Azima! My New Favorite Kenyan Restaurant

I got a tip from reader Tim K., who tipped me off to the unlikely looking restaurant with the great patio on Franklin Ave., near Third Avenue South. I went, and have discovered my new favorite Kenyan Minnesotan restaurant!

That said, it’s definitely one of those restaurants that’s for some people, but not for everyone. Will it be for you? Imagine yourself walking into a big, sort of rundown, marble-tiled, spare space with a big sparkling screen of African silks bedazzled with little mirrors. You take a vinyl booth. A nice African man with a thick accent brings you a complementary bowl of yellow lentil soup with rice—it’s lemony, not overly thick, a perfect appetizer. He asks you whether you want a menu or the special; the special is salmon or goat. Whichever you order, you get a drink, a can of soda, or perhaps a fresh mango juice, and a banana. Then, the food comes, heaped on a vast platter. If you order the salmon you get a sweet-glazed salmon fillet, a big pile of basmati rice studded with sweet raisins, a creamy serving of sweet-spiced creamed spinach, beans, a chopped lettuce salad, a sweet-and-zesty little pot of hot sauce, and a lime. If you get the goat you get little cubes of goat meat, on the bone, roasted with onions and peppers until the meat is chewy and crusty on the outside and tender inside, and the peppers and onions are beautifully charred. Apply the hot sauce to the goat and you get a lovely interplay of sweet-and-hot—the tamarind and fruity chilies making something just perky enough to be interesting, not hot enough to be truly hot. Now you’re stuffed to the gills, and summon the check. $12 a person, including everything. Including everything!

More facts: There are vegetarian meals, appetizers like crispy little beef or veggie-stuffed sambusas (like Indian samosas, but made with a bit of tamarind to get that sweeter, tropical note), it’s open all day every day from ten o’clock in the morning till ten o’clock at night, it’s not really strictly a Kenyan restaurant but really all about East African home cooking—serving Kenyan, Somali, and Tanzanian specialties—and the owner speaks five languages, including Arabic and Somali.

So try it! Or just know about it. Either way, thanks Tim K., I owe you one.

Azima Restaurant
137 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls., 612-825-1999