Thursday, 13 June 2013

There's so many different worlds / So many different suns / And we have just one world / But we live in different ones

More Short Calls:

Shokola Lite.

On the surface, it's everything I would normally hate about a restaurant. Staff in brightly coloured "African" uniforms. A starbucksy vibe. The young gifted and white hunched over their Apple Macs idly updating their status. It sucks all the snot out of a dead dog's nose.

But I like avocado milkshakes. Avocados are good for your liver and contain lots of protein - essential for a hard-drinking streetfighter like me. They do a good avocado shake at Shokola Lite.

So if you see a man in a suit sitting alone in Shokola Lite drinking an avocado shake and scowling at people it's probably best not to approach him.

Shokola Lite: Kacyiru, in the ugly building (no not that ugly building, the other one) opposite Top Tower hotel. Just follow the stench of privilege.


A night in Kigali.
One white man is attempting to sing like Ian Curtis. I have to get some air.

Two young Rwandese guitarists perform a short set of Kinyarwanda songs. A white man pats one of them on the head at the end.

Three thuggish looking South Africans wearing matching shorts and work boots lurch around drunkenly, tugging at elbows and breathing hot, boozy breath into offended faces. They look like a shit boy band. They look like they're having fun.

Four asymmetrically-haired young men with matching red-checked shirts stand together self-consciously, narrow shoulder to narrow shoulder, eyeing the South Africans with disgust and suspicion. They look like a shit boy band. They don't look like they're having much fun.

The Coach looks at me from under his baseball hat: "This is very strange".


Lebanese Resto and Bar

Sometimes you arrive at a place and you know, as soon as you cross the threshold that you're going to like it.

So it is with Lebanese Resto and Bar, which is a Lebanese restaurant and bar.

Aside from being located adjacent to a petrol station, it ticks all the boxes: not too brightly lit, decently stocked bar. There are some gentlemen talking with good humour at the bar, perky waiters, couples, Lebanese folk.

You get the feeling that this is the sort of place where you could sit with a good friend, undisturbed, and conversation would flow and riff away like Mark Knopfler. It's unpretentious and calm.

OK, OK, the humous is clearly out of a tin, and the menu hardly does Lebanese cuisine any justice, but I've never been to another restaurant which so evocatively conjures up the aura of hiding in a little shed at the bottom of your garden listening to a BBC world Service program about owl noises while smoking a pipe.

Lebanese Resto and Bar: in the petrol station by Frulep, Gikondo.

I am an Aid Dealer / Injecting charity till your veins cease up

For some time now I've been trying to come up with a pithy blog post which synthesises a lot of what is rotten in this peculiar tropical bubble. A piece of pointless, vaguely arty polemic which punctures the smug, inflated egos of the expat chancers of Kigali.

The problem is: how do I write about the perversity of the self-regarding adventurers enjoying the easy life in the land of a thousand hills, and yet somehow also make it about restaurants?

Well somebody has beaten me to it:

I suspect this book isn't a satire though.

If this really is a book about how some privileged white guy who edits his own wikipedia entry has managed to save Rwanda from itself, then I'm afraid I might have to end it all. Bring me a bottle of good scotch, a packet of razor blades, and a warm bath.

The irony is, post-harikiri I'd find myself languishing in the flames of hell wishing I was in Heaven.

Fuck. You can't win, can you?

Monday, 3 June 2013

It's okay to eat fish because they don't have any feelings.


In some ways Zen is an innovator. When it opened a few people speculated that bringing "sushi" to Kigali was a brave and expensive decision to make. Au contraire my little Kigali chums, it's an almost guaranteed cash cow. Moooooooo.

"You must go to Zen, they have sushi".


Clean lines are everything with sushi. We eat first with our eyes (OK, sometimes with our nose), and proper Itamae know this. Their precision and attention to detail is about confidence, experience, and an appreciation for the quality of the ingredients. If you're going to eat such delicate meat, plucked from ever diminishing ocean stocks you should want to know that it has been treated with due respect.

You should. Or perhaps you don't care. Perhaps you'd rather go to Zen and stick your dirty middle finger up at twelve centuries of Japanese culinary tradition. Perhaps you really hate marine ecosystems, and are on a personal mission to wipe out every last little fishy bastard in the sea. Fine. We all have our pecadilloes.

The mixed plate of sashimi and badly-packed rolls we're presented with at Zen resembles a drawer full of odd socks, yet… nobody even raises an eyebrow around the table. Do Zen's customers really think sushi tastes like a combination of mirin, cheap bilious-green wasabi, tired ginger, and soy sauce? You could substitute the tiny nuggets of frozen-shitless salmon for chunks of finely-chopped raw owl and no-one would notice so long as the chef remembered to pluck the feathers off. What a brilliant scam. 

Sushi aside, there are plenty of gloopy, directionless 'pan-Asian'  items on the menu. A few things come on those pointless sizzling platters. Onions seem to be a key ingredient as per those cheapo all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets you find in basements in the more studenty parts of London. Just wait until you get home though, when the headache and dehydration hits you in the middle of the night. That will be the salt and MSG pressing their stinky feet on the back of your neck. If you're lucky you'll just have a few interesting dreams about penguins. If you're not so lucky you'll wake up shaking and chasing an imaginary bat around your bedroom with a rolled up copy of the Kenya Airways in-flight magazine.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

They seem to be doing a decent amount of trade though. Yay. 

Zen is in Nyarutarama near the MTN centre. Zen has a Facebook page, but why not look at this instead?