Birthday Dinner at Jiko
Rich’s Birthday Dinner at Jiko
What a fabulous evening – with an amazing meal at Jiko – The Cooking Place! This was the second time we had eaten there and it was even better – no seating snafu and the CM who served us – Sally – was incredible. She was quite knowledgeable and her recommendations were to be trusted.
First of all, we drove to the opposite side of WDW property to Animal Kingdom Lodge and were immediately swept away to Africa. We pulled up to valet park our car, tipping on the way in and tipping on the way out – a move that rewards you with extra service. It’s money well spent, especially since valet parking with the DDE card is free.
We stopped in at the Zawadi Marketplace to pick up a bottle of water and to look around. The CM who waited on us was so funny – we’ve had her before. She asked us if we wanted to get some donuts and milk for breakfast in the morning – and invited her to share with us. We laughed and remarked she’d have to drive over to our home since we were locals. We told her we were here to eat at Jiko and to celebrate Rich’s birthday. She wished Rich a “Happy Birthday,” and asked what we planned to order for dinner. When I said I was considering the lamb, she said she’s heard great things about it.
About the lamb. Lamb is something I have disliked in the past – like many others – but have heard it’s because it isn’t cooked right. When we had dinner at my dad’s favorite restaurant in the Sierra foothills of California, he ordered lamb and insisted we try a bite – you know dads. But he was right – it was delicious – so he encouraged me to order a whole lamb meal at Jiko – saying I should be adventurous and live life to the fullest – no regrets. Alright, dad! How could I refuse him? But I was still hesitant about the lamb so it was a good sign that the CM was recommending this particular dish.
We stopped off at the lobby bar – Victoria Falls – the best lobby/pre-dinner lounge on Disney World property, according to my humble opinion. Rich ordered his favorite scotch for him and a vodka martini on the rocks for me and we sipped our drinks while waiting for our 8:10 dinner reservation. It’s a great people-watching spot since it overlooks Boma – the African buffet. We noticed how lively Boma was and made plans to give this a try sometime in the future.
Once we finished our drinks, it was time to check in at Jiko. We were seated within a few minutes – I announced it was Rich’s birthday at every opportunity and the birthday wishes kept coming. We love the dark, cozy atmosphere of Jiko and the informal friendliness of those sitting nearby. We chatted a few times with the 2 guys sitting next to us – this was the last night of their trip and dining at Jiko was a return engagement. They just had to have that Kalamata Olive Flatbread one more time.
We agree. It is our #1 favorite appetizer in the entire world. So, naturally, we placed our order to share. That was a no-brainer. When it came to wine, we asked our server, Sally, for recommendations and she brought a couple of different wines for tasting. We also asked her about her entree recommendations – and the lamb in particular. She explained why this lamb dish was so tasty and that it didn’t have that “lamby” taste you find when it isn’t done well. She went into such detail about the Berbere sauce and how the flavors all worked together, I was convinced. And I was so glad I took Dad’s suggestion to make it a real dining adventure.
Here’s the description of our entire meal:
Kalamata Olive Flatbread – with four cheeses, and Laura Chenel’s soft goat cheese
Rich – Chermoula Roasted, Tanglewood Chicken – with red-skin mashed potatoes, preserved lemons, kalamata olives, roasted garlic, herbs and harissa
Wine – Excelsior Robertson ’04 Cabernet Sauvignon
Kathy – Berbere Braised Lamb Shank – with toasted couscous, baby spinach and berbere sauce
Wine – Rudi Schultz Stellenbosch ’03 Shiraz
Pistachio Creme Brulee with layered chocolate bottom
The Kalamata Olive Flatbread with the 4 cheeses is simply divine. We traded samples of our entrees and I can vouch for both entrees as being absolutely amazing. Last time, we had the Short Ribs and Monkfish and we thought they were awesome. And next time we’re thinking of trying their signature Filet Mignon and perhaps the Pork Tenderloin. They’re all so flavorful and the meat is fork tender. We’ve heard less than inspiring things when it comes to their seafood – that’s probably better left to Flying Fish.
Sally first poured us each a taste of the Shiraz but Rich declined a glass because it wasn’t quite right for him. I enjoyed the light, cherry flavor and a Shiraz was recommended as a pairing with the lamb. Sally’s Cabernet recommendation for Rich’s chicken was spot on – the spice in the chicken dish held up to the rich Cabernet, which was probably lighter than say French, Californian, or Australian. We noticed that about South African wines – they’re a bit lighter than others.
We were considering dessert when Sally magically appeared with a complimentary birthday dessert – which happened to be their signature Pistachio Creme Brulee. Now, Rich, who is the big creme brulee fan, wasn’t as wild about it as I was – who can usually take or leave creme brulee. But we appreciated the gesture and the extraordinary service of Sally.
Satiated and happy, we strolled through the lobby and headed for the valet desk. While a different CM brought our car around, the CM who we tipped on our way in jumped at the chance to open our car doors. We love fine dining, great service, and fabulous atmosphere. The Animal Kingdom Lodge delivered all three. And, as a bonus, evenings at WDW are simply the best – especially in the summer. The intolerable hot and humid daytime turns into a warm, wonderful, comfortable, tropical evening. Ah, the Disney magic strikes again.