Here’s another one in the Bon Appetit series (get used to it!). I left the African west coast this week-end to venture in the eastern side of the continent, at least in terms of cuisine. If you don’t already know, I dedicated my week-ends this summer to African food, from all corners of the continent. You can read about it here. So yesterday I headed down to this Ethiopian restaurant called Meskerem (468 W 47th St, between 9th & 10th Ave). It is a couple of blocks away from the more popular Queen of Sheba but I have a habit of rooting for the underdog (no I didn’t pick the Cavs to win the NBA championship!!!). You can tell from the moment you step into Meskerem that it is a bit rundown but that’s no turn off (whatever, you’re here for the food right?). The décor is ok as it is very minimalist to my taste but like I said: “whatever I’m here for the food”. As the waitress walked away with our orders I started noticing something odd at the other tables, or rather the absence of something. Yes no silverware here as Ethiopians are accustomed to eating with their hands, which is also common in Africa when it comes to dishes such as fufu, foutou banane (talk about finger food). You also have the option of literally sharing a plate with your guests, simply meaning that you eat from the same plate. Keep one thing in mind though when you order Ethiopian: the presentation of the food is very different! Don’t expect the same portions of beef or lamb you would get from a West African restaurant for instance:-D. My reaction (ghetto as some may call it) was “whoa son! Where the meat at?” It was a nice experience though, and at least now I’m a little more familiar with Ethiopian cuisine and will know what to expect the next time. There are few Ethiopian restaurants in the city (mostly Manhattan), just run a Google search to find them (you didn’t expect me to do that for you now you little buggers :-).
I mentioned last week that I was going to experience African cuisine every week-end this summer for fun. And so fun started this past Saturday when I made a stop at “Chez Vero” also known as “Akwaaba” which means “welcome” in the Agni dialect. The restaurant is a few blocks away from my place so no going out of my way here for food:-D. Akwaaba serves mostly Ivoirian food but other West African dishes are also available such as thiebou djeun. So after half a day of starving myself in anticipation of my trip to Akwaaba, the wait was finally over the minute I started devouring a dish of foutou banane and sauce graine. Aww good God, what a liberation:-D, this popular Ivorian meal was even more delicious than I recalled (from my days in Abidjan). The sauce is made from African palm nut pulp (Elaesis guineensis) with pieces of beef in it. Although it is consumed throughout tropical Africa, sauce graine is often said to have originated from the Cote D’Ivoire. In fact, I’d say the combo of sauce graine and foutou banane are the best things to happen to Cote D’Ivoire, after footballer Didier Drogba of course :-D. As for foutou banane, it’s made from mashed plantain and yams. Akwaaba restaurant (the sign reads Chez Vero:-/) is located on 116th street between Park and Madison avenue in Harlem. I’ll update the post with the exact address later. Stay tuned for next Sunday’s mystery destination ;-).
Summer should be all about fun and I have decided to do just that this year. See, a week ago I started following Tim Ferriss now popular diet, which basically consists of eating slow carbs, vegetables and legumes etc in various combinations. I’m hoping I can shed the targeted 20 lbs (hopefully more) by the end of the summer. You can read all about it here. The coolest thing about this diet is that after almost a week of healthy eating, you get rewarded with one day off:-D. Yes 24 hours of indulging in the guiltiest of culinary pleasures, talk about an ‘all you can eat’ buffet uh lol. Although my first day off was okay (it consisted of ingurgitating crepes and home made cookies), I’ve decided from now on to use that day to experience all the African cuisine the Big Apple has to offer. That’s right, if you ever wondered what in the world they eat in Ethiopia or Zambia for instance, wonder no more:-D because by summer’s end I’ll probably give you an answer (Senegalese dish here already), at least I hope I will. Evidently I may not find an Angolan restaurant in New York for instance so I’ll do with whatever African restaurant I can find. In some cases, say Congolese cuisine, I might cook (ok maybe I’ll just ask my mother) a popular dish myself. Voila, stay tuned for my Sunday entries and bon appetit 😉
If Senegal were known only for 4 things, they would probably be in my opinion (in no particular order): Youssou N’Dour, the lingua franca known as Wolof, the Gorée island and…thiebou djeun its main dish :-). This succulent dish is basically made of stuffed fish cooked with a rich assortment of vegetables- eggplants, carrots, cassavas and white cabbage and it is served with an exotic fried white rice. To use the words of Stewie Griffin, the sensation of eating this exotic dish would be comparable to “an orgy in your mouth” :-D. I’ve been eating thiebou djeun for as long as I can remember, from my days in Abidjan, Libreville (damn these Senegalese are everywhere) and finally here in the Big Apple.
So where in the NYC can you sample this popular Senegalese dish? My default destination in Harlem used to be La Marmite, but apparently their lease had expired so they closed doors. Africa Kine in Little Senegal has now become the destination of choice for my friends and I. They feature a nice decor, good food and (don’t laugh) credit card processing, which is a first for an African restaurant in Harlem. The place is big enough to accommodate an entire village, so feel free to invite the family. Another spot I’ve discovered recently (following a funny story involving a restaurant only serving one item from their menu) is South Beach on the corner of 124th street and Lenox ave. Apparently the owner has named the place after his favorite vacation spot but come on! What does South Beach have to do with African food? In any case don’t be fooled by its name, the decor is enchanting, the food delicious (varies from African to Caribbean cuisine but i hear the place’s a juice bar as well) and the service is great, courtesy of Fatou and another waitress whose i can never remember (sorry darling). Another one of my favorite dishes that the places above also serve is grilled fish and attieke (from Ivory Coast) but this post is about thiebou djeun damn it! :-D. Why don’t you come up to Harlem and satisfy your curiosity at those restaurants? I’m sure it’d be worth the trip…