Jiko Disney Dining Review
Jiko is a Signature Restaurant at Walt Disney World, located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Jiko – The Cooking Place (its full name…I don’t know anyone who actually calls it that) participates in the Disney Dining Plan, requiring 2 credits, and also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Because it requires two credits, it’s not one of the top values for table service dining on the Disney Dining Plan. Jiko is just about the height of fine dining at Walt Disney World, ranking in our Top 10 Table Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World. It features an inventive menu of African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine. It also features a wine list that Disney regularly advertises as the most extensive selections of South African wines in North America. Cool, I guess, but I’m not sure how difficult it would be to have the most extensive selection of South African wines outside of South Africa. Regardless, Jiko is an incredible restaurant all around.
As “evidence” of its quality, here are some names to consider: Samantha Brown. Snookie. The Brickers. Three A-list celebrity names who all ate at Jiko in the same week, per a host at Jiko when we dined there. Okay, so maybe the Brickers aren’t quite as famous as the other two, and maybe I did throw up in my mouth a little when I referenced Snookie as an A-List celebrity, but Samantha Brown is certainly cool!
Despite not actually being celebrities, we certainly received the celebrity treatment at Jiko. Our hostess seated us in a large booth, which is my preference as it is more intimate and apart from other guests, in what I is known amongst Cast Members as the “sun room” because the colors on the wall change. As you can tell from the photos here, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the lobby of the restaurant (and bar area) were decked out for Christmas, and they both certainly looked gorgeous.
Once in the restaurant, the Christmas season wasn’t as noticeable, but the ambiance was still impeccable, with appropriate lighting and properly spaced tables for a Signature Walt Disney World restaurant. The place looked like Mufasa and Rafiki would appear at any moment, with the latter holding up Simba. Yeah, I know I’m immature, but for whatever reason I associated this fine dining establishment with the animated classic, The Lion King.
Shortly after we ordered drinks, our server brought out each of us Creamy Spring Onion Soup compliments of the chef. Rich and creamy with some exquisite cheese, this soup was delicious!
As we perused the menu, I debated getting an appetizer. I was a little reluctant to do so, as my meal was already going to be expensive, and I didn’t think anyone else was ordering one. At the last minute, I decided to do it, realizing we probably wouldn’t be back to Jiko for a while.
I wanted to get something more adventurous, as we were at a unique dining location and I didn’t just want to opt for the “American tourist picks,” but I think I ended up doing just that. I ordered the Barbecue Chicken flatbread as an appetizer and the Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon with mac ‘n’ cheese (which apparently no longer comes with mac ‘n’ cheese, but the server said they could do it anyway) for my entree. Our server recommended both, so I didn’t feel so bad about not being adventurous.
The flatbread was excellent, with quite a unique flavor compared to a flatbread at, say, California Grill. I couldn’t put my finger on whether it was the African BBQ sauce or the cheeses, but the flatbread ingredients just “worked” well.
Sarah, admittedly, didn’t make as good of picks. Not to say her picks were bad, but in this case, mine were just better. She opted for some selections of bread called the “Taste of Africa” as her appetizer (once I became the appetizer “trend setter,” everyone else also got one). Unlike the wonderfully unique breads at Sanaa with their addicting sauces, these breads were merely garden variety bread. Nothing terrible, but also not something you’d expect from a top tier restaurant.
For her entree, Sarah ordered the Grilled-marinated Lamb Loin. I thought her lamb was good, with a brilliant Apple Cider Reduction that really gave it a unique flavor unlike the typical gamey flavor you find in some lamb dishes (nothing against this normal flavor, I just want to point out that this was a fair departure). The lamb was tender, well-cooked, and the sides were good as well.
However, once Sarah tasted my filet, her lamb paled in comparison. I was shocked that the filet was so good. Cooked to perfection, with an amazing red wine reduction, the filet was perfect. Somehow, as surprising as this may sound, the mac ‘n’ cheese was the perfect compliment to the filet. I can understand why it was taken off the menu, as it doesn’t sound like it belongs in such an upscale restaurant, but it really does. At the time, it was the best cut of meat I had ever had on Disney property, but that crown was later taken by the filet at Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland. Still, the best Walt Disney World steak is a title that’s not too shabby. No wonder Jiko is the highest rated signature restaurant on property. Given its reputation for being more of a unique restaurant, I was surprised it dominated the category of “traditional cuisine” (although the preparation of the filet was clearly African-inspired).
We were told that the candy-cane cheesecake was pretty popular and since it was the Christmas season, we were feeling festive and gave it a whirl. The candy-cane cheesecake was actually candy-cane AND eggnog cheesecake, which seemed somewhat more questionable. Sarah and I split an order of it anyway. It was okay, tasting exactly like I imagined a melding of candy-cane and eggnog would. Interesting combination and not something I’d necessarily recommend, but it was a nice festive treat. The other desserts on the menu looked and sounded delicious, so I think that lowering Jiko’s score on account of this one dessert, an apparent anomaly, would be inappropriate.
Overall, an excellent, excellent meal. I would rate it higher than California Grill (although not in ambiance) and Club 33, but lower than Victoria & Albert’s and Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Hotel in Disneyland, giving it a respectable second place out of all Walt Disney World dining establishments, and third place out of all domestic Disney restaurants! The Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon is definitely the item I’d recommend ordering here, even if it may not be so adventurous. I’d even recommend being one of “those guys” and trying to order off-menu to have the mac ‘n’ cheese accompany the filet. It may not be even an off-menu option any longer, but it’s worth checking. To satisfy the need to be adventurous, check out the many excellent appetizers offered at Jiko!
Do you agree that Jiko – The Cooking Place is one of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World, or do you think it’s overrated? If you’ve tried any of their wines, which do you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments!
To read other Walt Disney World restaurant reviews, organized by location, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.
Definitely my current favorite at WDW – and I agree with you about the steak! Amazing. We are going back to Jiko at Spring Break. Can’t wait!
I agree jikos is awesome. I had the wild boar bc I’m a very picky eater usually but am learning to try different things and for me it doesn’t get any different. To my pleasure it was good then I had the filet your right awesome choice.
We eat there two times last week, and it was really perfect.
A lot of very good South African wines (especially Chardonnay from Stellenbosch). The filet mignon with the african mac and cheese : yummy! Great services too : the second time, we seat in the private room, it was very nice.
After a long day in the parks, it was so great to enjoy good food, great services and quiet dinner : it was our first time in WDW, and we found that all restaurants was quite noisy !
The worst experience was in Disney Springs, at T-REX : the place is impressive, and our son was very happy, but people was talking so loud lol – maybe to compete with the sound effects of the Dino.
So Go for Jiko !
Sebastien, Lyon (France)
Oh noooo! Photobucket vandalized your post.
I came for the pics T.T
Same for me 🙁
Just booked an ADR tonight to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary during our late November/early December trip. Can’t wait!!! Anything that you all consider to be a *must do* on the current menu?
Mmmm….we stay at AKL in October…had one night left to book a restaurant and your review Tom clinched it. Great review and can’t wait to dine there now.
Really looking forward to our trip now you’ve whet our appetites!
Also think the Filet Mignon is going to be my pick now 🙂
(I will leave out the Mac’n’cheese though)!
Always eat there when I visit with friends, we always get the RIP (different meaning in Africa) wine goes great with the filet.
I hope it’s improved since I was there 6 years ago.
Maybe it was because we were the first guests of the night but our experience there was way less than stellar.
The service was very sub par as was the food.
All in all, next to Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge (which was horrible) Jiko was the worst meal we ate in WDW.
Our meal at Sci Fi Drive in was worlds better than Jiko was.
What was really surprising was that it was our Anniversary and we had ordered dessert which was very good and then they brought us another one of the exact same dessert for our anniversary. We had already eaten one and they brought us another same dessert. In what restaurant world does that make sense?
Based on your positive experience I’ll give them another try when we go again.
My favorite review so far! I’ve been waiting for this one since December! Please see me after class about corrections to the review though. 😉
Uh oh…what did I get wrong? I’m assuming you ordered one of the things I said my parents ordered?
I absolutely adore Jiko. I’ve been there twice, and each time went out on a limb and got their “unusual cut of meat” appetizer. First time it was ostrich, and when I went (probably less than a week after you did) it was wild boar. Both were phenomenal. I know exactly what you mean, about trying to get things you cannot get anywhere else. That’s what I think Jiko is great for.
Shame you didn’t get the Sanaa level of breads and dips. The chili sambal is to die for, and your tongue probably will if you eat too much!
I’m pretty sure one of my parents ordered the wild boar, and said it was pretty good. I don’t remember for certain now. I definitely want to try something more unique next time we go, and I want to try one of their delicious selections of African wine, too (although I didn’t mention this in the review, for those reading the comments, Jiko is known for its outstanding selection of African wines–I believe it has the most comprehensive selection in North America!).
They are quite good! I also recommend the Savanah Dry Hard Cider. I know you’re a beer fan, which I’m not, but living in New England (and frequent trips to EPCOT) have widened my eyes to hard cider. A lot of people don’t like the Woodchucks of the world because they are too sweet, but Savanah Dry is just the opposite, but still quite good.
Also, did you spot the Hidden Mickey on the ceiling? It’s a rather large one to miss!
Thanks for the reminder of some of my favorite WDW memories. Not only have I stayed at AKL my last two visits but Jiko was my go to dining experience both times. Sadly, this December when I visit neither are part of the plan, but not to worry. As amazing as this pair is, I have new places and food to explore. And thanks to you, I will be more ready than ever ( I already have a wishlist on B&H Photo that almost rivals the cost of the trip, fish eye and 30mm 1.4 on the top,thanks for the buying tips). Keep up the amazing work, if you can even call it that 🙂
You’ll love those lenses–hope you’re able to make the purchases before your next trip!!!
The filet does indeed still come with the mac ‘n’ cheese if you ask for it (at least this was the case this past May). I wasn’t as impressed with my filet but I think it was undercooked (I asked for medium and it was quite rare). I’m sure I could have sent it back to the kitchen but by the time I realized the mistake I was full from my meal anyway. I ordered that flatbread as well and it was amazing (wasn’t there some sort of appleslaw on it!?!). We celebrated our anniversary and to be honest I felt like celebrity b/c of how great we were treated. Even with the so-so filet we will be going back here soon!
This past May being May 2011? That’s really good to hear! From what we were told, the mac ‘n’ cheese had been removed from the menu in late November 2010, so we wondered if they just still had some “lying around” that they could prepare for us. If they’re still serving it, that’s probably (hopefully) not the case, but instead, it’s a bona fide “off menu” menu item!
We were probably there around the same time. We ate at Jiko around December 2, 2010 during our stay at the AKL and had seen Sam Brown somewhere else in the parks (but no Snookie – “What’s a Snookie?”).
Agree about that Peppermint Eggnog dessert. I got the same thing and it was just bit off the mark. Good, but too much of the peppermint or something. Creative and fun if nothing else.
Yep, we were there right around the same time as you! I wish we would have seen Samantha Brown somewhere. She is AWESOME.
I can’t tell if you’re: A) quoting South Park, or B) really don’t know who Snookie is. In either case, you’re a smart man!
Awesome review. My wife and I ate there on our Anniversary back in December 2006. In fact we apparently had a few of the same dining experiences (no V&A for us though). Out of all the restaurants we ate at, Jiko was by far our favorite. Sadly, I don’t remember what I had, but my wife and I both still agree we loved the flatbread her Beef ribs were some of the best we’ve ever had anywhere. Now we sat at the bar overlooking the chefs area, and if you’re interested in seeing how things are done, it can be very interesting and fun to do. Not quite as romantic, but almost as good as Dinner and a Show.
Anyways, just had to give my kudos to Jiko as a phenomenal restaurant.
-Lou of the WDW-Memories podcast
So good to hear your review. I was uploading pictures the other day from our trip to Jiko and decided that I would do them a favor and not share our experience. It wasn’t Jiko’s fault, I was tired and cranky, we ate way to late at night for me. I look forward to giving them another try when I’m in a better mood.
Next time, I recommend watching The Lion King right before going to Jiko. It will get you in the PERFECT mood for that restaurant. Just make sure not to starting singing “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” inside the restaurant!!! 😉
Or see the lion king show that day like we will