Top Rwandan Chef’s Top Kigali Restaurants

Hello friends! Sorry I have been quiet since our Cyuza Island Online Picnic, but times have been a bit challenging.

With the hospitality industry at a standstill, most restaurants and hotels have been closed for a long time or were not operating at full capacity, and owners had to find some new solutions. A patron’s mentality about going out to eat has changed entirely. As a consultant working for different hospitality businesses in Rwanda, that made my job pretty exciting. Restaurant owners have had to be inventive: start offering take away, creating an online business, etc. And I am there to show them how to do it!

The industry is slowly opening up again, but it will never be the same as before and I see two important trends that I think are models for the future.

The first is a push for creativity. We cannot just stick to the local cuisine anymore. We need to implement some diversity. I am not saying that we should reject traditional cooking, but we can add new elements and mix it up. The restaurant becomes a laboratory where we experiment with different ingredients and techniques.

The second trend is to think sustainable. Food traceability is an important aspect in that. Simply said, it is about knowing where your food comes from. Farm-to-table is a new concept here, referring to the direct relationship between a restaurant and a farmer or producer. This is not only beneficial to the environment by reducing transport emissions, it also supports rural areas and assures that you will have the best quality and freshest local ingredients.

My three favourite restaurants in Kigali implement these two strategies and I believe they are the forerunners of a new paradigm. Be sure to book in advance if you want to pay them a visit!

Meza Malonga

Meza Malonga is what I am talking about when I say creativity. The name refers to the “chef’s table”, and it’s a table you’re going to want to sit down at. Described as an Afro-fusion restaurant with a fine dining touch, chef Dieuveil Malonga brings together the best of two worlds. The 28-year-old award-winning chef is originally from Congo-Brazzaville, but honed his culinary skills in Germany at different Michelin-starred restaurants. He was also a finalist for the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize 2018.

Meza Malonga serves an 8-course menu, which is exclusive in Rwanda.

On the gastronomic world stage, African cuisine is often left out. With African peoples and culture looked down upon in general, it’s not surprising that the same thing happens with the cuisine. Chef Malonga wants to counter those prejudices by taking us on a culinary journey throughout the continent, with, amongst others, Maasai and Zulu influences. The fruits and vegetables, however, stay inside the borders. They are homegrown in the lush district of Musanze, Rwanda. Everything is wonderfully fresh and straight from the garden.

The menu changes often, but here is an idea of what you can find at this wonderful restaurant: Cameroonian achu soup traditionally seasoned with Penja pepper and calabash nutmeg, fused with unconventional roasted shallots and wild pigeon, or a dessert platter with chocolate from Ghana, hibiscus from Mali, and tea from Kenya.

Choose Kigali

Located in Kiyovu, the historic heart of the city, Choose Kigali is a creative space that encompasses an art gallery and a restaurant. I love how every dinner at Choose Kigali starts with welcome drinks and a private tour of the gallery. This is followed by a seven-course menu of exciting dishes. I love the food just as much as the atmosphere. Being more than just a restaurant, they call it “a dining experience”. With an amazing view of the city and wonderful art on the walls, it is the perfect place to hang out with friends or family.

Chef Billy McCormick started out as dishwasher while studying in Connecticut and worked his way up to the top. Now, afters 28 years of working throughout the United States, he is bringing his experience to Kigali. His menu is compact with not a lot options, but it is full of creativity — quality over quantity. I have to mention their seared duck breast, which is exceptional.

Nyurah Restaurant

Of course, I cannot fail to mention Nyurah Restaurant, as I helped to start it and am very proud of the way it has turned out. The name is derived from the Kinyarwanda word kunyurwa meaning “to be greatly satisfied”, a promise that this restaurant definitely lives up to.

Nyurah is also a training centre for young people that want to work in the hospitality sector. They definitely have the best service in all of Rwanda, and I am happy that they are sharing this knowledge with the younger generation.

The chef, Fidel Nshimiye, combines the finest seasonal ingredients from Rwanda with contemporary recipes from all over the continent. The place is also great for wine lovers as the sommelier team will help you select the right wine for every dish.

Here as well, all the ingredients are locally sourced which supports local Rwandan farmers and local markets. I can’t decide which dish on the menu I like more, the crayfish soup or the stuffed boneless chicken!

location photos by Miha Logar; others from restaurants’ Instagram accounts

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