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?