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Lamb chops at a steak-less steak house!

Dusty Miller

REGULAR readers will recall I promised myself a quick return to Blue Banana, to try a Thai green or red curry.

That wasn&#821

7;t to be. Owner Heath Stewart, looking worried, explained three of the four children he and lovely wife, Lee, dote over had gastro-enteritis (no wonder with the water in Ha-ha-ha-rare…Africa’s fun capital); he must dash. He apologised that several items on the Blue Banana menu and its twin Baobab Grill were “off”. The latter had little to grill….except lamb chops which I loved (read on…); there was no curry powder for Blue Banana’s sizzling specialities.

Assuming — like Indo-Pak curry-— the spicy mixture of dried ground items: curry leaf, coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, red and black pepper; cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and channa dal came from the Zimbabwean trading community with roots in the sub-continent, I thought: if those guys have no stock, the troops are definitely hurting. Local Asians are not renowned for going short.

Then I recalled touring the kitchen at Harare’s other Thai eaterie: Thai-Thai, Helensvale, with owner Bruce MacDonald and delightful Whan-Pen, who performs traditional Thai dances in shimmering outfits between courses. All ingredients there came from Bangkok, via RSA.

As most imports will disappear under government’s latest mismanagement, special restaurants, which can’t source items locally, will – I predict — struggle.

Thai cooking relies heavily on chillies — most types are available (but I don’t recall seeing the tiny, incandescent prik-kee-nuu {‘mouse-dropping chillis’}) Exotic items such as coconut milk, galangal, tamarind, lemon grass; nam pla fish sauce and shrimp paste aren’t exactly found in the local TM. But then, nothing’s found in TM now…except polony, tomato sauce, horrible soya meat substitute and contraceptives!

Neither red nor green curries were “on”, but 12 items removed from that night’s menu were offset by adding seven specials.

Chicken giblets or liver were “on” at $1,1m and $1,2m, so was butternut soup, $1,4m. Thank God poultrymen are able to supply some protein to Zimbabwe. Chicken Kiev was $5,5m; tarragon chicken $4,5m; quarter huku: garlic, herb or piri-piri $2,3m and chicken “mafufa” (schnitzel) $2,5m.

On the Thai side, chicken satay or sweet and sour nuggets were $1,65m; chicken spring rolls $1,8m; chicken salad $2,5m; chicken and cashew nuts $5m; sweet and sour chicken $4,9m, same price as chicken with chilli paste or ginger.

Bianca Riley, one of many Rileys who once farmed Norton, was meeting greeting and seating, the former amiable young manager Jonathan Baker (ex-Meikles) having left to try pastures new in the UK.

She brought a bomber of Pilsener, leaving me enjoying a
Waldorf salad. Some import substitution there: finely chopped macadamias instead of walnuts. Do you recall Fawlty Towers’ Basil telling an increasingly irate guest: “Sorry, just short of waldorfs! What are they anyway…walnuts gone off?”

Ate half the salad as a starter: the rest with great lamb chops, grilled just as ordered: meat still pink, tender but a ruff of fat tastily crisped, making it delicious. Lamb’s dear: the dish cost $7,5m but came with potato “wedges” or savoury rice, excellent vegetables and the best mint sauce in town.

I declined pudding ($900 000-$1,5m) and an invitation to follow Bianca to “Johno” Baker’s farewell at the Keg. I was tired: also banned from both Kegs, by owner Ian Miller (no relation) for slamming their extotionate prices.

The previous week Blue Banana, Baobab Grill, Mama Mia’s, Trax, Billy Fudpucker’s pub, Sitar, Vasili’s Bakery and many Newlands non-catering firms were without Zesa from Monday to Friday evening. I went the next Tuesday: no water; Zesa died, again, at 9:17pm.

Comments, queries, hints: dustym@zimind.co.zw

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