Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jiko - Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Last night, my daughters and I had dinner at Jiko - The Cooking Place, a signature dining restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, one of our favorite resorts at Disney World.

Jiko serves a blend of African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine, and the menu changes seasonally.  Jiko used to have a gluten free menu, but now they have an allergy-friendly menu which lists safe options for people with gluten/wheat, milk, egg, soy, fish/shellfish, and peanut/tree nut allergies.  These allergy-friendly menus are being adopted at all quick service and table service restaurants at Disney World and Disneyland between April and September of this year.

My meal started with Udi's whole grain seeded dinner rolls with salted butter.  Usually, I don't enjoy these rolls, but they were heated very well, which makes a huge difference with gluten free bread.  My gluten-eating daughters not only devoured their own gluten-filled bread, but then proceeded to eat most of mine.  I find it so odd that they like gluten free bread better than I do.  

None of the appetizers really appealed to me, so I decided to order the Jiko Salad with poached pears, heirloom spinach, Kabocha squash, and pear vinaigrette.  I am pretty sure my salad had arugula in it too, and it was served with pumpkin seed and black lentil brittle, which added a crunchy and sweet element to the salad.  I loved the thin slices of Kabocha squash, and the pear vinaigrette.  Overall, it was a great salad, and I would order again.  

There were so many gluten free entrees on the menu that sounded interesting, we had a hard time choosing two to share. My first choice was the oak-grilled filet mignon with local green beans, spoon bread, and South African wine sauce, because it was recommended by Dana from Magical Moments Vacations, who I write my Best Disney Resorts for Special Diets series with.  There was nothing not to love about this dish.  The steak was tender, seasoned well, and cooked to temperature.  After seeing my girls fight over the spoon bread, I definitely need to make it again soon at home.  The South African red wine sauce was delicious, and the green beans were the perfect accompaniment for this dish.  

 For a second entree, I chose the Nigerian-spiced pork shank with braised greens and fingerling potatoes.  Our server told us this dish might be a little spicy for the girls, but it had much less seasoning than our filet mignon.  I thought both the meat and the fingerling potatoes were underseasoned, and the braised greens reminded me a bit of collard greens, which are one of my least favorite vegetables.

Both of my girls enjoyed the pork and the potatoes, and I was impressed by how incredibly tender the pork was.  It was served with a large dollop of apple butter, which was not listed on the allergy-friendly menu, but I certainly was not complaining.  

For dessert, we could have chosen the coconut milk panna cotta with mixed berries, an artisanal cheese selection, or sorbet with seasonal fruit, but we decided to order the Ghanaian chocolate and Kenyan coffee pot de creme with almond creme, almond crunch, and raspberries.  

The presentation reminded me of desserts I have had at Sanaa, because of the beautiful white chocolate butterfly on top.  The pot de creme was creamy and flavorful, but my favorite part of this dish was the almond crunch on top.  Being the big dessert eaters we are, I thought we were going to have to order a second dessert, or head next door to The Mara to pick up some gluten free zebra domes, but we were all content sharing the pot de creme, because we were all pretty full by the end of our meal.

At the bottom of Disney's new allergy-friendly menus is a note telling guests that they may consult with a chef before placing an order.  I am probably going to do so from now on so I don't end up with surprise ingredients on the dishes I order.  The granola on my salad and the butter on the pork were not mentioned on the allergy-friendly menu, probably because they are not safe for all the allergies listed for those dishes on the menu.  I know they are both gluten free, because the granola and butter are listed as ingredients on the salad and pork on Jiko's old gluten free menu.  Thankfully, I liked the granola and the butter, so I didn't have to send my dishes back.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Jiko, and would consider eating there again, though that probably won't happen any time soon, because of their prices, though it would be a great spot for a date night with my husband.

July 11, 2016 Update

We stopped at Jiko last week to check out their allergy-friendly menus.  The picture of the allergy-friendly dessert menu in this post has been updated, but we did not see their Kids' Menu.

You can read more about Jiko, view their menu, and make advance dining reservations on Disney's website here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at Jiko - The Cooking Place?  


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