Animal Kingdom Lodge

by Deb Wills

In the September 25th edition of ALL EARS, The Czarina and I reviewed the Animal Kingdom Lodge's premier restaurant, Jiko. Shortly after our visit, we learned that Chef Serge Burckel and Manager Suzanne Bonham, who were so gracious to us, had moved on. Chef Anette Grecchi Gray, previously at Narcoossee's and Artist Point, has now taken over the helm at Jiko. We promised you an updated review once she'd had the chance to settle in, and here it is.

You might recall from that previous review that I had said, "Even if you think 'that kind' of food is not for you, rest assured that Jiko is only a few steps 'outside the box.' You will not be shocked or assaulted by strange flavors." Indeed, this holds true under Chef Grecchi Gray.

While much of the menu has remained the same, Chef Grecchi Gray's influence is clear. She has kept a number of the original Jiko favorites and added a few of her own.

A new item on the Cooking Place portion of the menu is the Kalamata Olive Flatbread with Millet Flour Dough and Five Cheeses for $6.75. This was a taste sensation! The olives, cheese and flatbread blended together and we quickly finished the two breads that were on the table. I was most amazed since I normally don't eat olives! It was fabulous!

The Marinated Ahi Tuna appetizer at $11.25 (a holdover from the original menu) has been modified to include heirloom beans, black barley and "Zough" yogurt sauce. Not your typical sushi with soy sauce, but well worth your time. The flavors melded to create a delicate yet flavorful tuna appetizer that melted in your mouth.

Several new entrees have appeared on the menu, including Wood-Fired Wahoo with crushed root vegetables, sweet braised onions and a carrot-ginger sauce for $23.25, well-liked by our group. The Pan-Roasted Monkfish ($24.25) remains a popular favorite, as does the Oak-Grilled Beef Tenderloin ($28.50). A new entree is called Grains and Veggies ($16.50). Chef Grecchi Gray has often been referred to as the Grain Diva and she is incorporating some wonderful selections into the Jiko menu. I'm not vegetarian, and don't care much for tofu or mushrooms, but for some strange reason was drawn to the Grains and Veggies entree -- am I glad I was!! Two healthy servings of Tandoori-spiced Tofu were atop a dish of kamut, white and black lentils, all mixed together with brick baked mushrooms. The Tandoori gave the dish a refreshing kick and the flavors infused into an outstanding entree. If I could make Tofu taste like this at home, I'd be eating it all the time!

Even ordering items not on the regular menu proved a positive experience. One member of our group who has special dietary needs had contacted Jiko in advance to make arrangements. She was most pleased with the choices Anette presented.

New desserts and a couple twists on the originals appear on the menu, too. The Cardamom Chocolate candies ($6.25), while presented differently, are still an excellent choice for dessert. The Kenyan Coffee Chocolate Mousse with Frangelico whipped cream ($6.50) is a new addition that is light and delicate!

If you haven't tried Jiko yet, by all means head over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge! Make it an evening! Go early to enjoy the animals at the three savannas, stop at Victoria Falls for a before-dinner beverage and then head down to Jiko for an enjoyable and relaxing evening of food and South African wines you won't find anywhere else!

December 2001

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