We’re welcoming Alex Freeman today as she shares a review of one of our favorite spots – Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge!
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Jiko – The Cooking Place, a signature dining restaurant, is located at the Jambo House at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Before you even walk into the restaurant, you are enchanted by the expansive lobby. The minute you walk into Jambo House, you definitely feel as though you have entered into an African savanna lodge. The best part of the lobby is the huge window at the back where you can see the savanna and the walk leading to the African animals.
To get to the restaurant, you must go downstairs. On the way down the stairs, you will walk right past Victoria Falls, a bar/lounge that overlooks Boma, Flavors of Africa. Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, you can either turn left and enter Boma or if you go right, you will come to Jiko. Jiko is a breathtaking restaurant with an open kitchen, a wall of different varieties of wine, and a memorable ambiance. My favorite part of the interior design is the light fixtures.
When we checked in at the front desk, we only had to wait a few minutes before we were seated. The hostess that led us to our table was extremely friendly and polite. I wish I remembered her name because she was absolutely wonderful. Once we were seated, I could not wait to start reviewing the menu to see what had changed and what had stayed the same since the last time I was at the restaurant.
While deciding upon which entrees to order, we enjoyed a delicious bread basket which consisted of Dabo Bread and Flaxseed Focaccia. The bread came with a Tandoori butter. I absolutely love the Dabo bread with the Tandoori butter. The honey taste of the bread and the garlicky flavor of the butter is a perfect mixture. I was not a huge fan of the Flaxseed Focaccia. I found the bread to be too salty to mix with the butter.
I was eating with my entire family, so I was able to review four different entrees. We decided to order Guinea Hen, Maize-crusted Atlantic Black Grouper, Oak-grilled Filet Mignon, and the West African Braised Beef Short Rib.
Let’s start with the Guinea Hen. The Guinea Hen was described as a “’Doro Wot’ Braised Leg and Berbere Roasted Breast” with “sweet potato, wilted greens, and ancho glaze.” Both of my sisters ordered this entrée and they both greatly enjoyed it. They said that the guinea hen was delicious and spiced perfectly. The meal consisted of a perfect combination of white and dark meats. I had to take a bite of the sweet potatoes and I agreed with my sisters that they were very smooth with a buttery texture! The wilted greens were flavorful and the sauce was the perfect match with this entire entrée.
Next up — Maize-crusted Atlantic Black Grouper. Accompanied by Vegetables of the Moment and a Tomato-Butter Sauce, the grouper was described as being very good. Cooked perfectly, the fish was flaky. While the sauce had a wonderful red tomato color, it did not have a lot of flavor. The root vegetables were not as delicious as they could be. Also, my mother thought that some type of starch should have been paired with the grouper.
My father ordered the Oak-grilled Filet Mignon. On the menu, it comes with Ancient Grain Pilaf, but my Dad decided to order it with a prior (and guest-favorite) menu item, the Macaroni and Cheese. He said that the Filet was slightly overcooked, but tender and flavorful. As always, the Macaroni and Cheese was excellent and a wonderful pairing with the Filet and the Red Wine Sauce. The accompanying vegetable seems to change all of the time. This time, it came with Brussels Sprouts, which was described as tender with a wonderful bacon flavor. Overall, my Dad always recommends this entrée to anyone that is going to Jiko, but he says that you have to order it with the Mac and Cheese!
Finally, I ordered the West African Braised Beef Short Rib. I have ordered this entrée before, but this year they have changed it. This time, the short rib came with roasted peanuts, roasted vegetables, and a spicy Tomato-demi glace. The short rib was cooked perfectly and the vegetables were a perfect compliment. The vegetables were carrots, pearl onions, and other root vegetables. The tomato demi glace also worked very well with the short ribs. But, most years, they have made mashed potatoes the side dish, which I think are a necessary accompaniment with short ribs. Yet, even without the addition of some type of potatoes, the dish was cooked perfectly and very flavorful.
For dessert, we ordered the Peppermint Crème Brulee and the Cheesecake. I wish I had taken pictures of the desserts, but we started digging in before I remembered to take the pictures. So, I will describe them as best as I can. The peppermint crème brulee was the perfect size. It had a wonderfully creamy texture like you expect with all crème brulees. This though was different than a normal crème brulee. It was served with a chocolate bottom that was very rich and a wonderful peppermint flavor.
The Cheesecake had a spice cake crust with warm sautéed apples in a caramel sauce. While the crème brulee was a great size, the cheesecake was abnormally small. Even though it was small, it had a nice flavor and the sautéed apples were a nice touch. But, the size of the cheesecake was definitely not worth the $9.00.
Overall, this trip to Jiko was absolutely delicious. On the whole, the entrees and the desserts were well-composed. And, the restaurant is beautiful and a must-see if you haven’t already done so. I would definitely recommend trying Jiko for the food and the atmosphere.
Have you dined at Jiko? What’s your recommend dish? We want to know in the comments below!