A dining experience where you get to sample an exclusive menu by a chef who is truly inspired and influenced by his heritage and culinary journey is guaranteed to become one of your most treasured memories. I recently had the chance to experience the Chef’s Table at the Tribe Hotel hosted by 25-year-old Chef Dieuveil Malonga.
Originally from Congo, Chef Malonga grew up in Germany and resides in France where he runs his own restaurant. His menu focuses on reinventing recipes from across Africa. He shares his commitment to rewriting the narrative on African cuisine through research on traditional ingredients and recipes. He has combined this with technical expertise from his experience at several Michelin-star restaurants.
While in Nairobi, Chef Malonga prepared a 5-course meal, each with a vegetarian option that was an introduction to his narrative on African Cuisine.
I opted for the non-vegetarian menu for the first course, which he served homeland. It consists of Ghanaian Fonio salad, avocado moringa puree, Cameroonian suya shrimps, mango gel and basil with a Soweto tomato cream. The dish was visually stunning and the dining area was filled with the appetizing aroma.The avocado and tomato purees were smooth and creamy, and packed with flavor. The Suya shrimp was cooked to perfection and the seasoning on it was well balanced.
Nigerian pepper soup, better known as ‘pepe’, a dish I looked forward to mostly because of its reputation of having a punch of heat from chilies was served as the second course. The soup was served with red snapper, South Nigerian chili peppers and vegetables. Before tasting the dish, the chef informed us that he chose to make the soup with less chillies than the original so as not to overwhelm our palates. Tasting the soup, it was evident that Chef Malonga is highly skilled in enhancing flavors; each individual ingredient shined all while maintaining the harmony in the entire dish.
The third course featured the Soweto grill, South African flavor grilled lamb, Congolaise manioc leaves sauce and sweet potato puree with ginger and wild mushrooms. The lamb was tender and the puree silky smooth. The highlight of this dish was the manioc leaves sauce which was reminiscent of traditional Kenyan vegetables; managu, but with a deep rich flavor that elevated the entire dish.
By this time, it was safe to say we were quite full as the portions of every meal were generous. The Mafe on air, consisted of free range chicken with Senegalese Mafe sauce, mixed vegetables from the market and black jollof rice was our fourth course. The plating of this dish was strikingly beautiful with the black jollof rice providing a radiant contrast on the white plate. The moistness of the chicken stood out and I loved the tanginess of the crispy skin. The vegetables were well seasoned and gave a pleasant crunchy element to the dish. The Mafe sauce which is a groundnut based sauce gave the dish an earthiness that was very distinct.
For the final course, we had Sao Tome and Principe dessert. The best from Sao Tome and Principe chocolate, hibiscus espuma, mandarin sorbet ginger crumble and passion fruit gel. The sweet and sour flavors in this dish were well balanced, concluding the dinner on a sweet note. All flavors married beautifully and the different textures brought fun to the palate.
At the young age of 25, Chef Malonga is steadily enriching the definition of the African way of gastronomy and sophistication.