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Mexicana delights in Nairobi estate

I grew up with American drama, The OC. Seth Cohen, Ryan Atwood, Marissa Cooper, Summer Roberts and I went on many adventures — but none struck me silly as their visit to Tijuana. Tj was alive with adventure and I couldn’t wait to finally visit Mexico. I am yet to hit the streets of Avenida Revolución or beach hop in the Bajapeninsula in Mexico, but my love has never waned.

I have drunk my way through Mehico; from straight-up party fuel as I like to call the Jose Cuervo Especial to Don Julio Añejo Tequila, testament to the craft of making a superior tasting, aged tequila. And yet all these very significant moments don’t match dining at Fonda NBO at Rosslyn Riviera Mall near Village Market shopping centre, Nairobi. It’s not everyday you come across a restaurant that leaves you with more — fulfilment, awe, appreciation, the whole works.

Fonda took me right to the heart of Mexico and I left a better person. I think I finally understand the meaning behind soul food; it’s more than a meal. It’s the experience — something that makes you see the whole picture, instead of focusing on individual parts. Fonda (the Mexico equivalent of a bistro) is right on the money, from the name to the décor to the architecture.

Executive chef, Gerardo-Perez smiles for the camera at Fonda NBO Restaurant. Photo/JOHN OCHIENG

Mexicans use the word to describe a place where guests can enjoy fresh food from locally sourced ingredients based on age-old recipes in casual and comfortable surroundings.

Mexican fonda evolved out of the homes and dining rooms where women would cook a basic three-course meal for neighbours and passers-by. Today, Mexico is full of fondas, but the concept has broadened.

The new-age fonda is a full-service restaurant offering the high-quality Mexican cuisines in casual, but upscale surroundings. Fonda takes the business of food seriously as we learn from the managing director, Yash Krishna.

The Nairobi team spent two weeks in Mexico—tasting and cooking food, noting the architecture, culture, sights and sounds.

I cannot recommend the Sopa De Tortilla enough; it’s a hearty tomato broth spiced with two types of chiles and thickened with tortillas. It is poured onto freshly diced avocado, queso fresco, and fried tortilla strips.

For the main dish, I went with a Carne Asada— a marinated steak, grilled to perfection served with Mexican chimichurri, avocado cream and three tortillas. The Flan made the perfect dessert choice with its delectably creamy custard tinged with orange and lemon zest in a caramel sauce. In addition to Mexican food, Fonda has incorporated the rich Mexican culture and traditions in the look and feel of the restaurant, menu, tableware…

The ‘O’ in the word ‘Fonda’, incorporated from the restaurant’s logo is made from a molcajete, a tool for grinding spices. Fonda has three sitting areas: El Mercado, La Veranda and La Zona Cultural — each section accurately depicts a restaurant in Mehico. Mercado is a Spanish word for market, therefore, a farmer’s market in Mexico is an example of a mercado.

A cobblestone floor — a perfect representation of a market area to the open plan kitchen— allows you to experience the air in the market as you watch executive chef, Gerardo-Perez in action. La Veranda is an outdoor sitting area, from its rustic flooring to the several well-laid tables and seats. I have to admit La Zona Cultural took my breath away. It is not everyday you go to a restaurant and leave beyond blown away, but richer in culture.

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