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Aug 24, 2010 10:45 PM

Rwanda report (long)

I went with a group to study the history of Rwanda. We were there for two weeks, and I was the odd one always taking pictures of the food. The most we paid for a meal and alcohol was about $25, which included a (too) generous tip. Most meals were well below that.

Most of the time was spent in the capital, Kigali, where the go-to snack for many of us was the meat samosas from Blues Cafe or Bourbon Cafe (both of which served great breakfasts with awesome coffee). If you didn’t get there early enough, they were gone. Cheap and filling. Add on a Fanta Citron and that was dinner right there.

At the posh and historically significant Hotel Mille Collines (aka Hotel Rwanda from the film), we had some nice cocktails in the garden, including their eponymous punch and a killer Caipirinha, which included a rarity—ice. I had a nice burger there one night too. It was cooked just as I like it (medium-rare), although I was prepared for the consequences if the beef was too under-cooked. Staying a couple of nights meant we could avail ourselves of the extensive breakfast buffet, where my faves were the fresh fruit drinks (passion fruit, guava, watermelon, OJ, etc) and the other hot items, like the mushrooms in pastry smothered in a mushroom cream sauce.

In general the flavours in the country were very simple, perhaps just salt and pepper. Not much heat so I learned to dash some Akabanga oil (scotch bonnet peppers and veggie oil) onto everything. Lots of carbs too in the form of chips / fries or other potatoes.

And while the service was always friendly, we often waited 1-2 hours for food. As we learned, the locals looked at dinner as a 2-3 hour affair. Given I live in a city with great Asian food, I had wanted to compare the Rwandan versions of Indian or Chinese but never had the chance.

The following are some photos from meals around the country.

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  1. Kigali—New Cactus

    Great views of the city at night and popular with ex-pats and tourists. Went here twice. I liked the vinaigrette atop the huge avocado. First time had the tilapia, chips and veggies with provencal sauce. Like many places, the fish was over-cooked. Don’t have a pic of the other appy I liked on the second visit, chevre with bacon and honey triangles, which were like a samosa. I had their pizza from the wood-fire oven this time. Crispy crust.

    1. Kigali—Heaven

      Another place with a nice view of the city and also popular with ex-pats and tourists. Along with a Tusker lager, although I would’ve preferred a glass of red if the selection were better, I had a steak with chimichurri, mashed cassava, and veggies. This place also has a screen for films, and we caught part of the doc Trouble the Water for the city’s film festival.

      1. Kigali—Karibu

        A couple of times we hit an African buffet. This place means “welcome” in Swahili, and many of us loved the change and authentic cuisine. We still shied away from the fresh veggies—sigh, because they looked so good. I liked the beef dish, which easily tasted like beef caldereta, and a dish with (I think) cassava leaves in a peanut sauce. Also enjoyed the fried plantains / cassava / cauliflower.

        1. Akagera National Park—Akagera Game Lodge

          A decent steak cooked more like a medium. The potatoes had a nice crisp. This place also offered a great breakfast. I think I’m spoiled by having so much passion fruit.

          1. Kibuye—Centre Bethanie

            Beautiful setting at Lake Kivu. Unfortunately, we’ll remember this as the “no running water place”. Wonder how they were still able to cook. More potatoes and deep-fried tilapia, although the menu indicated grilled. Some of us crashed a party above the resto, and these photos are the morning after with the two prime beer choices in the country. Or you could also have the rocket fuel that tasted like very strong gin.