Jiko – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort Area, 2901 Osceola Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32830
Some meals are just worth the flight, and Jiko at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort is one such meal. If your a Disney Foodie like us, you know about the abundance of incredibly delicious food offerings available at The Walt Disney World Resort. Jiko is a one of a kind Disney Signature Dining Experience, and upon first glance this restaurant may not be top on your list, but with our review we hope to show you that this meal is one worth the flight!
Although we have stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort a number of times over the years since its grand opening in April of 2001, it wasn’t until we attended a wine tasting at the restaurant in the fall of 2011 that we discovered the amazing culinary experience that is Jiko. Since it first opened, Jiko’s neighboring buffet, Boma, was a staple on our family reservations when staying at The Lodge. The restaurant was able to comfortably seat our large family, and the menu consistently offered up a mix of items that varied from the typical resort buffets. However, as more new restaurants were introduced, Boma fell into the background. Before we knew it, it was 2011 and we hadn’t been to The Lodge for a meal in quite some time.
If you are not a guest of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort, please don’t let that deter you from visiting this beautiful Resort (and experiencing some of the best food in the Orlando area). Yes, transportation can be an issue – so plan ahead. Valet and self parking are available for non-Disney guests, and if you’ve never been, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort is an attraction all its own. Get up close and personal with African culture, wildlife, and experience, in our opinion, one of most spectacular resorts The Walt Disney Company has introduced so far.
Jiko translates to “Cooking Place,” and the ambiance and adventurous menu selection of Jiko is unlike anything else in the Orlando/Central Florida area. Where else in The World can you find (and fall in love with) wild boar tenderloin on a restaurant menu? Jared: Trust us – Try The Boar!
Your Jiko journey at this AAA Four Diamond award winning restaurant begins upon arrival to the restaurant, located on the ground floor of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort (just downstairs from the Resort’s main lobby), as you take in the impressive surroundings. The impressive South African wine collection (fittingly dubbed the “Cape Town Wine Room”) will be the first to catch your eye. This wall of wine is remarkable to say the least, and it houses the restaurants extensive collection of over 1,800 bottles of African and South African wine. As you make your way past the wall of wine, hopefully you took a peak at some of their fabulous offerings, take note of the massive floor to ceiling windows. As you enter the heart of Jiko, the open air kitchen, which houses the restaurant’s wood burning ovens, pulls you in with its sensational smells. This is where the magic happens.
Jiko’s surprisingly detailed décor is something to be admired. From floor to the ceiling, everything in the design of the restaurant has a purpose. Take note of the restaurant’s color scheme, the shape of the multiple ovens, and the majestic bird sculptures flying high above as diners graze on Jiko’s finest foods. At Jiko, there is no doubt that Disney’s wonderful art of storytelling and theming are on full display. Whether it is day or night, Jiko’s beauty shines bright. As you wait for your server to arrive, notice the homage to an African savanna sunset (evocative of the opening scene from of a very famous animated Disney film) in the restaurant’s decor and try and spot the (enormous) Hidden Mickey.
Once seated, your host and server will welcome you with a warm greeting, lavender scented hand towels, and take a few moments to acquaint you with the restaurant’s unique offerings. This is the perfect time to enjoy a glass of our favorite wine (Graham Beck Gamekeeper’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Robertson, South Africa) or a Safari Amber red lager-style beer which Jiko has on draft. We can’t think of a more refreshing way to begin our culinary adventure in South African cuisine.
If this is your first time dining at Jiko, you understandably may have a few questions regarding the menu and food offerings (we sure did!). Rest assured, Jiko’s staff goes above and beyond to make your dining experience a memorable one. Although we’ve had a number of incredible servers over the years, our absolute favorite has to be Nasser from Morocco. Even though it wasn’t our first dining experience at Jiko, each time Nasser made it a memorable one. Nasser has gone out of his way to educate us on all things Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jiko, and of course the beautiful country of South Africa. Over the last few visits we’ve requested Nasser each time, and we’ve traded amazing stories and of course wonderful food recommendations!
If you love wine, Jiko is the place for you. This is one of the few spots in the United States where you can enjoy an extensive collection of carefully curated South African wines. There wine list includes everything, and if you’d like to learn more about their wine collection we highly recommend booking Jiko’s Wine Tasting. Read more about our full review of Jiko’s wine tasting here.
Travel Note: Did you know wine season in South Africa begins in January and ends with a harvest in March?
Obviously, photographs cannot do this amazing venue and it’s fantastic food justice. If you have not dined at Jiko yet, we highly recommend you add this spot to your advance dining reservation list for your first or next trip to The Walt Disney World Resort! Each menu item is so beautifully crafted, full of color and flavor, and we hope enjoy our photo diary below as we guide you through some of our favorite moments and meals from Jiko over the years.
Our favorite way to begin our meal at Jiko is with a first course selection of the restaurant’s signature “Taste of Africa” appetizer which features a few slices of delicious breads and naan as well as a variety of delectable African-inspired dipping sauces. The sauces feature a perfect blend of African spices that are full of flavor.
For our second appetizer, the Crispy duck Bobotie Rolls are fantastic. These are a “must eat” on each of our visits to Jiko. One order consists of four rolls. These crunchy bites, which resemble a spring roll, are filled with delicious African spices and flavors.
The Inguday tibs in Brik is another killer appetizer. A crispy filo shell houses warm mushrooms, cheese, and spinach. These tibs, one order gets you two tibs, are fantastic. If that isn’t enough, the tibs are served with a curry vinaigrette that we can’t get enough of!
Finally, the pièce de résistance – the Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin. This is Jiko’s most popular (and the appetizer they are most known for), and that’s because it’s pure perfection on a plate. Perhaps you are not feeling adventurous enough to try some of the unique menu items and flavors offered at Jiko, but if you only order one item – please make it the Boar! We promise, you will be delightfully surprised.
Janine’s favorite entree would easily be the Garam masala-spiced sea scallops which have consistently been caramelized and cooked to perfection each and every time! Janine: There are plenty of places at The Walt Disney World resort where you can find scallops on the menu, but these babies melt in your mouth like a warm African marshmallow, caramelized and bursting with flavor. Over the years the accompaniments to this dish have been everything from pilau to beans, and all have complimented the scallops beautifully, but the risotto (when offered) would have to be her favorite.
Over the years, Jiko has also become one of our favorite spots at the Walt Disney World Resort to celebrate Turkey Day. On Thanksgiving Day, Jiko offers it’s diners a South African-inspired Thanksgiving. Although they do offer a few of their most popular dishes, on Thanksgiving the restaurant offers a special menu specifically themed just for diners on Turkey Day.
Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort is an adventure in food unlike any other. Like many others before us, we were hesitant to give this unique restaurant a try at first. However, we are so very glad that we did (we only wish we had done it sooner)!
Travel Note: You don’t have to be a guest of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort to dine at one of the Resort’s fabulous restaurants.
Jiko continues to be one of the best meals we’ve had on Walt Disney World Property (or in the Orlando area for that matter). For this reason, Jiko has become a “must dine” on our trips to the World, and we highly recommend you give Jiko a try on your first or next trip to The Walt Disney World Resort. Each and every menu item is packed with flavor, cooked to perfection, and crafted with care. It’s superior service, out of this world menu items, and amazing atmosphere all make it worth the flight.
If you’ve had a similar dining experience that you feel was truly worth the flight, please let us know.
Janine – JCREW RED STRIPE DRESS (similar) |
Jared – TOMMY BAHAMA PICO DE PIXEL CAMP SHIRT |
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