Eat.Drink.Travel: The Talisman Restaurant (Nairobi, Kenya)

 
Thai is my ultimate favourite cuisine in THE world and if you’re a devoted EDL reader, you should know that.
— Folly

FOLLY: Before our trip to Nairobi, Nosa did a lot of research and compiled a list of restaurants that we were going to visit.

NOSA: Failure to plan is planning to fail... or something like that.

FOLLY: Two of my faves from his shortlist were Talisman and Thai Chi. Due to over eating at Mama Rocks, we didn't get to visit Thai Chi on this trip but there was no way I was letting Talisman slip out of my hands so I made it happen on our last night. 

NOSA: Talisman was definitely the one I was most looking forward to. I'd done a lot of reading on it so I was sufficiently pumped for it. 

FOLLY: Talisman is desribed as an "elegant Gastrolounge with an eclectic twist".

If you're like me that really doesn't meet anything to you.

Talisman Restaurant Karen Nairobi-4.jpg

However, from studying the menu, I gathered that Talisman weaves together African, Pan-Asian, Middle Eastern with a splash of Italian. Sounds all over the place but the Pan-Asian influences were the strongest. I really wanted to go all out and order a lot of things on the starter menu but I was trying to be conservative. 

  Feta & Coriander Samosa .

Feta & Coriander Samosa.

FOLLY: The service at Talisman wasn't over the top but a lot better than anything you'd find in Lagos and the food preparation time was speedy. To start, we shared the Twice Cooked Pork Belly and Feta & Coriander Samosa.

NOSA: The samosas are definitely a "must order" item. They kept popping up in all the reviews I read and the whole thing was sealed for me when a local recommended we order it too. 

  Twice Cooked Pork Belly

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

FOLLY: A running theme you'll see from the rest of our Nairobi reviews is that samosas are really popular in these parts and they do an amazing job making them. The bold and contrasting flavors of feta and coriander made a perfect pair.

 Deep in the samosa

Deep in the samosa

NOSA: It absolutely didn't disappoint. Normally, I'd never go close to any vegetarian samosa, but this one is definitely worth the exception. I'm convinced when chefs add feta to anything, it's a serious declaration of intent. Like, they aren't trying to muck about at all. You're not finding this samosa in any small chops pack.

FOLLY: Throw the entire small chops pack away. 

NOSA: As impressive as the samosa was, the pork belly was even better. The thing was so goddamn spectacular. The marinade blew my mind completely. 

 Thai Red Curry

Thai Red Curry

FOLLY: Choosing one main to try at Talisman was like choosing between children. I was dead set on the risotto before I arrived but I was swayed into ordering from the seasonal menu instead on arrival. My eventual choice was the Thai Red Curry with a pork shank (Aside: pork is very common on Nairobi).

NOSA: I went with the Talisman Burger as a phillistine. I really, really wanted the ostrich fillet, but the waiter told us that the ostrich farm had been shut down so it was taken off the menu. What a sad. 

  Thai ed Curry  with a pork shank

Thai ed Curry with a pork shank

 Pork shank

Pork shank

 The Talisman Burger

The Talisman Burger

FOLLY: I wasn't expecting a measly portion but the sheer size of the shank(s) I received overwhelmed me. I didn't want a repeat of the Mama Rocks over eating incident, and I also wanted to leave room for dessert so I stopped myself after one piece. 

The way the potatoes were presented also surprised me. I was expecting potato chunks in the curry but the "noodles" contraption are actually the potatoes and soften when steeped in the curry.

NOSA: The pork shank was perfectly tender. I've never had pork in a curry so this was a pretty interesting experience too.

FOLLY: A warning on the portion size i.e serves two for the curry would most certainly have come in handy.

NOSA: If the burger looks overwhelming in the pictures, it was even overwhelming-er in person. 

Just look at it...

 Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onion Rings, Gherkins, & Slaw

Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onion Rings, Gherkins, & Slaw

NOSA: The bun on the burger was a bit weak. No structural integrity and the thing kept falling over the place. Talisman more than made up for it with the patty though. I ordered mine medium and it came just as ordered. Burgers at up scale restaurants can be a bit boring because they shoot for the top ingredients at the expense of flavor. 

...sophistication can, at some level, cause degradation, what economists call “negative utility”.
— Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game. Allen Lane, 2018.

I won't lie, I fall for the jig at many an expensive restaurant. They charge a premium for the ingredients and the experience, but they forget the burger should actually taste like something the diner should want to eat again. The Talisman Burger, though, is unlike those. It ACTUALLY tastes really delicious and that is the only metric that really matters. 

 Talisman Creme Brûlée

Talisman Creme Brûlée

FOLLY: I rounded things up with my favorite dessert of all time: Creme Brûlée. I wasn't too keen on Talisman's style of serving creme brûlée from the refrigerator because the sugar top was no longer crispy and crunchy (my favourite part) and was completely malleable to my spoon just like the custard. 


VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Feta & Coriander Samosa - $1.50 per piece

Twice Cooked Pork Belly - $10.50 

Talisman Beef Burger - $15.50

Thai Red Curry - $18.50

Creme Brûlée - $9.50

(You pay in Kenyan Shilling though)

 

RECOMMENDED DISHES

Feta & Coriander Samosa

Talisman Beef Burger