Dish from Bunna

Dish from Bunna Cafe (Photo: Liz Clayman)

Conceptually, the vast continent of “Africa” still exists for many as a land viewed atop Pride Rock, extending one’s vision “as far as the light touches, Simba.” Yeah, we get it, geography is hard and Africa is, like, so far away. Fortunately for those wanting to cast aside their gross cultural generalizations – to differentiate their east from west and central from south – an opportunity has come along to do so, and the best part — it’s an education that primarily requires your stomach.
The 2015 New York African Restaurant Week is a biannual event, this year featuring over 25 restaurants, each offering their own special prix fixe menus of African-inspired cuisine available through purchase of voucher.
“This event is good because we want people to know about our culture,” says Chkh Cisse, a Senegalese-born co-owner and executive chef of participating restaurant Ponty Bistro. “You always hear about Italian restaurants, French restaurants but it’s rare you hear much about African cuisine. This should change.”
And change it will. As the population of African immigrants to New York continues to grow, over 50 African restaurants are now spread across the five boroughs, according to festival founder Akin Akinsaya. (The East Village recently got a Haitian-West African spot, for starters.)
NYARW, expanding minds and pallets over the past three years, began yesterday and runs through June 14. To give you a little taste, below are four participating restaurants and their prix fixe fares:
Ponty Bistro
218 Third Avenue, between 18th and 19th Sts., Gramercy
Ponty Bistro combines Senegalese and West African cooking cuisine with French and Mediterranean influences, to create “enticing dishes that reflect the flavors of [their] heritage but with a modern twist.”
Soup calabash
Chicken Nem (spring rolls)
Flounder stuffed with crab meat
Poulet Yassa
Crème Brule
195 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Madiba offers an authentic (and I can say that, ‘cos I’m from there) selection of South African dishes set in a friendly atmosphere that embodies the restaurant’s dictum: “a place of love.”
‘The Makho’ – a secret punch with fruit nectars
Spring selections of mixed fruit and micro greens with a ginger infused dressing
Curry and paprika pickled cold fish cutlets served on 7-grain toast
Slow-cooked rich oxtail stew served with ‘samp’ –  a spicy crushed corn and speckled bean stew
South atlantic whiting filet served with yellow rice, greens  and a mango per-peri sauce
Malva pudding – a sort of caramel-ey, sponge cake (trust me, it’s delicious.)
Le Souk
510 LaGuardia Pl, Greenwich Village
Fusing North African and Middle Eastern foods, Le Souk offers a candle-lit intimate setting to enjoy its rich, spicy array of flavors.
Mimosa, Bloody Mary or house beer
Mezze platter selection of Middle Eastern spreads and dolma
Frisée, apple, blue cheese croutons, golden raisins, Dijon, poached quail egg
Marinated calamari, tomato and pepperoncino salad
Homemade lamb sausage, tomato fondue, poached egg
Eggplant caviar, sautéed seasonal vegetables, plum tomato, goat cheese, mint leaves
Branzino seasoned in Moroccan spices and herbs, stuffed with Basmati rice pepper julienne, citrus salad
Roasted chicken, Mediterranean couscous, preserved lemon, Moroccan olives, roasted baby bell peppers
Slow braised beef rib, caramelized onions, sweetened tomatoes
Chocolate cake, tahini, spiced ice cream
Fruit coulis and fruit
Bunna Café
1084 Flushing Ave., Bushwick
Ethiopian vegan fare is on offer at Bunna Café, which also offers a regular traditional coffee ceremony. Come for the food, stay for the caffeinated rituals.
Appetizer + Combo Plate + Dessert + One beverage