A couple of days ago I was invited for a bloggers menu tasting at Fonda Nairobi, which is a new Mexican restaurant located at the Roslyn Riviera Mall. I was extremely excited to attend the event because menu tastings mean lots of food. I was a bit skeptical writing this review because I felt that my views would not be as objective because we ate for free, and at such events everything is carefully orchestrated to ensure that guests have good experiences, which brings into question the authenticity of the experience. As I’m writing this review it got me questioning whether free food tastes better because my sentiments towards this place are very positive. Ill definitely have to make another visit as a regular guest and update you if the experience is just as good.
My knowledge of Mexican food primarily stems from episodes of diners drive ins and dives where majority of the features are Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex is a cuisine that refers to the fusion of American and Mexican food that is usually heavy on cheese and sauce with highlights such as loaded nachos and burritos – this is the kind of Mexican food offered in most places in Nairobi. There’s nothing wrong with this variation of Mexican cuisine however Fonda prides itself in offering authentic Mexican food very much like that you would find at “Fondas” (neighbourhood family run restaurants). At fondas you will find home style Mexican food and not surprisingly, Fonda Nairobi describes itself as offering “Mexican Soul Food” which i think is very fitting.
We almost ate through the entire menu which left me in a state of food utopia at the end. From familiar items such as nachos and tacos to more unfamiliar items like tamales and enchiladas I experienced a spectrum of flavours that were new to me. Mexican food is simple and unadulterated, where the integrity of the ingredients are maintained and not tampered with through complicated cooking techniques. The food is easy on the palette as the flavours are simple making it a cuisine that many would like.
I enjoyed most of the food but of course as with every tasting, there are dishes that stood out more than others. Below is an overview of the dishes we had.
Plato de Salsas and Guacamole – 7/10
A plate of five salsas accompanied with nachos. This was a plate of discovery where I got to understand that salsas can be made from various tomatoes such as tomatios, can be smoky, sweet and chutney like. My eyes were really opened as my salsa knowledge was limited to kachumbari like salsa and spicy tomato based sauces, so tasting all these different variations was very exciting. The salsas and guacamole went very well with the tortilla chips.
Tamales de elote 9/10
This was the perfect combination of sweet and savory and was my best dish of the night. Tamales are simple and comprise of corn that is ground up then steamed to form a pasty like texture. The sweet notes of cinnamon in the tamales and the tartness from the red and green tomato salsas merged together beautifully. It was like a combination of dessert and and your main course in the nicest way. A must try.
Aguachile de Camaron 9/10
This was another favorite and is basically a prawn ceviche . A plate comprising of a mesh of ingredients such as prawns swimming in lime juice, chilies, creamy avocado and crispy cucumbers wonderfully complemented each other. The freshness of the ingredients was very obvious as everything tasted superb. I was impressed by the simplicity of this dish that really delivered on flavour.
Queso Fundido 8/10
Imagine scooping stringy melted cheese onto a taco just like you would butter to bread. This is exactly what this was and it was tasty. You really cant go wrong with melted cheese on anything.
Chicken Quesadillas 5/10
These were not bad but were definitely not a highlight. I think my expectations towards quesadillas are too high because I imagine that chicken wrapped in a tortilla with cheese would be a a mind blowing combination. The quesadillas here are the best I’ve had but I’m just not a fan because I’m never blown away as I expect to be.
Tacos – beef 4/10 and corn 8/10
This has to be the dish I was most excited to try and I had the beef and corn tacos. The beef taco was disappointing because the meat was dry and salty. The vegetarian tacos that comprised of corn and a soft cheese were delicious. I never imagined the two together and they were a perfect balance of sweet and creamy which I absolutely loved.
Chicken Enchiladas 6/10
This was a lot like the quesadillas just minus the cheese and sauce but I enjoyed this much more. The salsa sauces doused on the enchiladas need a special mention because they are delicious and amplified this dish heaps. The rice and beans accompanying the enchiladas and many of the main dishes were bland and I found the rice a bit on the dry side.
Carne Asada 7.5/10
The steak tasted great and was cooked very well. The meat was tender and tasted better when dipped in the chimichuri sauce. This is generally a solid steak.
Chile Relleno De Picadillo Vegetariano 8/10
This is a pepper stuffed with cheese and vegetables. The pepper was mild and had a smoky flavor to it, and the vegetables topped with cheese were great because we’ve established that anything topped with cheese automatically tastes good. I really enjoyed this dish and feel that its a great vegetarian option because its substantive and well thought out, as opposed to random vegetables placed on a plate to appease vegetarians which many establishments are guilty of doing.
Pescado A La Talla 4/10
I got real mama Oliech vibes from this fish. It was a bit different as its grilled but it didn’t taste that far off from the whole fish we get at locals, which to me taste better. The fish here definitely looks better in presentation but I found it a bit flat and didn’t enjoy it as much.
Chicken Moles 8.5/10
Moles are sauces that are doused over chicken and we had two kind of moles; encacahuatado and mole poblano. The encacahuatado was a peanut based sauce that reminded me a lot of Indonesian satay sauce – it was perfectly sweet and savory. The Mole poblano was my favorite and had strong chocolate notes that went brilliantly with the chicken. These two dishes are full of flavour and were the best main dishes of the night.
The churros were a tad too crispy and hard to chew. The caramel sauce in the churros was really nice but I found this a bit of an anti climax.
Pastel de tres leches 9/10
This dessert was amazing and ranks up there as one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. It basically is a chocolate sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk thats topped with fruits and whipped cream. The delicate cake absorbed the milk perfectly and wasn’t too soggy and when accompanied with the fruit, its a match made in heaven. You have to try this.
Stay away from the hibiscus! The chilli mango and the lime biscuit were my favourite.
Fonda has a great drink selection with margaritas being the highlight. You can have soft drinks such as al frescos which are fruit juices but their margaritas are the real business. There is a great selection of margaritas on the menu and the bar man takes a lot of pride creating them. My favorite margarita was the orange and ginger which was the right amount of sweetness.
To sum it up! The food at Fonda Nairobi is very good. The prices here are on the high side and I feel like the portions are quite small for what you are paying for. I enjoyed the starters more than I did the main dishes so I recommend ordering from this part of the menu. The service here was great with the wait staff knowing the menu to heart which was very helpful. I have to give a special mention to the owners Salisha and Yash who were amazing hosts. Both of them were so patient with us and their story on their journey to opening up the restaurant is so inspiring. The biggest take out I got from them is dedication and passion are key to achieving your dreams. I highly recommend Fonda Nairobi if you are after authentic Mexican Food.
You can check out their menu in detail here
Location – Roslyn Riviera Mall