A good friend of mine recently recommended a small restaurant in the heart of Gigiri. ‘It’s the best Japanese food I’ve had in a long time’, he said. My friend is a talented chef, so I took his word for it and booked a table last Sunday afternoon.
The restaurant is called Shokudo, and it’s tucked into the far corner of The Gigiri Courtyard, down Gigiri Lane. They also have another branch in Kilimani, at the Astrol petrol Station along Lenana Road.
Google tells me that a ‘shokudo’ is a casual restaurant or cafeteria in Japan that serves a variety of inexpensive dishes. Most are small, streetside establishments, so it’s a name that suits the restaurant in Gigiri. The Courtyard is a large, open compound with a street market feel – very much at odds with the heavily fortified UN offices and embassies that surround it. There are lots of cafés, bars and shops – most within fairly basic mabati-roofed structures, cabins or repurposed shipping containers.
Shokudo is at the far-right corner of the compound, next to the Daily Café and Bistro. It’s a narrow building with a kitchen on the ground floor, and a seating area on the terrace upstairs. The tables up here are sheltered beneath a shade sail, with a view across clusters of parasols on the patio below. Every table is fitted with a round roaster at its centre, for grilling or for hot-pots.
Their menu offers a wide variety of authentic Japanese dishes, from sushi platters and poke bowls, to katsu curries, ramens and noodles. There is also a range of salads and appetisers, including spicy tofu teriyaki (grilled tofu teriyaki with sweet onions), chicken kushi katsu (deep-fried chicken skewers coated in panko, served with tonkatsu sauce), and garlic butter shrimps. In the ‘steaks and grills’ section are plenty of tasty vegetarian and meat options, such as the honey miso chicken, salt grilled mackerel, and grilled tofu with mushroom. You can also pair these with a glass of sake or a cocktail.
After a chilly morning last Sunday, I walked into Shokudo really fancying a hearty ramen for lunch. But I went for the Shokudo veg platter instead – a combination of California veg rolls, tempura rolls, avocado spice rolls, and dynamite vegetable rolls. The tempura rolls were delicious. My wife chose the tofu poke bowl, which was also very tasty – and healthy. The prices for the mains were mostly between KES 1,000 and 2,000, which is similar to Nairobi’s other Japanese restaurants.
If you’re not in the mood for Japanese food, there are lots of other options at The Gigiri Courtyard. The Daily Café and Bistro next to Shokudo has a fantastic menu, and a pleasant outdoor seating space. Nearby is Josephine Caribbean BBQ, and next to that is Little Beirut, serving Lebanese cuisine. Further along is a wine bar, an ice cream shop, Solo Grano pizzeria, and Shakespeare’s Coffee. The outdoor tables fill up quick on weekends, when there’s usually live music and a lively atmosphere. The Courtyard is dog-friendly, too.
It really is a one-stop shop, with an AstroTurf pitch, a car wash, galleries, and a CrossFit gym among the cafés. After our lunch at Shokudo last weekend, we explored the big craft centre within the warehouse by the entrance. Here there are lots of stalls selling the usual range of artefacts and trinkets.
We’ve visited the Courtyard a few times now, but still have plenty of it left to explore. You can keep up-to-date with any events by following @gigiricourtyard on Instagram. And for more information about Shokudo, follow @shokudo_nairobi on Instagram, or call 0739 188002 (Gigiri) or 0736 188000 (Kilimani).
Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation