THERE was quite a large crowd enjoying lunch at the Komba Hari Grillroom, Rainbow Towers last Friday as there should be.
Eating Out with Dusty Miller
And indeed as there probably constantly would be if one or two items on the attractive, exciting menu didn’t initially appear so outrageously dear!
OK, there are swings-and-roundabouts. Some starter courses sound quite reasonably priced, bearing in mind the quality and quantity of ingredients and the fact you are eating in a five-star hotel.
Highlights of these are fresh crisp, crunchy salads and soup of the day at US$4 apiece; a 1960-ish retro prawn cocktail at US$10 and wonderful pan-fried piri-piri chicken livers for US$8.
These all compare favourably with starter courses at most other mainstream hotels in the country and many walk-in restaurants.
And even in our dreadfully depressed economy, few fair folk could realistically complain about tender export quality grass-fed beef steaks at US$20 for a 400g T-bone or 300g fillet and 300g rump steaks priced US$2 less, with all the trimmings.
On Friday, my appetiser was home-made cream of mushroom soup, which was very satisfactory at US$4 including dinky in-hotel baked crisp rolls and butter.
But on the last day of the most recent ZoL/EatOut Restaurant Week I had a spectacularly fine seafood bisque, redolent of the ocean at (I think) US$7 or US$8, which should always be on the menu!
Some main course dishes struck me as possibly rather too pricey, but having checked my archives I see they’ve been charging US$29 for prawns, sole or kingklip since at least mid-2011.
I’m not sure the same US$29 was the cost of grilled Nyanga trout served with a light soya sauce, ginger and spring onions back in ’11 and I’m pretty certain I’d have screamed in print if Kariba bream fillets with capers and lemon butter sauce had been US$25 then.
But I was a guest and one of the big attractions of the Komba Hari is “inter-active cooking”, whereby the main courses are griddled in front of you by a usually chatty chef/cook who knows what he or she is doing. It is part of the theatre of dining out.
I have regularly eaten at Komba Hari since the day it opened and have always been amazed how juicy steaks, chops, venison, robust fish portions and delicate crustaceans are all cooked together on the same griddle pan, along with starches, sauces and vegetables.
None of the flavours impinge upon one another, the ingredients’ integrity is intact and, almost invariably, everything is ready to be served simultaneously!
On Friday it was the grand tiger prawns of Rainbow’s quality control boss Liz Makwezwa and my own delicious fillet of kingklip which bubbled and squeaked alongside each other as the cook prepared a meatless stir-fry for us; and one with chicken strips in it for RTG group publicist Eltah Sanangura (who’d also had a starter of her almost invariable chicken livers.)
Ever-smiling and reportedly unflappable John Gweshe is the fairly new general manager at Rainbow Towers and Conference Centre and joined us for a drink and a chat but declined lunch as he’d had a big breakfast.
He mentioned in passing that the buffets at the OTHER Rainbow Towers restaurant: the Harvest Garden are now back on track. I’ll check out this statement on your behalf soon, because the last time I tried one, it was disappointingly bland, with little choice and — I thought — far too expensive for what was on offer.
Puddings are always very pleasant in the Komba Hari but, as in many outlets in this country, seem priced too high for the rest of the menu, considering it is the family man (or woman) who must dig deep to provide a sweet course for younger members of the clan.
Comparisons are odious, but good friends of mine thought the really excellent banana fritter at the new Bamboo Inn Chinese restaurant at Alex Park really too costly at US$6. Komba Hari’s equivalent is US$12! (Served with ice-cream, honey, and a sprinkle of crushed nuts).
Candied pineapple cooked in caramel sauce with orange slice and vanilla ice-cream sounds stupendous, but, again, it’s US$12 and “pear cigars” (stewed with cinnamon, black cherries and raisins, wrapped in phylo pastry and served with chocolate flavoured ice-cream) are even dearer at US$14. Granted these are fairly “grown-up” desserts.
Cheapest sweet is a trio of ice-creams at US$10. I had a delightfully zingy fresh fruit salad with cream and a slice of English fruit cake for US$12.
I drank the house dry white wine with my main course and declined a post-prandial coffee. (My daughter, Adele, once declared the cappuccino at Rainbow Towers’ predecessor Sheraton Harare the best she’d had in Africa!)
Komba Hari at Rainbow Towers Hotel and Conference Centre opens for lunch and supper Monday to Saturday.
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