Sunshine and Chinese

We’re seated underneath a shade umbrella as we await our order. It’s blue in colour, slightly faded, and does little to shelter us from the afternoon sun. It’s a cool yet sunny day, a true paradox of sorts. The kind of day with enough chill to tease your nipples, yet enough heat to baptize your nape with a good bucketful of sweat. Nonetheless, the sky is a perfect blue, with just enough strains of white in it to make it look like, well, a sky. Otherwise, it can pass for one hell of a blue sheet of light spread all across the horizon.

Right ahead of me is a green food stand, covered in pictures of pork chops, sloppy joes, pork belly steaks, and all manner of calorie-packed servings. A bouncing castle with bright and bubbly kids spreading their limbs all over it stands to my left. The air is pealing with euphonic sounds, sizzles and simmers and hisses of divine nature that plant longing kisses of desire upon your taste buds.

Occasionally, there comes the sound of a thud or a cry piercing through the carefully orchestrated serenity of this place. Be it by sheer coincidence or devious planning, the charm we’re exposed to is mirrored by a lack of heads to mouth away in noisy chatter. Quite the perfect setting if you’re looking to have a meal with little to no interruptions whatsoever.

The place is called Paradise Cafe. Located at Ridgeways Mall, along a somewhat busy stretch of Kiambu Road, it is nothing ordinary yet nothing overly spectacular. With a focus on Chinese cuisine, it really beats the odds of assumption one could ever have of it at first impression. Not only does its name say nothing about the menu that awaits you, the entire place has not been fashioned to look anywhere close to a Chinese restaurant.

Partly, you could say, is the fact that the shared seating arrangements within the establishment work against any private branding ambitions. Even so, the restaurant just next to it does a better job at selling itself than our hosts for the day do. The menu, here regarded as so in a very reticent manner, is but a couple of laminated sheets of printed text bound by saddle stitches. If that isn’t all there is to our small list of disappointments, it isn’t readily available on each table (something their next door friends are really taking advantage of).

Within five minutes of our order, a set of plates and bowls make way to our table, in tune to a hearty standing ovation from our four eyes. The colours, textures and smell make their presence felt in the most unpretentious way. Without much festivity or claim to pomposity.

To claim patience with the meal that was set before us would be a very horrible attempt at lying. So let’s stick to the bare truth, which is that no amount of sizzles and simmers dancing in the air just 5 feet from me would dare take my attention away from the plates burning under my gaze. Rice with cashew nuts, served with stir fried chicken in pineapple laced gravy; sweet and savoury, the right balance.

A cup of chilli does the work of assuring the Oriental roots of this meal, but still keeps a perfect distance away from the world of Hindu curry. This, however, shouldn’t be taken as lenience from the chef plying his trade here. We are informed that they do serve chilli hot enough to bring out hell and all its burning flames – but only upon request.

That said, I guess the good people at this establishment know that people like me do exist. People who, on any given day, would not want to look at their food through welling eyes, or with a dash of handkerchief on the side. People who appreciate spending time in the absence of noise, or crowds for that matter. People who would love to escape the confines of society and sit out an afternoon buried in a book, with a glass of banana smoothie by their table. People who wouldn’t want to wait for more than half an hour to get their order ready. And most importantly, people beginning a new chapter in their lives as bloggers.

Paradise Café is not as good as to draw you in completely, but not as bad as to ruin your afternoon’s binge-eating plans. So if you’re looking for someplace with intimate surroundings, pleasant ambiance and a little cherry over the edges of your experience, it wouldn’t be the most ideal candidate. Be that as it may, the service, timeliness and prices are decent enough to draw a tip out of you.

Just stay away from the inside parlour.

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