THE ASIAN GARDEN IN GIGIRI CAPTURES ACHOLA ROSARIO’S ATTENTION
(Posted 17th January 2021)
Black food has become all the rage in Nairobi restaurants, but Asian Garden has taken this new craze to new heights with the Fusion Sushi Roll and their Black Sesame and Green Tea ice-cream. This, as well as the statement décor, sets this Pan Asian restaurant in the heart of the diplomatic circle apart from the others. Situated at the Warwick Center, right next to the American Embassy, one walks into two distinct countries, Japan and India, each with their own creative licenses.
I always say that a place where the owner puts his personality in the décor lasts longer and this place has personality in spades. Set in a greenhouse-like structure on the side of the main building, one walks into bamboo shoot glory with Japanese carp represented with broken tiles on the floor, a layered hardcore stone waterfall with a Buddha head sitting serenely observing proceedings, and delicate birdcages on the counter. Kir Kir, a chatty waiter leads you to your table on a raised platform beneath kitenge covered umbrellas and I scan the menu QR code with my phone. I settled on a hot and sour chicken soup and a Fusion sushi roll. The soup came in a large bowl and was full of flavor. A dash of wasabi and soy from my sushi gave it new depth.
The sushi was made from black rice, which the Chef says they purchase as is, but I detected that it was soaked in beetroot juice due to the color and the slight sweet taste it has. The inside of the sushi roll consisted of half salmon, a quarter tuna and a quarter avocado. Topped with a slice of strawberry, the taste was akin to a cold deep savory fruit. Also, a word of warning: if you have sensitive teeth like me, do not go from hot soup to cold sushi in one sitting. A very bad idea, but the taste adventure made the pain slightly more worth it. I do however recommend that they let their fish sit a little as they take it out of the freezer, so a client is not biting on a piece of icy fish.
Exploring the rest of the restaurant took at least another half hour and had a delightful surprise at every turn. The Japanese side of the restaurant has been going for 6 years, but it is the Indian side that opened a mere 2 years ago, that takes the biscuit. Decked in full Bollywood technicolor, with flower-power buses, piqued-paisley high-backed armchairs in fuscia and beige, or Paul Smith stripes in purple yellow and blue shades, a Bollywood poster wall of fame complete with mirror bulbs, and lots of cheap Indian jokes, the place is a marvel of creativity. Even I, the Queen of Trash to Gold, was mesmerized by the variety of ideas the interior designer came up with out of scrap, such as the chandeliers made with car tires and ropes held together by ducktape and through which was threaded incandescent light bulbs. Or the chai-wallah cart that takes up a quarter of the Indian restaurant like a full replica of a theater set, complete with original cans of Thumbs up soda.
The prevailing crowd in this Pan Asian restaurant is from the diplomatic community that surrounds it, and I am sure patrons frequent it as an antidote to their sterile office surroundings designed to induce orderly thoughts and a controlled temperament, a stark cry from the restaurant’s Zen to Asian Mad Hatter surroundings. For me the Indian side is the perfect place to have a party, and the menu is not only restricted to Japanese or Indian but incorporates Thai, Vietnamese and Korean as well. At $30 for soup, one sushi roll, desert and soft drink, the prices are a little steep but reflect the clientele it serves. And when you are done on your savory adventure, the deal is sealed with a perfectly Asian desert of Black Sesame and Green Tea ice-cream, one nutty deep coffee taste and rich, and the other light and herbal, neither too sweet, but drizzled with Sweet bean sauce, a revelation in confectionary toppings that puts Nutella to shame. And the wonderful end to this culinary adventure is that all that activated charcoal from the black rice and black ice-cream does wonders for the digestion.
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