>> Flavors of East Africa | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday 12 September 2019

Flavors of East Africa

๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช KENYA

EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (13 December 2023) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:
From at least a block away you start to notice two unique qualities of San Diego's home of Kenyan food in University Heights. They have the very pleasant addition of plants to surround and shade the patio space, and intersperse this with "Now Open" and "Buffet" flags that are bright and give the feeling of a used car dealership. Luckily the thatched umbrella tops complete the feeling of the former and win the day, for this is an oasis even on a warm sunny day.

The name of the restaurant may seem broad, but the subtitle gets closer to the point and puts a big portion of the menu in perspective: "A Kenyan Inspired Cuisine." Opened in 2011, it is the final iteration in what had become a successful business at farmers markets, three of which they still can be found at on certain days around town.

If you prefer to sit inside, the bright interior is full of art on the walls and music filling the space. A few booths line the walls, but the large tables are all equipped with vinyl living room side chairs, which somehow is an amazing touch. On a weekday lunch, people seemed to mostly be coming for the $12.95 all-you-can-eat buffet which offered have a dozen entrees and sides. A focus on Kenyan foods will require a step to the full menu, which is two large sides and covers appetizers, meats, fish, and vegetables.

There was no hot Kenyan kahawa (coffee) on this day, just something regular, so instead the order went in for iced African black tea ($2.95, below right), which had the tastes of cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, and house made passion fruit juice ($3.25, below left)

Meaty entrees are quite large in size and come with sides and a freshly made slice of chapati, creating enough food that it is difficult to finish everything. In both of the dishes ordered during this meal, it was the opinion that the vegetable sides actually excelled more than the meats did.

The Kilimanjaro beef skewer ($15.95, below) was served very well done, although with a nice lacquer of sweet-ish sauce. The vegan nyoyo (the word for the dish in Luo language which is usually referred to as githeri) it came with was an exciting mixture of hominy and kidney beans, cooked with potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and olive oil. This little bowl was spooned until completely empty.

Despite the beef skewer saying it would come with kuchumbari, that delicious mix of greens actually was served with athola chicken ($16.25, below), a stew of meat, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Ugali, the staple starch of Kenya was omitted altogether for no reason despite being on the menu description of the dish, but in its place came dengu, an amazing lentil curry cooked in coconut milk that may have been the highlight of the meal. If not part of one of the dishes ordered, this should be an automatic side dish for an meal here.

It may take a while to get out of the place eventually, but don't be afraid to use the little bell by the door to the kitchen and grab some necessary attention. It's just part of the rhythm of the place.


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