Dar Es Salaam is the former capital and the current economic hub of Tanzania. Situated on the east coast of Africa on the Indian Ocean, Dar is a bustling city ripe with Swahili culture and history. Dar is an ancient yet cosmopolitan city with its diverse population of Indian, East Asian, Arab and a wide variety indigenous east African Bantu cultures. Each culture brings its culinary tradition, spices, herbs and cuisines. Tanzania is blessed with its tropical latitude well suited for the growing of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as a fertile highland cool and conducive to growing tender greens.
On our first visit to Dar Es Salaam several years ago Ama and I imagined there would be a variety of vegan restaurants catering to the elite sophisticates that know the benefit of the meat free lifestyle, riding the trend of healthy eating found in any capital city, and wanting only the best. To say the least we were disappointed.
Neither Happy Cow, nor Yelp was of much help. We found a couple of serviceable Indian vegetarian restaurants and non-vegetarian Chinese restaurants offering vegan options but were underwhelmed at the vegetarian options available.
Thanks to Betty Delfosse-Ingleton, last year all that changed when she opened Kind Earth Eatery. While on a recent business trip by chance I came across Kind Earth Eatery and thought I had died on the plane from Arusha (which I nearly did but that is another story) and had woken up in vegan heaven.
Situated in the fashionable Oyster Bay district on Winding Ave near the Kenyatta Grounds Gardens, Betty has created THE gourmet spot for vegans in East Africa. It is small, very tastefully and rustically appointed and located next door to a hip wine bar (who, if you must, will be happy to serve you from a wide selection of wines at you table.) There is plenty of parking and well-appointed indoor (can you say air conditioning) and outdoor seating protected by deet free mosquito coils burning on the floor at the corners of your tables having been discreetly placed after you were seated. It is a delightful, romantic destination frequented by, diplomats, expatriates and the young hip Tanzanian bourgeoisie.
Tanzania is not often known for its service but Betty is single-handedly changing that. The service is exemplary. Cloth napkins, candles, extremely polite knowledgeable and attentive English-speaking wait staff, artful plates and bowls staging the food - you get the idea — first class in every way.
I couldn’t wait to return with Ama a couple of weeks later for a romantic holiday weekend in Dar, which of course featured several meals at Kind Earth Eatery.
Betty immigrated to Tanzania from Jamaica seven years ago with her recipes and her savvy as an award-winning restaurateur in Kingston. In 2011 she opened her fabulous Jamaican Restaurant Velisa’s on Kawe beach off Old Bagamoyo Road in the Mikoroshoni district it too is a place not to miss (we ate there also and loved the ambiance, food, the beach and the swimming pool!)
I’ve been vegan for over two decades and have traveled and sampled vegetarian cuisine all over the US, on three continents and the Caribbean. The freshness, quality of ingredients, the preparation, the combination of spices, side dishes and the gentle but firm touch in flavoring never overwhelming the vegetables themselves is outstanding. The quality is reminiscent of Millennium in Oakland California, Karyn’s in Chicago, or Lov’ In it Live and Herban Fix in Atlanta. Kind Earth Eatery is now one of my favorite restaurants of any genera at which I have had the pleasure of dining.
Oh and about the food. The menu at Kind Earth Eatery is extensive, diverse and everything I had was scrumptious. I would call it world fresh gourmet vegetarian haute cuisine. There are raw vegan, vegan and vegetarian selections with influences and flavors from around the world. I chose both raw and vegan dishes.
My first visit started with the pumpkin soup which was delicious and the raw nori rolls which although they were a little moist for me were refreshing and scrumptious. The sesame crusted cassava cakes with slivers of white onions and teriyaki mushrooms was perfect, light yet hearty. I followed that up with the pan seared tofu with roasted pumpkin seeds, wedges of spring onions served with smashed sweet potato with and onion confit. The sauce was complex and savory but not heavy or overstated. Yum.
All of her main courses are served with a side of garlic ginger wilted shredded mixed vegetables with a light coconut sauce that is worth being a meal in itself. (As a matter of fact in a later visit I had the chef make up a dish of just that to my delight) I’m getting hungry just writing this. Nothing was excessively oily or salty or over spiced. I slept well that night and couldn’t wait to try Velisa’s on the beach, which in itself was a wonderful experience.
Betty happened to be sitting at her table with a motherly eye on things that night. She was easy to engage and as brilliant of mind as she is of cuisine. I found her to be very friendly, worldly and knowledgeable about vegan and raw cuisine being a vegetarian herself for many years. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell Ama and return for another sampling.
As a vegan I often miss out on dessert because in most places all the selections have dairy. Not so here, there were multiple enticing selections to choose from. I loved the vegan carrot banana cake glazed with a citrus cashew cream. It had the perfect combination of satisfying mouth feel, bright carrot taste, a light tartness and just the right amount of sweetness. After tasting it I was no longer disappointed because her ever-popular raw vegan passion fruit cheese cake with a coconut raisin cranberry almond crust had sold out. I would go to Kind Earth Eatery just for the dessert. I recommend you don’t suffer missing out so order dessert when you order your main meal. Fresh squeezed juices, smoothies, and locally grown espresso coffee drinks round out the menu.
I found myself wishing I had more space in my stomach to sample the Mock ‘steak’ (house made seitan) and broccoli in a ginger housin sauce served with lentil brown rice and fried plantains or the grilled vegetable hero on a whole wheat baguette – zucchini aubergine mushroom with smoked seitan smothered in a zesty tofu or a garlic mayo. The aubergine callaloo rosemary bake over brown rice noodles and sautéed vegetables looked great. These are but a few of the offerings of her extensive menu.
I could spend at leat week in Dar and never feel the need to eat anywhere else. There is so much more to say about Kind Earth Eatery in Dar Es Salaam but I will end this review with the admonishment that if you are in Dar, absolutely, positively, do not miss this terrific amazing gourmet dining experience whether you are vegetarian or not. Take someone you really like.