African Cuisine Article
Excerpt from Article :
African Restaurant Revival
New York is home to people from all over the world, and it is well-known that they often bring with them cuisine from their homelands. Foodies descend on food courts in subterranean malls in Queens, Russian bakeries in Brooklyn, and ethnic food trucks pretty much anywhere throughout the five boroughs. For being a cosmopolitan city with such cosmopolitan tastes, surprisingly little attention is paid to the diversity of African food. The continent of Africa is rich in food tradition and, increasingly, we are seeing these traditions manifest throughout New York. This trend is occurring in many places, in particular Manhattan and Brooklyn. In fact, several openings over the past few years have dramatically altered the African dining scene, and this development is very much worthy of coverage. This citywide exposure to the African food trend makes it an excellent topic heading into the summer eating season.
There has been a growth in the number and quality of African restaurants in the city in the past several years, and the statistics support this trend. As of 2004, there were only seven African restaurants in the entire city. While two of those have since closed, a baker's dozen have opened in their place, bringing the total, with expected new openings this year, to twenty. What's more important is that these African restaurants provide an incredible opportunity for New Yorkers to experience the culture, cuisine and hospitality of many different cuisines. These range from the familiar Ethiopian cuisine to the accessible wine-oriented fine South African dining of Tolani, to places that double as a community center for recent African immigrants.
African food is, in some ways, the final frontier, and yet it is familiar, and this blend of exoticism and comfort is a compelling package. People are looking for exotic destinations, and Africa is ready to explode onto the New York dining scene. There are many great restaurants already in the game, and something for every taste.
There are some wonderful stories to be told about African restaurants -- immigrant stories, entrepreneurial tales, and of course there is all the mouth-watering food to talk about as well. These are stories that will pique the curiosity of the reader and convince more New Yorkers to explore the wonderfully diverse cuisines of Africa. There is no better place in the world to eat African cuisine outside of Africa itself, so it is time for New York to take pride in that, brag about it, and tell these great stories.
Chrome gleams with the sparkle and promise of an exciting evening. The soft, industrial lighting of the restaurant hits the chrome and the flash of an inviting future gleams and glimmers. There is a soft backdrop of blue that helps to complement the overall color scheme and the decor, giving the whole atmosphere a cool-toned, slightly futuristic and slightly industrial type feel. The restaurant feels as if one is in a hip loft in the future. There are exposed brick walls that are tinged blue. The chairs and tables are of a distressed wood that has been stained a steel gray. The table tops are steel and glass. The look of this restaurant immediately envelopes the visitor, promising an experience that cannot be had anywhere else. Even so, there is plenty of room for dancing near the stage where the band performs. This is the latest restaurant of Cisse Elhadji, the owner of the Ponty Bistro. This is his upcoming restaurant, "La Terengea."
As wise as his decision-making has been regarding the decor of this restaurant, it is still a gamble. This is the first time the owner has had to take on both a bank loan and money from friends and family. He was given six months to renovate and he's running four weeks behind schedule. Even so, this particular restaurant gleams with a certain amount of promise. While the decor is very cold and chic, the flavors and smells of the restaurant are pleasantly robust. The menu of the restaurant is a hybrid of African and French. "Their menu includes traditional foods such as Niokolokoba as well as customized dishes like moules Africana served in African spices and french fries" (Unchopped, 2010). The restaurant has already gotten a buzz for promising to offer gourmet meals at affordable prices: the menu also seeks to add a dabble of Mediterranean
cuisine to the overall food aesthetic. The food delivered to each dinner includes meats, vegetables and spices of rich flavor, and is actively seeking out a more diverse customer base, so that it can be accepted as a more neighborhood spot. Since it will be opening in New York, which is a haven of cultural diversity, it seeks to attract all walks of life in terms of diversity. Thus, the prices appeal to people from a range of income classes. The waiters are also diverse, as they are all bilingual or trilingual.
II. Delivery of the Who, Where, What, Why, How, etc.
While this scene is promising, it is actually something which could occur in a number of African restaurants in New York City. As one journalist explains, "CAN'T afford to chow down in Addis Ababa or gambol in some South African game park any time soon? Then try this whirlwind tour that has you (kind of) crisscrossing the continent, from an Ethiopian vegetarian's paradise to Mauritanian appetizers to a South African brunch, all in one weekend and for little more than the cost of a trip to New York. O.K., for exactly the same price as a trip to New York, since that's what it is" (Kugel, 2007). The influx of such restaurants has boomed in the past couple of years, with a new African restaurant opening up in New York every six months, which is a dramatic rise from the previous two or three years, where the numbers hovered somewhere around once a year. The reader needs to care about this new phenomenon because it has so much to offer: "For dinner, try Les Enfants Terribles, deep in the Lower East Side on the eastern edges of Canal Street (kind of like Manhattan's equivalent of Timbuktu). The masks on the walls inside and tent like canopy outside give it a game-lodge feel, and those who enjoy pronunciation challenges will enjoy ordering dishes from throughout Africa and the African diaspora (i.e. Brazil)" (Kugel, 2007). There are a wide range of opportunities for widening one's cuisine experience and for sampling a cultural dish which is truly eye-opening. Most people who live in New York City today can't afford to go on a tour of the entire continent of Africa, but now, as a result of the fact that there are so many wonderful restaurants in this part of the city, one can truly go on a miniature tour of Africa, sampling a range of ethnic cuisines. However, what makes this restaurant so special is the fact that it focuses on a hybrid of cuisines, so that the average patron can get a sense of what African-French fusion tastes like, with hints of Mediterranean. It makes for a truly special culinary experience. Furthermore, this restaurant truly attracts a diverse range of clients, giving one a truly varied experience which is as a distinct as the city of New York itself.
The openings of African restaurants in New York have almost tripled in the last three decades since 1990. There are more African restaurants now than ever because of the popularity and success of the ones which have opened. African restaurants in New York started in SRO hotel rooms, and some see their flourishing as part of the overall Brooklyn/Harlem revival. When it comes to Cisse he no doubt echoes the thoughts of Lookman Mashood at Buka, "I wanted to create an African restaurant where you would feel comfortable bringing your friends. In those days when I worked at the other place and I invited friends from important places to have a meal there, I had to keep apologizing for the look of the place and the conditions. The food was excellent, but the place was a dive. I made a mental note that when the opportunity presented itself…" (Spiropoulus, 2014). Creating a place which was not only chic, but which was somewhere that people could bring their friends was all too important to Cisse and is something around which then entire cuisine revolves. Many of the dishes involve big plates for people to share, or smaller plates for people to share -- taking tiny sample sizes. Cisse is someone in the restaurant business who understands that many diners are adventurous: they want to be able to take their friends to new places and to be able to pick and choose a range of interesting dishes that they've never had. By capitalizing on a place that is friendly and where people want to take their friends, they thus become more and more desirable and friendlier to the average customer. Cisse is very much a leader…
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