Susan Wong shares with Yummy readers her top three places for a light and delicious lunch in Nairobi.
Ranging from light and flavourful to comforting dishes, choosing a lunch spot for me is sometimes a task. Completely dependent on how my morning went – executed swiftly and everything went like planned or needed to rectify someone else’s incompetence – my lunch choice reflects the mood I’m in and what I crave to get me through the rest of the day. But one thing always remains the same: speed, taste, and value.
Lunch is the one meal of the day that I have little tolerance for slow and inefficient service, inconsistent cookery, and poor value for money. After all, I’m in the middle of hustling for the day, it’s not time to celebrate yet, I don’t want to be late for my next appointment and I don’t want to have a disappointing meal that could put me in a bad mood for the afternoon. If you’re like me, then you probably have a list of your favourite lunch spots. Here are my top three:
Known in Japanese as ‘ichiju sansai’, a set meal consisting of soup, rice, and three other dishes, at Furusato in Westlands, the lunch set boxes are perfect for quick and nutritious lunches.
Inspired by the traditional set meals, the lunch boxes at Furusato are well-rounded offerings with a couple of side dishes supporting the main, providing just enough diversity to keep your palate interested. For the sushi and sashimi lovers, the lunch sushi sets come with miso or seaweed soup and is just a large enough portion to keep you satisfied but not overwhelm you with lethargy after eating a heavy meal.
Spacious, calming neutral interiors, al fresco dining space and plentiful parking; Furusato Japanese Restaurant has an understated warmth that makes an exotic dining experience effortless for even the most ignorant sushi eaters. Furusato serves-up a hefty menu that showcases the best of Japanese and Korean cuisine. Too many choices? When in doubt, the experienced and polite staff is always ready to help.
Back in 2015, I wrote about Nairobi’s most famous Rosie. Well, she’s still the most popular name I hear on CBD’s streets: “Roooosieee!” “Roooosie… matumbo na chapo” “ROOOSSSIIEE stew na ugali.” Until I started dining at Petma Restaurant on Kaunda Street, located on the ground floor of Traveler’s Building, I had never heard the name Rosie so many times in my life.
The 30-something chef stoically serves-up some of the city’s tastiest Kenyan classics at incredible fastfood speeds, despite the chaos that surrounds her. Burnt orange paint, exposed air ventilation ducts, French bistro-styled tables without the marble or the charm, music blaring from the ceiling speakers, two large televisions dedicated to Nat Geo and a local news channel, and waitresses calling out their orders to Rosie with their squeaky voices – the heaving atmosphere of Petma during lunch service is not for everyone.
My usual is Matumbo (tripe) with Mbuzi (goat) soup – make sure you ask for it otherwise you’ll get a reddish gravy that tastes like a soup cube and flour – but what keeps me coming back are the vegetables!
Sukuma Wiki perfectly sautéed until tender but still dense and crisp with every bite, and its lush deep shade of green preserved. In fact, the only vegetable that Petma over cooks and does it well is Managu (solanum).
A word of advice: To get a seat, make sure you head to Petma right before the lunch rush to ensure you get served the “top layer” – the freshest of what’s been cooked. The stewed Matumbo tastes clean and retains a nice bouncy texture, and everything on the menu will still be available. From two o’clock, there are no guarantees – chances are they’ll be sold out, of everything.
I remember the day Teriyaki Japan opened at Corner House on Mama Ngina Street. The queue was so long that I returned to my office feeling defeated and hungry.
The immigrant-fueled dish of teriyaki is becoming a Nairobi fast-food phenomenon. Tap into Kenyan’s love for chicken, their sweet tooth, obsessions with grilled-anything, and their price-sensitive attitudes – you’ve got your winning recipe.
Grilled butterflied chicken painted with a sweet and savoury teriyaki sauce, mound of fluffy rice or al dente fried noodles, and served with a side of sautéed vegetables – all packaged neatly in a disposable paper box and handed to you in a little more than five minutes. When you open the box at your desk, the aromas of the teppanyaki flattop rise and fill the room. Your colleagues all turn to you in envy.
If you would like to dine-in, you’ll enjoy a simple interior with darkly stained wood and some accents of corrugated aluminum. It feels rough, unfinished and purposeful. The staff are polite and straight to the point. With several locations around Nairobi now, it’s easy to find a Teriyaki Japan in a food court. They’ve also expanded their menu beyond chicken to include beef, fish, prawns, donuts, croissants, and even Japanese Curry!
Discover all of the restaurants mentioned in Susan’s column and more delicious places to head for a light lunch on the EatOut app.
Follow Susan on IG: @susanluckywong