint. What really made the dish special for me was the use of avocado. As for the beet salad, I was nervous. My only encounter with a beet before was opening up the fridge as a kid and being grossed out by my mom’s jar of beets. However, what was sitting in front of me so beautifully presented was nothing like what I’d imagined my first beet to be like. I bravely took a bite and was blown away. The goat cheese and blackberry vinaigrette paired so well with the beets and created this explosion of flavor in my mouth. Success! I’m not afraid of beets anymore!
Not long after my killer appetizers, a stunningly beautiful couple that looked to be in their 50′s or 60′s sat down next to me. I no longer felt so alone, and my comfort level had risen considerably. In perfect timing, my entree was presented to me. I can’t even say one bad thing about this dish. Not one! The size of the dish was considerable, so those folks with a larger appetite would be fulfilled. Every flavor seemed to compliment each other perfectly, and with every bite I loved it more. The fish was really light in flavor itself, but, given that it had a “crust,” it was very filling as well as flavorful. Chef Lindsey came over and asked for my opinion on the tomato-butter sauce. I told her, “It’s my favorite part.” She replied, “Mine too! I could eat just that!” Sisters from another mister… I’m telling you.
When it was time, the dessert menu was given to me and the chefs were trying to convince me to indulge a little bit more. I admit, talking about sweets freed up some room in my ever growing stomach. While my belly was saying, “No more!” I found a happy medium and ordered a dessert cocktail… a Zebratini. This was basically heaven in a glass. I definitely suggest giving the Zebratini a shot.
Nothing pairs better with a chocolate flavored cocktail than some good conversation, and I would like to thank the amazing couple from Ohio for making my night so special. I could give you bits and pieces of their very fascinating life together, but it’s something I hold near and dear to my heart. There’s really nothing like meeting strangers and sharing life stories over good food and good drinks. We all were genuinely interested in learning about each other, and that’s what made it so special. In fact, I was so sucked into my conversation with them that I hadn’t noticed a special treat from Lindsey and Josh that was sitting in front of me… a dessert sampler.
I got to try the cheesecake, crème brûlée, and a mousse called One Last Cup. All of them were outstanding, but the real stand-out for me was the crème brûlée. I’ve had a lot of crème brûlée on Disney property, but this certainly was the best without question.
After my 3-1/2 hour long dinner, I was spent. Chef Joshua suggested I stay and drink more, but Epcot’s Extra Magic Hours were calling to me, and I just knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go. So, I paid my bill, gathered my dining notes, and said goodbye to all of my new friends. This dining experience was worth every penny, and I’d do it all over again in a second. I absolutely cannot wait until my next trip to Jiko. If you happen to drop in sometime, be sure to say hello to Joshua and Lindsey for me.
Any of you out there experience Jiko before? Any solo travelers? I want to hear about it!