Of the two restaurants in the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, Boma is not the romantic one. Our first viewing was from above, through the African themed wrought iron railings of Victoria Falls Lounge and past the circular thatched rooftops known as kraals. On the one hand, the theming is colorful and inviting, designed to resemble an African marketplace where food is prepared in plain view and “shoppers” and chefs can interact (Boma in Swahili means “enclosure.”). On the other, the herds of people winding their way through the sinewy pathways with plates in hand had a kind of mosh pit effect that was less than inviting.
So, even though many of the offerings looked interesting, enticing and authentic, the buffet experience seemed a bit overwhelming, which is what we were discussing over drinks at Jiko – The Cooking Place, where we had a reservation for dinner.
Okay, okay, all roads were leading to Boma!
As our Jiko food ambassador described some of the highlights of the menu, Amy made it clear we were looking to experience the most authentic flavors Jiko had to offer. There were some definitive must-have’s, but our candid castmember didn’t hesitate to add, “If authentic African flavors are what you’re after, you need to try Boma: they have dishes over there that you’re not going to find anywhere else and are made to perfection.”
Every one of our waiter’s recommendations was the stuff of memories and journal entries. The complexity of the flavors and the quality and refinement of the ingredients and plating, respectively, were enough to make us look at each other and agree that if our waiter was recommending Boma for authentic African dishes, we could surely get past our fear of drowning in a sea of families.
It wasn’t until our return trip the following year that we committed to trying Boma. In fact, as of this writing, we’ve been to Boma three times: the first, for dinner, did not go well and it wasn’t the food’s fault, it was Amy’s for being determined to try all of it.
Boma for breakfast
Knowing we’d be spending the day at Animal Kingdom, we agreed that Boma for breakfast could be the perfect authentic kickoff to what’s always a unique and convincingly authentic experience. And so it came to be…
We got seated at a table for two by the window, which would have been more romantic if not for the close proximity of the neighboring table for two, which immediately presented a conflict of courtesy: If we ask for a different table, our neighbors will know they were the reason we moved, even though it wasn’t at all personal, but still… the thought of sending a negative message, albeit unintentional, was more unpleasant a thought than simply accepting our table assignment, so we stayed put. And we were glad we did, because Jerry and Liz quickly endeared themselves with a kindred love of the authentic cuisine offered at the buffet and turned us on to at least a couple of items we likely would’ve passed up, like the Mealie Pap with Chakalaka (an African tomato stew), which we never could have imagined as being suitable breakfast fare, but it turned out to be as comforting as oatmeal, yet with a smooth creamy texture and a tasty, fresh—almost fruity—tomato-y accompaniment.
Roasted asparagus for breakfast? Yes! And Jerry wasn’t exaggerating when he described the spicy honey mustard as the “gold bouillon of condiments.” Hard to say whether it was better with the ham or the carved turkey (which happened to be the moistest turkey breast we’ve ever had that wasn’t made by Amy’s grandmother). However, Mark preferred the sambal, a chili-pepper based sauce, with the ham. The bread-pudding french toast also made points with Mark, and we both loved the African-style corned beef hash that we noted as “extraordinary” in our Disney log. Even the “house juice” was addictive, being a refreshing combo of fruit juices that managed to not be cloying.
And that was just breakfast!
For our dinner reservation later in the trip, Amy, only partly in jest, asked for the most romantic table as we were being led to what looked like a crowded part of the room. To our surprise, our host took the request very seriously and seated us at a lovely little table for two by the window, no other table so close as to be part of our experience. Off to a very good start.
We had wisely learned from our first Boma experience the importance of focus. On our first visit, we sampled as much as we possibly could and Amy didnt survive. This time, we limited ourselves to the most authentically African dishes, namely the the stews. This worked out well, even to the extent that Amy managed to enjoy her perfectly medium rare sirloin from the carving station, accompanied by the yummy-yummy spicy honey mustard and sambal, but without overdoing it by going back for seconds.
Tip: As buffet lightweights, we found that while beer was the best flavor pairing for Boma’s offerings, it proved as filling as one of the many sumptuous stews we wanted most to indulge in. Instead, we went with a Prosecco (essentially Champagne, but made in Italy), which was more delicate, but still a refreshing alcoholic accompaniment to the complex and rich flavors of the various dishes.
Meal highlights included Miele Pap with Chakalaka, Dijon Salmon with Almonds (surprisingly extraordinary), Oxtail Stew, Corn and Chicken Chowder (Mark’s favorite), the Bobotie (a dish that is both sweet and a bit spicy), and a cabbage slaw that was the perfect stir-fry.
For dessert, Mark got a narrower assortment of samplings than he did the first time—the Zebra Dome is a must—and since he remembered all too well that this was where Amy ran off the rails last year, he wasn’t about to encourage her with temptation. Instead, he brought her the one petit four that was meant for her: Malva Pudding, a South African version of bread pudding that’s carmelized on the outside and moist and spongy inside. Try it for the name alone: Malva.