Borneo Indonesian has breathed life into one of those Kigali buildings that seems to have been cursed over the years. Every city has these – the buildings where, no matter what business moves in, it goes out of business soon after. Places where nobody seems to be able to make their business work, no matter how promising. Well, this little corner building in Kimihurura is one of those places and, I’m happy to report, that Borneo Indonesian is making it work in a very big way.
I approached Borneo a bit wary of Indonesian cuisine. I spent five months in rural Sumatra in 2009 where I was fed basically the same two curries on repeat for the entire time. At first I loved them but I quickly grew tired of the repetition to the point where I resorted to making my own cheese sandwiches out of some sort of magical Kraft cheese that didn’t need to be refrigerated (weird, I know). I even had to walk a half our each way to get the cheese, that’s how desperate I was to eat anything but these curries. It was not one of my finer culinary experiences and left certainly left me wary of Indonesian cuisine.
But Borneo has brought me back around to the wonders of Indonesian food! I had no idea what sorts of delicious things were part of the cuisine and I’m excited to work my way through their menu. In addition to their amazing food, they’ve also managed to create a lovely, welcoming atmosphere where you’ll get a warm greeting the moment you want in the doors from the owners and staff. Everyone is super attentive and they’ll do everything you can to ensure you’re having a great meal. It’s very popular, especially at lunch for their amazing buffet, and you’ll often find the patio full shortly after noon.
Their buffet is what they’re most known for and, though it’s relatively small, each dish is remarkably good. There are usually six vegetarian dishes (with five suitable for vegans), a curry with some sort of meat, and a fish dish to choose from. They switch the buffet’s offerings up daily and every dish I’ve had at Borneo has been incredible. Even better, the buffet is one of the best bargains in Kigali at Rwf 3,000 for vegetarian dishes and Rwf 4,000 if you want to also have meat (kids eat for Rwf 2,500). The price is per plate but the plates are the biggest I’ve seen for a buffet and they’re pretty flexible, so if you want to take just small amounts at first and restock with what you like the most, they’re ok with that. Borneo’s buffet is on from noon to 3pm from Tuesday to Friday.
The stand out, for me, is their peanut sauce. It’s like crack. Well, what I assume crack to be like (though I’d imagine crack is less peanut-y). I shall call it ‘Crack Sauce’. No… no, that’s awful, I take it back. I shall never utter those two words together ever again. But you get my drift – this stuff is addictive! I could probably just have it as a thick soup and be happy, but it works best as a glorious dipping sauce.
I haven’t been here yet for dinner but I have several friends who have it on rotation as one of their regular evening spots. There’s no buffet at night so, if you’re a creature of habit, make sure to keep track of your favourites so you can order them again for dinner. Or if you’re more adventurous and want to branch out a bit, they have a full menu with plenty of things that you won’t find at lunch so you can experience even more of what Indonesian food has on offer. Prices are great with most dishes coming in at between Rwf 3,500 and 7,000.
Borneo is a bright place with a great patio area and plenty of indoor seating, as well. They have reliable wifi and I enjoy sitting inside with my laptop as I work my way through their delicious lunch buffet. I just really love the friendliness and atmosphere at Borneo and, to top it all off, the food is amazing and great value. It’s really one of the new stars on Kigali’s food scene and you should give it a try immediately.
Don’t forget the peanut sauce!