We've been in Suva about six weeks, and in that time we've had a chance to experience some really good food. As I've mentioned in my last post about Fiji, this archipelago nation is primarily a mix of two cultures: iTaukei (indigenous Fijian) and Indo-Fijian (descendants of Indians brought by the British as indentured servants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.) The iTaukei cuisine largely consisted of fruits (think papaya, sometimes call pawpaw here, coconuts in abundance, pineapples, guava, & a starchy fruit called breadfruit, which actually tastes more like a vegetable), vegetables - including a green vegetable called "ota" and root vegetables such as casava - and fish. Simply seasoned, these dishes tend to feature the freshness of the ingredients. Indo-Fijian cuisine tends to feature both vegetarian and meat curries, Indian breads such naan and papadam, and rice. The main proteins are fish (which are abundant in the surrounding ocean), chicken, and a variety of legumes. Although there are a number of curry-specialty restaurants, the vast majority of restaurants we've seen here seem to offer both types of cuisine, or a fusion of the two. Mix in some British, American, and European influence (especially when it comes to burgers & fries for lunch and eggs for breakfast) and you have a modern, mixed cuisine. There are some really good cooks here who can blend the best of these into some delicious meals. We have seen vegetarian and vegan options at most of the places mentioned here.
Staff in the restaurants are uniformly nice, helpful, and attentive. In fact, I'm not sure we've traveled anywhere where people are friendlier than they are here. Whatever you want or need, they are here to help you get it. Food is reasonably priced. Our most expensive meal for two, including starters, drinks, mains and dessert, cost $85USD. And that is on the high end. Our typical dinner for two cost about $16USD - $30USD if we also had alcohol.
That said, there have been a few drawbacks to our adventures in eating in Suva. We can't seem to find any real food delivery service. It's just not a thing here. You can call for takeaway, and get in a taxi to pick it up, but delivery seems rare. In our short experience here, meats such as lamb and beef are tough and mostly imported. Better to order chicken or fish - which are always tasty. And, a lot of restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays. But other than that, our dining experiences have been pretty nice.
Here's our "best of" review of dining out in Suva, Fiji:
Best neighbourhood restaurant
Tasty Trails, an eclectic bar/dine-in/take-away/kava bar restaurant right down the street. They have a little bit of everything on their menu: fish & chips (made with a delicious but meatier type of ocean fish), tuna, pasta, salad, burgers, pizza, and curries. You can see part of the menu below, prices are Fiji dollars (about 40% of a USD, so a $14FJD item would be about $5.60USD). Because they are so close, we often go there for comfort food where we can order it, then go back and pick it up, and eat in front of the TV watching a movie. The chicken tikka masala and the pizzas are really good for this. Our favorite pizza is the vegetarian one, with some really delicious flavors and nice crust. When James & Maggie visited, we even tried the kava in the back, with the watchful eye of the incredibly nice staff who talked us through how much to drink. All of the staff there are amazing - Peggy is especially helpful and seems to always have a work shift when we are there. Their prices are quite good - usually $12-25USD for two.
Best curry restaurant
We've had good curry at Maya Dhaba (good papri chaat and fish goan curry) and Tasty Trails.
But, our favorite curry so far has been at Indiana Curry. Not sure how it got the name - it definitely is about as far from the cuisine I had growing up in Indiana as you can get, but the curries were delicious, the naan was soft and chewy, and the samosas are probably the best I've ever eaten anywhere. Spicy but just the right amount of spicy, with a perfect dough and luscious vegetables. We got a nice mango curry with cashew sauce that was different from any curry we've had before. We spent $33USD for two but there was enough food for a second meal of leftovers.
Best breakfast restaurant
We've had good breakfast at several places, including Mana Coffee, Grace Kitchen and Snowy House. But the place we keep returning to is Coffee Hub. It's got it all: incredible staff, deliciously different takes on standard breakfast fare, as well as lunch food such as Thai noodle salad and burgers. The avocado smash was so flavorful. And, the coffee is not only delicious, the designs on top are beautiful. They even have a bakery with moist, delicious cakes. And, they sell their coffee, grinding it for us so we can make it at home.
Best lunch restaurant
Our favorite lunch spot is Grace Kitchen. This is a restaurant chain in Fiji operated by a Korean church featuring farm-to-table prepared meals. On one of our day trips outside Suva, we passed one of their farms. The food tastes fresh and carefully prepared. We've had the spicy fried chicken (excellent and crispy but not greasy, with spicy pepper and cilantro on top), spicy noodles with chicken, vegan spicy noodles with tofu, as well as breakfast options. They also offer baked bread, fresh cookies and pastries. There are refreshing drinks - Paul especially enjoyed a watermelon smoothie. Every meal we've had there was great. Average price for 2 lunches, about $20-25 USD. We've been to the restaurant in Flagstaff, the one in Damodar City, and the one in Laucala Beach. The quality is consistent across the restaurants. There is also one in the Tapoo City mall downtown.
Best food court meal
Suva has a lot of food courts - some good, some not so good. The one in the MHCC mall was not so good. Tappoo City was much better. But the food court at Damodar City mall was the best. We had an especially good paneer curry there that was fantastic.
Best dinner restaurant
In addition to our neighbourhood restaurant, Tasty Trails, we've gone out to several dinner spots.
Runner-up for us is a nice place attached to a tennis club at Albert Park, called Paradiso. The roasted eggplant was full of flavor and the walu fish was excellent. Our food was served with local ota expertly cooked and a cassava & potato mash. There was a very nice brownie for dessert.
But, our favorite dinner place is Kanu Gastropub. There, Australian-trained chef Lance Seeto (born in Papua New Guinea of Chinese descent) honors Fijian ingredients and cooking styles with bold flavors and beautiful presentation. While we have loved every dish we've had there, our favorite was a fish curry. This restaurant is high-end at $85USD for a complete meal for two with starters, mains, drinks and dessert. The restaurant itself is a fun, relaxed open setting featuring historic photos of Suva, posters, and one night, an art exhibit by a local artist. They have a large front porch where you can also eat.
Best view from a restaurant
This is Fiji, so it is fitting to note the best view we had from a restaurant is at the Grand Pacific Hotel. When you sit on the verandah, you see palm trees, the ocean, and the mountains. It's pretty perfect. And the food is good too. We go there mostly for lighter fare, although the Saturday night buffet was excellent and the Sunday high tea was tasty and fun. There's also a nice coffee shop in front with baked goods, including bread.
Best music at a restaurant
Coffee Hub has a very nice jazz soundtrack, Paradiso and the Grand Pacific Hotel have excellent live performers, and Indiana Curry had, at least the other night, a soundtrack of 90s boybands (go figure!), but our favorite music was at Mana Coffee. The band, Sweet Sensation, plays there on Thursday afternoons and Saturday evenings. To be fair, they play other places as well, including Paradiso, but we saw them at Mana Coffee. You can hear a clip here.
Best home-cooked meal
It's pretty nice to go out to eat, but it can be even nicer, sometimes, to dine at home. With fresh vegetables, fruits, and chicken abundant at the Extra supermarket, sauces and Japanese ingredients such as mirin available at the local grocery down the street, Pmeghi, and the Victoria Wines next door, he's set for ingredients. Paul makes a pretty amazing meal, pretty consistently. My favorite lately has been his chicken teriyaki, served with fresh roasted carrots, potatoes, chopped pineapple, and a nice bottle of wine. Yeah, I'm pretty lucky.