Badou Senegalese Cuisine

Several years ago when a friend and I had gone through the alphabets down to S, another friend had told us about a Senegalese restaurant on Chicago’s South Side named Yassa. That restaurant was getting a lot of positive press then and after going, we understood why. The service was fantastic and the food was incredible. There were no other Senegalese restaurants that I knew of in the metropolitan Chicago area and I was glad that Yassa was a location I could frequent.

Bissap

Bissap

Fast forward to 2015 and only a few weeks ago, while riding through Chicago’s Rogers Park on the way from the suburb of Skokie, I saw Badou Senegalese Cuisine at 2055 W. Howard Street. Imagine how happy I was to spot the restaurant. To see if I would experience culinary bliss, I made an appointment to return and followed through. And from the initial entry into the restaurant, with the owner thinking I was Senegalese, I knew that it was going to be a winner.

Curry Soup

Curry Soup

I was in the mood for something with a kick to it. Curry vegetable soup jumped off the menu. This was not just a bowl of broth with a few vegetables swimming around in it, but it was chocked full of potatoes, green beans, carrots, celery, and lentils. When I say that it was spicy, I don’t mean in a mild sense. I was in love and having a glassful of bissap made it that more satisfying. This hibiscus drink is a must.

Fataya

Fataya

Having brought a hearty appetite with me, I ordered an appetizer of fataya. These delectable pastries came stuffed with ground beef in a tomato based sauce. These, too, were spicy and served with the tomato and onion sauce of kaani, I remembered how much I enjoyed these from street vendors when I went to Dakar with a friend during undergraduate school for a brief visit. I must admit that the fataya were addictive, enough that I ordered extra for takeaway.

Cebu Djen

Cebu Djen

After letting some time pass, I then ordered a main dish of cebu djen. This entree set my addiction to full bloom. Red snapper, fileted and seasoned very spicy, the meat was plump. The texture was silky like that of skate and Atlantic char. It was the succulent pop in each bite that I appreciated. The djolof rice, reminiscent of couscous, came with a whole carrot, cabbage, and eggplant. The portions were large so, I was completed sated.

Badou Senegalese Cuisine

The food is authentically Senegalese. One thing to note is there will be a wait before your dishes come from the kitchen to the table. And I am beginning to see that this seems to be customary at the cultural restaurants I have been going to as of late. Everything is prepared after you order it, not warmed up and definitely not microwaved. I highly recommend that when you go, take your time ordering various dishes and enjoy them slowly. Good food is meant to be savoured and Badou Senegalese Cuisine wins with putting something in front of you that you can take your time devouring.

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Back to Africa Through Bolat

Bolat African Cuisine

The beautiful thing about Skype is that you can talk to friends and family, near and very far, free. Take for instance, I was having a video chat with an old graduate school friend. And what should he be doing while we were in conversation? He was eating. If you have only looked at some authentic Nigerian dishes, you may wince a little. Nothing is actually cute on the plate. But if you have had some Nigerian cuisine dancing around on your tongue, your mouth waters at the mention of it. Well, as much as I wanted to lick the monitor, I settled on going to Bolat African Cuisine at 3346 N. Clark Street later to sort out my craving.

Hibiscus Mojito

Hibiscus Mojito

Plantains and Peanut Sauce

Plantains and Peanut Sauce

During this visit, I was in my usual mood of not wanting to make any decisions about what to eat. I told the server, who I found out was also the owner, that I wanted two appetizers, two entrées, one dessert, and cocktails for pairing. See what my Skype experience had done to my appetite? For my first cocktail, I had a hibiscus mojito. I made a mental note to return in the future and request a flight of mojitos because the hibiscus mojito transported me mentally to a climate considerably warmer than the 40 degrees we had in Chicago. To add to the mojito, there were plantains with peanut sauce. What a combination. What a perfect start.

Meat Pie

Meat Pie

The next appetizer was a meat pie. This reminded me so much of Jamaican beef patties. The pastry casing was not as flaky, but it definitely was tempting enough that I ordered several for take-away. Served with a homemade hot sauce, I’m going to have to admit that I have a love affair with Nigerian meat patties. If you order ten to take home with you, there really is no other indication of an addiction that you need.

Peanut Soup with Fish

Peanut Soup with Fish

The first entrée was truly cultural on two fronts — Nigerian and Ghanaian. I had peanut soup and it was served with snapper. Because I wanted to enjoy the dish in a proper way, I had fufu with it. No fork. No spoon. There were fufu and my fingers. I have said on multiple occasions that I do not like peanuts, Sam I Am, but I can eat peanut soup until it hurts. My palate welcomes spicy food, so I had the peanut soup prepared mildly peppery. The fish was seasoned well with various herbs and prepared such that the outer texture was slightly crunchy while the meat was succulent. Truly my African half showed itself because I completed the dish with the fufu, not once using a utensil.

L'amuse

L’amuse

Queen Nefertiti

Queen Nefertiti

Surprisingly, I had room for another full entrée. In preparation for the next dish, I had a l’amuse of skirt steak, tomato, and grilled onion, served with peanuts crushed to a powder. Not dainty like the amuse-bouche that you may get a fancy restaurants, but definitely tastier, I could have had this as a full plate. And to make moving into the next entrée that more inviting, I had a cocktail of hibiscus, ginger liqueur, and champagne. I understand why the name of the drink is Queen Nefertiti.

Egusi with Fish

Egusi with Fish

The second main course was another authentic Nigerian dish called egusi. This was also served with snapper. My friend who I was on Skype with, who happens to be Yoruba, had prepared some egusi when he was visiting the latter part of 2014. The egusi at Bolat was reminiscent of the variety that my Igbo friends prepared during our “cultural” dinners. Not one to complain about too much seafood in my diet, the snapper was tender and light enough that the egusi was still the star. And rather than indulging myself with more fufu, I had a scoop of jollof rice that I needed the recipe for.

Salt and Pepper Highball

Salt and Pepper Highball

Ice Cream Covered in Coconut

Ice Cream Covered in Coconut

The final course was in keeping with not letting a customer leave without giving a rating of 15 out of 10 on the scale. I had a cocktail called the Salt and Pepper Highball. I initially thought the salt and pepper garnish around the rim of the glass was different, but the gin, grapefruit juice, fresh lemon juice, simply syrup in the glass made it worthwhile. Accompanying this dessert cocktail was a scoop of vanilla ice cream covered in coconut,, topped with an apricot slice, and drops of honey raspberry reduction. The marriage of the cocktail and the ice cream was a match made in heaven.

Bolat African Cuisine is more like a lounge. The atmosphere is so laid back that the dining experience is considerably more relaxed than what you would get at a regular restaurant. For those who have been to Iyanzé in Chicago’s Uptown, which I blogged in 2011, you will not be disappointed by the offerings from the kitchen. Part of this is because the owner of Bolat African Cuisine also owns Iyanzé. Good food should never be rushed, and nothing comes from the kitchen in a snap, as it is prepared to order. Go. Sit. Relax. Enjoy. As for me, I need to Skype with my friend again and not to have my food alarm go off but so I can get some ideas of what else I should try — perhaps something cultural that is not on the menu.

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