A subtle spiciness laces the back of my tongue as a refreshing tartness quickly follows. A sudden wave of earthy sweetness, distinctly of maple syrup, comforts my palate. A brilliant combination – Arugula and Green Apple Shot – that was the perfect prelude to what was to come, the debut meal of Group Executive Chef Avinash Mohan of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Kenya.
Since former Group Executive Chef Karan Suri’s departure earlier this year, dare I say , there has been a culinary void in Nairobi – a growing destination for epicureans in Africa. But with canapés such as Arugula and Green Apple Shots, Cream Cheese and Smoke Salmon Rolls with Roe, Slow-cooked Pork Belly, Beef Tenderloin with Tree Tomato, and Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Indian Spices; all paired with Mango Chilli-infused Martinis, Chef Mohan’s distinct style of combining diverse flavour profiles will surely push Nairobi’s culinary standards even higher.
Chef Mohan joins the luxury hotel chain, with a wealth of experience working for luxury properties such as the prestigious Leela Palace in Chennai, India and Four Seasons in Dublin, Ireland. Chef Mohan was also a nominee for Chef of the Year Awards curated by Food & Wine Magazine in 2011.
Chef Mohan’s infinity for contemporary French, Italian cuisine, Asian, Indian and Japanese cuisine was evident in his offerings of his exclusive debut lunch menu, which sampled diverse flavours from different regions, including Kenya.
There was the plate of a trio of samplers from the Tatu menu, slow-cooked and marinated King Salmon on a bed of Avocado and Herb Puree, delicate slices of Salted Snapper with Betel leaves, and decadent Butter-poached Crab Legs. Chef Mohan’s clever splash of hot sesame oil on the snapper released incredible aromas from the Betel leaves and added a subtle savoury flavour to the fish – a technique inspired by Japanese cuisine. The salmon was definitely too salty for my preference, probably thanks to the marinade. The crab legs were a treat, and if you’re a seafood purist, you would have also agreed.
A whimsical plate of a duo of soups: earthy mushroom soup with truffle essence, and carrot and mint – were disguised as a Mushroom Cappuccino and Carrot Veloute. Tapping into his contemporary French repertoire, Chef Mohan’s soup course was hearty and filled with aromatic spices. Truffle is definitely an acquired taste, but if this forest fungus is your thing, then the light and frothy Mushroom Cappucino will be an edible experience you’ll remember for some time.
There was the Homemade Tagliatelle with Scallop and Truffle essence. Anything “homemade” always perks my curiosity. Store-bought or items prepared in commissary kitchens will never compare in flavour, texture and quality. The pasta fresca was good, very good, even springily good. Tender yet chewy, the tagliatelle had the perfect toothsome texture. A perfectly seared lone scallop topped the pasta. When it’s done just right, one scallop is enough.
The Enwrapped Sukumawiki Kisumu Tilapia and Grilled Chicken course showcased flavours from the region. The sukumawiki kept the tilapia juicy and delicate, whilst the package was deep-fried until golden and crispy. The grilled chicken was my least favourite as it was definitely dry.
To finish, there was the Poached Pear and classic Eaton Mess-Chocolate Mousse. The flavours of star anise and orange zest were paired well with the sweet liquer poaching liquid – a light and satisfying conclusion to the meal.
Since Chef Mohan’s arrival, Fairmont Norfolk’s Tatu Restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya, which has made the annual list of the 101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World two years in a row, has revamped their menu. Except for the classic steaks and staples of the high-end steakhouse, expect to see different offerings and reduced prices, ensuring diners will enjoy good value for money when it comes to Chef Mohan’s modern classics.