Arabika

Arabika

Hello Food Kigali

I went here for the first time for lunch with a group of 15 people. Somehow I still think that’s a good idea. Even me. After nearly five years in Rwanda I should know better to do that. Keep dinner and lunch parties to a maximum of eight people if you value your time and sanity. This is just a lesson on life in Rwanda that I wanted to share. But things have vastly improved since this first visit to Arabika, shortly after they opened, so I won’t dwell on it. Too much.

On that fateful first visit, our poor waitress was completely run off of her feet – serving our table of 15, taking drinks orders, dealing with a few other smaller tables, and doing it all in a near sprint. All while another staff member guy stood at the bar and watched. He was literally just standing there, occasionally writing something down possibly to look busy. But mostly just watching her run around like a maniac. What’s with that? Why does that happen? Eventually I asked him to take our drinks order where he took four orders out of 15, wrote down two, walked 5 metres to the bar to get them, brought two and, of course, forgot the other two that he didn’t bother to write down. As it turned out, he was also the guy in charge of calculating the bill at the end of our lunch which seemed to be an endless near impossible task for him.

Chicken Shwarma

Thankfully, I think that guy is gone and service has greatly improved. But there are always a few annoying service quirks each time I go to Arabika. Like not bringing out any cutlery until asked, bringing the dishes out at 15 minute intervals, nobody checking on your table after your dishes are served until you flag them down, and always having to ask someone to clear the table and bring the bill. Plus, every time I’ve been there seems to be a random dude sitting at the bar playing around with the music, stopping each track about 20 seconds in which is very annoying. But the staff are friendly and the place has a nice, laid back vibe so it’s hard to feel too impatient when I’m there.

Tabbouleh - Rwf 3,000

Plus I’m more than willing to overlook the sometimes inattentive service because the food is really quite delicious. I love their babaganoush (Rwf 2,500) and the tabbouleh (Rwf 3,000) is nice and citrus-y. I tried the kibbe (meatball type things for Rwf 800 each) for the first time today and was impressed. The labneh (Rwf 2,000) is tasty, too. I’m not totally sold on their hummus but I think that’s because I like mine with cumin in it and, I’m told, they make it without. But plenty of people I know who are quasi-authorities on hummus seem to approve, so that’s a good sign! The manakish cocktail (not a drink, more like a pizza) and the eggplant fries also get good reviews.

The flatbread-trying-to-be-pita has been super fresh most times I’ve been, but I have been served rock hard triangles once that I had to send back. If you can see the guy making the bread behind the bar, that’s a good sign that you’ll be getting the fresh stuff. Servings are deceptively large and two people could be filled up with two or three starters, especially considering they give you a generous amount of bread. If they start serving iced lemonade with mint I’d probably find myself eating here all the time.

Babaghanoush - Rwf 2,500

Arabika’s eating area has been built from the ground up in the garden of a house in the area near Cercle Sportif with a pretty standard setup. The atmosphere is laid back and the decor is simple (with comfy chairs and couches) but it does the trick. Most of the restaurant is open so it gives a nice, airy space. You can smoke shisha here  for Rwf 5,000 and there’s a table of Labanese-looking dudes smoking every time I’ve been there. I take this as a positive sign that they do shisha well. It seems like it would be a nice place to come for a relaxed beer and some double apple smokey goodness in the evenings.

Kibbe - Rwf 800

The drinks are well-priced, the couches are comfy, and it’s nice to have an alternative to Lebanese Restaurant in Kimihurura (is that place even open anymore?) that seems to cater to rats and underage drinkers. So, unless you prefer eating your food with rats nibbling at your toes and 16 year olds falling all over the place… Arabika is the place to come for excellent Lebanese food and a chilled out atmosphere.

Hours: Daily, 11am – midnight
Phone: 0786 895 272

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About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.