Genuine African hospitality

Amaica Restaurant Westlands branch, tucked behind Spinner's Web off Peponi Road. Photo/Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • The food is passably good, the service thorough and the meals affordable.

Amaica has established itself as a strong brand for authentic traditional dishes. An impromptu dinner date presented the perfect opportunity for me to sample their food.

Amaica, off Ralphe Bunche Road, was easy to find plus it had plenty of parking and the security guard was courteous.

We were the first patrons to arrive at 7pm. We did not love the décor – it was a little dark and slightly dilapidated. The original African theme, with lots of burlap, ochre and brown must have looked good in its heyday when it was first installed.

You pass the kitchen on your way in so we were greeted with the pleasant aroma of food cooking.

Reasonably clean

We took a peek and were pleased to note that the kitchen looked reasonably clean. Shortly a slim, smiling waiter appeared, dressed in a dashiki. He welcomed us enthusiastically and seated us. The evening news in Swahili was showing, and a tall rickety shelf held several drinks by the TV.

The menu had the vernacular and English names of each dish, a description and an anecdote. For instance, in Luyha culture women would be sent back home if they ate the chicken gizzards.

Men avoided eating chicken wings as this would make them unattractive to the female sex. Main courses include omena, (sardines) smoked beef, chicken biryani, millet ugali, bitter greens cooked in milk, and several exotic favourites.

Novelties include fried white termites, dried mushrooms, sesame butter, pigeon peas, and sour porridge. The desserts are mainly coastal fare with Swahili favourites like kaimati and kashata. I decided to be adventurous and order the quail.

My partner ordered fried tilapia and chapati. It was a chilly evening so I asked for hot water.

Our waiter brought a whole thermos of hot water, a cup and saucer with thin lemon slices. This same waiter is the multitasking king; he was also busy cooking! In time he brought a basin, a jug of warm water and some liquid soap to wash our hands at the table.

He brought the food promptly. The tilapia was fresh and tender, covered in a thick tomato and coriander sauce. The pumpkin leaves were tasty but my quail was less than inspiring. It was tough and lacked flavour, even when doused in peanut sauce.

Of course you cannot compare restaurant cuisine with home-cooking so on this count Amaica’s food is passably good. What stood out to me was the service. Our waiter was a real professional: pleasant, discreet, attentive, and thorough.

Amaica have preserved ancient cultural dishes which are difficult to find. Out of sheer curiosity, I would go back to try some of the more unusual offerings, especially if I had visitors.

I would probably take them to the Amaica on Peponi Road for a better ambiance. Amaica Milimani prices are affordable. They have a lunch buffet, and dinner is served until 11pm. You can pay by cash or Mpesa. Our bill came to Sh1, 700.

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