Last Monday saw me at KIZA, Dubai’s very first African fine-dining restaurant located in Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC Dubai. This was yet another exciting bloggers’ meet organized by the very lovely Monica Kapila from the DoinDubai.com blog, and we were in for far more than an authentic African meal!
‘Kiza’ translates to blackness, but is also a synonym for community and this is exactly what KIZA Dubai promises to do. Apart from introducing the city to pan-African fine-dining, the restaurant takes on the platonic task of giving us a taste of African culture itself through indigenous music, art, dance and fashion.
“Kiza embodies the vibrancy and personality of Africa. Our concept is to offer patrons a multifaceted sensory experience. We seek to combine food with art, music and fashion. Even then, we could never do justice to all that the continent has to offer.” – KIZA Dubai’s Nigerian founder, Lukman Akanbi as quoted by The National.
The interiors of KIZA Dubai are suave and sophisticated, with artistic nods to the quirky colorful vibes of Africa. An expansive bar takes up a significant portion of the space, and at one corner is a room, cut off from the rest, featuring vintage-style chaises and African drums. They even have a DJ box set up at another space with a makeshift dance floor, but I’ll get to that later!
We had the honor of dining with a very talented African fashion designer, Ntombi. Ntombi is a Dubai-based designer who sells under the label Ntombi Couture (you can see more of her work on Instagram under @NtombiCouture). The brand is inspired by Africa and its people, yet the styles take on a very wearable, contemporary style. I absolutely love their colorful clash of prints! Best of all, we all got to dress up in Ntombi Couture! Here I am with two of my blogging amigos, don’t we look suave!
KIZA Dubai offers an array of mocktails and cocktails. My mocktail was a twist of peach and passionfruit, with the added freshness of mint. It tasted like a tropical holiday! And how pretty is the presentation?
We started off our meal with soulful bowls of soup. There was a North African Lentil Soup, made of a mix of finely ground lentils which lent the soup a moreishly thick, silky feel. However, my favorite was the soulfully robust Pepper Soup made with a base of lamb, and scented with traditional African spices. This is the perfect winter soup, so meaty and full of flavor, yet light enough to work as a starter.
We also had a signature salad. This is the Kiza Mango Salad, a refreshing toss-up of ripe mango pieces with mixed greens. I love fresh mangoes, and they seem to work so well in livening up a salad.
Love chicken wings? Then KIZA’s Special BBQ Grilled Chicken Wings is for you! Marinated in a very special, mildly spicy sauce, these beauties are real crowd-pleasers.
Then there was the African Meat Patty, very generously stuffed with a delectably spiced lamb mince. The pastry was a beautiful golden brown and had this crumbly, buttery texture that I absolutely loved. This patty isn’t very different from the traditional Arabic pastries we get treated to more often during Ramadan.
One of my favorites from the night was the Kele Wele, a Ghanaian street food favorite featuring deep-fried spicy battered plantains served with a garnish of peanuts. This starter is ideal for drinks at the bar.
And then the music started… We found ourselves on the dance floor, and partook in an impromptu dance class led by the gorgeous Ntombi and her dashing husband. I for one have a severe case of ‘two left feet’ and struggled to keep up to the sophisticated African sync!
I have had a taste of African cuisine in the past, but never quite the variety that we had at KIZA. It is foreign yet so familiar. With many of the spices mixes that have transcended borders, pan-African cuisine seems to have so many similarities to Indian and Arabic dishes. Here is a look at some of my favorites from the night:
Peri Peri Prawns: A serving of very large, juicy tiger prawns sauteed in a special KIZA African sauce, and served on a bed of salad. The marination was all at once hot and sweet, with that signature hit of Peri Peri.
Princess KIZA: When a dish bears its restaurant’s name, you know its meant to be special, and this gorgeous ‘princess’ did not disappoint at all. The KIZA Princess is a generously large whole baked marinated sea bream, enough to feed a hungry foursome. The fish was steamy hot and juicy, and I particularly loved the very spicy Garlic & Chili paste that was served on the side.
Mixed Grill Platter: This monster was the showstopper of the night, and got a standing ovation from our bloggers’ table, each on a clicking frenzy trying to get the best shot. I think my friend Mark from the @MarkMyWorldBlog got the best shot, complete with an African drum as a prop!
The Mixed Grill Platter features succulently juicy lamb chops, and skewers of chicken, beef and Nyama Choma (Kenyan grilled meat). I really enjoyed the lamb chops and the Nyama Choma, but found the chicken to be a tad bit dry for my liking.
Moving on to the desserts round, we were treated to Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, a Tropical Fruit Salad and a Chocolate Molten Cake. By far, my favorite was the beautifully spongy yet decadently rich Chocolate Molten Cake. The molten chocolate filling is warm, intense and absolutely drool-worthy, and I was having spoon wars with my co-diners with a cake that vanished in no time.
Overall, I had a very memorable night out at KIZA Dubai. As a food blogger we dine out very often, but rarely do we get such an insightful glance of a culture and its people. We went home humming to Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’, and took with us a whole camera-load of fashionably African clicks. I’ve never visited Africa, but after my night at KIZA, I would love to plan a trip sometime soon and get a firsthand experience.
KIZA Dubai captured some very candid clicks from our bloggers’ night out! Do click on the album below for more:
KIZA Dubai is located in Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC Dubai. For bookings and more information, do visit their website kiza.ae