Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Best Indian Restaurant Ever

I was going to comment on futuregirl's BLARG, but the comment became too involved. Hence, this post.

My parents went to the Peace Corps in Kenya my last year of college. When I graduated in 1990, my sister and I went and visited them. After 5 days in London, and a flight that took us through a layover in Muscat, Oman (an experience that would require an entirely different post to describe), I remember seeing my tanned and skinny parents waving to us from on top of the building of the Jomo Kenyatta airport as we walked in from the tarmac.

We took the bus into Nairobi from the airport. While we were on the bus, a riot started in the city, and people were pushing onto the bus, trying to get away from the rioting. My mom helpfully said, "Oh, yeah. I thought there might be problems today." Thanks for the heads-up, Mom. When we got to somewhere she sort of recognized, we pushed our way off of the bus. My sister was in front of me, and I put my arm around her front, grabbed my mom's wrist behind me, and used my entire weight and the weight of our backpacks to PUSH us through the panicky people trying to get on the bus. Then we walked to the hotel where the Peace Corps people generally stayed in Nairobi, the Hotel Pigali, which was, in some ways, a shithole, and, in some ways, the best hotel I've ever been in: narrow beds with inadequate blankets in rooms with poor mosquito screens on the one hand; 7-foot long porcelain bathtubs on the other. I wallowed like a hippo in the hot water, once the hot water came. I couldn't find a picture of the Hotel Pigali, but this picture gives an idea of the age and style.

That night, the streets were empty, except for truck-loads of soldiers toting semi-automatic weapons. Nonetheless, some other (much younger than my parents) Peace Corps people convinced us that it would be a really great idea to walk through the deserted streets to an Italian restaurant near the City Hall. I was cringingly aware that we could only walk around during this effective curfew because we were white. The food at the restaurant was weird, as one might expect for an Italian place in an African capital city. However, it was there that I was first introduced to the wonders of Kenyan-style tea, served with milk and sugar already incorporated.

The next day, we got on public transit for the 12-hour journey to my parents site, in Kilgoris, on the western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. Once again, that story, and the story of staying with them there, would require another post. Or, indeed, a novella. Suffice to say that when we returned to Nairobi, first as a stop-over before our train ride to Mombasa, then as a stop-over before our budget mini-bus safari, then as a stop-over before Shelley and I went home, we ate at a place called Slush. It was near the City Market, possibly on Biashara Street.

The outside looked quite a bit like this:
The inside looked like a cross between a McDonald's and a sterile ice cream parlor. We ate upstairs, by the windows overlooking the market. The name "Slush" came, evidently, from the astonishing panoply of milkshakes they served, including ones flavored with saffron. The milkshakes were the only really "expensive" thing on the menu, and could run as much as, say, $1.50. The huge glasses of passion fruit juice were more reasonably priced at 50 cents or so. You could also get pizza and hamburgers (of a strange sort), and, best of all, Indian food. The Best Indian Food I Have Ever Eaten®. Potato bhajias, vegetable samosas, chutneys, and things I can't remember, but that somehow, there, in the quick equatorial dusk that seemed to press in with the strangely soft air through the open windows, with my strange family, were just really really satisfying.


futuregirl said...

Panoply. Of milkshakes. :)

The pictures in this post are awesome. I love "Narrow Street Hotel." Actually, that shot kinda looks like South Philly, but taller. I'm totally jealous of your African adventure. It sounds so wonderful.

Weird and wonderful. Weird is the best kind.

Anonymous said...


I remember my travels to Wagontire, Oregon. Similar experiences, chaotic busy streets, riots, curfew, and the best food a man could hope for. Yep, those were the days.

Blaize said...


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.