Find authentic Kenyan fare at Wycliff's Kitchen

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

The gregarious Wycliff Nduati works the room of his yellow- and orange-walled with the ease of an old habit. Tall and thin, he flashes a full-toothed grin at every customer who walks in the door, and happily describes every dish on the Wycliff's Kitchen (2492 Home Acre Drive, Northeast Side)menu to a table of first-time diners.

"Everything is good," he tells them earnestly, as the two hipster-looking students order a round of beef-filled samosas, collard greens and fried fish. Nduati insists there's no intimidation at his Kenyan restaurant. No ingredient is cooked down beyond recognition, and no dish is spicy (that is unless you order a side of house hot sauce). It's just honest, flavorful fare-the very food he grew up with, cooking and working at his father's restaurant in Kenya.

Opening Wycliff's Kitchen last summer was like coming home for Nduati, who left his native country in 2006, to earn an accounting degree from Franklin University. The restaurant started at the encouragement of friends who simply enjoyed his cooking.

So, Nduati struck a deal with the owners of Tikka Masala & Grill-the Indian restaurant formerly in a tiny strip mall off Cleveland Avenue on the Northeast Side-to feature a Kenyan menu alongside Indian offerings. His pop-up eatery proved so successful, Wycliff's Kitchen is no longer a guest in this space, but the sole proprietor, now serving only authentic Kenyan fare.

Here, you'll find beef and goat stews, whole fish, fried plantains and freshly made flatbread. "We keep it real. We are authentic Kenyan food," says Nduati with a slight chuckle. "People love it because it reminds them of home."

His food is intensely flavorful with the tastes of his native country-clove, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon. And nothing is spicy, he adds (unless you want added hot sauce, which Wycliff will gladly provide.) "You don't have to have tried Kenyan food before to love it," he says.

Start your meal with an order of samosas-fried pastries that resemble the Indian staple from the outside, but are filled with fragrant ground beef, sauteed onions and cilantro. From here, go for karanga ng'ombe (beef stewed with onions, tomatoes and cilantro), pilau (rice seasoned with Kenyan spices), sukuma wiki (collard greens with onions) and chapati (flatbread). "Beef is a flagship meal here. The flatbread, we make fresh-that compliments the whole meal," he says.

If you're up for goat, look to the karanga mbuzi-bone-in goat stewed until tender in intensely aromatic Kenyan spices. And if you're not sure what to order, just ask. Nduati will happily steer you in the right direction.