A few weeks back, we wrote about Gonder, an Ethiopian restaurant in La Latina. I suppose we’re on an international cuisine kick, so bear with us. Open your minds, wallets and mouths and you too will be rewarded with dancing spices and flavors on your tongue. There’s much mystery that surrounds “international” food, and even more so when one enters the massive continent that is Africa. All one can do is dive in head first, ask questions, and keep an open mind. This is the way that the best palates are developed and fine-tuned.
Here’s a little bit of context. Where is Senegal? It’s a country in West Africa and it’s bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. The fact that this area was once occupied by the Portuguese, French and North Africans is important since as we presume you know, a country’s cuisine is undeniably affected by its history and geography. As a result, Senegalese food is diverse, flavorful and a wonderful mix of cultures.
Some of the main staples in Senegal include fish, because they are on the ocean, chicken, peas, lamb, eggs, beef, legumes such as lentils and black eyed peas. Most dishes are stewed for long periods of time and served with rice, couscous, millet or bread. They use lots of herbs and spices to make dishes savory, and since peanuts are one of the main crop produced in the country, peanut sauces also very common (and delicious). That being said, most of you may have never heard of Baobab (which is the fruit tree native to Senegal). It’s small, unsuspecting and off the beaten path.
They offer five things (in a variety of combinations) rice, noodles, meat, fish and vegetables. You can order rice with vegetables, meat with rice and vegetables, fish with rice and vegetables, grilled fish, grilled meat, and noodles with meat and vegetables. Although there are 12 dishes on the menu, they don’t offer every single one everyday, so go, ask and just know that whatever you order it’ll be delicious. There is a dish with only rice and vegetables that is suitable for vegetarians; however, gluten intolerant friends, run the other way.
Our dining experience was pleasant. When we arrived at the Plaza Nelson Mandela, we saw that the huge terrace was completely packed! This is both a good sign, because obviously the food must be worth it. It was a bad sign, because we couldn’t enjoy the sunshine while eating! The interior is very, very plain. This isn’t a restaurant of frills, and hip and vintage decorations. If you want that, well, Malasaña is really nice. Here, the tables are covered in paper, the menu is covered in plastic, and your plate overflows with steamy, hot food. The presentation isn’t the prettiest, but what it lacks in style, it makes up for in taste.
The portions are huge. Like, really big, and we’re professional eaters! (yes, that’s a thing). The plate literally over floweth with carbohydrates and meat and sauce. We ordered the rice and vegetables and the plate was piled high with yuca, sweet potatoes, eggplant, cabbage, carrot and of course, more rice. And all for 7€!
If you want to leave full and with a full wallet while supporting a neighborhood staple, Baobab Senegalese Restaurant is just the place for you. Pace yourself, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.