Overhead, a “kindness” of kanus wings its way across a sky of deepening blue, curving gently toward the sunset. Legend has it that fortune smiles on those touched by the shadow of these mythical birds, and lucky indeed are the diners who walk beneath them at Disney’s wonderful restaurant, Jiko.
The room glows with the colors of nightfall and firelight: cobalt, shimmering bronze, ember, and coal. Ringed pillars represent the long, elegant necks of tribal women, encircled with necklaces in a cultural display of wealth and beauty. Towering wood-burning ovens demand attention. The floor, finished in African woods, is inlaid with the symbols of a bountiful harvest. Seats at the bar in front of the open kitchen invite interaction with the chefs, while tables along the windows overlook a peaceful stream.
In contrast to its more casual neighbor, Boma, which features a number of authentic African dishes, Jiko offers a fusion menu with a signature blend of perennial favorites and “of the moment” elements; the tastes of Africa – tribal, Mediterranean, and Indian – with a contemporary twist. Influenced by indigenous ingredients and methods, spiced but not spicy, the food often incorporates the customs and culture of the continent. For example, goat and sheep cheeses are used almost exclusively, since much of the African population is lactose-intolerant and does not consume cow’s-milk cheese. Food presentation is considered and attractive without being fussy.
Vegetarians will be tempted by novel and delicious appetizers, salads, and entrees.
Many members of the waitstaff are also capable sommeliers and are happy to suggest wine pairings from Jiko’s amazing cellar, which boasts the largest collection of South African wines in North America.
Arriving guests are welcomed by traditionally-clad cultural representatives; warm towels are offered to refresh and relax; a memorable meal awaits.
With its low lighting, well-spaced seating areas, relative quiet, and knowledgeable, attentive service, Jiko is an excellent choice for a special-occasion dinner. The Cape Town Wine Room is available for private parties and open to diners during busy times.
Review: I find myself returning to Jiko again and again, for the beauty of the space and the pleasure of the food. I’m still trying to figure out how to get my own flock of birds, the most beautiful lighting installation in all of Walt Disney World, for a high-ceilinged room in my house. A tradition of imaginative cuisine and award-winning excellence has earned this restaurant the AAA Four Diamond rating and I always look forward to dining here.
Although the entrees are simply wonderful, a selection of several of the phenomenal appetizers can stand alone as a delightful meal. If last-minute reservations are not available, arrive early and snag seats at the bar where you’ll enjoy an up-close view of all the activity and the possibility of “samples” from the chefs.
Dinner at Jiko is part of the Wanyama Safari, a special experience available to guests of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and gives diners the opportunity to savor a great variety of dishes from the menu.
For those staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge with a hankering for the oak-grilled filet but a plan to stay in and enjoy the animals from their balcony, most items on the Jiko menu can be ordered through room service.
Jiko – The Cooking Place
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.