Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The correct answer was...

e) all of the above.

Let's start with the balls, shall we?

I have a friend from college who used to live in Kenya (hi, Dan!) and he told me years ago that if I was ever in Nairobi, I needed to go to Carnivore. It's one of the most famous restaurants in Africa, if not the world. Once upon a time (in the good old days) apparently you could get any kind of bush meat there, likely including but not limited to endangered species, but these days there are game laws in place that prevent you from serving lion to tourists. Still, they manage to provide a pretty impressive selection including ostrich, crocodile, and the aforementioned nicely seasoned testicles.

I'd been dying to go for weeks, but couldn't talk anyone into going with me because of the price tag. It's true that for the cost of one dinner at Carnivore, I could get three week's worth of rice and bean dinners at the hostel. But! I'd heard it was as much about the experience as it was the food. And I wanted to eat some MEAT.

On Friday night, I was tired from the week and treated myself to a light but tasty dinner of fish with salad and chips instead of my usual lentils or beans. I went back to the hostel intending to crash early - was actually in my pajamas, reading in bed, when in walked an English girl I'd met in the dorm the week before when she was on her way to dinner at Carnivore. I'd already had dinner, so I regretfully told her to have fun.

This time, we hailed each other cheerfully, I asked how her safari had gone, blah blah blah, and oh! Turns out she was going to Carnivore again with some friends. And again I'd already had dinner.

This time, however, I said, "Screw it!" and got dressed.

Carnivore, located a 15-minute drive from the city center, is more of a sprawling compound than a restaurant. There's a gift shop, a bar with a dance floor (the famous Simba Saloon), an outdoor patio full of tables where morbidly obese cats prowl for scraps, a vast hall with yet more tables, and a grill with the diameter of a redwood tree.

I found myself at one of the patio tables with a cheery crew of eight British university students who seemed totally cool with a random American chick tagging along. The servers brought around bread, salad, and potato and leek soup. It was all delicious, but we tried to resist in order to save room for the main event. Next, we each received a heavy cast iron plate where the servers could rest the tips of the swords they had loaded up with fat haunches of meat as they came around every few minutes.

My favorites were the ostrich, which was served in tender meatballs, and the ribs, because come on, they were ribs. The croc was a bit fishy and gristly, but somehow I kind of liked it. I had ox liver and it was the first time I'd ever really liked liver - very well-seasoned and less organ-y in texture than I remembered. The balls were actually somewhat similar in texture, with the exception of the skin, which was oddly rubbery. They also had beef, sausage, lamb, chicken, and - if we'd come just a little bit earlier before they ran out - camel.

Every table was given a white flag, which we were meant to leave out until we "surrendered" and took it down as a signal that we'd finished. Let the record show that I kept up with the boys and only bowed out one round before the last man standing.

Then there was dessert, drinks, and dancing. At one point I believe I was the only mzungu on the dance floor. It was awesome.

All in all, a night to remember.

Up next: Stalker!

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