Djibouti Restaurant Review

OK, in no way shape or form does this constitute a comprehensive list of restaurants in Djibouti city.  But when I was getting ready for my first trip to Djibouti back in 2010, I was trying to get some information on restaurants and food before I got out there, and I had a lot of trouble finding any.  So, I thought I’d give a shot at creating my own Djibouti restaurant review list.  I’m an amateur restaurant reviewer, but I like think of myself as a huge foodie, and I love to cook, so why not give it a shot, right?  Maybe it’ll help someone else who is Djibouti-bound!  Here goes!

Restaurant de la Gare

  • Value – good (my last dinner there, three course meal, with wine: around 4000 DJF)
  • Food – excellent!
  • Best dishes:
    The Yemeni Fish – this is a whole fish (I like Dorade – I think that’s called Sea Bream in English, but I’m not sure – but you can get a few different kinds of fish prepared this way), split open down the middle, and covered in seasoning.  I think its baked, not grilled…. either way, it’s delicious!
    The eggplant spread is delicious!  It’s not baba ghanoush, it’s not melitzanosalata.  But it’s great!  The humus is good too, but the eggplant stuff is awesome!
    The chocolate mousse with caramel.  Delicious.  Divine.  Delectable.
  • Service – very good, attentive without hovering
  • Atmosphere – nice, relaxed, and a bit more elegant than most other places in the area.
  • Location: across the street from the defunct train station by the circle near Siesta Beach

Ethiopian Community Center

  • Value – great value.  Probably the best meal-deal in Djiboutiville.  For the price of dinner for 1 at one of the other Ethiopian restaurants in town, you can feed 4 people here. My last meal here cost me 2000 DJF, including a generous tip.  And the beers are only about 300 DJF, while mixed drinks are 500 DJF.  MUCH less than most other places in town!
  • Food – delicious Ethiopian fare.  Most of the time I have no idea what I’m eating (other than the Injera) but I enjoy every bite!  I always do the platter, which is all kinds of different meat and veggie dishes served on top of a large tray of injera bread.
  • Service – not bad, but be ready to pay for your drinks as you go.  You pretty much pay per round.
  • Atmosphere – kind of like a schoolyard.  There is outdoor seating in a cement courtyard, with plastic lawn chairs & tables.  They bring out a TV or two on rolling carts, and you can watch Ethiopian news, music videos or other TV.  It’s laid back, and casual.
  • Location: ok this one is harder to find….. Next to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. If you are driving from the Siesta Beach circle towards downtown, make a right after the Total Gas station and then another right on the 2nd corner. There’s a long yellow wall on the left side of the street surrounding the community center.

Tamarind

  • Value – Good, reasonable prices, for good food
  • Food – Varied menu, everything I have had there was solid.  It’s a great place for lunch.  Good burgers, sandwiches, and fish dishes, as well as fresh juices.
  • Service – it’s a small place with good service because I’ve never seen it full.
  • Atmosphere – not the draw to the place.  It’s a basic hole-in-the-wall, sandwiched between a little mini-mart and gas station, but it is clean and minimalist.
  • Location: across from Bambi’s Superette

The Melting Pot

  • Value – Pretty good (last meal I had there, entrée and beer, 4000 DJF)
  • Food – Japanese/French/Greek fusion….. tasty, and normally good.  The Asian inspired menu is creative, and they have some really interesting things.  The “Morningstar” is an interesting item.  It’s essentially a Medieval weapon that they use to hang meat or shrimp onto, in order to barbecue it, for 2 or more persons.  The shrimp one wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but I’m told that the camel one is fantastic and totally the way to go.  While I haven’t had the camel there, I have had camel elsewhere in Djibouti, and I would definitely try it prepared this way.  The sushi is also pretty good here, as are the “sword” meals – basically like a large kebab, presented on a long sword.
  • Atmosphere – the outdoor seating area is lovely here.  It has recently been renovated, and there is a pool with floating lights in it.  It has a nice bar area, and the new chairs they have are comfortable.  Overall, I love the atmosphere here, but if its mosquito season, make sure to wear your bug spray!
  • Service – not bad.  You will have to flag them down to get your check, but the food comes reasonably quickly most of the time.  And it is a great place to have a relaxing dinner with friends and catch up or brainstorm silly party ideas (inside joke).
  • Website: http://www.meltingpotdj.com/accueil (French only)
  • Location: if you’re driving down the road that leads to the Kempinski, take a right when you get to thecorner where the police barricade is located, and then the first left. The Melting Pot will be right there on the right side of the street.

La Mer Rouge

OK, I can’t actually give a personal review here, because somehow, despite having spent over a lot of time in Djibouti over the past 2 years, I actually haven’t ever eaten here.  I have heard nothing but good things about it, though, and they have the best website I’ve seen for a Djibouti restaurant (and it’s even in English!) so I’ll give it points for that and make sure to go here next time I’m in Djibouti, which should be in 2012.

Location: on the Port road, not far from the airport or the access road to the Japanese and American military bases.

Website: http://www.letseat.at/lamerrougedj

Mask

  • Value – good.  Prices and portions are both reasonable.
  • Food – good.  Many say this is the best pizza in Djibouti, though I am torn between here and the Italian restaurant at the Kempinski hotel (see below).  Mask is less expensive than the Kempinski though, so that’s a definite plus!
  • Service – good.
  • Location – very centrally located, right on the main square (Menelik) in town, making it very convenient to walk to whenever you’re downtown.

Pizzaiolo

  • Value – reasonable
  • Food – Italian, fairly good.  Though far from an authentic Italian dining experience.  The pizzas are pretty good, and the lasagna are maybe the best I’ve had in Djibouti….. but I’ll qualify that by saying that I’ve been afraid to order lasagna in most restaurants in Djibouti.
  • Service – it’s been a while since I’ve been there, and I don’t remember the service being either outstandingly poor or good, so I guess it was probably acceptable?
  • Location: around the corner from Mask, just off of Menelik Square

Cultures

  • Value – Fair.  Not too expensive, but also not cheap.
  • Food –  Asian.  The sashimi is good, the sushi less so, mostly because I find the rice is often over-cooked and a bit stickier than I would like.  If you want a good meal here, ask them to have the chef prepare a Philippino dish – put your hands in the chef’s hands, and he’ll do right by you.  Oh, and definitely try the fruit smoothies – delicious!  The mango is my favorite.
  • Service – pretty good.  They’re fairly attentive, without being overbearing.
  • Location: in the same “strip mall” as 5ieme supermarket

Cedars

  • Value – not too bad.  It’s not cheap, but they give you a TON of food.
  • Food – Lebanese.  Tasty, and though I have had better Lebanese food in the US and Canada, this is definitely the best in Djibouti!  Good humus.
  • Service – pretty good.
  • Location: somewhat behind Cultures, removed from the main road. If you take the street between Cultures & 5ieme and make your first or second left, Cedars is somewhere back there

Kempinski Hotel

  • Lac Assal  buffet
    • Value – I find it expensive, but if you’re staying at the hotel (though not in the Kempinski apartments), breakfast here is included.  The lunch buffet runs upwards of about 6500 DJF – I’m not sure what the exact figure is, because I don’t go often.  Same with the dinner…. well, actually, I’ve never gone to dinner there.  They have various theme nights (Japanese one night, Seafood the next, etc.), so I have been tempted, but I do find it a bit too expensive for my taste.
    • Food – broad range of food, and it is pretty good.  The breakfast buffet is great – in my opinion, better than the lunch buffet.
    • Service – self-serve, except for some drinks which the wait-staff is usually good about bringing fairly promptly.
    • Website – http://www.kempinski.com/en/djibouti/Restaurants%20and%20Bars/Restaurants/Pages/LacAssal.aspx
  • Tentazioni
    • Value – A little pricey, but not too bad (my last meal there, appetizer, main, and wine 5000 DJF)
    • Food – Italian
      The pizzas are great.  The pastas can be a little bland at times, so I always ask for Parmigiano cheese on the side.  Portions are generous.  The entrees are OK, but I usually stick to the pasta & pizza.  Of the entrees I’ve had, the fish is better than the meat.  But that’s true most places in Africa, I guess.
    • Service – Very hit or miss.  Very friendly, always service with a smile.  But you’re usually going to wait.  A while.  It’s a great place to sit if you have a friend you want to catch up with, but if you want to eat in a hurry or have plans later on, it might not be the best place to go.  And don’t hesitate to flag down a manager or other member of the wait-staff if things are taking too long to happen on their own.
    • Atmosphere – the outdoor seating is great (if the wind is right and the air doesn’t smell too much like sulfur), and you can even occasionally see a mongoose wandering the hotel grounds!  The inside is also nice, and preferable during the summer heat or the mosquito-y weather.  It’s a more fancy atmosphere, but not so fancy that you have to dress up to go.  Overall, good atmosphere.
    • Website – http://www.kempinski.com/en/djibouti/Restaurants%20and%20Bars/Restaurants/Pages/Tentazioni.aspx
  • Juice Bar
    • Value – fair
    • Food – good selection of salads, sandwiches, and juices
    • Service – pretty poor.  It’s not very well-staffed, with only 1-2 people working at a time, it seems.  You have to flag down or go find the waiter/waitress any time you need anything, pretty much.
  • Bankouale
    • Value – pricey, but you do get a lot of food.  I think its worth it for the fresh seafood, nice atmosphere, and good food preparation.  But I’d only go for more special evenings, and probably wouldn’t make a regular thing out of it.
    • Food – delicious!  When I went, we picked out one fish and one lobster for 3 of us (it’s all sold by weight), and could choose how it was prepared and what sides we wanted.  Everything was super-fresh, delicious, and well prepared.  And I was eating left-overs for days after!
    • Service – slow, but that kind of matches the laid back vibe of the restaurant, so I didn’t mind!
    • Atmosphere – the setting is beautiful in the evening, since this is an outdoor restaurant on the beach.  It has a laid-back, vacation-y vibe to it.  Quite lovely.
    • Website – http://www.kempinski.com/en/djibouti/Restaurants%20and%20Bars/Restaurants/Pages/Bankoual%C3%A9.aspx

Les Acacias Hotel

  • Sankal
    • Value – not bad.  Sandwiches are reasonably priced at lunch, as an alternative to the lunch buffet (which is smaller than the one at the Kempinski, but also has a lower price tag).  Breakfast Buffet is included if you are staying in the hotel.  I can’t speak to dinner, as I’ve never had dinner here.
    • Food – pretty good.  If you are going for the breakfast buffet, though, make sure to come early.  It goes until 10:30am, but they seem to stop restocking it after 10am, so after that you just get scraps.
    • Service – pretty good.  The hotel is very new, and doesn’t have that many guests yet, so the staff seems eager to please.
    • Website (for the hotel) – http://www.bhihotels-djibouti.com/launch/index.html

L’Etoile de Kokeb

  • Value – a little pricy for Ethiopian, once you’ve been to the Ethiopian Community Center, but not bad if you’re bringing in first timers to the region, as this place also offers a performance of traditional dance.
  • Food – Ethiopian – Good.  I can’t say that there’s a marked difference between this place and the other Ethiopian places in town in terms of food quality.
  • Service – good and friendly.
  • Location: downtown, not far from Menelik Square, upstairs on one of the narrow side streets. Sorry I can’t do better than that…..

Singh’s

  • Value: very good – my last meal there (bottled water, shared an appetizer of cheese naan and 2 entrees with a friend) cost me under 2000 DJF.
  • Food – Indian – delicious!  I really like the food here.
  • Service – very laid back…. not very present.  But for the value, I won’t complain!
  • Location: same strip mall as 5ieme

Saba’s

  • Value – very good
  • Food – good.  Probably one of the better burgers I’ve had in Djibouti.  Good selection of sandwiches.  Great place for lunch.  Absolutely delicious fresh fruit juices!
  • Service – pretty good, and one of the faster meals in the area.  You can get in and out fairly quickly, making it a good lunch stop on work days.
  • Right near the circle that leads to Siesta beach, on the road that leads to the Sheraton

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now.  Here is another resource if you’re looking for more information about dining out in Djibouti.  I’m not sure how current it is, but check it out: Djibouti Telecom Restaurant list – http://www.adjib.dj/sortir/restaurants.php?type=17

May you soon share a delicious meal with your loved ones!
TC2

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9 responses to “Djibouti Restaurant Review

  1. An excellent assessment!

    Camel at Melting Pot is quite good, I highly recommend the “morningstar” version.
    For some reason I find that the meat is more tender when it is prepared that way (camel or beef).

    La Mer Rouge is top notch, price point is similar to Melting Pot. It is owned by the former owner of Melting Pot (or maybe he is still part owner, that relationship is kind of hazy as most business relationships are in Djibouti). The head chef is a Japanese guy from what I can gather. In any case, it is similar to Melting Pot but more focused on fish (they do have chicken and beef though). The barracuda with lemon butter sauce is a meal not to be missed in my opinion. If you’re cool with hot soup in Djibouti then I highly recommend the fisherman’s chowder. The sushi is decent but a bit pricey as compared to Cultures (the rice is better though). Drinks are pricey. Service is adequate, typical Djibouti, but the owner is ever present and will snap his staff to it if he sees that you are feeling the service is poor.

    You might try Le Bastille (a bit east of the airport roundabout but before the French market) if you want a decent pannini or a very good salad. Its upstairs via a metal spiral staircase over the pharmacy. Price is average for Djibouti, sandwiches average 1500 DJF, salads a little higher but under 2000. The salads are meal sized, Cesar being my favorite. Service is slow-ish but they are pleasant. It overlooks a little swimming pool that is a hidden gem of DJibouti where you can pay 1000DJF to swim for the day. They have 4 pool tables up there also. A favorite place of ours for a relatively low key night of beer and billiards.

    There is also an excellent little unassuming Chinese place right around the corner from Cultures. I don’t know the name. Seems to be a two person operation. The decor reminds me a bit of Singh’s but a bit larger and a bit newer but not much. Decor aside, the food is excellent, portions are generous and its reasonably priced. Service is great and the food comes fast. I’ll get a better pinpoint on the name and specific location and get it back to you.

    I sense a printed Djibouti Restaurant Guide in your future 😉

  2. Hello
    Thank you so much for your nice reviews on Melting Pot Restaurant and La Mer Rouge Restaurant.
    I am sorry to hear that you did not like the shrimp morning star. We depend on the local market for the shrimp quality, and We hope next time you will try the camel in Melting Pot. Regarding the service we will try to be faster .
    We are adding new dishes all the time so if you pass by don’t hesitate you may find something you like.
    Thank you both for taking the time to mention us on the web.
    Regards
    Alina Costache
    Georges Collaros
    http://www.meltingpotdj.com
    http://www.lamerrougedj.com

    • No need to change on my account! While, yes, we have had to flag down the waiter or waitress to get our check, I usually come to the Melting Pot for a relaxed meal, so the slower pace doesn’t bother me. Besides, a slower pace is to be expected in Africa! As for the shrimp, it was a bit disappointing, but I’ve enjoyed everything else I have had, so no problem! The pork katsu, for example, was delicious! I will definitely return on my next trip, and I plan to try La Mer Rouge as well! Thanks to you both for improving Djibouti’s culinary landscape!
      TC2

  3. Pingback: A whirlwind visit to London « Chitalian Travels·

  4. Many thanks for this. My wife and I are off to Djibouti tomorrow for 5 days and have been searching for current, useful info on restaurants/dining etc.

  5. I like the reviews and I would like ot visit some of the mentioned restaurants. Any chance you can give a bit of directions in each of the restaurant review? I know they don’t have street signs, so general directions with reference to known areas such as airport, hotels. Thanks…

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