¿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

Dear reader,

If like me you share in this crippling affliction that is a lack of sense of direction, then you might understand why I find it hard to locate St. Anthony Restaurant whenever I want to go to it.

First of all, the one-way traffic maze that is Buganda Road, Lumumba Avenue and all those other Nakasero roads has never worked in my favour. After all these years growing up in Kampala, everyone that I know that can drive still gets these roads messed up! To make matters worse, it feels (to me at least) like establishments in this area keep changing location within the same neighbourhood. Don’t answer my questions if I’m wrong, but has Case Clinic always been in that exact spot? What about St Anthony? Please tell me they moved ko so that I can justify the confusion I always feel when I’m in the area?

Anyway, regardless of how difficult it is to locate St Anthony, I created several little mind guides for me to find it when I need to. (Disclaimer: Most of these are walking routes. I only just got my driver’s license after all.)

“Why go through the trouble?”

st anthony food

Who wouldn’t go through the trouble?

st anthony food

Yeah. I heard the question, loud and clear. I bother because eating at St. Anthony is just like eating your grandmother’s food on Christmas. If your jajja is a good cook, that is.It’s a worthy nomination for the 2015 Kampala Restaurant Awards for best Ugandan cuisine. My family and I have been going to St. Anthony’s since the early 2000s. I can’t tell you when, but I can say that I don’t remember it never being there. Sunday lunch after church, social lunch gathering with bazungu visiting Uganda, Christmas lunch, public holiday lunch welcome trip from the airport, last meal before a flight out, luwombo craving sneak-in. I’ve done it all a few times.

So while I can’t recommend which dishes you should have at St Anthony (get everything if you can), I can make it a little easier to find. I bet you won’t finish that food! I bet you’ll feel like you can’t eat for another decade! I bet you’ll want to go back! I bet you’ll leave with faces like ours!

st anthony food

So here’s a few directions you can follow to get to Ugandan food heaven. Thank me later.

♥ – MA

ROUTE 1: DRIVING/WALKING FROM OUTBOX, SOLIZ HOUSE

ROUTE 2: WALKING FROM WATOTO CHURCH

ST ANTHONY RESTAURANT

22 Lumumba Avenue

Next to Piato in Nakasero

+ (256) 772 619 076

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