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Melvin Oyamo, the executive chef at Sa’ani The African Bistro

Njeri Maina

Melvin Oyamo, the executive chef at Sa’ani The African Bistro, meets us on the ground floor of Batians Apartments in Hurlingham, ready to usher us into his restaurant.

He is quite charming and effusive in nature, and one hopes that his meals portray the same zest for flavour to match his zest for life. “We will be preparing our signature dessert, known as the Sa’ani Treasure Chest,” Melvin informs us.

He uses slabs of dark chocolate to make an open box that will act as our chest. The chef then uses caster sugar, dark compound, eggs and whipping cream to make the treasure that will be contained in the dark chocolate chest.

After this, he melts some more dark chocolate, which will be later used for garnishing both the plate and the chest. Melvin moves around the kitchen with an economy of motion that could only be borne from experience.

On top of two years spent at Top Chef Culinary Institute, he has more than 10 years experience having worked for gastronomic giants running the gamut from Fairmont The Norfolk to Serena Hotels.

Ingredients. Photo/John Ochieng

After 10 years of grueling hard work and self-improvement, he needed a new challenge, and that is when he got into entrepreneurship. He started Fine Style Catering, an outfit that dealt with supplying braised and marinated meats to its clients for over three years.

The catering team would later morph into the restaurant business he has been running for the last one year with the help of co-owner and fellow chef Njeru Karanja.

“I decided to start my own restaurant as a way of exploring the rich ingredients that Kenya has to offer. Here at Sa’ani, we specialise in African meals using various methods such as French culinary techniques,” Melvin expounds.

We learn all this as he goes about the intricate art of garnishing the treasure chest with dollops of molten chocolate. He then decorates the plate with artful swirls of chocolate, that form an ‘S’ for Sa’ani, and the final product is almost too beautiful to eat.

My sweet tooth wins the battle against my eyes and their need to conserve beauty, and I dig in. The decadent dessert is a conflagration of flavours, as the tart strawberries complement the dark chocolate taste. I get the recipe, despite knowing for a fact that I could never do the same justice to the dish as Melvin has just done. But, you are most welcome to give it a try.

• Six square slabs of dark chocolate

Garnishing Sa’ani Bistro’s signature dessert. Photo/John Ochieng

• Extra dark chocolate for garnishing
• Strawberries
• Caster sugar
• Two eggs
• Whipping cream
• Dark compound

• Make an open cube of walled chocolate using five slabs to act as your treasure chest.
• To make the chocolate mixture you will use to fill the treasure chest, whip together the caster sugar, egg white only, whipping cream and dark compound, then put in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
• Fill the open chest with the mixture then cover it up with the remaining slab of chocolate.
• Melt the extra dark chocolate and put it in a piping bag.
• Use the molten chocolate to garnish the chest. Add some sliced strawberries on the side to garnish as well.
• Dig in.

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