Over the past few years – possibly months – Kigali has become a place with some seriously good food options. No – wait – don’t stop reading! Our restaurant scene is growing, from the smallest café to the quickest take-out, and thankfully includes diversified (and often vegetarian-friendly) cuisine. When I first arrived, brochettes, buffets, and endless heaps of chips were the norm, but there are now plenty of other options. Just so many vegetables! And Korean specialties! And, as of late, eggplant fries, grilled cheese, and so much more. A few weeks ago, Kirsty wrote this article about her favourite meals in Kigali. Though we agree on many favourite meals, (hello, babaganoush at Arabika!), we don’t overlap on everything. Take a look below!
10. Urban Hotel – Bang Bang Cauliflower (Rwf 6,000)
I’ll be the first to tell I don’t always love the food at Urban. It feels too often like a hit or a miss, their cocktails are way too expensive, and yet – I always seem to find myself there when I’m craving both a great view AND their bang bang cauliflower. The cauliflower is so worth it – it’s fried, somewhat spicy, covered with a creamy sauce, and laden with grilled onions and a couple of tomato slices. It’s a reliably huge portion, and you always know exactly what you’re going to get when ordering the cauliflower – always a plus. It also goes incredibly well with a Skol lager, particularly at 5pm on a Friday!
9. Inzora – Grilled Cheese (Rwf 4,500)
It’s crispy, it’s cheesy, it’s melty, and just slightly sweet with a dash of honey – it’s my favorite grilled cheese in Rwanda! It comes with a huge helping of fresh cucumber and chickpea salad, elevating the dish from mere comfort food to an actually nourishing meal. Additionally, this grilled cheese has the added benefit of being inside the super cute Inzora with a direct view at the indulgent pastry counter. I think I eat this grilled cheese minimum of once a week and often wash it down with their gluten free brownie (Rwf 1,500). No regrets whatsoever.
8. Arabika – Babaganoush (Rwf 3,000)
This babaganoush is lemony, creamy, and smokey all at the same time. It’s served with a pretty decent helping of fluffy white pita bread, and since it’s in Kiyovu, I eat it a little too frequently. But such a good snack!
7. Monmartse – Bibimbap (Rwf 7,500)
Filled with veggies, rice, and egg, I get the bibimbap every time I’m at Monmartse (the Korean restaurant right next to RDB). It’s filling, the rice is crispy on the edges, and the gouchujang (chilli and pepper paste) is too good. Just sitting down for a meal also guarantees you a free bottle of water and banchan (vegetable-oriented small side dishes), and it’s dang good. If I don’t eat this dish about once a week, I get a little angsty.
6. Iriba Bar (The Marriot) – Crispy Fish Sandwich (Rwf 6,500)
While the Marriot’s Iriba Bar is undoubtedly a new addition to my lunch repertoire, I’m pretty confident that my love for the crispy fish sandwich is going to stick. It is so so fantastic. The sandwich is made on a super soft brioche bun smeared with creamy tartar sauce, and it comes with a huge helping of crisp chips. What’s not to love? The price isn’t absurd for being at the Marriot (please don’t raise your prices!) and for how filling it is – and how indulgent I feel afterwards. After eating, I generally roll myself out of the bar, or sometimes just hang around and get some work done on their fairly decent internet connection.
5. Brachetto – Salad Buffet (Rwf 7,500)
Back in the day, you could find me once a week at Brachetto. Not eating the salad buffet, in fact, but actually eating the Paris Sandwich (Rwf 4,500) filled with Brie, caramelized onions, and a little lettuce. Unfortunately, in recent, months, the sandwich has taken a backseat to the buffet. You really can’t go wrong with either, but the salad buffet has recently expanded to become even better by including dishes like grilled pumpkin and garlic drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, filling cold mozzarella pasta dishes, leafy salads, and more. Doesn’t hurt that it always comes with a dessert at the end too.
4. Zaaffran – Bharavan Paneer Tandoori (4,500)
Identifying your favorite Indian restaurant in Kigali is always a bit of a minefield. ‘Is she a Zaaffran person or a Khana Khazana person?!’ Even in my own little home of four, my housemates and I bring it up and argue at least once a week. I’m a Zaaffran kind of gal. When I go to Zaaffran, I also eat entirely vegetarian – it was hard to pick just one dish to put on this list, and I also always order the peshwari naan and the dal makhani, but the stuffed paneer has a special place in my heart. It is flavorful, large, and includes big pieces of paneer stuffed with cashews and other veggies. It also comes out sizzling on the dish, which definitely just adds to the majesty of it all (this poorly-lit photo truly doesn’t do it justice). I think I’m going to have to order it tonight just thinking about it…!
3. Repub Lounge – Fish Brochettes (Rwf 7,000).
I think, all in all, I’ve eaten close to fifty or so fish brochettes at Repub Lounge (formerly Republika) over the years. I know that I wrote earlier that Kigali has more to offer than just brochettes, and it certainly does, but I just cannot ignore a classic like the fish brochette at Repub Lounge. They’re consistent, delicious, flavorful, and are served next to one of the best views Kigali has to offer. One order comes with two brochettes and a side dish – I usually go for the garlic potatoes or mizuzu. All the love for these fish brochettes!
2. CasaKeza – Aubergines with Cane Honey (Rwf 3,000)
I have spent the last few months enjoying a brief love affair with the eggplant fries at Arabika. They’re great, and I’ll still hunt them down when I’m in the mood, but the Aubergines with Cane Honey (otherwise known as eggplant fries) at CasaKeza – they are absolutely everything. Order them with a side of aioli, snag a glass of wine, and settle in for the most wonderful of meals. If you’re there for lunch and looking for a larger meal, check out the lunch platter (Rwf 6000), as it comes with the eggplant fries, salad, gazpacho, aioli, bread, and a slice of spanish omelette.
1. Japanda – Kaarage Chicken Donburi (Rwf 3,800)
My relationship with Japanda is slightly new, but undoubtedly memorable. I think I eat here once a week for lunch, and get the same dish every time: donburi with kaarage chicken. It is a bowl of rice topped with fried chicken, shredded cabbage, a few tomato slices, and an assortment of sauces (including their homemade Japanese mayonnaise as well as Teryaki sauce). This is one of the most comforting dishes in Kigali, and I love it so. It also comes with some pickled cucumbers and a small cup of soup. Though I recommend the donburi with kaarage chicken wholeheartedly, I unfortunately do not recommend the donburi with teryaki chicken. For some reason, the teriyaki chicken is always mostly skin and fat, with some seriously boney pieces. Not fun when you want to mix everything in your bowl together and just chow down! But I digress – Japanda is still a solid favorite, and at Rwf 3800 the donburi bowl is undoubtedly worth it.
Now it’s your turn! Do you like these dishes? Think there are any more awesome offerings in the city that we should love and check out?