Eating Guinea Fowl in a Guinean Place in Little Senegal

9 Nov

Salimata
2132 8th Avenue
New York, NY

The bustle around Salimata.

I must have passed Salimata, the restaurant chosen by Mike from Yonkers, hundreds of times and really never noticed it there, not very far from where I reside. Maybe it was because it was located in the shadow of the Masjid Aqsa Mosque, kind of a community center for the areas West African Muslims who populate the area known as Little Senegal and always bustling with activity. Or maybe I was unaware of its presence because it just blended in with the many small, family-run African restaurants in the area.

The Mosque next door.

Like Gerry who chooses based on how long it takes us to get to a place, or Eugene who looks for the untried, no matter if edible or not (see Arzu), Mike from Yonkers has an African thing going; his last two picks; Treichville and African American Marayway  both featured the cuisine of the countries of West Africa. Salimata’s represented Guinea, though all of us would be hard pressed to distinguish the subtle differences between the food of Guinea with that, for example, of Ghana or even, Guinea-Bissau. But getting to Salimata couldn’t be any easier for me so I certainly wasn’t complaining about his choice.

Greeting us outside the restaurant was a burly man dressed in what looked like the sweat suit version of the traditional African buba. He had a big sack open and filled with a haphazard assortment of shoes he was selling. “Take a look at my shoes,” he asked, holding the bag open. “What size are you?”

We told him we were going in to eat at Salimata now. Maybe later, someone unwisely said thinking he might be gone by the time we finished. He nodded approvingly at our dining choice that, we soon found out, also served as his base of operations.

The only table big enough to handle our  group of six was close to the front door and  the constant commotion of take out customers and taxi and livery cab drivers moving in and out, had us keeping our jackets on to stay warm. All of us were  pleased that now, after two absences, Rick had rejoined us, and taking a quick glance at the menu and without any hesitation he decided on the guinea fowl, a variation on either pigeon or chicken, depending on how you approached it.

Guinea fowl: The before picture.

The menu was ample, but as is the case with many of the small African restaurants, it’s hit or miss on what will be available when you happen to be at the restaurant. In our case, some of the West African classics like thu djeun (stewed fish), chicken yassa, and lafidi (rice with roasted goat meat) were done for the day.

Our waitress who was scuttling back and forth between taking table orders and returning to the take out counter in the back of the slim restaurant, instead just recited the few items that remained such as grilled chicken, grilled fish, and steak. That didn’t satisfy either Gerry or Zio who persisted, pressing her with some of the other menu items forcing her to squint at the menu.

Zio was adamant about the “bouillon avec fonio” also known as cow feet soup while Gerry was intrigued by the “suppa kandja” a mix of lamb and fish in an okra sauce. Keeping it simple for our harried waitress, Eugene and I opted for the grilled fish while Mike from Yonkers ordered the grilled chicken.

There were two television monitors at either end of the restaurant where the only decoration was a poster endorsing “Boubacar Bah for President.” The televisions were tuned to CNN and after our enormous platters arrived at our table, President Obama was shown making a speech. The volume on the televisions were turned up and all the Africans either eating or waiting for their take out orders, including the shoe salesman who was leaning against a wall gnawing on a chicken leg, watched raptly.

Guinea Fowl: The after picture

We, on the other hand, did not show as much respect, loudly commenting on how Rick’s guinea fowl looked pretty much identical to Mike from Yonkers’ grilled chicken and both just as dry, while the fish Eugene and I ordered, which we later learned was tilapia looked like they had spent their early years swimming in what probably was a tank in a Bronx farm, consuming a steroid-rich diet, they were both that big. Despite their enormous size, the fish, unlike the chicken, was moist, smothered in a light tomato sauce and served with a mound of cous cous and mustard-flavored grilled onions. Gerry’s dark green mashed okra concoction had a gamey, overly salted taste that one most definitely would need to acquire to appreciate and the hard gelatinous cow feet anchored in Zio’s soup had him throwing up his hands. “I just can’t eat it,” he said shaking his head in defeat.

Impenetrable cow foot soup.

The ridiculously inexpensive check for all the food consumed softened the few misses and by the time our platters were cleared and we made our way out of the restaurant, the shoe salesman had returned to his position.  He looked at us hopefully and gestured to his sack of shoes with one hand while holding the half-eaten chicken leg in the other. “So, are you ready to buy some shoes now?”

2 Responses to “Eating Guinea Fowl in a Guinean Place in Little Senegal”

  1. James Lax November 20, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Its a wonder anybody has much of an appetite after this dining adventure… In fact, to us culinary cretins, its a wonder your group of galloping gourmands has remained intact all these years, considering many of the dining selections yoy have chosen… In any event, good secriptive writing of just one more place that will not see my face, ever ! I think it has everything to do with the “fact” that most people outside NYC do not or cannot relate to obscure, third world. cultures, who offer food stuffs completely foreign to ones’ palate… Case in point, even your crew has had a tough time swallowing the swill that some of these unique places serve… However, if the intent is to educate, entertain, and provide amusing prose to the reader, then I must say I enjoy your column immensely and wish you many more travels into the world of gastronomic exploration !

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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

    […] Tasting Menu, African American Marayway in the Bronx The Un American African Place , and Salimata Eating Guinea Fowl in a Guinean Place in Little Senegal, just around the corner from his most recent pick, Africa Kine. And like 116th being his old […]

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