We pulled up to Swahili Village Restaurant & Bar around 6pm on a Tuesday, ready to enjoy Prince George’s County Restaurant Week. It’s located in a strip mall along with a mish mash of other businesses. I’ve had good experiences with strip mall dining so the location meant good things to me. The location also meant there was parking so my friend Andrea found a space right in front. Note: I will be taking along someone or a couple of people each time I dine because reviewing food based on one pallet for hundreds of thousands of readers (me speaking in faith) isn’t fair to my folk.
First of all, there were lots of men sitting on the outside deck eating, smiling, and having a nice time. That’s a good sign. Ladies, the men were nice, respectable acting guys; no one was leering or trying to holla. We got to the door and what’s the first thing we see? YAY! The Prince George’s County Restaurant Week sign!! I’m really excited about this effort.
I chose Swahili Village Restaurant & Bar because of all the restaurants on the list, this was the only cuisine I’d never tried. The pictures of dishes on Swahili Village’s website looked a lot like your standard West Indian/East Indian fare. Andrea and I looked over the menu with the assistance of our server who, despite her tiny frame, declared she’d eaten everything on the menu. Isn’t it always the tiny ones who can really throw down at the dinner table? We ordered the appetizer combo which included bhajias, a samosa, and sausage. Bhajias are sliced potatoes dipped in a batter and fried. Loved the texture of the cooked potato and the light, spiced batter. I’m accustomed to samosas filled with potato, pea, spices, herbs and onions but Swahili Village fills theirs with meat and onion. Yum!! The exterior is phyllo doe (I think), which makes for a great crunch against the expertly spiced ground meat interior. The sausage wasn’t my favorite thing but Andrea loved it. It was tasty but the texture wasn’t my thing. That’s why you can’t review alone. A house made hot sauce was served with the appetizer combo that had Andrea applying sugar to her lips and tongue for relief. That sauce was hot as FIRE but I enjoyed it. I even applied it to the sausage. FIRE!!
Our entrees were Grilled Goat (Mbuzi Choma) and Curry Chicken. They have plenty of tilapia dishies and even some vegetarian dishes but I’m not that crazy about tilapia. My sides were spinach and something I knew I shouldn’t have tried: cornmeal fufu. I have never been able to eat foods that are the texture of wet bread, except for bread pudding in all its raisin, cinnamon, sugar, rum sauce, buttery goodness, but I digress. Andrea had the good sense to order the cabbage and spinach. Well the food arrived hot and aromatic. The spinach was a real masterpiece. Hints of cumin, good salting, and great texture with still some bite to it. I hate mushy spinach. Andrea said her cabbage was much the same. Swahili Village has a grasp of spices and seasonings that take their dishes beyond the norm. I tried the fufu but I just couldn’t continue to that finish line. The server happily replaced the fufu with piping hot plaintain and all was well with my world.
I spoke with the owner, Kevin Onyona. The pride of Swahili Village Restaurant & Bar is their use of spices, he told me. The restaurant is expanding to a new, larger location just down the street. Slated for opening this June, the new restaurant will seat about 120 and will remain in Prince George’s County. Swahili Village will also be one of the participants in this year’s Folklife Festival on the Smithsonian Mall. The featured countries will be Kenya and China. Swahili Village is one of a kind for it’s flavors and because Onyona tells me that there just are no other Kenyan restaurants in the DMV area. I will certainly be back; Andrea said the same. Visit their website and the restaurant. Support our businesses not just because they’re here but because they’re worth it. Prince George’s County: eat authentic!!