The eclectic food scene in Dubai never fails to amaze. What we like most about the city is its penchant for experimentation and its ability to give space to varied taste and flavours. Do all of them work? Well, that depends entirely on how willing you are to push your taste-buds but if you are an ardent foodie, you are seriously spoilt for choice here!
One of the recent welcome trends in the foodscape is the arrival of African cuisine. There are some Ethiopian joints and a stray restaurant or two specializing in Nigerian food but there was a huge gap when it came to celebrating African food in all its glory. Thankfully that has been bridged with Kiza, the unique Pan-African restaurant and lounge at DIFC that is trendy, stylish and has a menu that takes you a whole new gastronomic journey. Incidentally, Kiza is not just aiming to be a place to introduce Dubaiites to the variety in African cuisine but also serve as a platform to celebrate its culture through its music and décor. So you have African artists performing on special nights and sponsorship of concerts, to ladies nights and other events. Kudos!
Now about the food. First up, the team behind the selection of the menu deserves a huge round of applause. It’s wide and varied but err... equally confusing! Especially if you are new to the cuisine. Divided into various segments – Classics, Hot Starters, The Grills, Stews etc, it makes for a tempting case to try a flavor that is totally new to your palate but let’s be frank – your taste buds may have some unlearning to do!
We opted for a tasting menu that represented quite a few countries of the continent and perhaps that’s the best way to judge it. So what are the results? In one word: Mixed. The dishes were either a pleasant surprise or a tad underwhelming.
The Pepper Soup was a knockout. A Nigerian favourite, it had meat swimming in a light but supremely flavourful broth, enhanced by pepper. It was a sharp attack on our taste buds but that’s exactly what made it so delightful.
The next rounds were all about hits and misses. The Kiza Salad with mixed leaves, mango slices, tomatoes and shallots was average but the mango and lemon dressing that upped the taste level. I quite enjoyed nibbling the dressing on its own.
The Chicken Brik (from North Africa) tasted like any other filo pastry with a filling of chicken, garlic and parsley. On the other hand, I loved the funny-sounding Kele Wele, a delicacy from Ghana. Ripe plantain cubes spiced with seasoning and topped with crunchy peanuts. Easy to munch and delicious. There were other exotic sounding names from Sudan, Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia, South Africa etc and we realised it would take more than a trip to understand everything that was available at KIZA.
What was disappointing though were the barbecue ribs that were part of the mains – heavy, chewy, the sauce was rather overpowering. Let’s just say, we have had better. Similarly, the mocktails could do with some upgrade. Having said that, most of the items served had a distinct flavor and it’s fascinating to see the play of meat, veggies and spices in such a unique manner. As far as the concept is concerned, KIZA is an idea whose time has come. We are definitely going again for the exploration of Africa has just begun.