Diners who want bold flavors can find them at Eastern Cuisine, a quaint restaurant that moved in early April from the Delano neighborhood to a location at 13th and West, next to Knolla’s Pizza.
Several regulars have followed owner Tumaini Kilangwa and her staff, not only for their made-fresh-daily entrees but also for the warm reception guests can count on when they enter the door.
The owner’s affordable menu was updated in early June and features meat entrees, curry stews, vegetable platters and exotic breads. Diners who like trying a little bit of everything will appreciate the lunch and dinner buffets, which give them a chance to sample hearty red broth curry stews, warm vegetables and rice side dishes that incorporate global flavors. Customers also can order off the menu after 4 p.m., but management advises calling in orders ahead to cut down on the wait time.
We heaped our buffet plates with sambusa, a triangular puffed pastry housing seasoned crumbly beef. We thought it was easily the best entree, next to the curry beef stew, on the buffet. The waitress raved that these pockets of beef were her favorite, and a nearby diner ordered a dozen to go, which she said she would serve later to her family for dinner.
We also tried the kachumbari (a Swahili salad made of marinated cucumbers and tomatoes with onions), diced plantains, sauteed chopped spinach, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and cornbread. We loved the curry stew, which packed a flavor punch, but found a bone in the chicken in our chicken curry, so we could not easily eat it with a spoon.
We weren’t excited about the lackluster sauteed spinach with peas and cubed carrots, which was in need of seasoning, but loved the crusted wedge potatoes and black-eyed peas. The chai spiced black tea with milk, served in a multicolor to-go cup, completed our meal. Complimentary Tanzanian-style chapati, a flat bread, was served at each table.
Although the waitress initially said something about the owner making a dessert (mandazi, which are doughnuts) in the kitchen, we were pointed instead to a spiced sheet cake on the buffet when inquiring about dessert options. This cake was moist but muted in flavor.
The modest dining room is small and seats less than two dozen diners at square tables covered with plastic tablecloths with tribal patterns. The walls are decorated with loosely framed color prints of African wild animals. The only sound in the restaurant was the conversation emitting from the kitchen until other diners arrived. A little background music would have helped alleviate that awkwardness.
The Eastern Cuisine employees were warm and gracious and treated customers like visitors in their homes, asking questions and trying to get to know them. The price of the lunch buffet was not visible (it did not appear on the menu board) nor was a menu provided. Carry-out menus are available at the kitchen’s reach-through window, so patrons curious about pricing should grab one before seating themselves. Also, customers should be prepared to go to the window to pay, as the waitress may be chatting in the kitchen.
Ratings reflect the critic’s judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.
Where: 3811 W. 13th St. North; 316-303-1073
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays; 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays
Type of food: East African
Price range: The lunch buffet is $9, and the dinner buffet is $10.
Web site: www.facebook.com/easterncuisine1