Restaurant Review: Jiko – The Cooking Place

Several years ago we went to Victoria and Albert’s at Disney World for our anniversary. It had been hyped to be one of the greatest meals ever. Not even close. It wasn’t even our greatest meal in Disney World. It was very expensive and very pretentious. So, I take a skeptical approach to all things Disney dining, especially when it promises to be “special”. Generally that only means expensive. Jiko, however, is head and shoulders above any other theme park dining venue I have encountered to date.I wanted my post-half-marathon dinner to be great, but did not want to drive, so that left us on Disney property. After a bus to Downtown Disney and another bus (with a driver that acted like a three year old) to Animal Kingdom Lodge, we arrived at Jiko for our 8:40PM reservation nearly twenty minutes late (note bad bus driver). We waited a few minutes and were shown to our table, all the while, the host was explaining  to us the meaning of “The Cooking Place”. All I heard was “the walls change color to mimic the sunset”, which I thought was extremely cool. Please keep in mind that I woke up at 1AM to run a 13.1 mile race, so I was not entirely coherent.

We ordered a couple of glasses of bubbly to start the celebration and then moved on to the extensive, all South African wine list. Up until this point I had only met one South African wine that I have ever liked. It was from Sadie Family, and they had it on the list at $150, so I thought I would explore other options. I asked our waiter if I could taste two of the wines they had by the glass before we committed to a bottle, which he gladly obliged. I picked the Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block, on the list for $67. It was a lovely syrah blend with a  bit of viognier, so of course I liked it.

The menu was very interesting, and well rounded. It starts with flat breads (a steak, chicken and olive/cheese choice), and includes appetizers, salads and entrees. While pricey – the filet mignon tops the list at $41 – the food is very good. Particularly interesting is the Taste of Africa selection of four dips served with traditional breads.

We had ordered the vegetarian entree, which sounded quite yummy, only to learn  they were out of it. By the time we had indulged in our appetizers, we decided we did not need more food, so just enjoyed the rest of our wine. We will be going back next month, so more on the entrees then.

If you are at Disney World and want a truly exceptional meal, give Jiko a try. It is a great dining experience in the land of “quick-service dining” (which I hardly think you can call dining, but that is another story).

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