Susan Wong discovers that whether you’re looking for a new culinary experience or trying to find an old favourite, all your Indian cuisine cravings can be satisfied at Diamond Plaza’s Food Court.
The first photographic evidence of my admiration for anything edible was captured when I was 8 months old. Hanging on to my white crib’s rail, my father found me trying to nibble-off a plastic carrot that was attached to the ear of my stuffed rabbit – my first toy gifted to me at the hospital’s maternity ward, which still safely resides in the depths of my closet in Toronto.
Being born into a food-loving family and city, and at the timely period of the end of October – my culinary destiny was set to be flavourful and colourful. I was born on the eve of the new moon marking Diwali, the festival of lights or known as the “festival of sweets” at the Wong’s since our Indian neighbours welcomed my arrival with plenty of homemade mithai – a delicious assortment of confectioneries, usually nibbled along with masala chai or as part of a meal.
Today, having been a resident of Nairobi for the last five years, I get my Diwali-fix with a visit to the city’s “Little India” – Diamond Plaza. Whether you’re seeking for a new culinary experience or trying to find an old favourite produced to perfection, any Indian-inspired craving can be easily satisfied at Diamond Plaza’s food court – the only problem being is where to begin.
The ‘DP’ Food Experience is loud, fast, busy, sizzling hot thanks to the newly installed glass enclosure, and a whole lot of foodie fun – dining at Diamond Plaza (DP) can sometimes be overwhelming.
Walking into DP’s food court, your presence will certainly set-off frenzy among waiters who are masters of push marketing with the space transforming into a hawkers market. No less than ten men, each representing an eatery, descend upon your table. The reason? Convince you to order from their menu.
The aggressive marketing strategy usually results in you feeling like you’re desperately trying to find air at the bottom of a rugby scrum. The waiters’ tactics range from shoving the menu in your face, act as the polite mediator who urges his peers to give you some space but meanwhile creates an opportunity for himself to slip you his menu, anxiously repeating ‘My tikka is the best!’ or passively watching in the periphery until you get annoyed and shoo everyone away only to find him patiently waiting for you to ask for his menu.
We began with one of my favourites: Cheese Dosa from Bombay Chowpaty. The fun begins with the large crispy crepe arriving too big for its serving platter like usual. Golden brown and wafer thin, shreds of cheese melted in between the gently folded layers. The Beef Mishkaki from Bismillah BBQ arrived incredibly tender and seductively sliding-off of its skewers. Succulent, moist but too salty for my palate – the beef paired well with plain salad. Their Butter Chicken, which resembled more of diced chicken stew, lacked the richness and velvety texture from a slow-cooked recipe. The half Chicken Poussin from American Delights had a beautiful char grilled-look but was undercooked and pink at the bone. The lack of flavour beyond the bird’s exterior made the dish easily forgettable. The saving grace of my recent DP experience was the old favourite: Quality Café’s Maru Bhajias. Sold only by weight, this specialty stall attracts a constant flow of customers eagerly ready to dive into their paper bags of crispy deep-fried potato slices dredged in seasoned flour.
The DP food court works all the angles. Whether you’re a vegetarian, meat-lover, have a sweet tooth or just want to pick-up something quick – it exists. The food ranges from OK to great, in a solid most-vendors-are-trustworthy sort of way that reflects on kitchens with an incredible instinct to feed. A magnet for people, DP’s semi-outdoor food court is a waterhole for Nairobians to socialize, eat cheaply, and enjoy the sights and sounds of our own Little India.
Known as one of the city’s culinary destinations, you need to enjoy DP’s food court in all its loud and hearty glory. In an age when Nairobi is flooded with re-hashed concepts; it’s lovely to find a place where food is prepared as straight-forward as this. Next time you’re in the Parklands neighbourhood, follow your nose and appetite to DP’s food court.