Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Report

What Did We Think Of Lodge Dining...

Updated 05/12/06

Copyright 1999-2006
PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.

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  Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Dining

The Mara (Quick Service)
The Mara (named for a wildlife refuge) is the lodge's mini-food court, serving breakfasts from 7 to 11 am and lunch/dinner until Midnight. Meal choices are satisfying, freshly prepared, and varied, with large touches of Africa alongside American favorites. We bought $9 refillable mugs, both of which say "Grand Opening April 16, 2001 - Commemorative Mug 1 of 2000." To speed service and reduce standing on line, the folks behind the counter will mark your order on a card. You then pay at the cash register and head to your table. A Cast Member delivers your order in a few minutes, and there's no service charge.

Boma (Buffet Dining)
By the end of our first dinner at Boma we knew the Lodge's buffet restaurant was something special (although several of our companions weren't quite ready to go that far). By the third meal everyone was in agreement. Boma serves one of the finest buffets on Disney property, and it's certainly the most distinctive. Unfamiliar dishes and flavors abound, but we saw few guests either complaining or shying away from the offerings. 

Single-pot stews form the heart of African cooking, and Boma serves up a lot of 'em -- some as refined soups (try the creamy smoked tomato and remarkable gingered carrot) and others as gumbos, hot pots, and coarse veggie stews. Roast beef, lamb, flank steak, and pork tenderloin come dark and crusty from the wood-fired ovens and grill, rich and flavorful inside. Try the Voodoo Mustard and chili sambal dipping sauces with the meats. Fish comes baked in banana leaves - smothered in julienne vegetables and cooked to succulent perfection. Don't leave the fish table without a helping of the sweet sun-dried tomato chutney. Starches are a mix of the familiar and new. There is "pap" (squares of white cornmeal polenta), marvelous mashed yams, savory couscous with seafood and with roasted vegetables, and saffron rice. Salads include a surprising and refreshing watermelon rind salad, plus many more familiar choices. The kid's buffet will happily serve the needs of adults who want something a bit closer to home, like spaghetti and meatballs, chicken fingers, and that old standby, macaroni and cheese. So far, though, even the kids are digging into the more venturesome fare on the main buffet. Desserts are a lot closer to home, as baked desserts aren't native to Africa. There's a rich bread pudding, fruit tarts, rich chocolate mousse on a crispy cookie base, familiar pastries and cookies, and Zebra Coffee Mousse Domes, Boma's signature dessert - a half-globe of light, mocha mousse covered in zebra-striped chocolate. Mmm.

Service from the remarkably well-informed staff has been excellent. Jay Smith, the Executive Chef, rotates about a third of the menu items each evening, making Boma the kind of place you can dine several times during your vacation without tiring. The price, at about $20 per adult, is pretty great, too. 

Jiko (Fine Dining)
Our Impressions de Jiko? The list of Disney's finest dining rooms has an exciting new member. From inventive food to delightful ambience to brilliant service, Jiko is a winner! Chef Serge Burckel applies his French/Alsatian flair to everything on the menu, and melds African/Moroccan, Asian and European flavors into a magical experience. He and Manager Suzanne Bonham have assembled an exceptional kitchen and serving staff, some of the best-of-the-best from Disney's finest restaurants. Even on Opening Night they guided us expertly through the inventive menu and all-South African wine list, and made each meal an exceptional experience.

Split your appetizers, especially those "From the Cooking Place," the restaurant's centerpiece brick ovens. The Crispy Cinnamon-spiced Beef Roll is a must, as is the Brick Oven Flatbread - a feathery light, tender/crispy mini-pizza, smeared with a curried yogurt cream and sprinkled with crunchy bacon and sweet onions. Marinated Tuna will satisfy any sushi fan, and Jiko's Dumpling are two feathery-light, sinfully rich foie gras-filled Asian-style dumplings swimming in a buttery, lentil broth that you won't want to share with anyone. 

There's nothing typical about the entrees. Banana Leaf Steamed Sea Bass is fabulous, nestled a delicate asparagus puree with mushrooms and apples. The remarkable oak-grilled beef tenderloin comes with a smear of basil/herb topping, sits (surprisingly) on a bed of first-class macaroni and cheese, and is surrounded by a rich red-and-port wine sauce. (One secret to enjoying all the entrees is to place a little bit of everything on each forkful - protein, starch, vegetable and sauce. The combination of flavors will explode in your mouth!) The roasted papaya stuffed with seasoned minced beef didn't seem too interesting, but a guest at a neighboring table was so enthusiastic about it that we had to try it the next night, and she was right! Even the ever-present salmon was a taste buds-popping experience - a thick slice of salmon filet covered with a mild, horseradish-tinged breadcrumb topping, resting on creamy, purple rice risotto and surrounded by a piquant sauce of citrus juice, fresh dill, salmon caviar and black caraway. You can't go wrong with any of the fish dishes, and the only disappointment was the rack of lamb (usually a favorite of Dave's), which, while well prepared, just wasn't as distinctive as the other choices.

The extensive wine list adds additional dimension to the adventure. Everything is South African, and after sampling nearly 20 different wines, we've yet to be anything but delighted by the selection, quality and value. Nearly all wines are available by the glass, and every one of our servers has been a faithful, knowledgeable guide, worthy of our trust. If you can, finish things off with a glass of the de Trafford 'Vin de Paille,' a fabulous, golden dessert wine.

Desserts here should be mandatory. If nothing else, share the Cardamom-flavored Chocolate Candies with the whole table. Trust us. Just do it! The mango turnover is light, crispy, and swimming in a refreshing fruit juice sauce. Apple cake and crème brulee are also worthy choices with inventive twists. The Sorbet Compression is pleasantly refreshing, and while your server will compare the African Champagne Noodles to gummy bears, this is actually a very adult, light and refreshing choice, especially if you love fresh berries. Leave the Strawberry Sundowner to the kids - it resembles fruit Jell-O without the "jell."

The décor is tastefully contemporary, with stretched-fabric "seagulls" flying beneath a deep blue sky. The lighting on the curving back wall changes from neutral, white through rosy shades of sunset and sunrise to a sunny, mid-day yellow. Rich, dark wood flooring has lighter inlays, representing the shadows of the birds flying overhead. You can be seated on comfortable, deep banquettes or chairs, and in the California Grill tradition, you can sit at a marble-topped counter facing the freestanding, orange brick ovens and watch the chefs in action.

The prices here are surprisingly reasonable and an excellent value - Appetizers run from $5.50 to $10.25, entrees from $16.50 to $27.50, and desserts run from $4.50 to $6.00. Reservations are a must, and a $10-per-guest fee will be charged for no-shows.

In-Room Dining
Can anything top a romantic dinner for two on your Savanna View balcony? The lodge's In-Room Dining menu features a special Savannah Romance Package for two for only $99.95, including field greens salad, a selection of unique, African-flavored entrees, the Lodge's signature dessert, and a bottle of fine South African wine. The excellent Pierre Jourdan South African bubbly is a $64 value all by itself, so this is a very appetizing dining choice. Our meals arrived fresh, hot and fragrant, although despite the dome lids, they cooled as we lingered over our salads. Dave's Sugarcane Skewered Salmon was a disappointingly small piece of nicely seasoned grilled fillet, impaled on a chewable stick of sugar cane. Jennifer had Tamarind Barbecue Beef Tenderloin, which suited her just fine. 

Dinner service is available from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm, breakfast starts at 6:00 am, and last call is at Midnight. Pizza, sandwiches, snacks, and hospitality packages are also available.

Questions? Contributions? Post them on our Feasting & Snacking Message Board!

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