Nairobi is really doing a good job adding new and diverse eating joints to its menu of international cuisine, catering to almost any palate.
Fine dining? Sikia at Crowne Plaza. An amazingly flavourful burger? Mama Rocks – either joint. A milkshake so thick you have to struggle with the straw to get it to your lips? Java – hands down. Delectable sushi with fantastic service? Furusato. The list goes on. It's a great thing to watch, really, as we continue to expand.
Speaking of expansion, two of my dear friends took me to OhCha Noodle Bar at Westgate last week. I've been here twice before. The first time, another friend took me there for their soft launch (everyone needs a good friend who takes care of their stomach, don't you think?). I liked the food, raved about it, and then took another friend back.
On the second visit, years ago, I wasn't too impressed, for some reason – the food tasted rather greasy. I thought maybe they were just having a bad day – but for some reason, it never occurred to me to go back. Until now.
If you have one good experience at an eatery and one bad one, and the bad one happens sooner in your memory, you are less likely to ever go back to it – especially if it isn't somewhere that immediately comes to mind when you're thinking of places to eat.
Luckily for OhCha, I wasn't the one making the decision on where to eat that day, and so we ended up at OhCha. Now, I think they must have changed the chef or something because this visit changed my mind completely. Or maybe it is because for once, I had something different from my usual noodles.
I tasted the dim sum, which tasted good, if you like dim sum. They serve the dim sum here with a chilli dip that is, delightful – it manages to balance on the delicate edge of burning your tongue and accentuating the dish in front of you. This well maintained balance means that even if you're not very good at chilli, like me, you can handle just a little flame.
For me, the pièce de résistance was the papaya salad – a delectable fresh mix of baby papaya, carrots, cherry tomatoes and peanuts, with lime dressing. I am partial to salads, and the combination of flavours in this light dish made me very happy, particularly because I like anything with nuts in it. It was very simple, and oh, so good.
I like being surprised by places that say they serve one thing (i.e. calling yourself a noodle bar) and then being good at it, and very good at other things on your menu as well. It irritates me profoundly when restaurants put things on the menu that they are bad at making. If you can't do it right, kindly, don't do it at all.
From their signature dish menu, I had the Chicken Pineapple, which is stir fried chicken with pineapple, basil, vegetables and rice in a sweet and soy chilli sauce. My friend was having the Cheza Beef, also a rice dish, and it has mushrooms and eggplant in it.
She hates eggplant, but fortunately for both of us, I love eggplant, so I added it to my plate as a service to the table. Taking one for the team, if you will. But of course I was being too greedy.
You see, the thing with OhCha, you can't really finish one plate of those signature dishes by yourself – or at least, I never have. Which is something I like about them.
Now, consider the fact that we had already had starters. There was simply no space left for their deep dishes, and so I packed what I hadn't eaten in preparation for what was going to be my dinner that night.
This is where to go for good noodles at a reasonable price that you can take home with you, and that sounds like a deal to me. Planning, after all, is key...
Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in Nairobi's foodie scene? There's a lot of places you could go, but here's where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.