I admit it – when someone claims that they had a fine dining experience, I always look at them left.
Sometimes I go into a restaurant and they claim that it is fine dining, but the experience is so not fine dining, that I think I must be mistaken in my own definition of fine dining. I wonder which script I'm reading from, and which one they are reading from. Or have I been doing it wrong all along? (insert confused Ms. J meme here).
But then, there are those diamonds in the rough that know exactly what they are talking about when they use the term fine dining. Let us use Google, our old friend, to calibrate this entire article:
A fine dining restaurant has a formal atmosphere, is almost always a sit down restaurant, and has a fancier menu than most restaurants. Fine dining restaurants offer wine lists, and sometimes sommeliers, to help you with your food and wine pairing. They also have dress codes in most cases.'
I tend to ignore that last part, even though I know I shouldn't. Please don't look at me left when you meet me somewhere.
I am partial to the entire experience of what is deemed as 'fine'. I need fine seating, fine ambience, fine service and very fine food. And there are not many restaurants in Nairobi that can claim to deliver this definition, but when I went to Chop House at Radisson Blu, I was so deeply satisfied, I can't stop raving about it.
I was bowled over as soon as I walked in, first with the attentive service from Mary and her team, to the truly breath-taking interior that engulfs you when the plush sucks away all noise from behind you. They chose to seat me in a cosy, intimate corner, which had seats with high backs that closed you away even further, ensconced by luxury and anticipation.
Chop House feels like what happens when you grow up and you have a really fancy house that you can feel completely comfortable in, but also entertain your cousin Meghan with no shame when she needs a break from those darned royals. It's spectacular.
Chop House specialises in meats and seafood, and because I am that type of girl, I was here for the steak, which came along at some point during the four course meal. Some of the dishes I had were not on the menu, but trust me, look through the pictures and make sure you taste them all.
And yes, our waiter, well versed in his wine pairings, recommended a wine with each course – all of which were perfect, particularly a Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2015 Cabernet Merlot that simply tasted better and better during the meal.
Our first course, a cold starter, was served in a style that set the tone for the rest of the meal - thin tenderloin beef, a crispy scotch hen’s egg, parmesan flakes, a bouquet of rocket with old balsamic vinegar & truffle oil over dry ice, which means, that it came to the table literally smoking from the dry ice used to create the effect. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was magical.
That was followed by a hot starter – seared scallops, beetroot risotto, truffle oil, green asparagus and chilli makhani curry with seafood essence that I ate so quickly I started to get worried about whether I would make it through the next course. The beetroot risotto was especially surprising, because normally, I can't stand beetroot, but what Chef Wissem does with it should be experienced by people like me. You'll go back on your own word.
Our main course was a rib eye steak, carved from 21-day aged bee served with about six different mouth-watering sauces. At this point I was really, really worried about making it to dessert, because if you had smelled the way that steak smelled when it came to the table, you would be worried too.
At Chop House, they use a Josper Coal Grill Oven, 'which adds a unique flavour and texture from the finest embers, while retaining the natural juiciness of the meat.' And that steak was mighty fine. I finished half of it and asked for a doggy bag because I needed space, I tell you.
The dessert ensemble, had, on one plate, deconstructed chocolate cheese cake, berry coulis, Moët champagne truffles, red velvet crumbs, apple jelly and some of the best macaroons I've ever tasted.
I staggered back to the parking lot to go home and sleep because after a meal like that, you can do nothing short of appreciation in the form of horizontal recovery and gratitude. It's a resounding yes for me.
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.