Review: Jiko — A Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I made it a mission to revisit one of my favorite restaurants, Jiko.

The restaurant is your top-of-the-line, signature dining option at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort, and I’ve been a big fan of the spot since my very first visit.

With a combination of wonderful ambiance, exotic flavors, and a killer wine list, it’s sure to please any adventurous food lover, and it always surprises me that it tends to fly a little under the radar. This may be because the food is a bit less mainstream, or because the restaurant is a hike to get to.

As regular readers know, though — no matter how much I like a restaurant, I insist on visiting and reviewing them time and again to make sure that I can still recommend them. Fortunately, that’s nearly always a pleasure to do.

Come with me as we take a look around and see what’s new at Jiko.

Atmosphere

If you’re looking for Jiko, head down from the main lobby of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, past Victoria Falls Lounge, until you get to the bottom floor. Boma is below Victoria Falls, and then you can access The Mara and the resort’s pool here as well. Jiko is to the right.

Jiko Sign

Jiko Sign

Enter the refined space, and you see immediately that wine is given a place of prominence here. Jiko boasts the largest collection of African wines outside of the African continent. If you’re a wine lover, you’ll want to check out their suggested pairings. [Read more…]

Review: A Sneak Peek at Harambe Nights in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom!

Karibuni!! Welcome to Harambe Nights!

Harambe Nights

Harambe Nights

We were so excited to attend a “sneak peek” of this all-new hard-ticket event, debuting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Saturday, June 7, and running every Saturday evening through August 9th.

While the centerpiece of the evening will be the brand new show, The Lion King –A Concert in the Wild, Harambe Nights will also feature a Welcome Reception, a street party, and an all-inclusive and wide-ranging selection of food.

Concept art for Harambe Nights

Concept art for Harambe Nights

Guests at Harambe Nights will be welcomed into Harambe Village, and into its traditions as reflected in music, story-telling, and cuisine. The primary story will be that of Simba, the Lion King, as it is told by the people of Harambe Village, allowing this well-loved story to be told in a whole new way in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary.

This event promises to be a full sensory experience, engaging sight, sound, smell, and taste. Since we here at the DFB are all about taste ;) , allow me to share a few of the culinary highlights in the order that they will be experienced in the event.

Welcome Reception

Harambe Nights will begin with a Welcome Reception where guests will have their first chance to sample the cuisine with an assortment of appetizers.

I was able to sample two of the four appetizers, including the Safari Cheeseburger Rolls with Tomato Curry Aioli. The playful presentation helped set a celebratory tone.

Safari Cheeseburger with tomato curry aioli

Safari Cheeseburger with tomato curry aioli

I also enjoyed the Moroccan Beef Kefta Meatball with Tamarind Glaze.

Moroccan Kefta with Tamarind Glaze

Moroccan Kefta with Tamarind Glaze

Of-age guests can pair with African-inspired wine and beer. I particularly liked “Goats do Roam” white from the popular South African Vineyard.

Selection of wine

Selection of wine

Selection of beer

Selection of beer

Jungle Juice — that refreshing mix of passion fruit, guava, and orange juice — was available as well.

Jungle Juice

Jungle Juice

Unfortunately, I missed the Pickled Fennel Paneer Cheese with Tomato and the Durban-spiced Chicken Tenders… but there is much more to come!

The Lion King — A Concert in the Wild

After the Welcome Reception, guests will proceed into the brand new Harambe Theater to enjoy The Lion King – A Concert in the Wild. Prior to the show, attendees will be given a special treat.

This snack is seriously one of my new favorite things on earth… LION CHOW!

Lion Chow pouch

Lion Chow bamboo pouch

Lion Chow

Lion Chow

This mix is much more complex than it appears. The sesame bits, candied pecans, raisins, dried fruit, and spiced toasted chips offer a full and surprising range of flavors. It’s sweet, salty, and mildly spicy all at once (I think it’s the candied ginger that delivers that bit of kick).

I’ve got half a mind to start a petition for a Lion Chow kiosk in Animal Kingdom – it’s seriously addicting!

Close-up of Lion Chow

Close-up of Lion Chow

Guests will be able to enjoy their Lion Chow during the performance. We were given the unique opportunity to see three numbers that will be performed in the show. Understandably, we were not able to take photographs or record this portion of the evening.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to capture the power and beauty of the performance even if cameras had been allowed. I can only say that it was a truly special experience watching these performers bring the story of “The Lion King” to new life with such talent and passion. Marsha Jackson-Randolph — the production’s director — called the production an “endeavor of love,” and it shows.

Concept Art for The Lion King - A Concert in the Wild

Concept Art for The Lion King – A Concert in the Wild

Having seen the numbers in rehearsal clothing, I can only imagine what amazing things are in store when the entire concert is presented in full costume with a 25-piece orchestra, 16-voice choir, celebrity narrator and co-narrator, 8 dancers, and pivotal moments of the film presented on screens during select moments throughout. I am sincerely excited for those who get to enjoy it.

Street Party

Once the show ends, the night continues on! Harambe Village will invite guests to join in the Harambe Nights Street Party, which will feature (among other things) live music as well as sound by DJ Khalifa, dance, street performers, glow-in-the-dark face painting (yes!), and a few of your best Disney friends.

Timon and Rafiki

Timon and Rafiki

Stilt walkers

Stilt walkers

DJ Khalifa!

DJ Khalifa

Musicians at the Sneak Peek

Musicians at the Sneak Peek

It will also feature African-inspired food, presented at stations throughout the Village.

We’ll start with the Breads and Salads Station. Fans of Sanaa’s bread service will appreciate the assortment of Naan, Onion Kulcha, and Pappadum breads.

Naan, Onion Kulcha and Pappadum breads

Naan, Onion Kulcha and Pappadum breads

Naan being prepared

Naan being prepared

Accompaniments include Roasted Pepper Hummus, Garlic-Ginger Pickle, and Cucumber Raita. At Boma, I always love the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, but I really enjoyed that Raita as well.

Cucumber Raita

Cucumber Raita

The salads were simply gorgeous. Even better, they were fresh, flavorful, colorful, and original.

Choices include a Watercress, Melon, Feta, and Berry Balsamic Salad and Roasted Beetroot Salad with Sunflower Seeds. My favorite was the Kachumbari Salad with Tomato, Paneer, Carrot, and Cilantro.

Watercress, Melon, Feta, and Berry Balsamic Onion Salad

Watercress, Melon, Feta, and Berry Balsamic Onion Salad

Roasted Beetroot Salad with Sunflower Seeds

Roasted Beetroot Salad with Sunflower Seeds

Kachumbari Salad with Tomato, Paneer, Carrot, and Cilantro

Kachumbari Salad with Tomato, Paneer, Carrot, and Cilantro

Rarely do I feel that salads are among the highlights of a meal, but here I did.

I was really impressed with the vegetarian options available – not only at the Bread and Salad station, but throughout the selections. One example is the Spicy Vegetable Samosa (a Mango Chutney was available for dipping).

Spicy Vegetable Samosa

Spicy Vegetable Samosa

I neglected to snap a picture of the Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, but I can’t resist sharing some Disney mac and cheese deliciousness with you today!

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Moving on to the Surf and Turf Station, there are two other [Read more…]