Restaurant: Jiko – The Cooking Place
Where: Animal Kingdom Lodge
Meal: Dinner
When: Monday, May 30, 2005
Who: DH and I
Dress: Smart Casual

I’ve been hearing rave reviews about this place. So like Chef Mickey’s, I decided to secure a PS and check it out! We tried Boma back in 2001 and enjoyed it. Jiko’s African wine list was also a big deciding factor.

We don’t usually imbibe in wines from Africa, so this was a great opportunity for us. After perusing the wine list, I noticed something. Something called Pinotage, a red wine varietal. It’s a native grape to South Africa. The wine is not a blend (like Chianti, Bourdeaux, etc.). There were about 5 offerings under this group, so we tried two of them after receiving suggestions from our knowledgeable server. DH and I each picked a different Pinotage. The best way I can describe them is mine was more dry than his. Both went excellent with our entrée. We would have ordered more of the wines, but we usually put ourselves on a limit of 1 drink per person per meal. We’re not really big drinkers, but do enjoy wine.

Since we wanted to try a variety of the food offerings, we split the appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert portions between the two of us.

We ordered the following as our appetizer:
Taste of Africa - Kalamata Olive Hummus, Malayan Spinach-Lentil dip, and Moroccan Chermoula, with Lentil Papadam, whole wheat lavosh, and flaxseed Naan bread
BREAD! BREAD! BREAD WITH DIPS!! I never met a carbohydrate I didn’t love. These were no exception. The hummus was awesome, and I’ve had some really good hummus before…very good. The Moroccan Chermoula was a blend of garlic (yum!), red pepper, and something both DH and I liked. Our least favorite, but still good, was the Spinach-Lentil Dip. The three breads were: one was like a puffy/thick pita served warm, one was cracker like, and the third I forget. I just know we had no problems inhaling it all down like ravenous wolves.

Our salad was:
Earthbound Farm Organic Field Greens - with buttermilk-carrot dressing
The dressing was quite good, but it was still a salad. Nothing worth getting wowed over, but just a way to make sure we get some fresh greens into our meal. DH could have probably done without the greens interfering with his meal. Typical Y chromosome…

Between our salad and entrée we got served the house bread to accompany our entrée. Oh my God, this was awesome. The bread was a caraway(?) seed bread served with a tandoori butter. Excellent! And I typically don’t do anything that remotely sounds like Indian, but this butter was great! Our server brought us some more, but we couldn’t finish it. He wrapped it up for us to take it back to our room to snack on later.

We did not order the signature dish. I can’t remember which one it was. We did, however, order one of their most popular entrees:
Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon - with macaroni and cheese and red wine sauce
This was a wonderful and flavorful cut of beef. Mmmm…excellent…(hold on I’m savoring the memory here) Okay, I’m back. I so do love a good filet cooked medium. The filet was served over macaroni and cheese. Okay, let me stop you right there. This was NOT your typical WDW macaroni cheese. I have no idea what cheese they used, probably something African influenced. It was awesome. Rounding out the entrée was a red wine reduction. Now immediately you may not think these 3 things go together, BUT THEY DO…AND VERY WELL! I highly recommend this dish.

Onto dessert! Wait, do we have room for dessert? NO MATTER! We’re off to explore and adventure! Marching along we’re adventurous Oops, wrong venue.
We ordered the following for dessert:
"Expedition Everest" Sundae - caramelized banana "split" with three ice creams - vanilla, amarula and chocolate, with chocolate-amarula sauce, roasted peanuts, whipped cream peaks and chocolate wisps
I think DH enjoyed this more than I did, but it was still pretty good. There was a crème brulee on the menu, but I had one the night before…so…
Amarula in case you are wondering, I know I was, is an African Cream Liqueur made from the marula tree. I don’t remember it having a strong flavor, but different than the vanilla. Both were white-ish ice creams.

Overall, we loved this place. The atmosphere is dark like the rest of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and truly fits into the theme of that resort. Some seats are near where you can watch the food get prepared, but we were on the opposite side of the dining room. Excellent food! Excellent wine! Excellent Service! It is so nice to have a server who is attentive, but not overbearing. A server who really knows the menu and the wines and can pair them up and make suggestions is worth an excellent tip! We will definitely return here, and it comes highly recommended.

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