My sushi journey began when I was 4-years-old. I remember walking home from school along a tree-lined avenue with my Japanese friend and neighbour, Kentaro, with my mom trailing behind. Kentaro and I were always hungry; it seemed like we both had the same metabolisms – no matter how much we ate, we were always ready for more half-an-hour later.
Both our Asian mom’s resorted to blaming a non-existent parasite because they could not understand why their home-cooking, which often involved delicacies from farfetched corners of the world, wasn’t enough. That was when I knew I loved food: I had a voracious passion that matched the size of my appetite.
After-school snacks usually featured healthy and hearty options. My favourite were these savoury brown pillows of sushi rice tucked away in marinated deep-fried tofu pouches called Aburaage – salty, sweet and tart but deliciously balanced. The spongy texture of the tofu skins absorbed and steeped in a hot marinade of soy sauce and sugar, brilliantly complimenting the vinegar-seasoned sushi rice.
Kentaro’s mom always prepared Inarizushi with so much care and time that only now do I fully grasp. Often it’s the simplest recipes that can be difficult to cook yet become the most memorable. Since my primary school sushi introduction, I’ve become quite the sushi-rice-Nazi. Sushi rice is an underrated art that requires superb execution and practice. To the untutored, rice with toppings of fish may look like a simple affair. However, sushi rice is a delicate union of seasoning, temperature and hand pressure – if you get those things wrong, you’ve pretty much ruined the melt-in-your-mouth experience. Don’t get me started on the surgical precision that sashimi preparation actually requires.
While sushi continues to grow in popularity as the most consumed Japanese food outside of Japan, chefs from all over the world are seeking to make their fortune in emerging markets such as Kenya, where most locals are only beginning to appreciate the cuisine.
Most sushi chefs here are usually Korean, Chinese, Filipino and Kenyan – seldom are they Japanese, and even if they are, it doesn’t mean that they make better sushi. Still, great restaurants strive to maintain consistency in their food.
In no particular order, here are my favourite sushi and sashimi spots in Nairobi
A staple in Nairobi’s Westlands neighbourhood, Furusato’s Japanese offering including their sushi and sashimi platters are great value for money. Don’t forget the delicious Soup Udons served in flavour- packed broths. Their take-out service is always efficient and the quality is comparable to dining-in.
A modest space nestled in Nairobi’s Karen neighbourhood, Haru’s sashimi is sliced with such precision that
it’s obvious even to the untutored eye. Their Spicy Crunchy Tuna or Salmon Rolls are always topped with a mound of crispy batter bits tossed lightly in a spicy coating without drenching its delicate textures.
After it moved into Greenhouse off Ngong Road, Misono’s ambiance arguably leads Nairobi’s Japanese restaurants. Elegant with an infused East Asian aesthetic, Misono offers rolls that taste as good as they look.
This South-African seafood chain is the most affordable option on the list and serves basic Japanese sushi staples and modern adaptations including “Fashion Sandwhiches” that layer ingredients instead of rolling them.
My favourite part about this restau- rant in Nairobi’s Kilimani area is the Korean supermarket situated next door where one can find culinary gems such as Shitake mushrooms, mirin, roast nori and panko. Their Hot Stone Bibimbap is the ultimate definition of Asian comfort food where the real pleasure isn’t in the first mouthful, but rather in the warm ones that follow, deeper and deeper until the last crusty- crunchy bits. Ok, back to sushi and sashimi! Sushi Soo definitely serves some of the best sushi rice in Nairobi: pillowy, delicate and flavourful. I would definitely recommend ordering nigiri.
Recently relocated to Nairobi’s Lavington neighbourhood, Tokyo is rustic with a beautiful spacious garden. The sushi rice here is usually served at body-temperature which is precisely folded with rice vinegar, salt and sugar. The rice is never pressed too hard into a pellet that crumbles, nor is it ever too much or too little, perfect for one to eat in a morsel.
More Sushi Restaurants.
EatOut is the ultimate online restaurant guide for your sushi fix. We feature all the top restaurants with photos, menus, maps, 360 video tours and most importanly; thousands of user reviews. Simply log on to eatout.co.ke/sushi
If you love the theatrics of watching your meal being prepared, you will love 88’s chic open plan dining area. They have friendly chefs like Tyrone Ompoy whose passion for his work is palpable in his food. Try their unique Samurai rolls with fresh salmon wrapped in rice and topped off with julienned crab sticks that are prepared in a special marinade. Take advantage of their all-you-can- eat offer on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
This elegant and sophisticated Pan Asian restaurant offers a range of Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisine. The sushi is delicious and comes in great portions at affordable prices. Consistency in their dishes is what will keep you going back. They also have an extensive wine list if you’re looking for nice fragrant whites to pair with your sushi.
Bar Asia is a newcomer to the Nairobi food scene and brings with it a fresh new approach to sushi and noodles. Ingredients are flown in daily from the Kenyan coast and the chefs have been trained in Japan and China. For a light and tasty experience, Bar Asia provides the ideal choice.
Cheka is the only Japanese restaurant in town that has Japanese owners: brothers Yuki Kashiwagi and Kyohei Fukui from Osaka. Expect to find authentic salmon sushi rolls, an amazing spicy noodle soup, fresh sardines, tuna, oysters and sake imported from Japan.
Ginza is known for its fresh and inspired sushi, delectable desserts, salads, seafood, stir fries and teppan- yaki dishes all expertly prepared by their chefs. Their tempura selection is truly something to write home about and should not be missed.
The Phoenician brings true originality and vibrancy into their sushi creations. Try items like the spicy crazy salmon rolls and spicy crispy tuna rolls. The presentation alone will have you content to just feast with your eyes. The restaurant puts in a great amount of effort in keeping their sushi (and teppanyaki) experience as authentic as possible. As such, they import ingredients like their mayonnaise and wasabi from Asia. The restaurants are spacious with a lovely outdoor play area for kids at the Westlands branch.
The Mukutan Garden Café is without a doubt the best place in Upper Hill (perhaps all of Nairobi) for top-notch coffees and light/quick meals such as gourmet sandwiches, pizzas, quesadillas and Nairobi’s best Sushi. The Café overlooks the most beauti- ful water feature in East Africa. The cocktails are often very popular after a long day at work.
The Sushi Bar at ArtCaffe Village Market serves top-notch coffee and light meals such as gourmet sandwiches, pizza and quesadillas in addition to fresh sushi. Be sure to try their creative in-house maki!
This restaurant is an oasis of oriental calm set against a backdrop of rice paper screens, bamboo fronds and sculptured Japanese gardens. Enjoy the exquisite delights of sushi or sashimi as well as the culinary theatre of the teppanyaki table, where your personal chef creates a succession of delicate dishes right before your eyes, or try a traditional spicy Korean casserole cooked at your table.