Treichville Tasting Menu

9 Aug

Treichville
R.I.P

The path to Treichville was a circuitous one. Originally Rick’s pick and scheduled a month earlier, Rick chose the much anticipated Rudar Social Club in Astoria, but the date coincided with the closing of his newly acquired money pit in Atlantic Highlands. At first Rick did not think this would be a conflict; that the closing would be over before our dinner and it was, but seriously challenging his loyalty to his brothers in gluttony, he decided instead to take his lawyer out for a drink. That, coupled with Zio being stricken with a stomach virus so potent that just the thought of Croatian cuisine made him retch, led to us cancelling at the last minute. It took a month to reschedule and again, the Rudar Social Club was Rick’s choice, but this time thoughtfully, giving us a week’s notice, cancelled.

A restaurant posing as a car service

This time, instead of rescheduling, we shifted the choice to Mike from Yonkers, who was next in line. The short notice sent him into a minor panic and he quickly decided on African place in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The problem, Eugene immediately pointed out via email, was that the place had closed several months earlier. After a few days, a replacement was chosen, a soul food joint in the heart of the trendy East Village, but after deliberating with an anonymous member of our group, Mike from Yonkers determined that the soul joint didn’t fit our criteria. For some reason, and after several years with our group, Mike was still struggling to comprehend our guidelines, loose as they are. But with a little counseling, again from the same anonymous source, he finally came up with another Treichville.  The Treichville we were visiting was not the one in the heart of Cote d’Ivoire, but in East Harlem, just a few steps from legendary Patsy’s Pizzeria.

Temptation around the corner.

From the outside on a block on east 118th Street, Treichville looked more like a car service operation than a restaurant. The only hint was the subtle sign above the door with the restaurant’s name and the proclamation of African cuisine. The windows were barred and a neon sign behind them flashed “Open 24 Hours.” I arrived early and hungry and Patsy’s was a serious temptation, but I thought it best to display some willpower. Soon the others arrived and we piled into the tight, low-ceilinged quarters where we were the only diners. The specialty here was West African, specifically the Ivory Coast, and the menu printed in both English and French. Drinks were the usual, ginger beer or sorrel, both homemade and satisfying. But it was the soups on the menu that interested us the most, particularly the pepe (pepper) soup; a combination of crab, cow feet, lamb, and tripe. The host/waiter announced that the pepe was not quite ready yet, but after nudging him wavered and said he would bring out soups for all. While he was at it, we asked for a sampling of Treichville’s specialties—kind of the poor man’s version of a “chef’s tasting menu.” He gladly obliged.

The five of us were first served huge bowls of soup with Eugene, Mike from Yonkers, and Gerry getting the pepe while Zio and I were given chicken soup. Noticing immediately that Zio and I were slighted, our host brought out two more bowls of the pepe.  I took a few spoonfuls of the chicken soup, which was more like a stew, enough to gush appreciatively over it and then offered it to the others for tastings while I sampled the pepe, which was not quite what was described in the menu—there was no meat, just fish, crab, mussels, and shrimp—more like a bouillabaisse with the sub-tropical addition of a whole, scotch bonnet chili pepper which Eugene ate inducing a bout of spasmodic hiccupping. Following Eugene’s lead and not knowing the pepper was a spicy garnish and not for eating, Mike from Yonker’s ate his and soon a fine sheen of sweat had formed on his forehead.

Meanwhile, despite my warnings to Zio to just taste both of the soups and not try to finish them all, I noticed the bones of the chicken from his soup picked clean and lined up neatly against the side of his now empty bowl and that he was busy extracting a piece of meat from a slender crab claw that was in his fish soup. When I warned him again, he threw up his hands defiantly. “What do you want me to do? I can’t just leave it!” he said.

Once the soup was cleared, we were all given salads with homemade vinaigrette which helped take down the heat from the soups. Following the salad, two platters of whole fish appeared; one, according to our host was grilled, the other fried, though I could tell no difference. Both were doused in a room temperature onion/mustard sauce and served with a mashed-like condiment of cassava and plantain called foutou. The procession continued with a platter of lamb shank, beef, and grilled chicken, all covered with the same onion/mustard concoction. With the addition of platters each of couscous, cassava, and white rice, our combined tables were overflowing.

The fish, whether grilled or fried, was perfectly moist and tender while the lamb shank, more than enough even for our colossal appetites. The beef and chicken were both fine, but really just pure excess at this point and after a few bites of the fish, I heard Zio groan repeatedly. “I can’t,” he stammered, “No more.” And so, for the first time in our long history of dinners together, Zio was done.  He was not alone. We were all pretty much done—the Treichville “chef’s tasting menu” just too much for us. So finally, with Treichville, despite the roundabout way he got to it, Mike from Yonkers nailed the concept of our group and deserved the accolades we heaped upon him at dinner’s end.

*Hoping to return to Treichville a few months ago, I came across thie signs, in duplicate, plastered underneath Treichville’s security gate and on its door.

I would have settled for a “C” grade, but this…

One Response to “Treichville Tasting Menu”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Senegalese Stomping Ground on 116th Street « Fried Neck Bones…and some home fries - April 17, 2012

    […] of obsession or kinship with African food. In the past, he has directed us to the late, Treichville Treichville Tasting Menu, African American Marayway in the Bronx The Un American African Place, and Salimata Eating Guinea […]

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