After sampling Urban Eatery’s healthy menu, Susan Wong walks us through her experience as she made an attempt at dining all healthy for a change.
Eating healthy has always been part of my family. Growing up, it was always less oil, less salt, less this, and less that. Partly rooted in my mother’s Taoist upbringing, eating simply was a practice that directly impacted a person’s longevity and health, and more importantly, on how one should live and practice spiritualism. Despite not following my mother in practicing Taoism, I admit that there is wisdom to the general Taoist practice of eating simply. We are what we eat, after all.
Back in January, Urban Eatery partnered with NutriEats, a bespoke weight management company, to come up with a new menu that would help diners achieve their new year goals – assuming dieting or eating healthier was one of them. Personally, I’m not a fan of the traditional sense of going on a diet, but if it’s about making better lifestyle choices, I’m all for it.
Urban Eatery is a place of buzz, to some, noise and clatter, where the sight of chefs grilling and serving in four different kitchens and mixologists shaking cocktails from a signature bar, entertains not just the diners but also the cocktail-going crowd. Urban Eatery is a one-of-a-kind concept that brings dining and a contemporary-designed social space to Nairobi’s blossoming food and beverage culture.
The approach is like a cafeteria, but much more refined and comes with the perks of personable and friendly service. In fact, the only similarity between the two is that the diner may choose from a number of options, in this case: All-day dining, Pan-Asian, Mexican and Mediterranean, Indian, and specialty frozen yogurt. Urban Eatery is banking on that it can be everything to everyone. With four kitchens, a bar, and frozen yogurt, more than 80 items on its extensive menu, choice is what Urban Eatery thrives upon. I understand the important of choice. But, sometimes when I am passed the heavy clipboard menu during my visits, I often find myself wishing for a simple one-pager. Enter the Healthy Menu. It’s one page, well, double-sided.
We started with a beautiful, non-alcoholic, pineapple and mint concoction dubbed “Pinemade.” A much more well-balanced and less tart than other pineapple and mint juices I’ve had in Nairobi. Aside from the welcomed smoothness, knowing that we weren’t consuming empty calories of no nutritional value certainly got us all quite chuffed.
The Paneer and Mango Salad featured grilled homemade cottage cheese that had become cold and hard, fresh mango, and some garlic naan for substance. A little bit of warmth would’ve softened the paneer and made it more palatable. The fresh mangoes were the highlight of this dish, which had been prepared with minimal oil. Obsessive garnishing is a pet peeve of mine, and this salad arrived with a tomato rose, mint leaves, lettuce leaves, curly parsley, and a lemon wedge. Visually, the salad looked confused and it took a little bit longer for me to taste the best parts of the salad.
The wok-tossed Thai Chili King Prawns with coriander, pineapple, bell peppers and Tamarind Sauce was also prepared with minimal oil. Sweet, chili, tart, and savory – the punchy flavours of Thai cuisine was instantly recognizable and incredibly aromatic, making this a satisfying pairing with steamed rice.
I was drawn to the Omega-3 Salmon Fillet Burger. A beautiful plate from the low-fat grill section, the salmon was marinated in mustard, served with a brush of more mustard on the grilled-side of the soft bun. The fish was cooked perfectly, both moist and crispy on the skin, and the dill complemented the mustard that had a surprising kick. The thin slices of gherkins, onions, tomato, and lettuce completed the burger experience. The scribble of balsamic syrup, one of my all-time favourite pantry items, elevated the simple side salad. I would definitely order this again.
Then there were the lean pork chops grilled with minimal olive oil served with a delicious grapefruit and mango salad. The Cuban Pork Chops arrived with a fan of thin apple slices covering the beautiful charred chops. For a leaner version of a chop, I was surprised how much flavour there was. I was amazed that I didn’t miss the fat. The sauce was quite flat, and didn’t make any impact at all. In fact, the chops were better without it.
Eating healthy is certainly a practice and state of mind. When it came to dessert, that’s where the healthy menu came to a screeching halt. Clearly, this menu was designed with dessert as an afterthought. The nearest was a Chia Seed Parfait. Perhaps natural yogurt layered with fresh fruits and Chia seeds would be satisfying for breakfast, but forgive me, old habits die hard.
“Manuel, do you have a dark and rich chocolate brownie on the other menus?”
“Of course, Susan. Would you like it warmed?”