Friday, February 02, 2007

We Want Food

Back in Delhi, Hubby and I were known as people who rarely ate in and knew most of the restaurants, take aways, and delivery places in town so well that they knew us by sight. The best of these, of course, found loving homes in my cell phone’s speed dial. We had a rotation for those we visited regularly in person and those we relied upon for feeding us via delivery bike. The reason, as those of you lucky enough to visit us in Golf Links knew, was that our kitchen was not terribly functional and was about as well lit as a coat closet. In addition to the lack of cooking facilities, there are no real supermarkets in Delhi and good ingredients are hard to come by unless you’re up to visiting five different shops for each recipe.

Life in Nairobi is slightly different than that. We have a big kitchen with huge windows and lots of counter space and cupboards. This, it should be noted, is the nicest kitchen we’ve ever had in either the developing or Real World. When you add the convenience of proper supermarkets and lovely specialty stores, I’m sure you’ll understand why we have rediscovered our “joy of cooking” (if you’ll pardon the pun).

That said, I’m not about to give up my enjoyment of eating in nice restaurants even if Hubby’s cooking is some of the best to be found on either side of the Atlantic. So we have found ourselves out and about in Nairobi experimenting with new places to put into our speed dial. Although we haven’t yet found any good delivery outlets, we have discovered that Nairobi is a pretty good food town.

Whether you’re looking for Thai food or drinks followed by fancy bar snacks, ABC Center is a great place to head to on a Saturday afternoon. The happy hour at Mercury Bar makes having a few strawberry cosmopolitans and a plate of chicken fingers an affordable snack after a long day of looking for new curtains. Should you find yourself hungry for supper after this snack, the new Thai place next door, Orchid, is a wee bit pricey but entirely yummy. Hubby and I were lucky enough to be there on opening day and we both found the shrimp pad thai to be both authentic and delicious. The young owner imports ingredients direct from Thailand and actually has two Thai women working in the kitchen to ensure quality control.

For a night out at the bar followed by cute pouting for a meal, I’d head for the mall at the Westlands traffic circle. While I’m not saying that I’m a regular at the Tamambo bar, I won’t deny that they tend to prepare a margarita on the rocks (no salt) when they see me coming up the escalator. The attached restaurant is fabulous and you can order from the full menu at the bar. If continental food like ostrich fajitas or ulagi fries aren’t your ball of wax, you can walk two feet across the hall to Haandi. This fabulous restaurant specializes in North Indian cuisine and introduced us to the masala papadam which is a giant papad bruchetta.

Around the corner from the Sarit center is Furusato, a great Japanese restaurant whose only fault so far is that they seem to think that tempura requires only enough dipping sauce (or whatever it’s called) to satisfy a single carrot. Luckily the waiters seem to realize the lack and always have a knowing grin and a larger bowl ready as soon as you ask.

Lebanese food is a staple in our going out traditions here in Nairobi. While the Phoenician (in the Westlands) gets more press, Cedars (located in Kilimani) is my favourite place to spend lunch on Saturday afternoons. The tabouleh isn’t great but is more than made up for by the bite-sized schwarma and delicious fatoush. Of course, if it’s Friday night and you feel like getting a little Mediterranean ambience, then the place to go is definitely Casablanca where hooka pipes adorn the tables and large cushioned bench seats are the order of the day.

The oddest part of Casablanca is that it doesn’t actually serve food that matches the décor. They’re in cahoots with Osteria Del Chianti, an Italian restaurant which just happens to be directly around the corner if you’re driving or through the trees at the left if you’re walking to pick up a plate of cheese-less pizza for weird American, almost-bald men who go by the name Hubby but who will otherwise remain nameless.

If you’re in the mood for Italian but don’t feel like paying quite as much as Osteria charges, then Mediterraneo at the Junction is a great choice. The upstairs balcony area makes for a nice alfresco dining experience and the affordable menu has choices ranging from pizza diavola to penne Gorgonzola with rocket to veal marasla. The biggest problem with Mediterraneo is that they don’t have canolli on their dessert menu, which, in my opinion, is a criminal offence.

There are other fabulous dining experiences in town like Tamarind, Java House (OK that one isn’t fabulous but they do have nice chocolate croissants and coffee!), Café Latino, Carnivore, Pampa Grill (the latter two, of course, are better known by Devoted Readers as “All You Can Eat Meat”), and Pepper’s where I had a lovely and tasty lunch just yesterday. But this episode of blog is getting rather long so you’ll have to wait until the next time that PMS and writer’s block coincide to find out about those and many others.

Bon appetit!

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