Why We Can’t Get Enough of Jiko, One of Disney World’s Best Signature Dining Experiences

by | Apr 16, 2024 | Walt Disney World Food, Walt Disney World Resorts, WDW Blog

Jiko – The Cooking Place is one of our must-visit restaurants at Walt Disney World. Below, we’re sharing why we always return to this Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant for an unmatched Signature Dining Experience.

Since 2016, I have regularly authored the restaurant reviews featured in the print and digital editions of WDW Magazine. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to dine at nearly every single restaurant, snack stand, and festival booth that Walt Disney World has to offer. From the standard quick-service meals to the viral festival snacks to the heights of Disney fine dining I have eaten it all – so when I tell you that Jiko – The Cooking Place is both consistently delicious and regularly overlooked, I hope you’ll believe me.

You’ll find Jiko on the lower level of Jambo house at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Hotel. You do not need to be a resort guest to dine at this Signature Dining Experience – plus, a to visit Animal Kingdom Lodge to enjoy its vibrant African art collection, lively savanna, and other top-notch dining options is well worth your time if you’re looking for a break from the theme parks. 

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, my wife and I were invited to a hosted dinner at Jiko. While this particular meal was complimentary, I have gladly booked and paid for meals at Jiko myself. It really is one of my top picks for a memorable meal at Walt Disney World. The cuisine at Jiko is African-inspired and features tempting flatbreads, hearty wood-grilled entrees, decadent desserts and a remarkable wine selection offering the largest collection of South African wines you can find in the U.S. 

Jiko Offers Fine Dining Without the Fuss

Jiko Muhula Palate Cleanser

Photo by Danny Shuster

Jiko is classified as a Signature Dining Experience; as such, you will want to make a reservation in advance. This also means there’s also a dress code to be aware of. The guidance from Disney reads: guests are expected to dress accordingly in attire that respects the restaurant’s sophisticated and upscale aesthetic. Clothing should be clean, neat and in good condition. Please no swimwear.

However, do not be deterred by the dress code or the Signature Dining label – the food at Jiko is excellent, but still approachable. While the ambiance and dress is more refined than the average sit-down meal at Disney World, you certainly don’t need to be in formal attire. The caliber of the food and service is at a signature level, but the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

Which Disney World guests is Jiko best suited for? If you have adventurous eaters, it’s an exciting option for the whole family, if you’re looking for a restaurant to celebrate a milestone event or a culinary-minded date-night, Jiko is an excellent choice for you. However, for those dining with picky eaters or who need a more kid-friendly environment, Jiko likely isn’t the best fit.

A Must-Visit for Wine Enthusiasts

Jiko at Disney World, Lady May Wine in a glass

Photo by Danny Shuster

If you’re interested in wine, especially South African wines, Jiko is a must-visit for you. The wine list is extensive, but the staff are extremely knowledgeable. Talk to your server about what you like and dislike, and what you’re thinking about ordering, and they will help you navigate the list.

Based on my planned entree, the server guided me to the Glenelly Lady May 2017. This red is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a tiny blend of Merlot, and Petit Verdot to add complexity. This full-bodied red was fruit forward and jammy with a silky, luxurious finish and very light tannins. It went toe-to-toe with the strong grilled flavors of my Filet and was a delightful pairing with the luxurious chocolate dessert. 

Jiko Offers a Flavorful, Unforgettable Meal

Our meal began with the charmingly presented Giraffe Bread. This is a play on a Dutch Crunch bread, the way the outer crust crackles and browns during baking reminded the chef of the unique pattern of the reticulated Giraffe. The bread is warm and fluffy on the inside with a crunchy exterior. Paired with a Baobab butter, infused with fruit from the Baobab tree, it had a slight citrus note and tangy finish. 

Jiko at Disney World, salad

The Jiko Salad. Photo by Danny Shuster

Next up was a series of appetizers showcasing African flavors. The plant-based Jiko Salad (Gem Lettuce, Quinoa, Radish, Petite Vegetables, Market Fruit, Pomegranate, Tangy Cashew Cream, Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette) was light and crisp. According to the chef, most traditional African salads are grain-based, with lots of vegetables, and often omit traditional lettuce greens. The gem lettuce is a welcome addition at Jiko; it makes the salad more familiar to diners but also adds a vibrant crunch to this beautifully plated starter.

In quick succession we also enjoyed the Duck Confit and Honey-Raisin Flatbread (featuring Preserved Duck, Rocket, Toasted Chickpeas, Mozzarella, Plump Raisins, Harissa and Spiced Honey). North and Western Africa have historical French influences and this dish pulls in culinary technique and ingredients common in French Cuisine but with a distinct African flair. As well as the Braaied Wild Boar Tenderloin Creamy Pap, Tomato Chakalaka, Herb-smoked Oil. Braai is a wood-fired African grill and imparts a distinct smoke flavor to the meat. The boar is tender and moist and served atop a luscious, smooth pap base. The herb oil was intensely flavored and brought a hearty and filling quality to the whole dish. 

A seasonal intermezzo arrived next, during our meal it was a pineapple, mango, and coconut sorbet beautifully garnished with an edible flower. Clean, bright, and lightly sweetened, this mouthful was a perfect palate cleanse before the entrees arrived.

My wife selected the Ethiopian-Style Chicken (which is not currently offered on the menu at this time). Expertly cooked, the chicken featured a spiced, but not fiery, peri-peri sauce. The side of Doro Wat-braised Collards was the most unique part of this plate; the tender greens were rolled around a filling of Mealie Bread stuffing into a sort of dumpling that tasted comforting and wholesome. A variation of this dish is currently on the menu with the same flavorful per-peri sauce, but diners should expect different sides and garnishes. 

Jiko Oak Grilled Filet Mignon

A look at the Oak-grilled Filet Mignon. Photo by Danny Shuster

My entree was Oak-grilled Filet Mignon, served with four-cheese macaroni, seasonal vegetables, and a chocolate-red wine demi-glace. This is one of the most popular dishes at Jiko, and for good reason. Cooked to your liking on the Braai (that’s the oak-fired grill at the heart of the kitchen), the chocolate-infused red wine reduction adds layers of flavor to this hearty plate. There’s a sweet stickiness from the wine that is punctuated with warm cocoa flavors and hints of baking spices. This is a strong sauce that needs to hold up against the prominent oak-flame profile of the steak, and I think it does the job quite well.

The side of macaroni and cheese paired with the filet is sinfully good, as creamy and ooey-gooey as you could imagine. The macaroni is also available as a side accompaniment to any entree, and if you’re looking for a cheesy indulgence, you won’t be disappointed.

Jiko Potjie Chocolate Pot

The Potjie Pot dessert. Photo by Danny Shuster

With barely any room to spare, our gorgeous desserts arrived at the table. We enjoyed the Potjie Pot (Chocolate Custard, Lemon-Olive Oil Cake, Whipped Caramel, Cocoa Nib Crunch, and Cherries).  This dish is almost too pretty to cut into… but also too delicious not to. The chocolate custard is simply divine, smooth and light with a powerful chocolate punch. Chocoholics will not be disappointed. The cake is very moist and has a soft crumb texture. It’s pleasant on its own, yet pretty mild overall and does get lost to the chocolate custard. The crunchy garnish and tart cherries bring the dish together adding an exciting textural element and a pleasing counterpoint to the custard. 

Experience Jiko at Disney World During Your Next Visit

If you’re looking for a memorable meal, to broaden your culinary horizons, or some of the finest wines on Disney World property, I urge you to make a reservation at Jiko. Take the time to carve a few hours out of your itinerary to explore the art and culture of Animal Kingdom Lodge, gaze at the natural wonders of the savanna, and then settle in for a signature meal you won’t soon forget.

Thank you to Disney for inviting us to the Disney Youth Sports & Great Outdoors Media Event where we were able to experience amenities and recreation activities around Walt Disney World Resort, including dinner at Jiko.

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Posts by Danny Shuster

With a forward-thinking approach to business, an expert knowledge of Disney parks, and a knack for creative strategy, I create monthly magic for Disney fans all over the world. As Creative Director and Owner of WDW Magazine, I set the tone for how our products look, feel, and sound. I work closely with the editorial, sales, and communications teams to ensure a cohesive creative vision across our portfolio.

Authored by
Danny Shuster

With a forward-thinking approach to business, an expert knowledge of Disney parks, and a knack for creative strategy, I create monthly magic for Disney fans all over the world. As Creative Director and Owner of WDW Magazine, I set the tone for how our products look, feel, and sound. I work closely with the editorial, sales, and communications teams to ensure a cohesive creative vision across our portfolio.
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