In the spirit of spotlighting West African cuisine, I decided to venture out and search for some good and authentic eats. One of the cool things about being a foodie, especially for someone like me, is going out and searching for international foods in and around the area and beyond. So I decided to try some local restaurants that feature West African cuisine. The usual standard fare was presented: Jollof rice, meats cooked in a tomato stew, fufu, plaintains, etc. The ambiance at those places were very chill, upscale, and relaxed. I believe that the places usually don’t start jumping until around later in the evening. But I’m glad that they weren’t packed.
Peju’s Restaurant and Lounge is located just outside of Baltimore in Woodlawn, MD. It’s quite small actually, with the exception of a fairly large area for parties. The food was either Nigerian or Ghanaian. It was my second time coming where before I ordered the coconut and shrimp rice with goat, chicken, and fish in a red tomato stew. The food was very very hot and I had to wait a little while for it to cool down. This time around, I ordered the Jollof rice, Fried Tilapia and chicken wings in a red tomato stew and 1 meat pie. The flavors here are usually on point, especially with that stew. My only real gripe about this place is more of a personal preference. The meat is a little too well done for my taste. The manager was nice enough to allow me to take a picture of him. As far as pricing, it’s not as expensive as the others below and my meal altogether came out to around $15.
Then there’s 5 Sisters Lounge and Catering in Laurel MD, in the DC area. I made it a point to trek there since seeing some beautifully made creations on facebook one day. They feature Cameroonian, Ghanian, Nigerian, and cuisines from Cote d’Ivoire. I’m glad I got to know which region the food comes from before I placed my order. However, I couldn’t really decide mainly because there were brief descriptions of the meals. I randomly picked one meal from Cameroon that came with an option of boiled or fried plantains called Mbogo Chobi. I was really hoping I picked something that I would like, otherwise, I’d feel really bad for not eating it. Anyway, it took about 20 minutes for my order to be ready and when it was finally delivered, it was a black sauce covering catfish along with fried plantains. So I tried a little bit and was pleasantly surprised. The fish was fresh and moist and the sauce was not too spicy, but it did have an interesting mix of spices in it that I couldn’t put my finger on at first, but I googled the dish and it had these ingredients. I think it had to be one of the best West African meals I’ve had thus far. There was so much sauce that I used the plantains for dipping. I took the rest home with me to eat for later.
Nailah’s Kitchen is right in Baltimore City on York Rd. They make foods from Senegal including their national dish, Thiebou Djienn. There’s a carryout opening and a restaurant opening. I ordered the Thiebou Djienn and got my daughter a chicken shawarma wrap and washed it down with a mango and pineapple smoothie for her and a baobab, vanilla, and sorrel smoothie for myself. I really enjoyed this place a lot namely because of the hospitality and its authenticity. I am a huge fan of foods from other countries that can maintain it’s integrity and authenticity being made on American soil. The Thiebou Djienn was a vegetable and fish dish with broken rice. The fish is stuffed with a spicy green mixture made with scotch bonnet peppers and cooked. Vegetables such as cassava, carrot, cabbage are cooked in a thick tomato based sauce along with spices and dried fish. Finally, the rice gets steamed in the same mixture until fluffy. It is served with a dark tomato and tamarind based sauce. This is a spicy dish, but it is also very healthy. It has some funkiness from the fish, but otherwise, very tasty as they offer it everyday. It was also my first time trying baobab and it was very sweet and had a floral taste to it.
So here’s my review. They were all great in their own right and I certainly wouldn’t mind going back again. But if I had to pick my personal favorite, it’s a very close tie between Nailah’s and 5 Sisters Restaurant the former for their hospitality and the later for the food.