The newest culinary offering in Nairobi, which opened officially on June 1st, does not have the most imaginative of names. It’s called Nyama Mama Express, part of the forthcoming Nyama Mama restaurants (flagship space opening at Delta Towers soon). Then again, directness offers its own prizes: catchy and obvious. You guessed correctly, “meat” is a fixture on their menus.
Nestled in Yaya Centre’s food loft, Nyama Mama Express exudes a young, hip and fun vibe thanks to its modern tribal branding. Recycled tin cans serve as containers for bespoke Dudson cutlery and tableware – staying true to the blended ethos: American classics meet Kenyan comfort food, and effortless but meticulous in food preparation.
I think my eyeballs nearly fell out when I licked my fork – not exactly the sexiest moment in my life. Sweet, spicy, dark, deep and wonderfully sticky, Nyama Mama’s house-made barbeque sauce tasted like a closely guided secret recipe.
Surely, obvious ingredients such as brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, cloves, and allspice were part of the barbeque sauce; but molasses and Jack Daniel’s? Definitely not obvious additions to Kenyan bbq sauces. Last time I had a great sauce like this was in Atlanta!
Paired with tender, delicious glazed ribs – I could hardly contain my excitement. My half rack of pork ribs came with House Slaw and Mokimo (KSh 950); and simply tasted like the low and slow method, finished on the grill, had worked its magic.
So here it is: I absolutely adore chicken wings. The 48-hour marinated Honey Pepper Chicken Wings (KSh 850) arrived with its skin beautifully marked by the grill and slightly shriveled to a crisp. I could imagine when New York-native Group Executive Chef Christopher Lewis placed the wings on the grill the beauties flared-up and sizzled like music.
The rest of the menu featured small plates such as the well-seasoned and novel Ugali Fries with Garlic Sauce (KSh350), which were deliciously crispy and not dry; Corn On The Cob with Chili Salt and Lime Butter (KSh 250) a pricey version of Kenyan roast maize off the side of the road (Sweet Corn would’ve been so much more flavourful and appetizing); Lamb Samosas with Pineapple Chutney (KSh 500) that gave away to the knife without a discerning pop from a crispy shell; a forgettable Grilled Halloumi with Sukuma Wiki and Tree Tomato Chutney (KSh 650); and a Beef Chapati Quesadillas with Kachumbari and Guacamole (KSh 750) that featured tender strands of pulled beef, sautéed bell peppers and zucchini with addictive lip-licking Guacamole.
The Samburu Watermelon and Avocado Salad (KSh 650) stole the show from the Salads thanks to its refreshing textures of coriander, red chili, cashews and basil. As for stews, if the Stew of the Day (KSh 700) is the Coconut Fish Stew, don’t think twice, order it with a side of fresh lime. Served with either Mokimo or Pilau, the steaming bowl of simmered broth with healthy chunks of fresh fish and vegetables is comfort reincarnated in stew form.
Chef Lewis, The Cheesecake Factory alumni, also makes a mean New York-style Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote (KSh 420) and Coconut Rice Pudding with Pineapple Rum Sauce (KSh 350) that will quickly settle you into your food coma. Nyama Mama also offers lovely Homemade Sauces and strong cocktails that are modestly garnished in charming and colourful tin camping mugs.
Luxurious fine dining is all very wonderful, but sometimes there’s nothing like some wings, meatloaf, ribs or dressed-down cocktails! Paired with welcoming and friendly service, a trip to Nyama Mama Express will have you easing into their banquette sofas and ordering seconds – a rare occurrence at any food court in a mall.
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