My cousin is in town. Sure, December is over, but some summer bunnies prefer to extend their summer into a little bit more of January, even though at the moment they're getting a bit of a raw deal with all this rain.
I decided to make one of his last nights in Nairobi memorable, so since I know he likes rhumba and live bands, I asked a few people who are more conversant in these things than I am for recommendations as to where to go on a Friday night.
A few people said La Palanka, but that is apparently a Saturday night thing, and I don't like their food (their standards have gone to the absolute dogs.
I wonder what happened from their former glory days?). So we ended up at Mama Ashanti.
LIVE BAND BECKONED
So on the said Friday, in the interest of preparation, I checked their Facebook page to confirm that there was a band that would actually be playing that night.
Then, I called the number on the said day to confirm that there would indeed be a performance. The person at the end of the line confirmed it to be so. I moved on with my day confident in a good time that evening.
After grappling with a flat tyre, rain and a touch of traffic, normal for Nairobi on a Friday, I finally showed up late but none the worse for wear at Mama Ashanti Restaurant – only to find out that there was no band.
I was very annoyed, of course, after having dragged out a bunch of my cousins from their houses for the sole purpose of making this a night worth remembering.
The manager said the band had been held up somewhere and thus would not be performing this particular Friday. I asked why they left the flier up on their page, then, and why they didn't inform the person picking up their calls? Daniel, the manager, was very understanding and apologetic, so we decided to move on with our night, despite my being a little miffed.
Our server, William, was very helpful and quick, and so we ordered before the rest of the party joined us – I had the diced chicken with rice, and one of my companions had the beef strips with plantain.
She had asked them to be made very soft, as her teeth can only handle so much struggle, but even after she sent them back complaining about toughness, they couldn't do much to tenderise her meal.
She ended up only eating the plantain, and picking off other people's food – namely, the kelewele, which is much softer spiced plantain, and suya, nicely flavoured mshikaki served on the classic skewer.
Another friend had chicken skewers which were served with tomatoes and onions, and we explained the difference to my visiting cousin between kebabs, shish kebabs as they refer to them across the pond and what we call mshikaki – because, you know, Americans have to name everything differently from the rest of the world.
Mama Ashanti also does a really good chilli – though the other people on my table enjoyed it, they did say my eyes watering were an exaggeration of its strength.
It was explained to me that their chilli is more of oil than chilli, much like the fiery akabanga from Rwanda.
I don't do chilli very well, but it seemed strong to me, so take my recommendation with a pinch of salt.
And so, my experience at Mama Ashanti was mixed. While some of the food was good – I enjoyed my diced chicken and rice, and the portion was generous – the absence of their communication in terms of entertainment, as well as an inability to cater to other dietary needs put a damper on an otherwise good evening.
I'd probably go back, with a little more strategy involved in terms of seating area (we were seating outside so service was sometimes hard to get), to explore their menu further, particularly their chicken in peanut sauce.
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