Decatur >Isabella's Cafe
Eclectic menu; good wine selection reasonably priced. I had a hard time deciding what to order since everything on the menu sounded appealing. I finally settled on the beef stew but I'm afraid that wasn't the best choice. It was tasty but way too much rice and potatoes and only a couple of tiny pieces of beef. For the price, $15, I expected more meat. On the plus side, though, the wine by the glass selection is good and reasonably priced for a good size pour. Service was OK but could have been a bit quicker. Overall, I'd go back but I'll order something other than the beef stew.
CULINARY ROADS CROSS at ISABELLA’S CAFÉ.
Named after her mother – one of Kenya’s first female physicians – Wambui Maina has created a casual, affordable multicultural dining experience in Decatur, Isabella’s Café. Leaving behind her highly success career in finance to pursue what she really enjoys doing - to cook and serve her foods to others, Wambui is truly reaching for the ultimate American dream of happiness and success.
To understand the foods served at Isabella’s, one has to appreciate the diverse influences that various cultures have had on Kenyan cooking. Because of its long-standing relationship with foreign settlers and colonization by the British, this East African cuisine draws on multiple ethic traditions, unique use of seasonings, and a variety of cooking styles. Wambui takes these influences and masterfully infuses them into her recipes with her own special twists.
As of yet there is no liquor license, but don’t fret, there is probably the finest collection of South African wines in Atlanta that compliment her cooking. The wines of Seven Sisters is a story in itself, after losing everything these seven sisters decided to change their destiny by taking up winemaking and creating wines that display the unique character of each sister. The Yolanda is a crisp flashy Chenin Blanc that has rich tropical guava aromas and lingering citrus blossom flavors. Whereas, the silky robust Dawn is a blend of Pinotage and Shiraz, which opens with pepper, plums, and blackberry notes that carries through to a long smooth aftertaste.
The culinary adventure is best jump-started with the classic Kenyan snack food, Samosas. These savory pastries are filled with Tilapia, Turkey, or Mixed Vegetables, fresh herbs, and cumin. Their flavors are enhanced with a house made tamarind sauce that made with tamarind fruit pulp, a touch of cayenne pepper, a pinch of brown sugar, and lots of love- absolutely yummy!!! But the starter that will grab the palate is the house-made hummus and olive tapenade. OMG, the “slap you silly” taste of the olive tapenade is amazing - a blend of Manzilla olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, and various herbs - savor each bite of this tantalizing spread on the warm toasted pita bread triangles.
The marvelous flavors and aromas of Kenyan cuisine are evident with the Chunky Beef Stew. The ultra-tender teres major steak is slow-simmered with various spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and served in a rich savory broth with seasonal vegetables – what a perfect comfort dish. Then there is the Indian influenced Chicken Masala that’s made in a milder Kenyan style so that the flavors harmonize and not compete with each other. The oven roasted yogurt marinated chicken breast is served in a sassy red tomato based curry- this lip-smacking dish is absolutely delicious – don’t miss it.
With the Swahili Shrimp Curry the heart will skip a beat as the first tastes coat the mouth. The large sautéed shrimp with chunks of fresh juicy mango are served in a mildly spicy coconut milk and yellow curry sauce that seems to rejuvenate the palate with each bite- simply stunning. All of these dishes are served with the fragrant Basmati rice of Kenya. In addition to these treats there are some delicious pasta creations served in a Cajun-like Alfredo sauce, the Portabella and Sundried Tomato, or the Jerk Chicken are worth trying if you wish to venture in another direction on Wambui’s culinary roadmap.
After tasting these amazing dishes, why not sip on some highly aromatic green Kenyan tea while sharing bites of the moist Vanilla Cardamom Lemon Glazed Pound Cake or the Banana Pudding made with Shortbread cookies that’s drizzled with a heavenly caramel sauce. If you are looking for foods that are made with pride and lots of love, look no further, you can find it at Isabella’s Café.
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