¿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
QUE PASA MEXICAN CANTINA
21 Cooper Road Kisementi
+256 783 874469