South African Eats on the Upper East Side

I'll try anything once when it comes to food. Ostrich, rabbit, goat, frog's legs - bring it on. If you're looking for an adventurous meal, I highly recommend a trip to Kaia Wine Bar, the Michelin rated African restaurant on the Upper East Side!

I've passed it many times and always thought, "This place looks cute." When I finally stopped to read the menu posted in the window, I was slightly surprised to find that it was African cuisine - but intrigued!

My parents were in town one night and since not a ton of people I know are willing to shell out money at a restaurant where they can't pronounce anything on the menu - I decdied to tell my parents that's where I wanted to go. Thanks, Mom & Dad! ;)

Kaia Wine Bar Review

Everything here is farm-to-table, which in my opinion, is the best way to eat! The menu at Kaia is pretty authentic South African fare right down to the wine and beer lists. I ordered a South African IPA and though I didn't love it, it was cool to try something so different.

Kaia was fairly noisy, but the space was trendy and the service was phenomenal. Our waiter was extremely nice and gave us lots of information and recommendations as we perused the unfamiliar menu-items.

The menu is constantly changing, so what we enjoyed during our meal may not be on the menu for your trip - but here's what we ended up ordering!

Bread and Dukkah

The meal started off with a BANG - fresh baked bread with olive oil and dukkah. Dunk your bread in the oil, then cover it in dukkah spice blend - my new favorite thing in the world! Dukkah is a blend of spices, seeds and nuts that originated in Egypt. Each dukkah blend is unique, but most contain curmin, coriander, sesame seeds, salt, dried herbs, nuts and seeds. Lately, I've been seeing it on a lot of menus, but my first encounter with it was at Kaia.

Slider Trio

We decided to try one of each of the out-there slider options as an appetizer. I say "out there" because instead of lamb, turkey, chicken or beef - these sliders were ostrich, elk and wild board. Each had a distinct taste and the toppings paired perfectly with their respective meat. I think that the wild boar was my favorite!

South African Food NYC

Grebakte Suurlemoene

Baked lemons stuffed with tomato & olive pesto and topped with goat cheese

This was weirdly good - I wasn't expecting to love it, but the hint of lemon with each bite was justtttt right! I still prefer stuffed peppers or mushrooms or spaghetti squash but lemon was a nice change of pace.

Spiced Meat Crepe

Kaia NYC

I totally made that name up because I can't remember exactly what I ordered - but it was delicious! It was really seasoned/fragrant meat with a hint of sweetness to it wrapped up in a pillow-y doughy crepe.

Bier Prawns

Head on tiger prawns in a peri peri beer broth served with coconut rice

Kaia NYC Review

These guys were a little terrifying when they came to the table. My dad and I were supposed to split this and my entree but I wasn't really feeling these monsters - they were way too fishy tasting for me. My dad seemed to enjoy them though!

Lamb Burger

Kaia Upper East Side

My mom's lamb burger was huge and filled with blue cheese! It also had a delicious fruit chutney. She really enjoyed it and it's a staple on their menu!

Malva Pudding

Never one to pass on dessert, we asked which was the most authentic on the menu and went with that. The Malva Pudding was a sticky cake with apricot creme that was just the right amount of sweet to cap off the night.

I highly recommend a trip to Kaia Wine Bar if you're looking to mix-up your boring Italian, Mexican, Chinese food rotation.

 kaia wine bar
1614 third avenue (between 90th and 91st)