NOK by Alara is a restaurant everyone should visit!!! I decided to start my review this way because I had the time of my life on Friday, when my friends and I visited the restaurant after work. Fast forward to three days after the visit, my friends still haven’t stopped talking about the place. From the great food, to the excellent service, to the beautiful ambience, to the contemporary African-themed setting and the ever-cheerful waiters, I could go on and on. So, after watching a basketball game at the Landmark Center on Friday, my friends and I decided to have something to eat, and without thinking twice, one of us suggested we go to NOK by Alara Restaurant, located off Adeola Odeku, on Akin Olugbade Street. When we arrived, one of the men on watch assisted us with parking the car and assured us of the safety of our car. We entered in through the back door because the front of the building was occupied by a contemporary African design store, which looked really beautiful. The African-themed setting in the open-air restaurant captivated me, and my friends and I battled with deciding whether to go into the main restaurant or sit out in the open-air restaurant, so I took it upon myself to decide for all of us.
I went into the main restaurant, had a feel of the ambience, came out into the open-air restaurant and had a feel of it as well and decided it best for us to sit inside because the weather was really hot and air wasn’t circulating as much as we had wanted. We walked into the restaurant, which was already almost filled with people, and picked out a good spot to sit. Sitting arrangement was fantastic and there was music playing in the background; it was low enough for us to have a decent conversation without having to shout at the top of our voices. As soon as we got comfortable, a young waiter dressed in native attire approached us with a beautiful smile on her face. She placed a plate of crunchy potato chips on the table and handed us the menu.
Truth be told, I didn’t understand half of what was on the menu, so I asked her to enlighten me. She wasn’t so sure of the menu as well and decided to beckon on her colleague to assist us.
He approached our table immediately and patiently explained to us all we needed to know and even went as far as suggesting dishes to us since we had no clue what to order. He also suggested that we could order two different kinds of dishes that would be enough for four people and that he would provide us with side plates so that we could all have a taste of what the other was having. I felt that was a fantastic idea and told him to go ahead with the order. Our order was Grilled Calamari Suya and Chicken Piri Piri with a side dish of sautéed Ugwu, and Spicy Fried Plantain Kelewele and Jollof rice. We went over to the drinks menu and again because I didn’t really like the options on the menu, I decided to go for room temperature Still water. But, the waiter suggested that we try the palm wine. We all brightened up at the sound of palm-wine! “You serve palm-wine here too?” We exclaimed in delight. The waiter nodded with a big grin. It wasn’t so much the palm wine as it was the fact that they serve palm wine as one of their drink options. I mean that alone gave them a Zee Five Star rating! LOL! #justkidding. My friends and I immediately told the waiter to get it hurriedly. I must confess, I totally forgot about the precious water (my favorite drink in the world) I had ordered and put all my focus on the palm wine. I have never tasted palm-wine in my life so I was super excited at the fact that I was going to have a taste of this naturally made local drink for the first time in my life. Whoop! Whoop!! One of my friends ordered a tall glass of Passion Sunrise cocktail, which was made up of fresh passion fruit, orange juice, grapefruit juice and grenadine. Our order came to a total N26, 000. While the waiter left to place the order, I was attracted to the salt and pepper shakers on the table. What got my attention was the painting of a traditionally dressed man and woman on the shakers. Talk about detailing! I mean the whole African contemporary stuff this guys got going for them made me feel proud of the African culture.
I was still staring at the shakers when the waiter came with a local hand-woven basket containing four different kinds of bread and said it was complimentary. Inquisitively, I asked for the names of the bread and he said they were: Nok Spiced Naan bread, Spicy Corn bread, Iru biscuit and milk roll.
The Iru biscuit and milk roll caught my attention, I took a bite and … YUCK!!!!! Never had anything like that before, but some how my friends enjoyed it. Different strokes for different folks, I guess! I enjoyed the Nok Spiced Naan bread thought; my taste buds were particularly grateful to me for feeding them with that. Shortly afterwards, the palm-wine arrived and I totally loved the way it was served.
The whole local vibe got us feeling like we were drinking it right from the source. It tasted so fresh like it had just been tapped and it was slightly cold which made it perfect.
I couldn’t get enough of it, but I had to slow my consumption down because I didn’t want anything playing with my head that night. My friends couldn’t get over the fact that palm-wine was staring them in the face; you could tell by the expression on their faces. Shortly after, the food arrived and after the waiter was done setting it on the table, we all had the same expression on our faces. The waiter was a little bit confused at this point and thought he had done something wrong. I had to put him out of his misery by throwing out the question on everyone’s mind. “Is this all the food?” I asked and he said, “Yes.” My friends didn’t know what to say at this point, so they just burst out in laughter. In my opinion, I think the quantity of food that was served did not match the amount that was charged. Very outrageous!!! It was way too small, but their only saving grace was that the service was great and the food was super nice!!!! I mean, I cleared my plate in minutes. At the end of the day, quality is always better than quantity.
Plating of the food was good but not totally satisfactory, they could have done better. The Piri Piri Chicken was well seasoned; the seasoning went deep into the flesh of the chicken and even to the bones; I could tell that it had been well marinated. It was well cooked and looked really moist. I like that it was placed nicely on a bed of spicy sautéed Ugwu that tasted really good, but judging from the way it looked, it was over-cooked and probably lost all its nutrients in the process. Nonetheless, it tasted really good. I didn’t even need the tomato sauce that was served with it; it tasted so yummy that I almost ended up asking for more.
The Jollof rice was made with basmati rice; the grains weren’t standing apart but it looked and tasted good. Ingredients were used in perfect moderation and the color was perfect!
I didn’t really enjoy the Spicy Fried Plantain Kelewele, maybe it is because I am already so in love with frying my plantain by just adding a pinch of salt. It was so spicy and it made it taste kind of different.
The Grilled Calamari Suya was IT!!! I have never tasted any Calamari better than that. I liked that it was placed on skewers and served with red bean stew and diced carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes all mixed together. A lot of suya spice was used in preparing it, which gave it its unique flavor and taste.
In all, I had a great time with friends, great food, and I enjoyed an excellent service at NOK by Alara. I am particularly in love with the whole African theme idea, very creative! What more can a young lady ask for on a Friday night! But I still insist that the menu is way too pricey compared to the quantity of food being served. If you want to charge that much, at least give us food that will fill us up.