Jiko Offers One of Disney World's Best Dining Experiences

Jiko Offers One of Disney World’s Best Dining Experiences

Fans of upscale dining have many excellent choices when visiting Walt Disney World. Restaurants like Victoria & Albert’s, Monsieur Paul, and Narcoossee’s receive lots of publicity, but there’s a hidden gem everyone should know about, as well. Jiko — The Cooking Place is a favorite of my family, thanks to its beautiful decor and delicious food. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve enjoyed a Disney dining experience more. Well, maybe Palo Steakhouse’s private dining room, but it’s very close.

Jiko’s dining room

The first thing you’ll notice when entering Jiko is its color palette. The rich blue ceiling, meant to conjure a twilight sky, complements the warm rich colors found throughout the dining room. The back wall’s lighting will change while you eat, emulating the sun setting over the savanna. Abstract birds hang from the ceiling, seemingly flying toward that sunset.

Jiko dining room
Jiko bird lights

Gold rings wrap several tiled pillars. The rings are an homage to those worn by women in the Ndebele tribe of Africa. The rings are a sign of prosperity. You’ll notice how no two sets are alike.

Pillar inside Jiko

We noticed an acoustical anomaly with the “sunset” wall. While we couldn’t hear the guests seated at the corner table, we could hear their server. The curved wall amplified her voice and made it sound as if she was talking to us, even though we were seated at least 25 feet away. It was a very cool unintended effect.

Sunset wall in Jiko

There are several table options, including a variety of booths, bench seats, and smaller 2-tops for more intimate dining. You can also request a seat in the show kitchen, where chefs prepare food and bake bread. The kitchen’s wood-burning ovens resemble two large gourds. Be sure to look up to see a hidden Mickey.

Jiko kitchen
Jiko table and kitchen
Table in Jiko
Table in Jiko

Wine racks resembling barren trees are set behind glass. Jiko specializes in South African wines, but we didn’t partake, so I can’t speak intelligently about any of it. The displays were eye-catching, however.

Jiko wine racks
Jiko kitchen and wine racks

The Jiko menu

Jiko menu

Jiko serves traditional African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine. The food has some unique flavors, although I wouldn’t categorize anything as adventurous. It’s very accessible to most palettes. Here is the current menu.

Bread service

Animal Kingdom Lodge has the market cornered on bread service. I’ve had Sanaa’s version many, many times (naan, kulcha, and paratha with several accompaniments). It’s ridiculously good. But Jiko’s offering is enjoyable in a different way. It includes Egyptian bread, “Giraffe” bread, and butter with black sea salt. Served at room temperature, both varieties were a hit at our table. The salt was the star, but the breads were excellent, as well.

Jiko's bread service

Diver Scallop and Moroccan Snails

Seared Scallop with Confit Snails, Butternut Nhopi, Fennel Slaw, Fragrant Broth

The diver scallop was a work of art. I enjoyed my bite immensely. I did not try the Moroccan snails included in the dish — it’s a texture thing with me. But those who ate them raved about the flavor.

Jiko diver scallop

Jiko Salad

Gem Lettuce, Quinoa, Radish, Petite Vegetables, Market Fruit, Pomegranate, Tangy Cashew Cream, Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette (Plant-based)

This salad was light and delicious. My wife loves a great ginger dressing, and she was all in on this version. It was the perfect appetizer before the steaks arrived. This version of the Jiko Salad was different than those we’ve enjoyed in the past. In general, we’ve noticed subtle changes to menu items between visits. I don’t mind that at all.

Jiko salad

Oak-grilled Filet Mignon

Four-Cheese Macaroni, Seasonal Vegetables, Chocolate-Red Wine Demi-glace

I think Jiko might have the best filet on Disney World property. Your mileage may vary, but almost everyone at our table loved this entree. It has a real earthy flavor with plenty of char. The broccolini was just okay. It’s not my favorite vegetable, so don’t read too much into that opinion. The mac and cheese more than made up for it. So, so good!

Jiko filet mignon and mac & cheese

I was prepared to order dessert. I was overly full from dinner, but I wanted the Kilimanjaro that we enjoyed on our last visit. That chocolate mousse creation was a top-3 Disney dessert for me, so I was bummed when our server told me it wasn’t available. Bring this back!

Kilimanjaro dessert at Jiko is no longer offered
The Kilimanjaro is no longer available at Jiko

I glanced at the children’s menu even though we didn’t have any younger guests in our party. Jiko offers up a variety of dishes, so even picky eaters should find something they enjoy (e.g., mac and cheese).

Jiko’s service

Service at Disney restaurants is generally very good, but Jiko’s service is stellar. Our server seemed genuinely interested as he explained everything from the decor to the wine list to the menu. The pacing of the meal was perfect. It was an upscale dining experience in every way.

And since it’s upscale, you should probably dress for the occasion. I usually show up in a collared shirt and dress shorts. That’s as good as I’ll ever look while on vacation. Disney simply asks that guests’ clothing should be “clean, neat, and in good condition.” Oh, and no swimsuits. Does that ever need to be said?!

I can’t recommend Jiko enough. It’s pricey but you’ll leave feeling like it was worth the investment. 10 out of 5 stars. That number goes to 11 if they bring back the Kilimanjaro.

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