The East Village, that bastion of ethnic eats, didn’t have a West African or Haitian option until Le Marecage brought both of them at once. Unlike so many of the marketing-minded spots opening around the neighborhood, this one is a homegrown labor of love, ever-so-quietly opened by Ivory Coast native Mamadou Bamba (formerly a caterer and an instructor at the French Culinary Institute) and his Haitian-born wife Ivrose Bamba, who has been living in Stuy Town for about 35 years.
The menu, below, represents both of their home countries, offering both Haitian-style paté (a flaky puff pastry filled with ground meat) and West African-style pastels (a sort of beignet stuffed with fresh crab meat). But while there are exotic ingredients like breadfruit (a potato-esque fruit) and aloco (fried sweet plantains) as well as novel side dishes like attieke (a cassava that’s been granulated until it resembles couscous), there are also plenty of familiar dishes. Both Haiti and the Ivory Coast were French colonies, after all, so you’ll find garlicky escargot – though you may be surprised to find them mixed with watercress sauce.
Ivrose admits she’s in the process of “introducing people gently” to her family’s cuisines. So the more exotic and involved dishes – like guinea fowl, foofoo, and conch – will be offered as weekend specials.
She says ingredients are personally fetched from the market, and they’re prepared in an open kitchen. “We love receiving people,” she said last night as griot music played in the small, softly lit dining room. “So we have a little place just to receive people as if it were our house.”
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Le Marécage, 137 First Ave., bet. East 9th and St. Marks Pl.; (212) 777-1677