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Surprise tastes during restaurant week

Njeri Maina @njerimainar

I am not the most frugal person in the world. Indeed, I have been accused of being a spendthrift on several occasions and by more than one person. However, I am always up for a good bargain. So when I heard of Nairobi Restaurant Week, I decided it was time I tried a few restaurants that I had never patronised before.

The offer could not have come at a better time, a true cure for the Njaanuary blues. I started out with dinner at Ventana, located on the ground floor of Bidwood Suites off Lower Kabete Road in Westlands. The eatery was offering a two-course lunch at Sh1,500 and a three-course lunch at Sh2,500.

I opted for dinner. Geoffrey, my waiter for the night, met me at the door of the restaurant and escorted me to a corner table where I could watch other dinners as I tried to finish some office work on my laptop.

I ordered salad for starters, lamb curry and naan as my main meal and fried ice cream as my dessert. Geoffrey was helpful; he even convinced me to download the eat out app, which I could then use to claim a free glass of wine.

The mango pomegranate salad had a nice taste. The baby lettuce had just the right amount of crunch, with the eponymous mango and pomegranate adding a welcome sweetness. It also had roasted cashew nuts, which added some texture. A liberal dash of pepper added a whisper of heat and excitement to the dish. The bar set, I couldn’t wait to see if the main course and dessert would measure up.

The lamb curry came up thick and spicy. The naan was soft and just a tad sugary too, probably the best naan I have ever tasted. Accompanying it was baked dauphinoise potatoes with Robert sauce, which I found creamy and sumptuous.

After polishing off my plate, I took a small break, downing more wine. Ready for dessert, I signalled Geoffrey, who brought fried ice cream. It was contained in a baked shell, which tasted of cinnamon and coconuts. A drizzle of chocolate sauce added a different layer of taste to the ice cream and the saltiness of the shell. I now understand the hype around salted sweets.

After polishing off my dessert, I paid and left, with a promise to be back. The second restaurant I visited during the restaurant week was La Salumeria. This Italian restaurant is located off Korosho Road, right behind the Valley Arcade shopping centre in Lavington area. I had imagined La Salumeria was on the Nairobi Restaurant Week list but it turned out it was not.

Since food and I are longtime buddies, offer or no offer, I ordered anyway. The menu was made up of Italian delicacies, with an entire section being dedicated to Sicilian delicacies. I am not exactly an authority on Italian food, I was more than glad to allow Stefan, one half of La Salumeria’s owners, help me order.

With soft pop music playing in the background and couples snuggling under the golden lanterns and hanging potted plants, I ordered a glass of wine and ravioli with spinach and cream filling. Ravioli is a dumpling composed of a filling sealed between two layers of thin pasta dough.

The glass of wine arrived with a basket of warm bread — so warm and soft that I almost finished the entire basket. Luckily, the food arrived in less than five minutes, just in time to save the bread. The ravioli had several sheets of paper ham covering it.

The ham’s umami perfectly complemented the creamy spinach filling. After polishing off the ravioli, I ordered hazelnut parfait. The hazelnuts gave the airy and frothy cream some texture and crunch. Each mouthful was sweet heaven, pun intended.

After dessert, I emptied my wine glass, paid for the meal and left a happy and satisfied diner. Maybe next year the offer will be more for than just a week. Then I might have a chance to try more than just two eateries.

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