THE DISH: Bao Box is overrated - Daily Nation

THE DISH: Bao Box is overrated

Thursday July 5 2018

Chicken Wings at Bao Box restaurant, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Chicken Wings at Bao Box restaurant, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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Let's have a quick conversation about eateries in Nairobi that are grossly overrated.

CJ's just opened the other day in the middle of town, and I am excited to go there at some point and have an actual meal. I don't think it is overrated, but I do think there's no way it can live up to the hype.

I'LL BE BACK

One of the reasons I am stoked about it is, I love Cafe Javas in Kampala. I've been to that one a couple of times, and I never feel like I being short-changed.

You know how sometimes you can go to a fancy restaurant and you have the food there but the portions are so tiny and not flavourful, you feel like you should have just gone home and cooked? That's never how I feel about Cafe Javas in Kampala.

The menu at CJs, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The menu at CJs, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

So when they moved here, after a copyright battle with Java (rolls eyes), and established themselves on a prime stretch smack dab in the middle of the CBD, I was more than ready to go.

I love the set-up. CJs looks gorgeous, inside and out. I love that they have black wicker chairs outside for people to sit on as they wait to enter. I love the high ceilings and the pastel colour tone. I love the menus! They're huge and slightly overwhelming, but it adds such a nice splash of colour to the whole eating experience.

The one time I had a chance to go to CJs, I was late for something and thus could only have their Kiwi Iced Tea – which was ok, not spectacular, but again, this is only based off of a drink. The service was great, at least. I can't wait to go back and test the actual food, because I have been hearing and reading mixed reactions that I hope are simply growing pains.

It would be a shame to come all the way from Kampala and not be great. Actually the bigger problem here is getting IN to CJs. There is a reason there are chairs outside – there's barely ever any space to sit inside! So I'll get back to you, dear reader, on whether or not CJs is overrated.

The ceiling at CJs, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The ceiling at CJs, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

OVERRATED

But you know where is overrated? Bao Box.

I am waiting for the stones to come my way, but let me say this nonetheless, then you can stone me.

Much like CJs, Bao Box has a bohemian charming interior, with chalkboards placed against the backdrop of ambient lighting, wooden furniture and Maasai-shuka inspired throws.

A spaghetti and chicken dish at Bao Box restaurant, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

A spaghetti and chicken dish at Bao Box restaurant, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Their seating area is inside and outside – on a chilly night, they give you the shukas to warm yourself up with, which is so appreciated in this dire weather. The premise of the place is also great – no one else is really doing the whole bar-and-board games gimmick that Bao Box do, and they're doing it well. They have everything from Cards Against Humanity to Exploding Kittens to the more traditional Monopoly et al.

But. The. Food.

As I said in my previous article, I try to give food joints more than one try before I jump into writing about them. Bao Box has had a couple of tries with me.

I like board games, but I'm not into leaving my house to go play them. So, when I go to Bao Box, I am going for the food.

I've had a range of their watered down cocktails (let's just call them juice) and tasted a couple of their starters and main dishes and concluded that the reason people go back is definitely not the food, or the service.

A cocktail at Bao Box restaurant, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

A cocktail at Bao Box restaurant, Nairobi. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I love the size of their fries – skinny and perfectly salted – but aside from that, really, there's nothing to write home about. Oh, except their club sandwich, which was tasty and well-sized.

I struggled to finish a chicken and spaghetti dish one time, and then struggled to finish one of their full chicken dishes the next; I struggled to finish my cocktail the third time, and that's when I knew I was done. All that glitters isn't great food.

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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.