It went a surprisingly long time before I tried out Zen, an Asian fusion restaurant just past the MTN Center in Nyarutarama. Despite having been recommended the place several times, I just never seemed to find the right occasion to go. My hesitation was partly grounded in the fact that all you see when you look through the gates is a big empty parking lot (the dining area is weirdly hidden in the back), and partly due to my fear of being disappointed by the sushi.
Yes, Zen is the only place in Kigali that has sushi on the menu (not anymore, you can get sushi at Sakae), and though this is something I really miss from home, the knowledge that Rwanda is landlocked and far from the nearest port, put me off the idea of eating raw fish. But the sushi at Zen is worth trying out. Most platters cost around Rwf 10,000, and are enough for one person. For sushi-craving skeptics, they do have vegetarian California rolls… (yeah, I know. Who in their right mind would pay a shit ton of money for avocado wrapped in rice and seaweed?)
As the restaurant description implies, Zen offers more than Japanese food. They have amazing Thai curries, and Tom Yum soup to die for! The Chinese dumplings come highly recommended as well— as do the delicious dipping sauces they come with.
The only downside to the food at Zen, are the prices. I don’t mind paying a little extra for good quality food, but when you pay Rwf 3,500 and get 3 tiny vegetable dumplings, or Rwf 6,000 for a broth with 4 prawns (no joke), it leaves a bad taste that has nothing to do with the food.
What really put me over the edge was when the African Tea came in a tiny little cup, without a cookie on the side. I mean, I do realize it’s easy to get spoiled in Rwanda when most (normal) places gives you a whole pot of tea, but at least give me a cookie if you insist on ripping me off! God damnit, Zen.
Despite skimpy portions, the food is admittedly some of the best Asian cooking you’ll find in this city. The wine and drink list is quite impressive as well, so if you have plenty of money to spear one evening, the lounge/bar at Zen might be the place to unwind. As for the restaurant, I found it a bit too minimalistic. Though I do appreciate the lack of gold dragons and Buddha statues, the bare patio just seems a little empty to me. Also, they might want to invest in some blankets for cold evenings— the wind blows straight through the outdoor restaurant, and it’s chilly!
Hours: Daily, Noon – 3pm & 6pm – 11:30pm
Phone: 0782 588 593