Monday, October 15, 2018

Haandi: Restaurant Review

If anyone asks me to recommend the best Indian restaurant in Nairobi, I'll definitely say Haandi. Hopefully this doesn't come as too much of a surprise to you, but if it does, or if you disagree, you're very welcome to change my mind! I'm always open to new experiences.

I don't go to the actual restaurant as often as I would like. Their ambience is lovely, but the location itself isn't too exciting.

It was a Sunday family lunch, and we were celebrating my parents' 39th anniversary (woo!), so you can imagine that we ordered quite a bit ;) In the interest of being true to what I write, I'll only cover the dishes that I personally tried out of those we ordered.

Before we begin - a huge kudos to Haandi for their service. We got great service and attention from our server as well as the manager on duty. The manager made sure to understand why we were there, gave us some lovely recommendations, and also helped us proactively adjust the portions we needed when it became clear that we had ordered (far) too much. Perhaps Haandi could think of getting wider tables? Punjabi families need all that space...

Another kudos for a website that is FUNCTIONAL and BEAUTIFUL! A personal pet peeve is going to an excellent restaurant with a crappy website - there's no reason you can't be excellent across all channels, is there?

I think I had a ginger ale or something, but my mum ordered a salty lime soda. It sounded hella weird, to be honest, but I think that's what I'll order when I go!! It had a lovely flavour and a delightful hint of mint. Plus, the salt was exotic not creepy if that makes sense?

To start off, we ordered the chilli paneer, the murg burra (boneless chicken tikka), and the lamb seekh kebabs.

To be incredibly honest - I've had better chilli paneer in Nairobi, even at Haandi itself! (Also, totally forgot to take a picture...)

The murg burra. Let's spend a moment here, shall we? Again. Without a doubt, I can say that this is the BEST boneless tikka I've had at a North Indian restaurant in Nairobi. The chicken was creamy and soft enough - think melt in your mouth. It was marinated exquisitely all the way through, and the chicken itself was great! Definitely a 10/10.

The seekh kebabs were great too - a little on the dry side, but good flavour, which sometimes restaurants completely fail to achieve when they're working with lamb.

For the mains, we ordered the malai kofta, dal bukhara, jeera chicken and rogan josh. I didn't try the malai kofta, but did manage to have a bite of all the rest.

First of all, the dal bukhara. It's been a LONG time since I've had a proper dal bukhara (black dal cooked overnight). This was amazingly done, with lovely flavours of ginger and butter too. Honestly, I wouldn't be opposed to ordering ONLY this and eating it alone the next time I go! Thanks for destroying stereotypes about vegetarian food having to choose between being healthy and being tasty, dal bukhara, you the real MVP.

Can you smell it yet?

The jeera chicken was perfect too. It's a personal favourite of mine, so there may be a little bias here - but I highly doubt it! I loved that the individual flavours of this dish were so perfectly subtle that they blended together perfectly! We got this medium spicy, but I feel like this dish could hold its own without that spice if it needed to.

Finally, the rogan josh. Again, forgot to take a picture here. Good - but didn't hold a candle to the chicken or dal!

We had these with naans and rice. The naans were soft, but not something I would eat alone. However, a perfect accompaniment to the dishes above.

After all this, we definitely had to take a meanwhile before heading home for some well-deserved cake!

Have you been to Haandi? What was your experience like?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Empathy and Compassion

Empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion.

Empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion.

It's an internal mantra I've been experimenting with this month, inspired by the person I'm lucky to call my best friend, rock and role model - and I'll be the first to admit, I had no idea it would be so hard!

Where did this stem from, first of all? As I've probably mentioned before, I believe in continuous self-improvement, and sometimes this entails experimenting with different things that may work for the stage I find myself in.

One of the things that I strive to practice is being a kinder, more understanding person - both to those around me, strangers or otherwise, and to myself. I admire those people who ALWAYS exude compassion and strength - my best friend being one of them - and strive to learn from them when I can.

So, back to empathy and compassion. It's something I've been saying to myself when I encounter various situations or something that annoys me - not always, but sometimes. This could be anything from frustration with myself, a depressing news article (don't we have so many of those nowadays?), or an idiotic driver (empathy and compassion, empathy and compassion) who decides that their need to get to their destination should be prioritised over the similar needs of others.

Sometimes, this is immediately effective at helping! I find it very easy to react when others make decisions that seem silly or hurtful - for example, someone being rude - but by taking just a moment to remind myself to be empathetic and compassionate, I find it much easier to think about the intentions or drivers behind their actions and judge those instead of judging their actions. Someone whose elevator etiquette may be lacking may simply be having a stressful day and be in a rush to get to where they need to be.

However, the times I've found it incredibly hard to practice this have been when I've encountered a sense of entitlement within the intentions themselves. A sense of entitlement in others - AND in myself.

To give you an example, there seems to be a never ending river of vitriol online responding to various situations or the other (NEVER read the comments!). I've been especially disheartened to see the responses people have to those who, for example, have endured sexual abuse - seemingly born out of a perceived challenge to their existing ways of being and living and operating (entitlement).

Another example - I read a news article in the morning about a reporter who had been working to expose corruption in a European country and was found brutally murdered - someone thinking that it's okay to silence the voice of another that way (entitlement).

And another - whenever I've realised my own dogma around my ways of being and values (entitlement).

I always find it interesting coming across and directly confronting (what I see as) inadequacies, or things I can improve on, about myself.

I read somewhere that what irks you most in others is a reminder of that which you fear in yourself, and I do think this is true. Humans. We definitely are a weird species, aren't we?

What's the key takeaway of this?

We're not perfect - we never will be - but hopefully by remembering to practice empathy and compassion from time to time, we can make the world an easier place to live in, and by choosing to confront entitlement within ourselves, we can make this an even smoother process I hope.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Soi: Restaurant Review

It's been a while since I'd been to Soi, a Thai restaurant at Dusit, so I definitely wasn't going to refuse this as a lunch location a few weeks ago!

The location is definitely convenient (for me, in this case ;) ), and I'm a fan of their ambience which may trick you into believing you're not in Nairobi.

To drink, I chose the Soi eleven sling - Longon gin shaken with fresh pineapple, lemon and sweet Thai basil, and soaked in tropical bitters and lemon soda. While I did enjoy this - it was refreshing and not too heavy for (what was supposed to be) a light Saturday lunch, I do think the aesthetic could've been improved. The plastic straw didn't do much for me (or the environment, I presume).

Soi eleven sling

To start off, we ordered the Peek gai thod kha-min (deep fried chicken wings marinated with turmeric, fish sauce and garlic, served with Thai BBQ sauce). I really enjoyed these! They were amazing and flavourful, and the garlic came through perfectly. They could've been slightly crispier, but I would still order these again. 

Now for mains - wow, we definitely over-ordered (and overate)! 

We got the Gaeng khiew wan gai - green curry with chicken; the Moo phad bai horapa kai dao - stir-fried spicy minced pork with sweet basil leaves, garlic and fried egg (but we replaced the pork with chicken); the Bok choi phad goong (stir-fried pok choi with black pepper and prawns in Thai garlic sauce); and steamed rice. 

First of all, the green curry. I'm a huge green curry fan, and this one definitely didn't disappoint! It had a slight bite to it (if you can't handle spice, beware), and managed to be wonderful and creamy. It was the perfect thing to order for a cold afternoon - comfort food if you will! 

Next up, the stir-fried minced chicken. I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but I really liked it!! Didn't try the egg though, I'm not really a fan of egg in my Thai food. However, this definitely could've been spicier, but this was easily remedied by adding some of the hot sauce (and green chillies) we asked for. In terms of flavour profile, the basil definitely injected a sweet flavour to the dish, but it worked very well. 

Now, the bok choi. I wasn't expecting to love this dish as much as I did!! I kept eating more and more, and even mixed it with the mince chicken (they went together very well). The prawns added to the light and refreshing feel of the dish, and the bok choi was perfectly cooked and crispy. 

My mouth is watering just looking at this again....
Finally, for dessert (Did you think I wouldn't make it this far? Well, you're wrong.), we opted for the coconut sticky rice with mango. Definitely a great choice, as it wasn't heavy at all, and not too sweet either (although the mango may have been a tad bit raw). 

What did you think? Has this review made you want to go check Soi out? If so, do let me know what you end up ordering!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Nyama Mama: Restaurant Review

If I had to describe Nyama Mama's ambience, they would be 'fun' and 'comfortable'. It's got an eclectic, colourful, modern-African vibe that also translates to their food and drinks.

A Sunday night dinner location was needed, and we settled upon Nyama Mama. It was also the perfect time for a review - although this one wasn't as in depth, so I do plan to return.

While I do love their cocktails, this particular evening I opted for the fresh mint tea. It was lovely and comforting, and definitely fit the vibe of the night. 

For starters, we decided to share a plate of the ugali fries. At this point, some of y'all's eyes are probably popping out of your heads. UGALI FRIES?? Yes, I can hear your thoughts. However, do give these a try without any prior conceptions of what you may be expecting! They're a nice, crispy starter, soft on the inside, and almost reminiscent of fish fingers (but vegetarian, of course). 

For mains, I decided to go for the buttermilk fried chicken - but instead of mashed potatoes, I asked for their masala chips. I know, I know, I'm breaking the box, but it worked really well! The masala chips were good, although a little drier than usual. The chicken was excellent - the batter was amazing and well coated, the chicken flavour was great, and the whole dish was very homey - think comfort food revamped. 

Family and friends got a variety of dishes, from the halloumi wrap with sukuma wiki (flavourful and an unexpected yet delicious blend) to the slow cooked paneer in tusker with mushroom chapatti parcel (YUM!)

For desserts, we decided to get and share two - the baked oreo cheese cake, with fresh berry coulis crisp tuille and chocolate ice cream, and the pineapple crumble with coffee ice-cream. The crumble was tangy and perfectly crumbly (heh), and the coffee ice-cream was an unexpected, yet lovely complement. 

Let's talk about the oreo cheesecake, shall we? This was absolutely a foodie's DREAM! The perfect explosion of flavour and texture in your mouth, I can see myself ordering this again, and again, and again. Do you know that feeling you get when someone gives you a gift and you're not quite sure what to expect, but you open it and it turns out to be your favourite thing in the world and you're just absolutely delighted? That's this feeling. As a cheesecake.

Overall - a very happy meal indeed! 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Osteria del Chianti: Restaurant Review


Confession time... up until Saturday, the 11th of August, I'd never been to Osteria. However, my sister and I were long overdue a sisters' day out (read: a legitimate reason for a food coma), and so decided to visit Osteria. A few reasons for the choice - its reputation, the fact that she'd tried and liked it before, and its proximity to Keventers  (more on their amazing milkshakes later).

Confession number 2: I've never been to Italy. However, when I walked into Osteria, I immediately imagined myself on a cute street corner in Italy, so seems that they've gotten something right! Again, lovely to sit and while an afternoon away, to paint for a few hours, to share some laughs with family, to enjoy a dinner date. I love that they've managed to create an ambience that's so OPEN while actually not being that open... does that make any sense? Alas, I didn't take general pictures, so you'll have to take my word on this one - or go visit yourself ;)

To start off, we ordered the large (hey, it was a Saturday afternoon!) glasses of house wine. Now, this was definitely a pleasant surprise. Many (if not most restaurants) in Nairobi just add fermented grape juice that has not quality whatsoever into glasses and call it house wine. However, I actually LIKED Osteria's!

Believe me when I say this glass took me from starters all the way till AFTER I'd finished my meal!

The focaccia that they brought us to begin with was amazing, and I had to be careful not to fill myself up on this alone! It was fresh, with a hint of garlic, and some lovely rosemary. The tomatoes complemented it perfectly, as did my requisite green chillies in olive oil. Think of a light, flavourful, happy explosion in your mouth and angels singing.

For starters, we decided to split a soup - the zuppa di pollo e cocco. Fear not, dear ones - I did actually jot down the description this time! This was chicken, coconut, lemongrass and chilli. Now, reading the description, I immediately thought of Thai soup - so was unsure what to expect, but loved what I got! I think the soup and focaccia were easily my favourite parts of the meal, they were THAT good.

The soup was amazingly light, yet creamy. The chicken was great and had wonderfully absorbed the marriage of flavours the soup represented, giving a sweet and slightly tangy flavour, with finely diced onions rounding out this perfect blend. I'll DEFINITELY order this one again.

We decided to go halfsies (that's a word, right?) for mains too - this time choosing the tagliatelle pesto and the proscuitto e funghi pizza.

First of all, the pesto. Now, I'm a huge fan of pesto pasta, but somehow this just didn't do it for me! The over-sauciness and bright green colour served to act as a turn off, and I couldn't finish my portion. I wouldn't order this again. However, it may have just been me as my sister did like it, and actually had my leftovers for lunch the next day.

The pizza, on the other hand, was great! Again, light and refreshing (I was left wondering how all this light and refreshing food left me in a food coma so bad...). The crust was amazing, thin, crispy in the right places and soft in others. The flavours were a lovely blend too - I'm personally a huge fan of proscuitto and mushrooms!

Alas, we didn't make it to dessert this time (but I'll happily come with you if you want to go!) as we were planning to try out Keventers' milkshakes, but I'll report back when I do.

Happy eating, nomads!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Urban Eatery High Tea: Restaurant Review


What does high tea remind you of? For me, it's a very specific memory. No posh dressing up, no outdoorsy event - rather, a warm, laughter filled event as family and friends gathered to celebrate whoever's birthday it was at the time, with the smell of lovely samosas in the background and the guarantee of a mouthwatering, homemade black forest cake.

I'm rather pleased that the trend of high tea has caught on in Nairobi - obviously, a very different kind of high tea from the one I encountered in my childhood, but one I can get behind nonetheless. 

When one of my favourite joints in Nairobi, Urban Eatery, rolled out a high tea option and invited me to try the same, I definitely couldn't refuse! You need to call in advance to make sure they have everything ready for you. What I liked about Urban's high tea is that, true to their character, even their high tea consisted of a blend of different cuisines. What would I change? Add even more cuisines! Samosas, anyone? 

To start off, we were given some tea (duh!) but the weird thing is that there was no sugar on the table. Luckily, right now I'm in a no-sugar-in-my-tea stage, but not so for my friend. 

However, when the goodies came out, I soon forgot all about this because the display was absolutely AMAZING! 

The top layer had cupcakes, vanilla and chocolate eclairs, a variety of cookies, nut cake and dark chocolate cake. 

The middle later had scones with whipped cream and homemade strawberry jam.

The bottom later had somakito, Philadelphia rolls, summer rolls, salmon open sandwiches, mayo and cheese sandwiches, and egg sandwiches. 

Top layer

Let's start off with the top layer, shall we? The butterjam cookie was soft and crunchy at the same time! The cookie with icing was a perfect treat - melt in your mouth good! 

The nut cake was very light, almost Snickers-ish. I'm not a Snickers fan (I know, I know), but I actually really liked this! 

The chocolate eclair was perfect and light - however, a little on the sweeter side for me so I couldn't have the whole thing! The vanilla eclair had all the great qualities of its chocolate cousin - but was just better!

What I didn't like about this layer, however, was the dark chocolate cake. It was on the dry side, and slightly bitter - definite room for improvement here! 

Middle layer

While the scones were hard, maybe overbaked - hear me out - I actually really liked them! They were hard on the outside, but a lovely texture, soft and sweet, on the inside, and I could have definitely kept eating them. 

I feel like I need a whole other blog post to wax poetic about the homemade strawberry jam...

OH. MY. GOODNESS. This was absolutely DIVINE. Tart and sweet, heavenly and fresh, I'm sure this will inspire many a love song. Goodness. Even if the rest of the high tea hadn't been wonderful, I would definitely return just for this.

Top layer

Now we get to the savoury layer - I'll admit, I wasn't sure how the transition would go, but I was pleasantly surprised! 

Containers for soy sauce weren't provided here, but this was easily rectified. 

The egg salad sandwiches' bread was a little dry - as it is, egg salad is far from my favourite, so I didn't eat much of this. However, my friend loved it, especially how creamy it was!

The summer roll was very refreshing, healthy, and perfectly complemented the sweet chilli sauce (which was great!). 

The Philadephia roll was good - not as great as the summer roll though! 

The sushi in general was amazing, I'd love this again! 

I finished this plate off with the mayo and cheese sandwich - however, I didn't see much cheese or mayo... On the other hand, the sandwich did have mango, black pepper and cucumber - and they went together really well! The bread on this was also softer.

For a grand finale, we went back to the top layer for the cupcakes. These were lovely and dainty and oh-so-good! Please oh please Urban, add these to your regular menu. 

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