Modern ruin (above) across the street from Kigali’s famed Mexican restaurant, that’s right…Mexican. Meze Fresh is alright, but I can certainly see how it would taste like heaven to any American (or Mexican, but rare) expat who has been away from the homeland for too long. Heck, after two weeks of eating the same thing, we welcomed the chance for something different. It’s run by an American couple and has a nice rooftop open-air dining area. While it does seem to attract mostly expats, I was pleasantly surprised to see a good number of Rwandans enjoying la comida sabrosa.
Local food gets repetitive, hotel food gets expensive, and expat food is often far away (and expensive). So what is a consultant to do when they are staying at the Mille Collines for a month? They eat samosas. Tasty samosas. Lots of samosas. Simply put, samosas are Mother Nature’s way of proving you can have it all – taste, price and all of the food groups (as least all of the important ones) in one tight little package. Yes, samosas are indigenous to India. But lucky for us, Indians get around.
Now, if you find yourself in central Kigali, for say, a couple of weeks, and you’re into samosa (like I am), there are a couple of places near to the Mille Collines for getting your samosa on. Samosas can be found in the bakery section of the Nakumatt supermarket next to the hotel (though don’t misconstrue “next” with a hop-skip-and-a-jump, as eventhough the two are only meters apart, there are some security features of both the hotel and supermarket that ensure you take the most circuitous route possible to enjoy samosas). Alternatively, you can head up the street to one of Kigali’s best kept secrets.
— LA SIERRA —
This place is awesome. Originally introduced to us by our boss (who’s been coming here for years and years), La Sierra (on Boulevard de la Revolution in the city center) doesn’t look like much on the outside, but trust me, it’s a beautiful thing.
As you enter, take stock of the various seating options (you’re going to want to sit in one of the fantastically comfy 1970s pleather chairs on the left — forget the plastic and aluminum tables and chairs on the right, unless you consider yourself a dandy, that is). At lunch time, they serve a buffet that I hear is quite good but have never tried. If you continue further into the belly of the beast you’ll come upon the small supermarket. To your right is a long counter with one amiable looking gentleman and one or two permanently grumpy-looking ones. To your left are a series of cases of tantalizing baked goods from cookies, to beef rolls to…yes samosas. Stop everything. Go no farther. This is what you came for.
The cookies are good, but for savory treats, go directly to the samosas. I’ve tried nearly everything in this case (that’s right, nearly EVERYTHING). Not only are the samosas the tastiest, they are usually the freshest (because of their tastiness — high turnover). A little over a buck per samosa with two types to choose from: meat-filled and veggie. I usually get a mix. The friendlier dude behind the counter will offer to heat them up and ask for here or takeaway. If for “here,” and if you are purchasing a beverage, don’t be alarmed when he hands you a small piece of paper with something scribbled on it. You’re not being robbed. Just head out to your comfy chair and hand it to the friendly young lady when she comes by. Less than a minute later she’ll return with your ice cold beverage. If you do a cookie, be warned, the ginger cookies are extremely gingery.
Eating in a 1970s pleather comfy chair watching and listening to Boulevard de la Revolution is nice, but sometimes after a hard day of white-knuckled taxi rides, dodging MTN phone credit vendors and chasing down ATMs that actually were designed to dispense money, you just want samosas and beer in the comfort of your own swingin’ world-infamous hotel room, with a random French airline mag and an excruciatingly off-key live rendition of “We Are the World” playing outside your window.
You can have all of it and more in Kigali, Rwanda.
All of it…and more.