When a new restaurant is all the rave in town, I usually avoid it until the hype dies down.
Last weekend I was going out with two friends and someone suggested CJ’s on Koinange Street, the new joint in town thronged by the “It crowd”.
We decided to check it out.
The restaurant looked magnificent from outside. There were beautiful chairs — looked like they were made of reeds — outside the hotel where customers sat, perhaps basking in the cold and enjoying the icy wind (or so I thought).
Eager to step out of the cold streets, I pushed open the door. CJ’s ambience was a stark contrast to its rather quiet uptown surrounding. It bustled with life as waiters ran up and down the aisles balancing food-laden trays and others carrying empty plates.
I joined one of my friends who had secured us seats in a corner all the while taking in the restaurant’s perfect décor. There were green vases and green plants on the isle. The plants look so real I only realised they were artificial when I touched them.
The menu had such appetising photos and we took a while before placing our order.
I settled on the Caribbean jerk chicken with mashed potatoes and salad. I preferred steamed vegetables to go with the potatoes. Although the waiter promised to be right back, the substitute veggies never made it to my plate.
One friend opted for fried plantains and chicken tender platter - buttered and coated chicken strips. The other one ordered for fries and the chicken tender platter.
For drinks, we ordered Dawa – a refreshing drink made with ginger, lemons and honey, a strawberry colada and an Oreo milkshake.
Let us move on to the food, shall we?
The Caribbean jerk chicken portion was really huge — two drumsticks and chicken breast. It came with some stew for the mashed potatoes and tasty salad dressing that I used as a dip. The Caribbean jerk chicken tasted like normal grilled chicken with a hint of pepper and a certain sweet spice which I could not figure out. The mashed potatoes were heavenly.
The plantain and chicken tender platter portion was so small, it could easily pass for a kiddies platter. However, the plantains were marvelous. The buttered chicken strips were tasty though too oily for my liking. My other friend’s fries and chicken tender platter potion was sizeable. The fries were okay.
I have never been to a restaurant where the pictures on the menu resemble what they bring to the table. At CJ’s, the drinks looked every bit as the pictures on the drink list menu. No kidding. The strawberry colada was refreshing although it could do with a little less sugar.
The Dawa was okay but it did not measure up to the Dawa from Java or Kaldis. Although the Oreo milkshake took long to come, it did not disappoint. It was sweet and thick enough with just the right amount of ice cream and Oreo cookies.
After eating the main course, we were too full to order dessert. However, I caught a glimpse of chocolate brownie sundaes ordered by the two ladies seated in the next table. They looked quite delicious, just like on the menu. I made a mental note to come back soon for the sundaes.
On service delivery, it took about 15 minutes for the first two drinks to arrive and the food followed shortly after. It was a tad disappointing that the Oreo milkshake took forever to come, arriving when we were almost done eating. Then of course there was that bit about my steamed veggies being a no-show.
That said, the overall experience was great. I plan on going back to CJ’s especially after the hype has died down, but not on a Sunday. Getting a seat at CJ’s on a Sunday afternoon is equivalent to running a marathon after training for a day. Everyone seems to go there for lunch after church. Apparently, all those people I saw seated outside on my way in were waiting for tables to free up inside.
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