#KlaRestaurantWeek: Kampala Serena Hotel’s The Explorer
The Kampala Serena Hotel boasts of three restaurants, of which The Explorer shall be participating in this year’s Kampala Restaurant Week. The cozy, dimly lit restaurant decorated with rustic, colonial influences specialises in Italian cuisine and we had the pleasure of tasting and shooting some of the dishes they have available exclusively from the 1st to the 11th of June.
A quick browse of the appetiser menu will reveal plenty of gnocchi, and we assume we are not alone in having had no idea what it was. Gnocchi is an Italian dish, here made with mashed potatoes, flour and parmesan, rolled up and cut into squishy little toffee-like lumps.
It is the headlining act in the Gnocchi with Spinach Pesto, the latter being made from spinach, onions, garlic and a basil-heavy pesto sauce that gives the sticky mashed potato lumps a salty, herbal edge. You will also see the dough like pellets in Gnocchi with Boer Sausages. Here it is served in a creamy Italian cheese sauce (parmesan, hazelnuts, spinach, basil) and boerewors, a South African sausage with Afrikaans origins. Eaten out of a bowl, it feels like a salad, without any of the leafy green or fruity stuff.
The appetisers are not all gnocchi though, and pasta often makes a light, delicious beginning to a meal. Consider the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli for one.
A combination of spinach and ricotta, a light cheese, is stuffed into little pillows of pasta, then served with tomato and basil salsa, topped with parmesan cream.What about those colours, you ask, what’s that about? Using a spinach puree or turmeric, the usually pale off-white ravioli is turned either green or yellow.
Getting into the main part of the meal, one may go the seafood route with a Squid & Prawn Risotto. Whereas Italian cuisine is known for just slightly undercooked pasta, it shows us the delight of soggy, slightly over-cooked rice with risotto.
The squid and prawns have such a strong flavour, all they need is a light seasoning of salt, pepper and lemon juice, before they are pan-seared, baked in an oven and drizzled with butter and parsley.
This is all brought together by the spicy red pepper salsa which uses heat, zest and pungency to unite the rubbery, crunchy seafood and the creamy risotto.
Here’s the thing, we know not everybody is down with seafood (possibly due to our lack of seas),
but we know almost everybody is down with lake food and Grilled Tilapia with Prosciutto is just the thing.
Before it is popped onto the grill, our fish is seasoned with salt and pepper and marinated in a combination of onions, garlic, ginger, coriander, dill, carrot,soy sauce, fresh herbs and lemon juice. The grilled fillet is served with an orange gravy derived from orange sauce, fish sauce and the discernible, fish-friendly white wine. Accompanying rolls of prosciutto (a preserved ham) gives this fish dish a kick of saltiness to disrupt its well-balanced, slightly floral flavour profile.
If you haven’t already had enough pasta, give the Tortellini a shot. Here, the rose-shaped pasta is multi-coloured with red, for example, getting its colour from beetroot.
The tortellini is filled with calamari, prawns, dill and mozzarella, which oozes out of the pasta when cut. It is served atop a bed of red cabbage with a sweet after taste and a gorgonzola sauce made from gorgonzola cheese. This dish does not look like a whole lot in volume, but the firm pasta and rich sauce make this a surprisingly filling dish.
Standing side by side, at the end of your meal, could be the White Chocolate and Mascarpone. White chocolate is chopped, melted and made into a ganache while the mascarpone cheese is whisked with icing sugar, egg whites, cream and finally shaped as a cone.
They both have a jelly-like softness and the mascarpone rightly tastes like cheesecake without the crumbly biscuit base. Don’t sleep on that mango garnish either, its slight sourness is a great compliment to the dish’s varying sweetness.
Photography: Julius Caesar Kasujja