Established over 15 years ago, as the first Chinese eatery in Kigali and indeed Rwanda, today the Kigali China Great Wall Restaurant still bears some of the markings of a monopoly, even with the recent emergence of a few more Chinese eateries in town. It does not seem to be in any form of rat race to clinch the next potential customer from the competition. Not necessarily complacent, but confident.
Great wall is located on Boulevard de la Revolution in Kacyiru, right above Super One Foods Supermarket. Impossible to miss. It boasts a commanding view over the undulating plains in the Kigali City Center, stretching to the leafy hills of Nyarutarama.The views pour out from all sides, you could think you are atop a watchtower at a military command post.
To get to it, one has to brave a climb up an elaborate wooden staircase that is coated in blinding red oil paint. Did I just mention red? Well, more of it awaits you after the climb. Red table mats. Red towels. Red lamps. Red service trays…you name it. Deng long, which are bright red, balloon-like light balls illuminate the walls and roof red.
A romantic, cozy and Valentine-like air forever hangs over this place.
Big potted plants form the boulevard that ushers you from the stairs to the circular brick counter. Most operations are centered at this counter. The large army of waiting staff mill about this counter, catering to the whims of patrons. The counter is open, which means all drinks available are on display, which is a plus.
Behind the counter is the open-wall dining area, which was rather crammed with diners when I checked in during the lunch rush hour. This rush hour eases slowly as the afternoon wears on, but again picks momentum come 7:00pm, when romantic dinner dates start to trickle in.
To the left of the counter is yet more sitting which comes in the form of wooden cubicles, and a narrow corridor leading to the kitchens.
It is not all Chinese cuisine here though. They do a select number of local favorites, prepared the Chinese way. For example, there is soup of beef and tomato, which will set you back 1700 F for a medium bowl and 2300 F for the big bowl.
A quick scan of the tables around ours revealed that most locals prefer fried chicken legs, and sliced fish, pork and chicken on a hot plate.
The Orientals, on the other hand (Koreans, Japanese and Chinese) were digging into mostly veggie dishes.
What is perhaps a little surprising is that China Great Wall attracts more American, Korean and Japanese patrons than Chinese. The manager, Xie Gui Hua, who has adopted the names Mutesi Bella attributes this to the fact that there are relatively fewer Chinese living in the country, (about 1.000 in her estimation). Besides, the Chinese are notorious for towing along with their own private chefs when they venture into far-flung foreign lands.
Another plus about China Great Wall is that they do accept dollars and the RMB, the Chinese currency.
The service is super-fast, as the ever attentive waiting staff use wireless intercom terminals to convey your order to the kitchen, instead of making several trips to and fro.
A 24-hour coffee terrace is under construction downstairs, for you in need of that late night adrenaline rush.