Savor the Magic with Dinner at Animal Kingdom Lodge's Jiko

by Donna Fesel, contributing writer
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One of my very favorite Walt Disney World resorts is Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is hard to beat the food at the resort's three sit-down restaurants (Sanaa, Jiko, and Boma); hard to beat the fantastic feature swimming pools; hard to beat the fantastic gift shop that is full of unique global finds; hard to surpass the soaring lobby at Jambo House or its welcoming fire pit area; and hardest of all to beat the wonderful savannas full of incredible wildlife for your viewing pleasure. Typically though, when we visit WDW, we don't stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, simply because we'd rather be at one of the WDW Resorts that is an easier commute to Disney's Magic Kingdom or Epcot. On every trip to WDW though, regardless of where we are staying, we always save at least one evening to enjoy the beauty of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and its wonderful food offerings.

On our most recent trip to WDW, we found ourselves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge's Signature Restaurant, Jiko. Located in Jambo House (as opposed to Kidani Village, the adjacent Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort), Jiko matches stunning, warm surroundings with top notch African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine. Full of décor with beautiful natural wood, eye-catching accents that bring the outdoors in, and anchored around two wood burning ovens that light the place in the golds, reds, and oranges of an African sunset, Jiko is a real respite after a busy day at the WDW theme parks. One of the focal points of Jiko is the open kitchen. You can be seated right at the counter, or wander by, to watch the talented Jiko chefs work their magic.


The stunning metal bird wall decor at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.


The warm wood pillars that are part of the decor at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.


One of the wood-burning ovens that bathe the room in light at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Phoro by Donna Fesel.


The open kitchen at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.


The wine display at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.

Upon being seated, and receiving the delicious complimentary wheat bread and butter, I ordered an African wine flight from the terrific wine list. My selection (called Ziara) included a terrific South African Chenin Blanc (a semi-dry white) and a South African Pinotage (a warm, medium-bodied red). The wines were delicious, and set me in the right mood to enjoy a delicious and relaxing evening.


Complimentary bread at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.


The Ziara wine flight at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kindgom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.

First up? The appetizers. My son, charcuterie and cheese board lover, ordered one of each (under the guise that one was his entrée). The charcuterie featured a rabbit salami, a tasty ham, and an elk sausage, and the cheese plate featured delicious house made accompaniments paired with each cheese variety. I am an enormous fan of the Taste of Africa bread service which we enjoyed as well, featuring my favorite crackly bread poppadum, and my favorite chewy bread, naan, as well as accompaniments from savory to spicy to sweet to swirl the bread in. To me, this is the perfect way to begin a meal. Sanaa, at Kidani Village, has a similar bread service with even more breads and accompaniments; I highly recommend that as well.


The charcuterie at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.


The Taste of Africa breads and dips at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.


The cheese board at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.

Next, we ordered the Zaatar beet salad with granola, Asian pear, and arugula for my husband's entrée. He proclaimed it fabulous and full of flavor. I ordered the Botswana style beef short rib, which was filling and full of flavor. After dinner, we lingered a bit to enjoy the atmosphere at Jiko.


The Zaatar beet salad at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.


The Botswana style beef short rib at Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo by Donna Fesel.

After bidding our server goodbye, we headed out behind Jambo House to enjoy the animals on the savanna. It was a beautiful clear evening, and some cast members were still on duty to answer our savanna-related questions. We lingered a bit enjoying the zebras and giraffe, and stopped to rock a bit in the wood rocking chairs by the outdoor fire pit.

Next, we went inside to check out the fantastic gift shop and browsed the global souvenirs, including a really neat selection of musical instruments. We picked up another small wooden giraffe statue to add to our collection at home. We lingered a bit longer to enjoy the stunning Jambo House lobby, and headed out into the night full and happy.

Jiko is two sit down meals on the Disney Dining Plan, and as a Signature Restaurant requests that you adhere to a dress code (no tank tops, swimsuits, cover-ups, cut-offs, hats for men, or torn clothing). Dinner is the only meal served. There is a 10% discount for Annual Passholders, and 20% discount for Tables in Wonderland (Disney's Discount Dining Program for Florida Residents, Annual Passholders and members of Disney's timeshare program, Disney Vacation Club).

Stop by Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge to check it out if you haven't, and by all means check out the fantastic food and gracious service at Jiko. If you are not especially adventurous with food, don't be nervous. Jiko is a great opportunity to try something new, or give a new spice a go, but they also serve familiar favorites like filets, flatbreads, scallops, or macaroni and cheese that are amazing too. Have you been to Jiko? I'd love to hear your review in the comments below.