Unless you live in a cave, you have probably heard about the rising influence of China on the African continent.
Over the past decade, Kenya has attracted significant attention, and substantial investments from the world’s most populous nation, and the presence of the Chinese is particularly visible in Nairobi.
That increased presence is also evident on the culinary scene: As I love Chinese food, I have made a point out of checking out as many of those restaurants as possible. My blog posts on restaurants are also among the most popular, so during tonight’s dinner at Spring Garden, I got inspired to write a new update on the subject! 🙂
Spring Garden, Lavington
This is one of my favorites in Nairobi. Situated on James Gichuru Road, just before the Shell station when you come from Gitanga Road, Spring Garden is located in an old colonial house with a garden. The interior is richly decorated and colorful, giving a very distinctive Chinese atmosphere. Service is relatively fast, and waiters a generally attentive.
The place has most of the “typical” menu items of a Chinese restaurant, and the soups are outstanding. Especially the hot and sour soup is warmly recommended. Their seafood is particularly nice.
Meals are typically KSh 600-1000 per portion, which is great value for the money.
Fang Fang, Lavington
Fang Fang is “the other” Chinese restaurant on James Gichuru Road. With a nice garden, it has some potential that is not being exploited. The interior is a bit worn down, and it lacks the kind of finishing that makes Spring Garden so attractive.
A few years back, their food used to be outstanding, however, that has also degenerated, making Fang Fang a not-so-good alternative among the Chinese restaurants in Nairobi.
The price range is KSh 400-800 for most meals, but since neither the food, nor the surroundings are very attractive, this is hardly a recommendable option.
For You, Lavington
During my first year in Kenya in 2002-2003, when I was here on a traineeship though AIESEC, For You used to be our local favorite restaurant. It was just down the street from Ratna Apartments, where 8 of us were sharing 2 apartments, and it was cheap, yet had high quality.
For You is located at the corner of Gitanga Road and Ole Odume Road, and has a huge garden. While not as richly decorated as Spring Garden, the place offers good service and a personal touch. The owner is basically always present, ensuring that customers are happy and that the food and service are of high quality.
When For You burnt down in 2010, it was a tragic loss to all those of us who used to love the place. Through an impressive effort, the owner managed to rebuild the place, and reopen barely a year later. The reopened and upgraded For You now offers an even better experience than before.
Prices are in the KSh 500-1000 range.
Mr. Wok, Lavington
Mr. Wok in Lavington has nice food, but isn’t nearly as cosy as the other Chinese restaurants in the area.
Located on Muthangari Road, just around the corner from For You, their biggest problem is that they have tried to squeeze way too many tables into too little space, making the whole experience a bit claustrophobic.
That being said, their food is really very nice. With meals priced in the KSh 800-1500 range, they are among the pricier in Nairobi, and should hence be able to offer a better total experience.
There is also a Mr. Wok at the Capital Centre, along Mombasa Road. As it is located above the food court, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a place for dinner, but for lunch, it is excellent. They also have a wide, and tasty range of vegetarian meals.
Yue Hai, Kilimani
Yue Hai is a relevatively new addition among the Chinese restaurants in Nairobi. It is located on Kayahwe Road, off Dennis Pritt Road.
The best place to sit is definitely in the relatively small, but cosy garden behind. A nice variety of duck meals set them somewhat apart from the other Chinese restaurants. Their chicken meals are also particularly nice, and they are one of the few places to serve shark fin soup.
The price range is KSh 600-1500 for most meals.
Double Dragon, The Junction Mall, Ngong Road
Double Dragon is located on the 4th floor in the new section of the Junction Mall, just next to The Phoenician.
While the food is great, the restaurant has a very sterile atmosphere, lacking both the stylishness and the cosyness of the neighbouring Phoenician restaurant.
The rarities on their menu, makes them an interesting choice nevertheless: This is the only place I know of in Nairobi that serves things like sea cucumber.
The price level seems to be KSh 800-2500 (for specialties like the sea cucumber). I have only been there once, though, so I am not completely familiar with their menu.