Maize crusted fish Jiko
Jiko Interior

*This dining experience took place in October 2013. It includes my gluten free & dairy free review as well as reviews from blog readers Linda & Brandon T. with a gluten and soy free review and gluten free review. Thanks again to Linda & Brandon and their friend Andrea for joining me for dinner!

Picture of open kitchen at Jiko

Jiko: the Cooking Place is located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House and offers African inspired cuisine at a signature dining location. The interior is set to mimic the African sunset and the lighting aptly changes throughout your dining experience. This location offers terrific gluten free & dairy free offerings and even has special menus for specific dietary needs, making it much easier to order items off the menu. On this particular occasion I visited with several blog readers who also have special dietary needs and really enjoyed the experience with them.

My previous experience at Jiko had been several years ago, and it was bad. And I mean BAD. The worst dining experience I’ve ever had at Disney. Which is unfortunate for a variety of reasons. You can read that review HERE. So needless to say, I was a bit nervous about dining here. It’s been about 3 years, and I figured at this point, hopefully things had improved. Our server discussed drink options with us and then brought over the chef. The chef was very nice & really knowledgeable. He also brought us out special dietary menus, which was very helpful in making decisions about what we might want. It helps not making decisions on the fly when there are so many choices! We were actually able to keep our menus, and I have scanned versions of the gluten free menu HERE and the dairy free menu HERE. I also enjoy being able to match things up & cross reference the sheets quickly. Very handy.

First up, our table split the Taste of Africa sampler. Essentially this is a variety of dips & lentil pappadums. We also received extra pappadums for the table, so we had a lot! I will say that the dip sampler seems a lot stingier than it used to be. It seemed fairly small for the price, and between 3 of us splitting it, we did OK mostly because our entrees came quickly. We did not get a really good description of the dips, but there was a Kalamata olive hummus and several other spicier dips (I think they still have the chermoula and some others). In my opinion, the dip sampler at Sanaa is vastly superior both in taste and in quantity. For $10 you get all the dips at Sanaa which is a lot!

Lentil Pappadums
Taste of Africa sampler

For our entrees, both Linda and I ordered the Maize crusted monkfish. Linda is gluten & soy free, so she was able to get the tomato butter sauce that this dish normally comes with, while mine was prepared dairy free and had a rich tomato sauce. All other components to our dishes were the same.

Gluten free & Dairy free version of maize crusted monkfish

For my part, I will say that I like this dish very much. It was on the menu at my last visit (and what I ended up ordering) and I found it to be quite good. The vegetables were perfectly sauteed and very flavorful. The tomato sauce was nice and light. And the fish was perfectly cooked and very well seasoned. I like the maize crusted coating on it. This is one of those entrees that I would definitely order again.

Gluten free & soy free version of maize crusted monkfish

I know that Linda loved her fish dish and said she really enjoyed it a lot. I was glad that she enjoyed her version as much as I did!

Wonderful dinner with terrific company!

Brandon and Andrea both ordered the Filet Mignon on the menu, which has been known to be very good. Andrea doesn’t have a special diet, but she seemed to really enjoy her entree. Brandon didn’t love his filet, but it just goes to show you that everyone has different tastes and food reviews are certainly relative!

Gluten free beef filet mignon

Brandon also ordered the tomato soup, which he said had a very smoky almost BBQ sauce flavor to it. My guess is that they roast the tomatoes in the wood fired oven.

Tomato soup

For our desserts, I chose the coconut milk panna cotta which was made with soy milk & coconut milk. Linda ordered the flourless chocolate cake. Her dessert looked incredibly rich and delicious!

Flourless chocolate cake
Coconut milk panna cotta

I will say that I wasn’t wowed by my dessert. I found the taste to be a little strange, and I think they could have made a nice tropical mix of fruit with the mango coulis which would have played better with the panna cotta. The plain fresh berries didn’t seem to mix well, in my opinion. I also had a slight stomach ache after dinner, and I wondered if the soy milk might have been Kikkoman (which I heard later that it used to be) and is not gluten free. In general, I wouldn’t order that particular dessert again.

Overall, I did enjoy the meal. I really loved my entree, and I know Linda did too! The appetizer sampler was good, but I think I have been spoiled by Sanaa way too much and have high expectations of a dip sampler. The only thing I really didn’t love was the dessert.

In general, I would definitely visit Jiko again, but my personal preference both for type of food, price, and atmosphere would be Sanaa hands down. This is a great special occasion place to visit, and I very much thank Linda, Brandon, and Andrea for joining me the night before my first 5k (review HERE). It really made the meal special!