On our last cruise (that we paid for), Carnival provided my family with a complimentary dinner at JiJi Asian Kitchen. To say we loved it puts it mildly. All opinions remain my own.
One great thing about a cruise? Once aboard, it’s mostly all inclusive unless you opt for extras. Excursions in various ports are generally a no brainer, but given how good (and fun) the food is throughout the ship, should you upgrade to a specialty dining experience?
Oh heck yeah.
Carnival Cruise has some amazing options aboard, and we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing most of them. Everyone I talk to about the Carnival Steakhouse experience raves about it. We do, too, and I shared why we love the steakhouse.
On select ships, Carnival offers an Asian dining experience, as well. JiJi Asian Kitchen happens to be open only for dinner, and with a minimal $15 per adult (12+) and $5 per kid charge, book it! The atmosphere is restful with attentive service, and the food is unique and delicious.
Not only that, but you walk away stuffed, knowing you got your money’s worth. We came hungry – very hungry – and ended up with so many leftovers, even ordering a little less than our waitress recommended. Fortunately, they provided boxes for us to take the leftovers with us for snacks or quick meals the next day.
This restaurant tends to get overlooked, so when the steakhouse fills up, head here instead. You often don’t need a reservation, but to get the time and day you want, you can book either online once you make your cruise reservation or once aboard the ship.
Looking for more great tips on cruising? Make sure you read some of my favorite articles on where to go and what to do on your next cruise! You can find them at the bottom of this article.
JiJi Asian Kitchen Dining Experience
The Carnival Asian restaurant experience doesn’t disappoint. “Ji” means lucky, and you are lucky to enjoy the experience there!
How It Works
When you arrive, the wait staff brings a die to the table. Whoever wins the die roll gets to order for the table. The staff lets you know how many dishes to order, depending on your party size. Since it’s all served family style, it isn’t everyone for themselves!
The portions are huge, so don’t fret if you don’t have an appetizer or entree for each person. You will not walk away hungry – and if you want more, you can order more than recommended, but I doubt you’ll need to!
Let the wait staff guide you, and feel free to try things you may not be sure about. This is the perfect opportunity to discover something you didn’t know you liked!
Once you order on the slate menu with the special chalk pen (one of my favorite little features), you receive your amuse bouche. This is a complimentary “pre” appetizer of shrimp chips with four sauces.
JiJi Asian Kitchen Drink Menu
Don’t forget about the cocktails! JiJi Asian Kitchen has some really fun cocktails. These have a cost above the $15 dinner, just like other alcohol on the ship, and if you have the Cheers program, you are set.
Each cocktail costs $9.95, and I can’t tell you how perfect JiJi’s Signature Green Tea Martini fit the meal. You also have the option of a sake sangria, rum dynasty, crazy mango, or Bali sunset, of which the rum dynasty is the least sweet drink.
JiJi Asian Kitchen also offers Singha, Kirin, and Kirin Light for $5.75 and Thai iced tea (my favorite) for $4.95.
JiJi Asian Kitchen Appetizers
Though the menu is small for an Asian restaurant, it remains hard to choose dishes. JiJi Asian Kitchen offers seven appetizers. We loved them all, though the chicken and cilantro root soup definitely won our hearts. We expected to each receive a small bowl, but instead a giant tureen appeared. We each had a bowl, and some had seconds (my son had thirds), and the bowl remained half full after we couldn’t eat any more.
I’m so glad we ordered the the jade shrimp har gow (shrimp bonnets), which like the soup had plenty of flavor without heat. We almost skipped those since we already had potstickers, but they ended up a fan favorite.
My kids also begged to order the potstickers, as they eat any and all potstickers they find. You have your choice of steamed or fried, and they come with a pea shoot and green apple salad on the side.
Lastly, we also tried the chicken spring rolls. We expected spring roll paper, but found them slightly more reminiscent of egg rolls in texture. These were good but not our favorite. The spring rolls also had lemon marmalade, curry leaves, pink grapefruit, and cilantro pearls dotting the plate.
If we could choose only two, hands down everyone would go for the soup and shrimp bonnets again (and again).
Aside from what we enjoyed, you also have the options of slow braised pork belly, nanjing style duck, and a tamarind and shrimp soup.
Main Dish Options
Entrees start to bring a little more heat. Two of the dishes come with spicy pepper warnings, and your wait staff can help guide you towards or away from the spice, depending on your personal preferences.
My favorite entree was the stock pig, clay pot stewed pork that gets wok fried with scallions, sesame, fresh spinach, pea shoots, and snap peas. The sauce in the pot only makes it that much better.
The wagyu beef slow braised short rib is another dish I can’t recommend enough. It’s so incredibly tender and full of flavor. And like every dish at JiJi Asian Kitchen, the presentation makes it even more appealing.
While we avoided the kung pao chicken because that’s a dish so many other Asian restaurants offer – whether aboard Carnival or on land – we couldn’t pass up the peppered beef. The bird’s nest atop the beef looked so pretty, and it added a great flavor and texture in addition to the Chinese mustard leaves, young garlic, ginger root, and scallions.
In addition to the kung pao chicken, JiJi Asian Kitchen’s entrees include Singapore chili shrimp, a lightly spicy street food dish, and sweet and sour fragrant shrimp, the sweet and sour you’re familiar with but served with shrimp rather than chicken or beef.
JiJi Asian Kitchen Sides
While Carnival’s Asian restaurant calls these sides, I may beg to differ. The nine dishes represent the largest portion of the menu, and many of these are incredibly filling. This is where we really had a hard time narrowing down the options. The choices cover greens like blistered beans with minced pork to eggplant with mushrooms, soy, and oyster sauce.
The carb side of the sides menu is just as extensive with option ranging from wide noodles with mushrooms, sprouts, onions, peppers, ciltanro, and scallions to hot and spicy crisp potato fries to traditional steamed jasmine rice.
We chose the simple hakka noodles and basmati fried rice, as my kids adore fried rice, too. The fried rice comes with no protein, but you can choose to add baby shrimp or chicken if you haven’t had enough elsewhere on the menu.
The hakka noodles had plenty of flavor and honestly could have counted as an entree dish for my family. You can see how huge the portions are for every single item coming from the kitchen. There’s a reason you don’t need one entree per person!
With all the other flavors on the table, I appreciated the simplicity of the fried rice. It wasn’t overly seasoned, nor did it have too many ingredients and textures. The egg, peas, and scallion sufficed to make this a perfect side dish. That said, it may not be exactly what you expect from fried rice in other Asian restaurants.
To ensure we got our vegetables, we chose the Chinese broccoli with ginger and garlic glaze. Again, this is a dish so good it could be my entire meal.
Don’t forget Dessert!
By the time dessert rolled around, we tried to beg off. We had so much food from the appetizers and entrees and sides, and we couldn’t finish that. The wait staff insisted we at least try dessert, and who are we to argue?
The restaurant offers three dessert options, and we tried them all.
Our favorite was the caramelized crepes with the citrus ice cream. It was the perfect combination of sweet without being overly heavy. I would definitely order this again, especially as it was relatively unique.
My daughter loved the creme brulee the best. While creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts, I might not order it just because I can get it so many places. This version was a rose creme brulee and came with a ginger ice cream. Again, the flavor combo was spot on.
Our least favorite of the three was the one my son most wanted. The fried wontons wrapped in lychee fruit with tapioca pearls and coconut milk sounds amazing. Unfortunately, we found the wontons to be a little tough, and none of that dessert had as much flavor as the rest of the meal. Of anything we tried, we probably would skip that going forward. But try it for yourself to see!
At this point, we thought we were done. Just like the surprise amuse bouche, the wait staff brought a gorgeous presentation of an after dinner treat. In addition to the fun fortune cookies, we also had berry and mango dried fruit rolls as a palate cleanser to end the meal.
No surprise, somehow we found room for those!
Important Facts About JiJi Asian Kitchen
- This restaurant is currently available aboard just the Carnival Vista, Carnival Sunshine, and Carnival Horizon. When the Carnival Panorama launches, they will also have it
- You do not need a reservation, but to ensure the time and day you want, you can book online once you reserve your cruise or once aboard ship
- The meal costs $15 per person for those 12 and older with a kids menu available for $5 for those 11 and under
- The meal gets served family style, so you choose a selection of dishes, though each person orders their own dessert
- If you know how to use chopsticks, great. If not, you have forks available, as well. Don’t avoid JiJi Asian Kitchen because you don’t know how to eat a dish or use chopsticks. The wait staff are eager to help you and want you to enjoy it no matter what.
- During the day JiJi Asian Kitchen serves lunch – for free – with fantastic wok bowls. This gets busy fast as people discover it, so scope it out early in your cruise to minimize your wait
Have you been to JiJi Asian Kitchen? Share your experience
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