The Chophouse Restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi reopened this week after a two-year hiatus, and I was excited to experience their famous fine dining steakhouse.
My first impression was of an elegant restaurant, styled in contemporary African and classic décor. At the back I could see the kitchen and the chefs at work behind a large glass wall. A semi-private room to one side was perfectly situated for hosting a group of diners.
The Chophouse menu is a blend of steaks, seafood, Kenyan, continental and Mediterranean cuisines. Under the new leadership of Chef Wayne Walkinshaw, the restaurant has maintained customer favourites such as sea scallops and the Mombasa crab.
For a starter, our group had the scallops, flavoured with brandy and black salt, on a butternut and mascarpone cheese puree, with Parma ham on the side. I can understand why they are so popular. This melt-in-your-mouth seafood dish was a perfect blend of savoury, slightly sweet and buttery.
Every dish on the Chophouse menu has a recommended wine. The white wine suggested for the scallops was a Hesketh BYT sauvignon blanc from Australia. It is a light refreshing and slightly citrus wine that does not overpower the delicate flavours of the dish.
The scallops were served on a wooden slab of a tree trunk decorated with dried moss and white stones, with a small flaming pot in the middle.
Next, we tried the aged, air-dried salted beef, cut into thin slices, rolled into cones and served on a plate shaped like a shoulder blade. Accompaniments were goat cheese, dried figs, parmesan cheese, soubise foam and rocket leaves. Scents of forest anise and olive powder completed the blend of flavours. A glass of full-bodied Parker Shiraz red wine with spicy notes paired well with the beef and, later on, with the lamb.
Our next course was Molo lamb smothered with a dark chocolate and blackberry red wine reduction. The lamb was tender, and came with a black olive emulsion and baba ghanoush, a Mediterranean eggplant dip.
Our meal was concluded with a deconstructed nougatine eclair. Sandwiched in the éclair pastry was hazelnut ice cream, chocolate creameux, a thin layer of nougatine and salted caramel. Candied macadamia nuts, whole berries and a sliver of brandy snaps added varied textures and balanced the sweetness of the dessert.
I am a fan of cheesecake so the Passion Fruit and White Chocolate Cheesecake would have been my second option.
Somewhere in between courses Chef Wayne and his team surprised us with some culinary showmanship when they made Nitrogen Popcorn. This is basically ordinary popcorn cooled in a bowl of smoking liquid nitrogen and prepared tableside while we watched. The popcorn was super cold when eaten and foggy vapours wafted out of the mouth, not unlike a smoking dragon.
Fine dining seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years against the rise of alternative and innovative global cuisines. But I would say that Chophouse has crafted a new vision for haute cuisine with their fabulous flavours, creativity and attention to detail.