Ambitious African venue offers delighfully diverse dishes 2 Reviews
KIZA’s Swagger Sunday
Enjoy an African-themed set menu. Dhs165 (three courses), Dhs265 (three courses with grape pairing) Timings: 7pm-3am (Sunday)
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Arriving in a rather odd, dated and slightly desolate spot in Al Nasr Leisureland in Oud Metha, my friend and I discovered Kiza during the early-evening twilight zone, before any of the surrounding businesses opened. We were left wandering around the sandy tracks of what looked like a long-abandoned theme park, killing time, waiting and wondering why anyone would choose to open a restaurant here.
When we were finally able to head inside, the interior seemed an even stranger fit for the incongruous location. Glamorous and upmarket, dark yet colourful, there was something about the division and decoration of the large, open yet still intimate space that seemed more in keeping with the layout of a London nightclub. Sectioned into areas for a bar, a DJ and an art space, with separate sections for lounging and dining, Kiza has the potential to come into its own as a destination spot as the autumn season picks up.
The restaurant’s newness, coupled with our eagerness to get inside and get away from the heat, meant we were the first guests to arrive and remained the only patrons for some time. While this tranquillity may be off-putting for those expecting a lively DJ venue, in this instance it proved fortuitous: it gave us the chance to indulge in conversation with the executive chef (anonymously, of course), who explained with enthusiasm the concept and soul behind the venture. Although the new restaurant describes itself as ‘African fusion’, the idea is apparently not to modernise African food, but to bring together regional African styles of cooking, offering classical and signature dishes from east, west, north and south. Fascinating, I thought, and a truly unique, niche concept here in Dubai.
Unfortunately, my friend (who had significantly less reason to care) began, quite obviously, to zone out. Equally unfortunately, the executive chef’s passion for the subject meant he was quite oblivious until it had become embarrassingly obvious that my companion was drifting into a coma.
The southern and northern African sections of the menu sparked infinitely less excitement of the unknown, so we stuck to the east and west. The east African wataalamu fish soup was pleasant, smooth and creamy but my friend was disappointed by how unexcitingly European it seemed. I was initially in ecstasy over the flavour of the chicken gizzards – which were rich, with a liver-like fullness and a beautifully light yet lively spiciness – until the gristly texture began to get the better of me.
The ayemase stew, on the other hand, was a bone of contention. It was infinitely too spicy for me, but before this long, lingering final punch of heat fell, there was a wonderfully smoky and soft sweetness of caramelised onions. As we argued over the possible ingredients, the waitress confused matters further, relaying different versions of the recipe to each of us.
The egusi soup, which was more of a stew, resembled a broken-down scrambled egg, but was made with pounded melon seeds for a nutty, mellow sweetness (although the meats that were cooked in this delicious mixture were jaw-breakingly tough). The accompanying dish of pounded yam was a hefty and glutinious ball that filled me up in two mouthfuls: unfortunately, the waitress neglected to explain that this dough needed to be mixed with the soup before being eaten. This successfully broke up the texture, but by that time the meal was all but over.
It was a shame, considering how deeply the executive chef felt about the restaurant and its cuisines, that he hadn’t quite conveyed all this information and enthusiasm to his staff. The waitresses were excellent in many respects, but were unable to explain some aspects of the menu. There was an assumption that guests were already familiar with the cuisine, which meant I didn’t get the most out this main course.
While I sense my moody mate might have other ideas, I’d go back to Kiza in a heartbeat. Given time, and a chance to get busier, I feel (and hope) that this venue will become something really quite special in Dubai.
The bill (for two)
2x juice Dhs80
2x large water Dhs50
1x fish soup Dhs40
1x chicken gizzards Dhs40
1x egusi soup Dhs65
1x ayemase stew Dhs75
1x plaintain side Dhs15
1x jollof rice side Dhs25
2x espresso Dhs40
Total (including service) Dhs430
Time Out Dubai,
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