Zen, Kigali

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.

Sushi Platter

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.

Thai Green Chicken Curry

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
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ZEN-Oriental-Cuisine/164327286924704

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12 thoughts on “Zen”

  1. I had the Thai Green Curry and it was actually pretty good. I don’t really like zucchini which were a main veggie in the dish but somehow even they tasted good in the sauce. The giant chocolate mousse at the end of the night nearly killed me but it was really good as well. Not to mention the duck rolls at the start. Damn. I ate a lot that night.

    I did feel sorry for my friend who got a tiny dish of veggie dumplings as I wolfed down a feast for three. It cost me but it was worth it for a once-in-awhile thing.

    I liked the outdoor seating but agree that it was chilly. I agree that blankets would be nice as they do at Heaven, another patio place. The tables seemed huge, and super spaced out which was a bit annoying as I couldn’t really speak to everyone and we were only six to the table. We ended up squashing together a bit more and it was fine, though.

    It was a nice meal and night out and I’d recommend it if you have some spare cash lying around ad feel like splashing out a bit.

  2. I totally agree with the blankets idea! I haven’t been to Heaven, but that’s a great idea!!! I was freezing like crazy when I ate at Zen last week!!! Try the Papaya salad as a starter, it’s delish!!!
    Great site, btw, just found it when I was searching for Greek restaurants in Kigali – didn’t find any though, but I thought I heard something about one in Kimi?!?!

    Toodles, Glenda!!!!

  3. Food is very good, no doubt about it BUT the price!! I also had dumplings as starter and was horrified when I saw how small the portions were at 4800 Rwf for four pieces. I was still hungry when I left this place, even the rice comes in small portions.
    I like this place but I am sorry to say that I cannot afford it!

  4. food are great. hospitality & service are great. ambiance is fantastic. the name of the resto “Zen” speaks for itself. but oh well, its quite hard on the pocket. well, that’s the price of eating there. but its two-thumbs up for me.

  5. Americans will appreciate it if Inga doesn’t darken our doors again and we sincerely
    hope for a full recovery !

  6. Great Mohito, great chocolate mousse, lettuce chicken wraps are worth going for as is the papaya salad and the fish packets.

  7. Great place, great mojitos, great cosmos, great food, great ambiance, great service, and there is blanket when it’s too cold! Zen was really one of my best surprise in Kigali.

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