Nairobi has long been leafy, green and lush. Roads are often lined with trees, and despite the annoying traffic, driving around in some neighbourhoods such as Gigiri and Rosslyn, is actually a joy. These days the Rosslyn suburb, smells like fresh corn tortillas, and chilies being scorched on a direct flame. It smells of freshly steamed tamales, and baked Marranitos (Mexican Pig-shaped gingerbread cookies). What was once just a green and quiet suburb is now the place to go for a Mexican fix!
Named after the casual neighbourhood eateries of Mexico, FONDA, a colourful Mexican restaurant located in the new Rosslyn Riviera Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, brings soul food from the home of Mole. Inside FONDA, you get transported to Mexico: Vibrant and whimsical décor, which includes a back-lit skull wall, cobblestone floors, architectural arches, a busy open kitchen where you can watch one of the chefs hand-pressing and cooking each tortilla, glass display cases filled with all things Mexican in the loft, and earthen crockery that was actually made in Kenya. It’s a fun space… a knowing attempt to bring the experience of Mexico to life in Nairobi.
Only three months young, Chef Gerardo Rodolfo Perez Lopez from Veracruz, Mexico is making quite a name for himself in Nairobi with many diners returning for his Mole Poblano. During my most recent visit (yes, I’ve been severally), my mind could only think about the Mole even though the menu stared back at me with many exotic options.
We began with a plate of fresh shrimp marinated in chili and lime, Aguachile de Camaron (KES 800), garnished with red onion, capsicum, cucumber and coriander. Presented beautifully with a few dollops of a creamy avocado-poblano salsa, this plate was a refreshing starter that prepped your tastebuds for more. Next, a trio of tacos of our choice (KES 900), in this case, slow-cooked shredded pork marinated in oranges and spices, steak stir fried with garlic and topped with avocado, and shredded chicken marinated in spicy adobo sauce, arrived to our table with some taquera arbol and taquera jalapeno. All three meats were surprisingly juicy and each morsel packed a lot of flavour. The plate was a beautiful and delicious symphony of tacos. The Tamale de Elote (KES500), is an unusual version of a tamale where fresh young corn is steamed. The result is a much sweeter package that has a bit more texture and bite. The colourful plate arrives with a bed of salsa halved in verde and roja, queso fresco, pico de gallo and some radish to add some points of additional colour.
At this point my companion and I were already quite full, but intermittent sips from our cocktails like the Jalapeno Sorpresa (KES 750), which featured spicy jalepenos muddled with tequila, honey, lime and bitters, kept the itis at bay. My favourtie Mole Pablano served with chicken (KES 1,250) arrived with rice, beans and fresh tortillas. Their signature sauce is the colour of sultry mahogany, made from more than 30 ingredients including Mexican chilies, nuts, spices and just a touch of dark chocolate to finish. The savouriness of the sauce carries a subtle bitter-sweetness that balances the spiciness of the chilies. Both aromatic and flavourful, you’ll find yourself licking the plate… well with your finger at least!
Finally to wrap-up the afternoon of indulgence, we craved something creamy and silky to leave our palates with a comforting finish. We ordered a Flan (KES 650), which unfortunately arrived as a dense, rough in texture, and dotted with holes in its custard – an anti-climax for such a lovely meal. This was definitely a disappointment considering the orange and lemon zest beautifully accentuated the caramel sauce.
The staff at FONDA is helpful and can definitely help you navigate through the menu. If you’re new to Mexican food, the menu can be quite confusing. Don’t be afraid to ask for some suggestions. However, I wish the staff would be more attentive. The portions may look small at first, but remember, authentic corn tortillas are incredibly filling! So, be prepared to order more than you can eat! There’s ample parking underground at the Mall, but the most annoying thing is there’s poor signage to direct you to the restaurant – just remember, it’s next to Java House.
NAIROBI RESTAURANT WEEK
FONDA is part of Nairobi Restaurant Week 2018, which is currently running from January 25th to February 4th. It might just get busy, so call to reserve!