¿Qué Pasa? is a question in Spanish, a kinda greeting to say What’s Up? But, it’s also a new-ish restaurant in Kampala (at least according Kampala Restaurant Awards). I’ve been there twice and I’ve had such vastly different experiences each time that I told my friend Leticia I’d never go back. But maybe I was overreacting and will go back, they do say Three’s The Charm after all.

See Que Pasa is a Mexican Restaurant, the only one of its kind in Kampala that I knew of during my summer this year (now after some research and yada-yada, I know that The Little Donkey and Lotus Mexican Cantina also exist). I only even found it because as I’ve said lots of times before, I am in Acacia area A helluva LOT. We saw it across the road, and I said we need to try it because I didn’t know Kampala had Mexican places. That alone should tell you exactly how much of a failed foodie I am! Haha.

We get into the restaurant and I’m delighted by how much work was put into getting the whole Mexican theme going. It reminded me of this little place in Jing’An, Shanghai. The decor’s not really the same, but it inspired hope in me I guess. The waiter that seats us is friendly and welcoming. I encourage my friend to try out a Mexican dish, but they’re reluctant and would rather stick to a “safe” choice. I don’t know what about fish at a restaurant sounds safe but the meal did turn out great, with popping avocado, and fries on the side. I chose the chicken fajitas and I thought that was the safe choice! If only…

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible. It’s just that for a Mexican place, the meal was underwhelming. I had figured they couldn’t get it wrong with basic tortillas and a kinda stir-fry. But that tortilla was so dry it almost bordered on Indian chapati (Indian chapati is harder and drier than the East African version which is more like paratha). I ate most of it, and the waiter only noticed that I din’t touch the cheese. I might or might not have made a comment on the texture of the tortillas. Not sure.

What I do remember is asking to see the drinks menu, and exclaiming rather loudly that “What good is a Mexican restaurant without sangria?” Yep, there wasn’t any sangria on their menu, the waiter didn’t even know what it was. I let it pass. (And yes, I know Sangria is Spanish…buttttt!)

 

 

What I didn’t let pass though was my shock at the quality of the meal the next time I showed up with another friend. It was dinner this time. The place was close to empty, as seemed to be the norm. Yet, our waiter didn’t seem to be hell-bent on being at our beck and call. In fact, she got off work (presumably her shift was done) halfway through our meal. I didn’t know that was a thing. We’d ordered the Fillet of Fish again (is fish really a safe dish, though?) and passed on the Mexican in favour of Southern Fried Chicken. And a glass of house red. Why is there still no sangria?!

Well, the chicken was passable, the fries were the best part of the dish. The fish (and accompaniments) looked nothing like the one my other friend had gotten during the lunch. I was confused…did the menu have more than one fish dish? It looked different, and it tasted spoilt when I took a bite. The lemon wedge didn’t help. The meal was entirely inedible!

With my recent tooth extraction, it was too difficult for me to eat crunchy, breaded fried chicken. So I look around for our waitress to send back the fish, and she’s gone! Another one approaches, and lets us know she’ll help instead. I point to the plate and ask why they gave us old, or even spoilt fish. She carries the plate away to the kitchen, and returns FIVE minutes later to let us know that it isn’t in fact spoilt. Sure! In a sympathising tone, she tells me that the fish only tastes strange to me because it isn’t the Tilapia I’m used to. See, they use Nile Perch and a selection of seasonings that I’m not used to because it’s a foreign dish. Yes, they’ve had customers complain about it, but that’s only because it’s different. Except, I have eaten Nile Perch before, and I’m not too sure that was the problem. Also, I have eaten Mexican food an uncountable number of times. The main reason I didn’t even order a typical Mexican dish that night was because the first one wasn’t good enough! So what exactly was she saying? Was spoilt fish a Mexican delicacy they enjoyed at Que Pasa that I was new to?

That night, I got no replacement for the plate she took to the kitchen and never brought back, we got no apology for the taste of the meal nor was there any effort taken to try to make our meal worth it after the mishap. Heck, even our original waitress left early! So you can see where my reluctance to step foot again in Que Pasa stems from. I won’t be going back. Not for a while anyway.

And yet, I still have hope for it. It’s a quaint idea and it’s in the perfect location. But unless they are going to put more effort in their main meals, I’d say they’d do much better being a drinks bar. With tapas to eat and a wider range of drinks i.e please get sangria, pisco and more South American drinks on that menu! Maybe then, I’ll pass by for drinks one day in like 2 years.

SEE THE MENU BELOW

menu_1 menu_2 drinks_2 drinks_1

QUE PASA MEXICAN CANTINA

21 Cooper Road Kisementi

+256 783 874469

www.facebook.com/quepasakampala

tamarai thai restaurant

Disclaimer: Nope, I am not being paid (or coerced) to talk about Tamarai.

This is the second part of what turned out to be my excessive thoughts on Tamarai Thai Restaurant. You can read part one. Or not. Here, I share what my top choices are from all of the sections. I tried to keep my selections within Asian cuisine simply because it is a Thai and/or Pan-Asian restaurant. No point eating food you could have at any of the cafes in town while there. You could though, if you so wish.

 

TAMARAI THAI RESTAURANT

Click here for the full MENU.

APPETIZERS

thai spring rolls

Spring Rolls

Both the Thai-style and Vietnamese Vegetarian options are really good

Oriental Chicken Wings

Tamarai special-flavoured wok tossed chicken wings

Two-flavour Wasabi Prawns

Fried lagoon prawns with two flavours Japanese wasabi mayonnaise, mango and papaya salad

SALADS

som tum

Som Tum (with Vegs or Shrimp)

Classic raw papaya salad with crushed peanuts and a sweet and sour finish

CURRY

thai curry

Thai Green Curry with Chicken

A classical Thai Green Curry with coconut milk, Pea Brinjal, fresh Thai Basil, galangal and green chilli

Thai Masman Curry with Chicken (or Beef)

Tangy Thai curry-flavoured with coconut cream, baby potatoes, and cinnamon

SOUPS

tom yum kung

Tom Yum with Prawn

Spicy and Sour clear soup made from the stock of fresh lemon grass, galangal and kaffir lime

Tom Kha Kai

Traditional Thai chicken soup with coconut milk, lemongrass, and galangal

STIR-FRY

nasi goreng indonesian fried rice

Stir-fried Sam Ros Sauce

Deep fried veg/meat in a three-flavoured sauce of sweet basil, pineapple, and chilli

Manchurian Sauce

Stir fried veg/meat in a blend of garlic, coriander, ginger, onions and green chilli

Nasi Goreng (with chicken/prawn)

Spicy Indonesian fried rice served with Satay, prawn crackers and topped with a fried egg

Crispy Chicken & Yellow Curry

Breaded chicken breast topped with yellow curry served with rice & a fresh garden salad

RICE & NOODLES

phad thai

Phad Thai (with Prawns)

 Flat rice noodles with tamarind sauce, bean curd and shitake mushrooms

Khao Suay

 Traditional Thai Jasmine rice. The. Best. Smell. Ever.

DESSERTS

mango sticky rice

Mango Sticky Rice

aka my All-Time Favourite Dessert

Traditional Thai Sticky Rice topped with Coconut Milk and Mango

Indonesian Fried Banana

Deep fried battered banana served with choice of Ice Cream

 

Most of my choices range from mild to really hot, so do talk to the waiter as you order to make sure the chef makes the meal as per your preference.

 

TAMARAI THAI RESTAURANT

Click here for the MENU.

www.tamaraithai.co.ug

No. 14 Terrace Rd

Lower Kololo, Kampala

+256 755 794 960/58

twitter.com/tamaraithai

facebook.com/TamaraiRestaurant

tamarai thai restaurant

Disclaimer: Nope, I am not being paid (or coerced) to talk about Tamarai.

Tamarai Thai Restaurant is undeniably one of my favourite places to eat out at in Kampala. So much so that every time the family wants to go somewhere fancier than Cafe Javas and we fail to agree on a new place to go to, then we’re definitely driving that car to No. 14 Terrace Rd in Lower Kololo. We once changed course on our way to this Turkish restaurant that was supposed to have opened in Bukoto but had no menu online in favour of something we knew. And I’ll tell you, no regrets here. At all.

My first time at Tamarai was in the summer of 2013 when my sister Nicole suggested it as a place for us to meet her best friend Maea who was visiting Uganda for the first time. My mother figured a night of evening tea and causal talk would do us well, so Nicole jumped at the idea of introducing this place that she’d been at the previous weekend for High Tea. Fancy kids, I tell ya.

We get to Tamarai at 7:30pm and didn’t leave till past midnight! You should have seen our expressions when we were walking back to the car only to notice that the parking lot we’d found full earlier was close to deserted! What took the tea so long, you’d ask?

Nothing. The service was exceptional, it just so happened that Tamarai turned out to be a Thai restaurant too. And the family decided, we had to eat everything on the menu. No, not everything, but close. See, the summer of 2013 was the summer after I graduated from high school in Bangkok, Thailand. I’d been living and studying in Thailand for 2 years and of course everyone thought it was a brilliant idea for me to order them authentic Thai dishes. So tea turned into dinner and dessert and many many other visits.

That night, we talked to the manager about the concept, and how happy we were that there was a new Thai restaurant in town. Turns out my sister had already talked to him too during the tea event. Suffice it to say, since that night, I have had at least one dish from each of the categories on the menu for Tamarai. I don’t remember anything I wouldn’t have again. Mentioning all my go-to dishes would take a while, so I made another post for it here: Take Me To Tamarai #2.

To end this, I’d like to list my top 3 reasons why I voted Tamarai as my Best Overall Restaurant of the Year, and Best Asian Restaurant in the 2015 Kampala Restaurant Awards.

  1. Cuisine – While there have been reviews on Tamarai where patrons complained about the authenticity of the Thai dishes and while I have been to another restaurant in Entebbe (Thammaphon Thai) that does pack more Thai to their meals, I think Tamarai’s authenticity is genuine. Protip: Talk to the waiters about how you want you food done including spiciness. They default to milder meals because that’s what the average Ugandan diner prefers, if you want it really Thai (or even not spiced up), just speak up! That Thai cuisine-trained chef should continue being put to good use.
  2. Variety: It’s not just a restaurant with good Thai meals. You can go over for just teas and juice or for their amazing Strawberry and Mango cocktails. Rumour has it that the shisha is really good too! (I don’t smoke so I can’t personally vouch for it, nor do I know if it’s still legal in Kampala hmm). On the meals front, they serve more than just Thai food. Check out the full MENU for more. Or my post on my top choices.
  3. Convenience: Tamarai is in Kololo. For me, that’s really easy to reach from Bugolobi or Bukoto/Ntinda where I spend most of my time while in Kampala. Even better is the fact that it’s my favourite restaurant on social media. I’ve DM’d them on Twitter many-a-time to talk about menus and deals and they’re always helpful and friendly and fast at it!

TAMARAI THAI RESTAURANT

Click here for the MENU.

www.tamaraithai.co.ug

No. 14 Terrace Rd

Lower Kololo, Kampala

+256 755 794 960/58

twitter.com/tamaraithai

facebook.com/TamaraiRestaurant

kampala restaurant awards

While I’m not one to eat out often or go hardcore on the whole “what constitutes courses in a meal” topic, I must admit that talking about food gladdens my soul. The whole shenanigans of comparing places and meals, and even more so – the eating till you can’t anymore.

I can’t even claim the title foodie because more than half the time, I don’t know what ingredients were used in the food: my tongue, or rather palette, is really not that advanced. Some days I wish it was, and then I comfort myself with the fact that one day, I’ll get there. And even if I don’t, I’ll still know what tastes I like and don’t like, no?

In the meantime, I’m one of those people that embrace and talk about ANY and ALL food-related events that happen in Kampala. Think Shell’s Tokosa Food Festival, Pearl Guide’s Kampala Restaurant Week and Kampala Cocktail Week. ALL. OF. THEM. My Ma, cousins and besties are used to me whatsapping them with posters for these things and I’m used to them texting me anxiously asking if I’ve been to a certain restaurant before and what I think of it. So, of course I’m going to talk about the Kampala Restaurant Awards.

Hellofood Uganda, in partnership with Done Deal, and MTN, announces the inaugural Kampala Restaurant Awards 2015. Shell Gas, Pepsi, Brussels Airlines and Robertson Winery are sponsoring the Awards and the ceremony will take place at Serena Hotel, Victoria Ball room on the 25th November 2015. Dress Code is black tie and ceremony kicks off at 6pm.

That’s their press release. It comes as no surprise to me that the same companies that do all the other events are sponsoring this, but that’s a conversation for another day. It’s a great initiative. As Anna points out in her blogpost about the awards, this comes at the right time:

” 

It is imperative that we have events like these.

It is necessary that restaurants know that the customer is king.

It is essential that someone appreciates those that go the extra mile to see a client ecstatic about the food experience.

kampala restaurant awards

Another thing I found equally imperative was that not only should I cast my vote, I should encourage my friends to do the same and talk about their dining experiences a bit more: the good and downright awful. So, as I cast my votes tonight (hopefully that party can’t rig these ones), I’ll take note of all my choices and hopefully over the week leading up to the Awards, try to write something up on each of them for the blog. Let’s call it my pet project for November. I hope it works out. And if I can, I’ll get people like Leticia who’ve been to the (very many) places I haven’t been to write about them too.

The dining experience in Kampala has improved past the days we only left the house to go to Shell Select, Nandos and Steers. Let’s embrace it!

kampala restaurant week kampala cocktail week

A while ago (read April), I received an email from the lovely Karen of BonApp letting me know that I had won vouchers worth 200 RMB to eat at two fantastic restaurants I had never been to. I was ecstatic, and so quick to arrange the delivery of the vouchers. What I wasn’t so good at was convincing my friends to go with me to try out these places. My vouchers became a number on the list of places we could go to for the endless farewell dinners we were fixing in between studying for finals and packing for the summer. That is, until I forgot about them!

Fast-forward to my grumpiness on having missed out on the first Kampala Restaurant Week, and my having to pack a bag for a weekend trip to Guangzhou, and…lo and behold! There were my long-forgotten vouchers for meals at Singapore Kitchen and Pistolera expiring on 9th June!

I texted my good friend, who I’d been trying to make plans to catch a meal with amidst the crazy that is the first few weeks of internship, and we decided to hit both restaurants in one night.

First stop was Singapore Kitchen, which is actually at the Carrefour 大拇指 plaza area (surprise, surprise NYUSH students!). Being the #FailedFoodie that I am, of course I ordered a full Thai meal at a Singaporean restaurant. Hey, don’t judge!

Soup: Tom Yum Kung

Curry: Green Chicken Curry

Rice: 2 bowls of Jasmine Rice

Dessert: Mango Sticky Rice

Drink: House-brewed Tea, Coke

 

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It was such a wonderful idea that Alhan and I decided to share the meal, because guess what? We kinda couldn’t even finish what we ordered! The Tom Yum was such equal measures of spicy and heavenly, that the first taste was a shock to our taste buds. Living in Shanghai, where meals are almost never spicy enough…even at the Indian restaurants, unless you’ve specifically asked the kitchen to amp it up for you, it’s always a pleasurable shock to get “good-spicy”. The Tom Yum was so good; it reminded me of having a dish in the backstreets of Chatuchak in between bargain-hunting sprees. Yes, that delish! I’d say it was a tad oilier than usual, maybe from more chilli oil or a oil-base tom yum paste, but it was a lot better than what I’ve had in a while.

The green curry chicken was not a disappointment either. I could have had it spicier, but Alhan said it was perfectly fine…then again, he was still recovering from the Tom Yum hit. I was so busy stuffing myself with rice and curry that I almost forgot that I had my all-time favourite dessert waiting! The mango sticky rice with coconut was a pleasure to the tongue after the flavours of the soup and curry. Despite my longstanding discontent with the mangoes in China, Singapore Kitchen managed to source mangoes I had no qualms with, they were ripe enough and the dessert cold enough for the tasting. We both left too full, and with a promise to one day come back and maybe try actual authentic Singaporean cuisine as we’d planned!

Second stop was Pistorela, a Mexican cantina with such lovely ambience and lighting. We stopped by for drinks before we both called it a night, and because of the hour – 9pm on a Monday night, it was pretty much just us and a few patrons catching a late meal or winding down.

Hers: Pistorela Punch – Tequila 1800, orange, lime, granadine, 7up and aromatic bitters.

His: Pistorela Sangria with red apple, orange bits

 

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Alhan found his Sangria great with the flavour enhanced by the dark red wine the mixer preferred to use, I on the other hand found my cocktail too sweet. It was too much of a sugar rush that I only managed to take one to Alhan’s two Sangrias. We both however agreed on the fact that this branch of Pistorela warranted another visit, simply for the atmosphere of the place and it’s (kinda) convenient location in Xujiahui.

 

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Geylan Geylan Singapore Kitchen:

199 Fangdian Lu, Thumb Plaza, 1/F, Room 40, near Dingxiang Lu
芳甸路199弄大拇指广场1楼40号, 近丁香路

Open Daily: 11am – 10pm

021 5866 0399

Pistorela:

838-2 Hengshan Lu, near Tianping Lu
衡山路838-2号, 近天平路

Open Daily: 9am – 1am

021 5461 0619

http://www.pistolera.cn