Eatery - The Palace International (NC)

The Palace International - 1104 Broad St, Durham, NC 27705
Pricing - $$ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - African | Reservations - Unnecessary

So I took advantage of that coupon that I had mentioned in a previous post and grabbed one for The Palace International, an African restaurant here in Durham. I had been meaning to try this place out but never got around to it. With a $25 certificate that only cost me $2 (restrictions were that I had to spend at least $35 and apply 18% gratuity before the discount), it was a pretty good deal. I went with my friend for a catch-up dinner, and I'd say that we had a pleasant time. The bill after tax was about $20 so for two entrees, two appetizers, and a drink; it was not shabby at all! 

I was curious as to what "Nairobian punch" was so after asking the waitress and hearing that it was a combination of orange, pineapple, passionfruit, and mango juices, I was quite excited. I think that my drink, however, had a lot of ice in it, and it left a Splenda-ish taste afterward (or just an artificial sweetener in general). I was a bit disappointed because I had expected fresh juices but it may have had a mix put in. I finished it reluctantly.

My choice of a starter was the plate of beef samosas. The ground beef filling was mixed with cilantro, green onions, and what the menu called a "Royco muchuzi mix." I found the samosas to be pleasantly stuffed with a lot of the filling. It made it a little awkward to eat because I picked one up with my hand, bit into it, and nearly dropped the filling onto the plate. It was hard for me to detect the seasoning inside but I still enjoyed it for its beefiness. The shell was a bit oily but its crunchiness made up for that part. The presentation was quite nice too, and I did eat the little bits of onion on the plate; they complimented the beef well. My friend got the Palace Garden Salad that I didn't snag a picture of.

I also didn't grab a picture of her entree but she got the Chicken Karanga ("boneless chicken breast cut into small pieces sautéed in onions, tomatoes, and garlic. Served with spinach and basmati rice"). My entree was the Nairobian beef, which, according to the menu, was "tender sirloin tips sautéed in onions, local tomatoes, cilantro and cayenne pepper with Basmati rice and spinach." The cool thing was that when I was eating my leftovers (I couldn't finish it all so took some home for later that night) and taking notes on the food to write this review, I was able to accurately identify all of those elements. Because of the cilantro, the beef had a nice "fresh" taste to it...almost refreshing even though it was meat. The beef itself was soft, almost to the point of beef stew chunks but with a bit more firmness. I quite enjoyed it. The onion pieces gave a nice crisp to each bite and the sauce gave a good tangy kick. I mixed the rice with the sauce a lot because it needed to be completely eaten up! I have only had basmati rice in Persian cuisine so I was not expecting the rice to be how it was prepared here - it was a tad sticky and made me think more of glutinous rice than basmati. I'll account for that as personal inexperience (hopefully). As for the spinach, well...I'm a fan of spinach but I didn't like it here. It was chopped, bland, and bitter. I wolfed this down as quickly as I could so I could work on the rest; even the sauce could not detract too much from its bitterness. I'm sure it was healthy for me though...

Overall, I'd like to try another African restaurant some time because one visit here is not enough to help me determine what African cuisine entirely consists of. If you're in Durham, check this place out but preferably with a coupon considering that the dishes are in the $12+ range.