This is the fourth post in the Weekend Getaway to Orlando series. Other posts include Eating Around the World at Epcot World Showcase, L'Artisan des Glaces (Epcot Center), and Via Napoli. This post is also the part of the #21PostsInMay Challenge.
Despite the fact that there are a handful of excellent restaurants inside the parks at Disney World, many of the better restaurants are actually located right outside the parks, often inside various resorts or hotels.
One of my favorite upscale meals we had was at an African-inspired restaurant called Jiko, which translates to "stove" in Swahili. Jiko is located right inside Animal Kingdom Lodge and is easily accessible via a shuttle from the Animal Kingdom.
The African-themed restaurant's decor is inspired by the movie The Lion King and includes lamps that look like flying birds, lighting that slowly changes colors to mimic a vibrant African sunset, and tall grass designs on the walls.
Some of the workers in the restaurant are from Africa, spending a year in the U.S. as part of a cultural exchange program. Guests are encouraged to ask them questions about their own country.
Jiko boasts the largest collection of South African wines in the country. It's rare to see a lot of South African wines at any restaurant, so it was a treat to be able to choose from so many. They have a ton of options by the glass as well, if you feel like trying more than one type of wine. We ended up getting a bottle of the 2006 De Trafford Elevation “393”, a blended wine from the eastern slopes of the Helderberg mountain consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz.
I love trying different sauces, so I was immediately drawn to the Taste Of Africa ($9), a collection of African inspired dips served with three types of bread: pappadam, whole wheat lavosh, and house-made naan.
The red sauce was very spicy, bold, and sweet from the addition of tamarind. Despite the fact that it had coconut milk (and Bryan really dislikes coconut milk in general), Bryan really enjoyed the red sauce. The green sauce was fragrant and herbaceous, reminding me of a cilantro based sauce I'd had at an Afghan restaurant in Cambridge.
All of the dips were delicious, and there's something just so fun about dipping all the fun breads into the various sauces.
The server highly recommended the Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin ($16), which was an excellent suggestion. The boar was exquisitely cooked - a gorgeous piece of tenderloin that was still medium rare on the inside. I loved the spices in which it was marinated, full of garam masala and garlic oil. The tenderloin was served with mealie pap, an African porridge made from ground maize; chakalaka, a tomato based spicy relish; drizzled with just a bit of white truffle oil; and topped with micro cilantro.
This was probably my favorite dish of the night.
I ordered the Maize-crusted Corvina ($38), which came seasonal vegetables and a tomato-butter sauce. Our server said, "this has been on the menu since the very beginning. I highly recommend it!" Our server told us he'd been with the restaurant since it opened 14 years ago. I guess he has some authority to comment on this!
Unfortunately, the fish was a bit dry, and thus it was hard to finish the whole (pretty generously portioned) fish. Thankfully, the seasonal vegetables were fun, and I got to try Romanesco broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, broccoli, spinach, sunchokes, and carrots. The vegetables were tasty and the tomato butter sauce was quite nice as well.
Bryan got the Braised Beef Short Rib ($39). a very traditional Botswana-style dish served with truffled potato puree, pearl onions, and baby carrots in a Cabernet-tamarind sauce.
According to our server, the authentic and traditional African way of eating this dish is to break up the fork-tender short ribs and mix it all together with sweet & spicy sauce. Ha ha, I bet in Africa the fork is optional, but Bryan hates getting his hands dirty, so I'm sure this way is preferable.
The short ribs were gorgeously tender and the sauce was slightly sweet. It was a very good dish.
For dessert, we have the Malva Pudding, a spongy, warm cake topped with creme Anglaise and sweetened cherries. I loved the dense, soaked cake, which soaked up the cream and ice cream beautifully.
Finally, at the end of the night, we each got a Tanzanian chocolate cookie as a final bite.
We really enjoyed our dinner at Jiko. Yes, it was a bit out of the way to get there, since we had to take an extra shuttle ride from the Animal Kingdom to the lodge. However, it was worth it. Service was excellent, the decor is really nice, and the food was really, really good overall. I still think about that wild boar tenderloin - it was so good. Aside from the fish, which was only OK, everything else was executed really, really well. On top of all that, the South African wine collection is unparalleled and it's a unique opportunity to taste wines that are generally hard to find in the U.S.
I would not hesitate to come back if I were at Disney World again.
Jiko The Cooking Place
Animal Kingdom Lodge