The Animal Kingdom Lodge has it’s own allure compared to the other resorts but one of it’s big pulls is the restaurant Jiko-The Cooking Place. When I heard African cuisine I was excited to try something new but had no idea it would become a place I would return to several times on my trip. Because I was on the Disney dining plan I could afford that luxury (keep in mind for most packages Jiko takes 2 meal points per visit, since my family and I were not big breakfast people this worked out for us). As such we were given our choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert as well as a non-alcoholic beverage of our choice. Because my dessert is no longer on the menu I will not devote much attention to it as I hate to tease you with something you cannot have.
First I will focus on the atmosphere. The restaurant is split off into two areas for dining, one is a more open area where you can appreciate the wine “trees” as well as watch the chefs at work with their wood-burning oven. The other dining area is more private and closed off from the main floor. Having been seated in both I can say either is a good choice depending on your party. I am not certain if you can request one of the areas as the restaurant is very busy and reservations are encouraged if you do not want to wait for a while, this is not to say it is as hard to get a table here as say Be Our Guest. It is possible and we did ourselves at 9 pm our first night there.
Service at Jiko is beautifully elegant; as you arrive at your table the hostess will bring you warm hand towels infused with lavender to wash your hands with. While normally something one would expect at a spa I grew to appreciate the gesture. It brought a sense of comfort and an air of relaxation as we began our meal. Our waiter was attentive and happy to explain the menu to us and even offer suggestions for my little brother that he might like to try.
Of all the appetizers I sampled there my favorite was perhaps the grilled wild boar tenderloin (I know it sounds different but the flavor profile here is what counts) it was probably some of the most delicious things I have ever eaten and I could perhaps eat it as a meal itself. Comprised of Mealie Pap, Chakalaka, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Cilantro this dish while not one I could recreate at home it is one I look forward to eating again on my next visit to DisneyWorld. This was also a dish each of us enjoyed and would order together.
For my main entrée the best dish I ordered and would recommend is the oak-grilled filet mignon. This is a dish that has been transformed during its time at Jiko. Where once it was served with mac and cheese now it is served with beanpoles and spoon bread. The red wine reduction sauce is either something you love or simply do not care for (only one of us who did not was the 10 year old). I personally loved it, which was surprising because I do not like wine in the first place. The spoon bread is moist and pairs well with the beanpoles and steak while the portion is healthy for the price. While the filet is a good-sized cut, the portions are equal and only leave you wanting more of everything (in the best way possible). The only thing stopping you is perhaps the size of your stomach.
While the dessert I had (a lavender crème brulee) is no longer on the menu there is still a variety of desserts to try from. This gives room for plenty of taste options (of which I hope to enjoy myself). I highly recommend Jiko The Cooking Place as most dishes range from $30-$60 it is one of the pricier options for dining but completely worth it.
Restaurant Rating: 10/10