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Posts from the ‘African’ Category

Korhogo 126

1/2 It must’ve been sometime around Labor Day that I decided to finally check out Korhogo 126. It had transformed from Bouillabaisse 126 quite some time ago but I’d never been compelled to pay a visit. I’m not sure why, it didn’t seem casual enough for a weeknight and it never crossed my mind on a weekend. Unfortunately, it was closed with only a handwritten sign about being on vacation. That seemed a bit suspicious since summer was over by most standards (not mine, but many).

Instead, I just went to Alma, acceptable Mexicanish food not worth writing about more than once, around the corner.

After hearing they were open again and with lower prices, I figured now was the time to return. That block of Union Street is a bit wonky with hours (House of Pizza and Calzone used to be closed randomly, Ferdinando’s also keeps weird hours and…well, not related to hours but is Calexico really that good? I’m glad that something’s going into the Schnack space but I’m not convinced that I will be crazy about these burritos, Vendy award winners or not) so I half expected Korhogo to be closed. But on a prime Friday night, Halloween, no less, lights were on and a decent amount of diners were scattered throughout the back patio than the main room. I prefer dining indoors during all seasons.

I recall there being a crab cake on the menu, which seemed to have been replaced with $6 cod fritters. And in addition to the sparse selections of wines by the glass hovering around $10, there was a $7 white and red on offer. I’ve already forgotten what the red was other than that it came from France, and I ordered it. But other than that, I couldn’t say how the prices and menu have changed.

Korhogo 126 escargot kedjenou

We split the escargot kedjenou because how often do you get to try snails served atypically, sans garlic butter and parsley? From what I understand, kedjenou is a tomato-based Cote d’Ivoire stew that typically uses chicken. This dish exemplified chef Abdhul Traore’s style:  heavy on the French with small nods to Africa. At least I don’t think they’re using puff pastry, escargot and asparagus near the Gulf of Guinea. I immediately realized this was going to be refined food, nothing earthy and gritty (I don’t mind a little earth and grit).

The ratatouille-like sauce was subtly perfumed with licoricey star anise. The snails didn’t have a pronounced flavor and if no one told you what they were you might think the firm dark blobs were meaty mushrooms.

Korhogo 126 agneau casbah

My lamb shank, a perfect mix of tender meat, cripsness and fat, owed more to Northern Africa. This was exactly what I had been wanting last month when I landed at Tanoreen with a lamb craving (and this one is $7 cheaper, I might add). Oddly, here too, the accompaniments were very western: super buttery mashed potatoes, green beans, carrots and squash. I tend to think hotel food when I see that combo, but I wasn’t bothered so much. I bet it would’ve been great with attieke, a false couscous made from cassava that I recently became acquainted with.

Korhogo 126 flounder

This was a flounder special, which I did not eat. The sides were similar to the lamb.

As we were finishing, a group of Nigerian women (and one male) showed up to celebrate a self-proclaimed girl’s night out. I wouldn’t have described the place as a destination restaurant but I’m glad that it is attracting clientele beyond Carroll Gardens.

Korhogo 126 * Union St., Brooklyn, NY


  Vowing not to write off all West African food after my Ghanaian mishap at Meytex Cafe,  I was happy to attend a group dinner (Pete from Word of Mouth, Dave from Eating in Translation and a few message board regulars were also present) at Clinton Hill’s Mariam, not to be confused with South Brooklyn’s Israeli cuisine chainlet, Miriam.

The owners are from Guinea, and the menu reflects that country’s offerings as well as nearby Senegal’s. Frankly, I know little about either so sampling a wide variety was a must. Hopefully, I won’t misidentify too wildly. I’ll start with the high points.

Mariam fish

Poisson frit with achecke in mustard sauce was a hit and more complex than simple fried fish on a plate. I’m guessing the fish was tilapia because it’s common and it had that not unpleasant soil taste that you often get from the bottom-feeding species. The mild white flesh was encased in rightly crispy skin. Acheke is a fluffy fermented cassava-derived starch that only had the slightest tang, and it paired well with the sharp mustard-flavored onions.

Mariam oxtail

I really liked the stewed oxtails but how can oxtails be bad? The bones had a nice amount of meat attached as well as bits of gelatin.

Mariam potato leaves

Sauce feuille patate. Our first choice was cassava leaves, but they only had potato leaves. Not that I would be able to detect the difference. I didn’t even know potatoes had leaves—I do wonder if they meant sweet potato? This dish is described as containing meat, but I’m not certain what meat as I didn’t sample any brown hunks. Interestingly, a welcome fishy shrimp paste flavor colored this dish.

Mariam fowl

The guinea fowl was a bit dry and tough, not the most successful dish. We chose the same accompaniments that the fish came with. I did appreciate the half-cube of Maggi bullion even though I didn't understand its purpose. Were they attempting to display quality? A table across form us had an enormous jug of Maggi sauce sitting on it–this was clearly an MSG-friendly zone.

Mariam callaloo

We ordered callaloo but I swear this isn’t predominantly the leafy green, which is akin to chard. There was some serious mucilaginous action occurring that could only be attributed to okra.

Mariam couscous

They don’t only employ couscous look-alikes acheke-style, but the mini grains, themselves. The sauteed onions, hard-boiled egg half and green olive were a nice addition. There's something almost Moorish about this.


Ok, I wouldn't say that sweets were Mariam's strength. I wasn’t sure what to make of one described as being served with tomato sauce. That couldn’t have been a typo, right? We ordered one, which was essentially yogurt mixed with canned fruit cocktail. This was thaikry, couscous tossed with sour cream and vanilla extract. I wouldn’t say that it’s wildly cravable, but was slightly more satisfying and sweeter than I'd expected. I might occasionally eat it for breakfast instead of Trader Joe’s instant oatmeal or Greek yogurt if given the option but it’s not the most stellar dessert.

Unrelated to food, this restaurant happens to be a mere two blocks from that fancy condo complex that I'm mildly obsessed with. I strolled by and took at look since I had 20 minutes to kill before dinner. The building isn't shabby,  but it might be hard to justify a $1 million price tag with little more than car washes, storage units, 24-hour adult video store, check cashing joints, McDonald's, Golden Krust, and yes, a pretty nice Guinean restaurant, in the immediate vicinity. Well, I have always complained at the lack of 99-cent stores in Carroll Gardens…

Mariam * Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY

Meytex Cafe

I wasn’t completely sold on Ghenet, Park Slope’s newish Ethiopian restaurant so I wanted to make good on my promise (to myself) to try more regional African food. I headed out to Prospect-Lefferts Gardens (don’t kill me if that’s a bullshit name like Greenwood Heights—I’m still figuring the area out) to explore what edibles Ghana has to offer.

I will freely admit that I’m a novice Ghanaian eater. It’s not like there are “chop bars” on every corner, so I can only take so much blame. I say this because I get annoyed when I read reviews of totally common foodstuffs written as if the item is obscure or exotic (I’ve been trolling the DC/Baltimore Chowhound board in preparation for a mini-trip this weekend and I’m baffled by comments like “what are plantains and jicama?” but these are message board users not necessarily food bloggers.) I was driven insane a few years ago by a blogger, who is now high profile yet no less irksome, who had ordered non-exemplary Vietnamese takeout in a neighborhood so not known for the cuisine, then wrote about all the things they’d never eaten before. Seriously, who has never eaten Vietnamese food?!

One amusing aspect to Meytex Café is that it used to be called Meytex Lounge and was a candidate for the New York Press’s Scary Bar Project. Darkened windows have a way of creating scary ambience, for sure. 

I did get a little nervous when I noticed that no one inside seemed to be eating. Only one person was even drinking despite the bar set up in back. There were just a few guys watching boxing on TV, most with bottles of water. It was kind of like you were hanging out in a stranger’s basement.

So, I was open for anything but there wasn’t much on offer. I’d seen menus online so I knew what they potentially had but we were only briefly allowed to hold one before our waitress rattled off what they did have and took them out of our hands. None of the soups or stews that I was interested in were available, nothing meaty, just fried fish, rice and beans, plantains and some vegetably things. I’m not fanatical about rice, beans or plantains, and besides, you can get those anywhere.

I was confused but curious about the many starches I’d seen listed. I imagined banku, kenkey, gari and fufu to all be glutinous masses meant to be eaten with liquidy dishes, and I’m still fairly certain this is true. We were given banku, which was described as “bitter,” which didn’t sound so good and our waitress didn’t seem convinced that we’d even like it but I insisted we would. I knew she meant sour, like sourdough. It’s pounded cornmeal that’s fermented and rolled into a big blob resembling white Play-Doh.

We were brought three balls of banku, and yep, they tasted like a strong sourdough, more like raw elastic dough, not bread. Not unpalatable, but I will say that I don’t really eat sourdough. They were served with egushie, a spinach and pumpkin seed stew that was really good and smoky, though I’m not sure where that flavor came from. There was also simple fried fish, no garnish or sauce, and a small bowl of stewed, tomatoey okra that James insisted contained creamed corn. I’m 99% sure it did not.

They hadn’t turned on the lights even though it has started getting dark so it was hard to see the food. And when I attempted to take photos and only got black shadows, I thought it was from lack of light. It took me a minute to realize that my camera was broken. I’d dropped it the other night and hadn’t noticed that the body had popped open. Bad omen. 

I didn’t realize how addicted I’ve become to photographing my food. I only started with pictures in 2006,  despite writing about my meals since 2000, and had a terrible time acclimating to taking photos in restaurants because I don’t like drawing attention to myself. At Meytex, I started going through withdrawal and getting cranky. I didn’t want a broken camera to ruin my meal but the damage had already been done (in more ways than one).

We managed to eat a decent amount of our food, but only got through about a quarter of those rib-sticking bankus and half of the egushie, so we took them to go. I figured  that I’d eat the leftovers for lunch.

After we got halfway down the block I could hear an “excuse me” that seemed directed at me. “Excuse me” is not a phrase I like to hear walking down the street, but depending on context I’ll turn. “Hey,” I will ignore.

So, I turned to the excuse me lady, who happened to be an MTA worker just getting off a bus.

She asked, “Did you just come out of that restaurant?”

After pondering whether I should say yes or no when clearly she saw that we did I responded, “um, yeah.”

“What’s the food like? I walk past it all the time but have never gone in,” she questioned.

Now that was rich. We stuck out like sore thumbs in the restaurant, we kind of were sticking out like sore thumbs on this block, too, yet she was asking us about Ghanaian food. She was probably thinking how sketchy can a place be if white people are going there.

“It seemed ok,” we both agreed.

I mean, it wasn’t creepy, just kind of like a social club we’d wandered into without being members.

When I got home I felt crazy full, seriously abnormally full. I didn’t even want to think about the glycemic index of banku. I think it had expanded to every corner of my stomach. About 30 minutes into watching a DVRd episode of Hell’s Kitchen, abnormally full turned into gut wrenching pain. That banku wanted out.

And I spent the next few hours heaving up the contents of my stomach, and when not hurling I was sweating and writhing in pain. I started half-believing that a creature was going to rip out of my stomach like in a horror movie—it might’ve been Anansi, himself trying to crawl out. If you think something is sour going down, wait until it comes up. There’s an argument against sourdough. It was about as pleasant as regurgitating tendons in Sichuan chile oil, another tragedy from earlier this year.

Meytex banku 
Blobs of death. Yes, I fixed my camera. I started gagging while taking this picture and a full 24-hours had passed. My stomach is still jumping around.

The funny thing is that I’ve eaten street food all over Asia and parts of Latin America and have never gotten sick (a salad in a French bistro in Mexico City did cause severe gastrointestinal distress). In recent history, the only poisoning incidents were from dim sum in New Jersey and Chinese egg cakes from a cart in Sunset Park, and I haven’t written Chinese food off. So, I shouldn’t hold a grudge against the cuisine of the entire African continent. I don’t think I will be eating anything from Ghana anytime soon, though.

I’ve seen online experiences that were much more pleasant than mine. Temper my traumatic encounter with theirs:
Bridge and Tunnel Club
Word of Mouth
Eating in Translation

Meytex Café * 543 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY


1/2 I’ve frequently suspected as much, but now I’m convinced that my timing is hopelessly off kilter. From now on whenever I get the urge to dine out, I’m going to wait 45-minutes to realign my bad luck.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived at a restaurant, been quoted a semi-reasonable wait that eventually doubles, then get seated at the same time as another party that’s just arrived, crammed in right next to them only to have the entire room clear out within minutes. There’s something infuriating about being stuck only six inches from the only other patrons in an empty room.

Park Slope’s new Ghenet branch did nothing to change my exasperated view of the cosmos. Saturday night I was considering Korhogo 126 (primarily because it’s walkable from my apartment) but opted for straight up Ethiopian at the last minute. I know better than to attempt recently opened restaurants on weekend nights but I’m drawn to patience-trying situations like um, Marcus Samuelsson to new projects (trying to stay on point with the prettied-up African food and all).


The space is pretty, dimly lit, with lots of geometric cut out metal screens, and slightly incongruous on still-busted Fourth Avenue. When we arrived at 9:30 another couple was waiting at the bar and we were quoted a 20-minute wait. I could handle that. The staff seemed friendly enough, too. After ordering a glass of shiraz, the other duo was seated. From that point on not a one of the 12 tables budged despite numerous groups having finished their meals. On two different occasions our hopes were raised and we were promised that a table was about to open up…but no.

I should’ve just left. I think that should be my new M.O. because my heart can’t take it (I don’t mean that hyperbolically; not only am I newly diabetic but have also had inexplicably high blood pressure since my twenties. This past week I’ve been trying to get off my medication because it slows my heart rate and I’m convinced that it’s been messing with my metabolism for the past seven years. The downside is that I’m so twitchy and anxiety-ridden I can barely sit still). I’m so impatient that I practically had a stroke by the time a seat opened up 40 minutes later.

I don’t like to take circumstances beyond a staff’s control out on them, and rarely do (I just internalize it, hence the blood pressure) but what makes me snap is when everyone around me is oblivious and enjoying themselves when I’m being inconvenienced. It’s not about entitlement but about fairness. What tipped my indecision over being annoyed into full blown annoyance was when the threesome who’d been waiting 15 minutes that was seated directly next to us at the same time received apologies for the long wait and were served first while we were given no such acknowledgement for waiting almost three times as long. My impression was clouded beyond repair.

And eating while angry is no fun. Plus, James wanted to kill me because he had zero interest in Ethiopian food in the first place, ranking it down with Filipino food, which are fighting words because I’m totally an apologist for Filipino cuisine. But he swayed me a bit. I mean, after being traumatized and hungry do you really want to eat little blobs of mush with your hands?

I sort of did. I dug the injera, the slightly sourdoughy, chamois-smooth flatbread used as an edible utensil. I don’t know that they actually used traditional teff, as the grain is hard to come by in the U.S., but I was kind of hoping so since it’s a low glycemic product and I’m now all about blood sugar friendly bread-like items.

Sambusa, a.k.a. chicken turnover

We ordered a combo, which allows a meat and two vegetables per person. I quickly learned that wett means spicy and aletcha means mild. That’s all you have to know plus main ingredient to make a decision. I’m fairly certain that Ethiopian food in Ethiopia (and perhaps other parts of NYC) is genuinely hot. That wasn’t the case here, which didn’t surprise me given the location.


The dark mound in the center is doro wett, which is a little tricky because there’s a whole drumstick and hard-boiled egg in there. The presentation almost feels Malaysian, lots of complexly spiced scoops but on injera rather than a banana leaf, but the actual flavor of the chicken in particular reminded me of mole. It must be all of the spices working together and probably attributable to the berbere.

The top left is sega wett, beef, but despite the name wasn’t exactly the same as the chicken. The carrots and beans are obvious, lentils are in the front right and the two pools of an unspecified bean weren’t far off from frijoles. Yes, again with the Mexican food comparison.

I’ve long felt that I need to learn more about regional African food–I’m interested in Ghanian edibles–but other cuisines always seem to take precedence when I’m out and about. And after this underwhelming experience I’m afraid that I will have to convince a new dining partner to accompany me on my mission.

Ghenet * 348 Douglass St., Brooklyn, NY