Food & Entertainment, Kids Lifestyle, Reviews
Brunching at…Pan Asian Yao
I have a new obsession when it comes to eating out, and it’s all about meal preparation. It has nothing to do with the fear of a dirty kitchen, or worse still, an irate chef wanting to teach an insufferable diner a lesson. It also has entirely nothing to do with the thought that someone inhumane might decide to spice my food with unpalatable ingredients, like how the servant in the movie The Help added poop to a pie and gleefully watched her master gobble it down!
Watching the process of cooking and plating gives me such comforting pleasure. One might argue that, the surprise element of a delectable and delicately plated meal retrieved from the kitchen after a worthwhile wait, takes the cup. But I beg to differ, because standing at a live station is like watching a magician do their thing, except that they don’t get to keep any secrets from you.
A few weeks ago, I came across a post on Instagram detailing Pan Asian Yao’s brunch offering. It was a quick video that showed a cocktail of seafood- prawns, crab, mussels- resting on a bed of ice. A hand that was only half visible seemed to prong the seafood and drop them somewhere that the videographer did not deem necessary to showcase. Below the video was the caption “Seafood Sundays with our Weekend Wok brunch.”
I wasted no time sending that link to PK of The Good Earth Group, the company that owns Pan Asian Yao, Nyama Mama and a host of other establishments.
“Is this for real? A seafood station over brunch?” I typed.
“Yes. You’ve never been?” He typed back.
“Obviously not, and it’s a travesty! I live for seafood and live cooking you know.” I added a sad emoji.
“How about I make a reservation for you. How many people and when?” He typed.
It is at this point that I should have said “ten people” or perhaps even “fifteen people” seeing as the invite was open, but the traces of wisdom I possess reminded me that I needed to save my reputation for future invites.
“18th November, just the usual suspects-the mister and the girls. I’ll need a voucher for two of my readers as well for a later date.” I typed, and waited.
“Consider it done.”
I beamed with gratitude, the joy of such small feats reminding me that my writing is not in vain.
A week later, on a Sunday afternoon after church, we drove to Gigiri. It was mostly quiet in the car, the kids napping having had an early start, the mister nodding to the soft sound on the stereo and me marvelling at the abundance of greenery on the other side of Nairobi. It was just a few minutes shy of one o’clock and the weather was perfectly warm, great for the outdoors.
Pan Asian Yao is in every sense not your typical restaurant, from the ambience to the food offering. First of all, its layout defies easy description. You go past the entrance imagining that you are walking into an enclosed space only to find an open space, leaving you unsure of the direction to turn to. But then, you spot a narrow entrance on your right and instinctively go past it. A hostess stands behind a desk. She asks for your reservation name and checks against her register, then ushers you in. You walk into a seating space which looks indoor but with an outdoor feel. It’s more like a huge gazebo so if you are centrally placed, you feel like you are indoors. Otherwise the exterior is open, letting in fresh air and even better, inviting scents from the brunch station outside.
Once you step out to the real outdoors, you spot the brunch station and immediately feel depressed over the fact that the human stomach can only accommodate so much. It’s like when you go on holiday to a spellbinding resort and before you even unpack your bags, you start stressing about it coming to an end. From my vantage point, I could see most of what was on display. There was a dimsum station, a massive salad bar, a wok station, a curry station, a sushi station, the cocktail stand and a dessert bar. Even the seafood that caught my eye on their Instagram page was present. It was a pleasurable feast for our eyes, one we all couldn’t wait to indulge our tastebuds in.
Most of the sitting space is inside so if you are an outdoor lover, make sure you specify while making your reservation. Our table had been reserved inside, but thanks to PK who spotted us the minute we walked in, a quick arrangement was made and a table for four placed right next to the dimsum station. He took us on a quick tour of the setup and right after, the kids made a dash to the live wok stand. The chef, an elderly Chinese guy gave us a passionate induction of the noodles on display. I left the kids and the mister to their lesson of Chinese cuisine and walked over to the soup station. There was the Singaporean laksa soup and the onion soup. I picked two bowls of each and set them on the table, then went back to get the kids from the wok station. The Singaporean laksa soup was deliciously comforting while the onion one was equally flavourful.
Not surprisingly, Xena settled for ‘grass’ noodles. They looked nothing like grass but she must have been curious to know how a cow’s favourite food tasted going by her careful inspection of the cooking process. I later found out that they are actually glass noodles and not grass, so I now know not to trust the Chinese pronunciation of English words. Their L’s are non-existent and promptly replaced by R’s, just like our friends from central Kenya!
Once done with the soup, the kids immediately dug into their noodles, which needless to say, tasted nothing like grass or glass. They were an explosion of piquancy and one could easily go for a second helping in the absence of other items to try out. I helped myself to several dimsums (chicken, vegetarian and prawn) as well as tofu baos which were so good, I was no longer interested in the seafood stand.
Next on Xena’s agenda was a bowl of stir fry mussels that she enjoyed shelling as much as she did munching them. The mister had a plate full of prawns and crabs and afterwards got himself some sushi. It later occurred to me that we totally forgot about the salad bar, such a shame given their painstaking preparation and elegant display. I walked over and surveyed it once more, then settled for the Vietnamese rolls. They tasted like a bourgeois version of spring rolls, what spring rolls probably aspire to be when they grow up and move to the leafy suburbs.
Bongo music played softly in the background, a slight disappointment as I kinda expected Chinese Chuigushou or Indian bhangra or Mor Lam from Thailand to be the obvious choice of music. Nonetheless, the sounds of Diamond and Harmonise from Tanzania serenaded us as we washed down our meals with such refreshing cocktails prepared by Benu, the Group Beverage Director. The theme was vodka based cocktails and I almost gave it a pass (because I don’t trust clear drinks) but Benu persuaded me to try the Capiroska, a vodka version of the mojito. It was so good I found myself asking for a Capiroska over my usual whisky sour at a party, a week later.
The trampoline provided much-needed play for the kids while Mr Bamboola kept a watchful eye over them. Afterwards, I hesitantly rounded up the kids and we had some desert, passed our gratitude and goodbyes to P.K then left. Later that night, as I lay in bed on my back, I reeled from the abundance of cuisines paraded at the Pan Asian Yao brunch. In only three hours, we had travelled through South East Asia while basking in the glory of the African sun.
Frankly, I doubt I’ll be trying out any other brunch offering in Nairobi in the near future. Because, when a restaurant affords you a parade of global recipes, half of them whipped up as you watch, it becomes very hard to enjoy another dining experience.
**Pan Asian Yao (formerly Emerald Garden) is located in Gigiri on UN Avenue. Their palate-blowing Sunday Brunch runs from midday to four O’clock at KSH 2,500 pps with soft drinks or KSH 3,500 pps inclusive of cocktails. They also have Supper Wok Tuesdays with ramen and wok stations with a selection of noodles, rice, meat, veg and a dessert accompanied with a glass of wine or Tusker for KSH 1,500. I intend to try this out next week.
Now for the exciting part, one of you gets to win brunch for two. If you were paid to go to any country in the world and all you would be allowed to indulge in is food-no shopping, no sight-seeing, just one week of taking in the county’s culinary delights, where would you go and why? Drop a comment below and cross your fingers for the brunch voucher!
Lastly, this is a sponsored post but my opinions are not paid for! **
Our winner today is Janerose. Thank you for your rich description of your travel choice. To all those planning to go to Italy, be sure to check out Tuscany! i had to google it after Janerose’s write up. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your voucher. You all are such explorers, both with your travel and food options. It’s always such a delight reading your comments and I get so many ideas from them. Like now, I really want to go to Morocco, Japan and Iran. France and Italy have always been on my bucket list and I am now… Read more »
I would go to Zanzibar because Swahili food has my whole heart.Each time I visit the Coast I come feeling so full of life and happy and heavier all because of the delicacies there.Zanzibar from what I see online is Swahili street food heaven and going there would be such a moment for me.
I would go to India!!I love spices and would love to know how to pair them up other than making pilau,also I see on you tube 3year olds cook there!is it true?bet I’ll know if I go,this should have come with a ticket to the destination as well?????#cheapskatemuch#but also the idea of passing down of recipes from your grand parents to you, very sentimental for me because that’s how I learnt to cook the little I know.
I swear this would be Italy. I got a nickname Mis cheesy. Because I love me some cheese and I know I’ll get all them different types of cheese there. I put cheese in every damn thing lol. . My boyfriend (dated 4yrs) never asks me no more what I’d love to order he just rolls options down to cheesey foods.
Back to Argentina because I don’t think I did their beef justice. Lol but definitely Japan, from sushi to teppanyaki and then home made efficient meals, I want to learn how they do what they do and do it well
Strangely I would go to India. Although there are so many Indian cuisines and restaurants in Kenya, the dining experience with my Indian friends is totally different than in a restaurant. Food is a significant cultural activity and I would love to leave mote if both northern and southern Indian food
For me it would be France, for the pastries? and the wine..oohh my..
Yesterday I was watching the Final plate series on Netflix and I got to learn that pastas are made very different from ehat I have been thinking and this given a chance I would travel to Italy and learn the process of making pastas from dough eggs and water and learning there pasta recipes because of the love i love for pastas.
For me i would love to travel to Spain and indulge in thw cuisine
Ohh my my….being the foodie I am i want to travel to endless countries to explore the food. But the one place i would most definitely want to explore would be Singapore It has one of the most vital food cultures in the world and abundance of cuisine options and i hear its affordable too which is a win. I watch too many Singapore street food tours on YouTube way too many times Plus sea food is in abundance: Crab ? Oyesters which are my weakness and i see its served in Pan Asian Yao brunch too ? This brunch… Read more »
Morrocco….i watched rick stein in morrocvo on food network. I kid you not. Apart from searching up and fown for a tagine recipe that was on the show so i could try it out, i have never forgotten how my taste buds tingled just at the sight of the food. Plus i mean…. The culture…
I’m going to Belgium for all the chocolate… December is officially cheat month so yes,im open for chocolate cake, chocolate milkshake ,chocolate mousse, chocolate pizza ?
This is a girl who loves food, some good wine and enjoys food experiences so the country would be Italy and specifically Tuscany. Where I will get to enjoy the tastiest Italian cuisines mainly assorted pasta with some exceptional wine and the most unique perspective about Tuscany is that they have the freshest and most authentic dishes thanks to their full dedication and love for culinary arts. And to top these they have amazing cooking classes and tours so I get to enjoy amazing dishes and learn how to make them so I carry some few cooking tips home 😉… Read more »
South korea…to eat all kinds of kimchi and ramen.
You know those women who weigh 80 kgs but 72 is ass? The type that is wide at the hips, full and meaty across the beam, high as a bubble butt, lifted of the back and thighs, undimpled muscle built in rack and pinion steering allowing every check to undulate separately as its proud owner stands? Thats pretty much every woman from my family, well except me, ? i have been 51kgs with zero ass for as long as i can recall, Now its not so bad, seeing that i can eat what i want, when i want and not… Read more »
Honestly, this may be uncommon but I would like to travel to Sudan lol. My current obsession is Sudanese food. I find their food quite rich in taste. I recently had the pleasure to eat some food made by a Sudanese family friend. The ‘mrenda’ cooked with ground groundnuts and the meat made with okra was too delicious. I wonder what other foods they have?
Bankok Thailand most definitely
All the street food reviews i see on youtube make me want to visit Bankok so badly.
Italy for sure! Sinful amounts of bread, wine, pizza and pasta! ??
I would go to Thailand, the Street food are a Thai attraction no doubt. Thais food can be spicy, sour, salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy and slippery in just one dish. I have been there, went for a week and came back 2 kgs heavier just because I couldn’t stop eating yet I hadn’t even sampled half of what they offered. The best part about eating Thai food in Thailand is the hospitality that the people serve you with, smiling and offering great service to their customers is always a priority for them. Add some local Thai beer or their Gin… Read more »
Japan! Sushi, sashimi, tepanyaki, sake wine… Their everyday food is a work of art..and that is the beauty about Japanese cuisine
For me Italy!!! They are literally the inventors of some of the most iconic comfort foods like pizza, pasta in some of the most exquisite sauces, lasagne, gelato, tiramisu and lets not get started on the Italian breads ??I mean literally everything about them is synonymous with food. So yeah given the chance I would be off to Italy in a heartbeat.
Lovely I felt like I was with you. My dream destination would have to be turkey. I like the Variety.
4,433 miles away from the motherland, we have the Kingdom of THAILAND! With their opulent royal palaces, ancient ruins, ornate temples in addition to their tropical beaches and islands, not forgetting the stunning Ladyboys with their astonishing Glitz and Glam ? (But, we are here for the Food!) STREET FOOD HEAVEN – This is it right here. Standing at the crossroads of India, China and Oceania, Thai cuisine must pretty much be the best of all three’s techniques and ingredients, of course with its own personal touch to add on to the cuisines strong aromatic & characteristic tang. Sigh! Is… Read more »
I would go to Iran ??. Am into Persian vibes and it would wonderful to indulge into their rich culture and food.
Thailand;the food options are endless!
Id go to India id love to experience the Indian street food culture
Malaysia or japan – I have heard we do not really eat Chinese food spook instead of trying it from China, my tummy would prefer to taste everything Asian so head to the countries that have a combination /representation of most Asian cuisine
Heeey…talking of food when am on a mission add weight.Now China has had people who have a looong lifespan and I wonder why…soooo…I would want to just have an experience of their foods and drinks.
Morocco- so that I can try the cheese, b’stilla, tagines, harira and kaab el ghzal couscous and all the amazing dishes in various spices that it has to offer.