90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV are Central Florida's primary provider of NPR programming and Classical Music. Part of the community since 1965, providing quality national and local news and programming. We inspire and empower all Central Floridians to discover, grow and engage within and beyond their world.
Support for 90.7 WMFE is provided by

Spotlight: Jiko- The Cooking Place

Play Audio

Jiko – The Cooking Place is among the restaurants that will be participating in this year’s Chef’s Gala. I was asked if I’d like to sample the dish that Jiko’s chef, Edward T. Mendoza, would be offering at the April 14 event, so I said sure, why not? I hadn’t been to Jiko in a long time, it would be nice to see what’s going on there these days.

Good things, it turns out. Let me put it this way: As soon as the bus drops you off at the World Showplace at the beginning of Chef’s Gala, head directly to the station, or cooking place, if you will, where Mendoza and his team will be serving their Isitambu.

Isitambu is an African dish of beans and samp, broken dried corn kernels. It’s a traditional dish of Africa, this one in the Zulu style, that Mendoza said was the favorite food of Nelson Mandela. Although it’s not usually considered an haute cuisine dish — it’s often served as an accompaniment — Mendoza makes it so with the inclusion of braised oxtail. It was seasoned with a fragrant garam masala that offered myriad spice notes, and that oxtail brought a wonderful fatty mouthfeel.

I’d have been more than satisfied to sup on a larger bowl of that, but Mendoza also served an appetizer of Oak-Fire Kissed Red Shrimp, with Congolese pili pili butter, accompanied by fried okra.

For the main courses, Beef Short Rib was served with a puree of cassava and potatoes, topped with a spicy sambal sauce, with baby carrots nearby (these were more like teenaged carrots). The beef had been braised into tender submission.

I also sampled a sort of African bouillabaisse, with Malay curry-scented lobster hunks, tender squid, big, meaty (but not chewy) mussels, and shrimp, with saffron rice beneath the flavorful broth.

Jiko is still an impressive dining room, with its central ovens representing the Cooking Place and the stylistic birds swooping around the room. However, the quality of the food could use a more sedate ambience. Service was first-rate.

The 2018 Chef’s Gala, which takes place at Epcot (no park ticket required) April 14 at 6:45 p.m. I’ll be there — you can find me at the Jiko station.

Get The 90.7 WMFE Newsletter

Your trusted news source for the latest Central Florida news, updates on special programs and more.

Stay tuned in to our local news coverage: Listen to 90.7 WMFE on your FM or HD radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” and you’ll be connected.

WMFE Journalistic Ethics Code | Public Media Code of Integrity