East Africa Trip Report: Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar
Just returned from a wonderful three week trip to East Africa. There isn't much written on these boards so just wanted to leave some comments for others.
TAMAMBO AT KAREN BLIXEN COFFEE HOUSE, NAIROBI: Literally a minute from the skippable Karen Blixen ("Out of Africa") museum, this restaurant is part of the well-known Tamarind/Tamambo group of upscale restaurants. We went for lunch which is ideal for sitting outside on the lovely lawn -- even though everyone seemed to be tourists, we didn't mind with the great atmosphere! We had an excellent (tho a little pricy) lunch here -- recommend the prawns pili pili, seafood platter, and meat platter. The fresh oysters were a little bland. Photos are the first 3 attached. Menu: http://www.tamarind.co.ke/tamambo-karen/index.php?id=39
BLANCO'S, NAIROBI: Perhaps our expectations were too high but we thought the food was good but not really special. Our favorite dish was the mukimo -- large deep fried balls of potatoes & some green veggie that was remarkably tasty! Service here was extremely slow too and not the friendliest. Menu: http://www.blancos.co.ke/blg/chef.php
THE ALCOVE, DAR ES SALAAM: One of the best meals of the trip! We had lunch at the dated downtown location (in a somewhat dirty area) of this well-known Indian/Chinese restaurant, but they also have a beautiful new location at the upscale Sea Cliff hotel. We stuck to the Indian part of the menu but the other diners (almost all locals) mostly seemed to be ordering from the Chinese side. The crab masala recommended by Frommer's was okay but a little boring (maybe good if you can't take spice), but the seafood biryani, though a bit moister than biryanis I've had in India, was so delicious and full of flavor. The bread in the 3 roti basket was great too -- the sesame-coated paratha was *so good* that I could have eaten a whole basket by itself, and didn't want to use it for the curry. We eat Indian food often in the San Francisco area, but if the Alcove were in our 'hood we would definitely return again & again to try out their offerings. Menu: http://www.alcovetz.com/Menu.htm
ADDIS, DAR ES SALAAM: This Ethiopian restaurant is located in a converted house in a somewhat hard-to-find area near the US Embassy. The outdoor seating is very pretty and atmospheric, and their homemade tej (honey wine) is a bit cidery and refreshing. The food, especially the doro wot (spicy chicken) was delicious but I didn't think it was significantly better than the Ethiopian food in the San Francisco Bay Area. Apparently Addis also has a location in Cape Town, South Africa as well; its menu is here (Dar website is under construction): http://www.addisincape.co.za/cuisine.php
SPICE TOUR, OUTSIDE STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR: Although not located in any restaurant, one of the best meals on our trip was the vegetarian lunch served on our Spice Plantation Tour! I'm not sure if the meal was part of the tour or arranged by the booking guy (not part of any agency but just our snorkeling guide who we arranged excursions with on the side), but it highlighted many of the spices on the tour and was like a taste of the simple but spectacular local home cooking. Delicious potato rice, stewed bananas (not sweet!), potato curry, and an onion/tomato side salad. I recommend anyone doing a spice tour to ask for the lunch to be included in it, as that's an option which we just happened to request. I'll admit we were a little uncertain as to the food's cleanliness when it was first brought out, but once we took a bit all our hesitations fell away and we ate like crazy! Photo is the 4th attached picture.
FORODONI GARDENS, STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR: Normally a more calm tourist-oriented affair, it was totally jammed packed during our trip which happened to coincide with the Eid festival at the end of Ramadan, so all the local families were celebrating by going to the gardens & eating. I had looked forward to this but thought the seafood Zanzibari pizza was just so-so (maybe the beef would be better, as that's what all the locals were ordering), and the prawn skewer tasted a bit off. See attached 5th photo.
MONSOON, STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR: We went for the taraab music on Wednesday nights but found that all the tables were full for that and had to sit outside where we couldn't hear the music. Recommendation: book ahead for inside tables for the music, which seem to be quite the experience. Passion fruit calamari was really good, and the other dishes quite solid. Menu: http://www.monsoon-zanzibar.com/enjoy...
236 HURUMZI TOWER TOP, STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR: The small restaurant at the top of the 236 Hurumzi restaurant offers expansive views of Stone Town & the Indian ocean. I hear it's popular for dinner but we enjoyed our lunch to better see the view. Our meal was solid overall, and we especially enjoyed the spicy prawn curry.
ARCHIPELAGO, STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR: This casual cafe is conveniently located near Fodorini Gardens but was unfortunately the least impressive of our meals in Zanzibar. The steamed fish tasted very fishy, and the other items were very blah.
Z HOTEL, NUNGWI, ZANZIBAR: We stayed at the boutique Z Hotel and ate at their onsite restaurants a couple of times. Their weekly Saturday seafood BBQ buffet on the beach is a good deal if you like lobster -- there's no limit, though some pieces were sweeter than others. Lunch at the Cinnamon restaurant was enjoyable as well -- tasty drinks, good thin-crust pizza, other items were very solid too.
LANGILANGI HOTEL, NUNGWI, ZANZIBAR: I heard the food at the nearby LangiLangi hotel was quite good so we swung by for dinner once. The waka waka pili pili prawns with coconut spinach there are REALLY SPICY -- we eat spicy food all the time and that was pretty up there. The whole fish with chili sauce was good and of normal spiciness, and their other dishes quite good as well. Be aware that their milk shakes are mostly just milk!
JAMBO BROTHERS, NUNGWI, ZANZIBAR: Less expensive than many of the other Nungwi restaurants was Jambo Brothers, also oceanfront. The grilled octopus was a tad tough but had excellent smokiness and flavor, and other dishes were good too. Prices were easily 30% less than at LangiLangi & the Z.
INFUSION, NUNGWI, ZANZIBAR: The pizza wasn't as good as at the Z, and their other dishes were fine but not as good as other renditions at nearby restaurants.
MANDUKA, NUNGWI, ZANZIBAR: I wasn't expecting much from this small restaurant on the beach but the grilled snapper was the best fish we had on our trip -- so fresh and delectable! The mantis prawns were a bit muddy tasting -- not our fave but worth trying once.
SAFARI: On safari we stayed at various lodges & tented camps which were all-inclusive, so won't really comment much here. Food was a mixture of Western & Indian food -- seems to have a lot of British influence, esp. since we could get a full English breakfast almost every AM. Our non-meat-eating companion preferred buffets (which often had delicious vegetarian curries or fish options) over fixed menus as the fixed menu places usually only had a meat-based main course, and some "vegetarian" soups tasted like they had chicken stock. Sadly the boxed picnic lunches were uniformly dry and tasteless.