GOOD FOOD PUTS ACHOLA ROSARIO ALWAYS IN A GOOD MOOD …
By Achola Rosario, Contributing Editor at www.ATCNews.org
(Posted 29th August 2021)
I always knew myself to be a naturally greedy person; my mother put me on a diet when I was 10. But for the first time in my life, I have met my match in a group of people who made me put my hands up in surrender and beg them to stop feeding me. This must be some kind of alternate universe.
I first heard about Havana Bar in Westlands Nairobi before I even set foot in the country; and when I first passed by its red and gold façade, I knew this 15-year-old legendary club was the place for me. Like a well frequented baroque boudoir beckoning me to its blush bosom, I resisted a few times and eventually finally took the plunge. I had no idea what awaited me. The idea was that I would try out their 3-course meal, or so I thought, but the management had other ideas and had planned a feast of epic proportions for me, myself and I.
I, that is “we”, didn’t disagree.
First came a tower of avocado topped with herbed prawns still in their shells, their tentacles artfully completing the presentation that included chopped tomatoes and coriander, chilies garlic and lime slices. Personally, I feel that cooking prawns in their shells brings out an entire new dimension to their flavor, and gives the added bonus of sucking out the head and closing your eyes in pleasure as their brains increase yours. At least that is what us fish-lovers believe.
Next came a full taco of slow-cooked pulled lamb with home-made feta cheese, pickled red cabbage julienne, fresh cucumber tomatoes and onions, mint leaves and of all things, pomegranate seeds. I tenderly wrapped this curious wonder and tried to fit it in my mouth as elegantly as possible. Until the taste hit my tongue. Then I abandoned all pretense of table manners and as Bart Simpson says, commenced shoveling. I was shocked for two reasons: one I really don’t like lamb at all usually but this was something else entirely, and two, the pomegranates acted like they were meant to be there all along. Add a dash or two of tabasco sauce and the whole thing came together like hot butter on good toast.
Round 3 brought a Red snapper on a bed of home-made gnocchi, with a crust of crushed macadamia nuts instead of panko which I will return to in a bit to do it more justice. The dish came with broccoli al-dente, capers and button mushrooms, with a white sauce and a drizzle of this green herb syrup that just lifted the whole thing. One bite of the fish with the macadamia nut crust was enough to send me reeling. The genius of it! The oily nuttiness of the macadamia is the perfect foil for the snapper and gave it new meaning. I decided then and there that I had to meet the Chef. I also decided to pack that particular meal for when I got back home so I can savor every last morsel. And true to form my dear readers, like the perfect dish it was, it stood up to the test even when cold.
The gnocchi was moist and fluffy without being dry and powdery as potato doughs tend to do when overcooked, even after they grew cold. And it came with the dinkiest little jar of extra white sauce, for those of us who like it saucy.
Round 4 was a Beef Wellington that would make any British man proud. Except that it is originally French, but that is an argument for another day. A good 2-inch steak, flash-fried to seal the flavor before coating it in a mushroom paté and wrapping it in filo pastry and baking it in the oven for as long as it takes to cook the filo without overcooking the meat inside. Mine was nice and pink when I cut into it but I still would have preferred it a little bloodier. I think the Chef was just playing it safe in case I accuse him of trying to poison me. Fortunately for him that was the last thing I would have done, being an avid carnivore of the Francophone persuasion. The red-wine reduction was perfect and there was a yellow savory custard-type sauce that I struggled to identify but which I suspect was made with either mustard or turmeric for its color, but married perfectly with all the other flavors.
It is at this point that I threw in the towel. I really could not eat another bite. Chef Anthony Kimani Njenga, whom I met after a perfect dessert (how could I say no?) of a warm from the oven sticky toffee pudding with lashings of caramel sauce, vanilla gelato and fresh mint leaves, told me that he still had another 2 courses for me consisting of a Boeuf Cordon Bleu and an enchilada. It has just occurred to me as I write this that I could have packed them. But then I would have looked even greedier than I already am so thank God for his blessed restraint. As a self-taught Chef, father and farmer, Chef Anthony takes his food and ingredients personally, resulting in food where natural flavors are respected and brought out instead of drowned in spice. He deserves a Michelin star in my books. 5 hours of eating led to 2 cocktails made with original Havana Club Rum and REAL TEQUILA, although with slightly too much ice. Shots were full, and ingredients were crushed with a pestle and mortar and not blended, ensuring that you don’t get the dreaded mojito “green tooth” that every chick on a date prays will not happen to her; or at least get told if it did.
As I left that warm Cuban bosom, I truly felt I had found a home for my pirate self, confirmed by Brian the bar manager who promised to name a cocktail after me the next time I come and give him my preferred ingredients. What do you guys suggest? So long as it has 2 doubles of tequila in it and nothing blue, I am good with that.
Havana Bar has superb Taco Tuesdays, where you can get a mix and match pair of tacos at Kshs600 ($6) only, Burger Wednesdays and steaks on weekends. They also have Chef specials every day.
A 3-course meal costs Kshs3000 ($30) and a 6-course meal costs kshs5000 ($50). This is perfect for a romantic date or with a large group of friends. Or even a solo celebratory treat, if you are a gourmand like me. You can make your bookings where you request Chef Anthony to thrill your taste-buds for even up to 8 courses, if you can handle it.
To book a gourmet session at Havana Bar Nairobi:
Manager Brian Cook:
+254 706 523395
To watch THE FOMO TRAVEL SHOW EP74:
Be part of the legend that is Havana Nairobi.