Growing up in Harare in its golden days the late 90’s and early 2000s, I remember the days of quality restaurants and food experiences particularly at some of the city’s leading hotels. Rainbow Towers formerly, The Sheraton was one such place known for its tasty food and memorable experiences. I recall frequenting, Harvest Garden with the family and having an interest in the iconic Afro-Fusion restaurant, Kombahari which was located next to the Harvest Garden. Many years and moons later, my curiosity still lingered and now a grown woman I decided to investigate further. I was curious to know if the renowned fusion spot still held its iconic and prestigious status it did in the golden days. So early June, my friend Tha and I decided to give it a try as part of our local food journey.
A call to the restaurant and reservations made, we were able to also get a copy of their menu and drink list via email. All set for a lovely Saturday dinner for two, we were finally about to experience a live cooking experience right here in Harare. The day arrived and one of the highlights about the Rainbow Towers is the abundant parking which makes it convenient for restaurant goers. While there was moderate traffic in the hotel’s foyer, we entered a rather empty / deserted restaurant not quite how I remembered the restaurant. Regardless of the low traffic, we were warmly welcomed by our waiter, Witness who sported a large smile. We immediately felt welcomed and knew that we were to be treated with the utmost of respect and attention. Being the only guests, we got the best spot of the restaurant as we approached our seats I was glad to find the halaal corner something I strongly applaud.
Once seated, Witness introduced us to our Chef for the night, Chef Taona who too was friendly. Having requested the email prior to the day, we had an idea what appealed to us the most. Chef Taona strongly recommended their signature dish of Teppanyaki which includes beef, chicken and fish strips mixed with vegetables and fried rice. However , I decided to go another route with options that are more favourable to my palette. I initially wanted to try the lamb dish ( lamb is a favourite for me), they unfortunately had no lamb on offer that night. So Tha and I opted for the prawn cocktail for starters and a main of Steak served with stir fry and Tha opted for the sour chicken and noodles.
The starters came out first and were fresh and tasty, however the portion was rather on the miserly end and placing it in a wine glass made it hard to eat, rather a Cosmo glass for easier digging into or a good old side plate. Chef Taona entertained us with his smiles and vibrant mannerisms. It was now time for the highlight and most memorable part of the night … the preparing and cooking of the food
Prepared right in front of you, this is by far one of the most unique and exciting dining experience in Zimbabwe’s capital. The live cooking truly gives you an entertaining, intimate and rare experience to how your meal is prepared. From chopping, marinating , grilling to simmering and even some flames there is nothing quite charming as this live spectacle. This is the heart of Kombahari and a true treasure.
The impressive food preparation allowed us not only to witness the food preparation but also got to engage the chef on some of his ingredients ranging from soy sauce to greens. Chef Taona platted our meals and we excitingly dug into the large main portions. The steak was cooked perfectly as I like it medium rare and the sour chicken sauce was tantalizing. However our stir fry did have a little too much salt for my liking and my extra side of wedges were soggy. Overall the meat made up for the sides and our chilled Sauvignon Blanc was perfect for the night.
One of the highlights was the friendly staff from Witness being incredibly attentive , Chef Taona’s enthusiasim and even a hotel managerwhose name has completely left me ensured we were well taken care off. Something so important is customer care and service and Kombahari by far had the best staff and service than most places I have visited in Harare. We affectionately got the name, “Golden Girls” for the night. After the large portion of the mains and the flowing wine, there quite simply was no more space for dessert. Witnessed humoured us and showed us some easy napkin tips for when we host our dinner parties which certainly entertained us. We were thoroughly impressed by the politeness and friendly staff at Kombahari.
After a wonderful and rare dining experience, we had to call it a night. I left Kombahari with a great deal of bitter sweet sentiments. The spot is a treasure yet to be truly found and polished. The restaurant has a great concept, very rare in this city with the intimate live cooking and food preparation of afro-asian fused food. However, the economy and management have resulted in this iconic restaurant not reaching its full potential. The food could do with some jusing up, improved presentation, and most of all better marketing to create a cosmopolitan and lively vibe. With organised management, an improved economy and creative marketing, this iconic restaurant could be revived with a more modern appeal. The management also advised on prebooking where they can cater and customize meals for an intimate meal with friends or for a private affair. With such lovely staff and live cooking, this spot is a treasure yet to be discovered.
Food: *** (3 stars)
Service: ***** (5 stars)
Presentation: ** (2 stars)
Cost: ** (2 stars)
Overall Mimi Rating: 3 out of 5 stars