taste of africa
Following up on Jim Leff's query as to Camaroonian cuisine in the Bay Area last week, I decided to go ahead and try A Taste of Africa, which during weekend afternoons is basically a green truck parked in the Ashby Flea Market. The restaurant proper is located on the corner of Ashby and Adelaide and serves dinner during weekdays.
We ordered the special of the day -- fried snapper -- a vegetable combo meal, a side order of fries and homemade ginger drink. Almost everything was great. The snapper was coated in cornmeal and criply fried. The plantains were tasty, and some of the vegetables -- sauteed spinach and gingered yams -- were memorable. The ginger drink was unlike anything I've had: really spicy and refreshingly sweet, but not carbonated. I wasn't terribly fond of the black eyed peas (my eating partner remarked that it would have benefited from some salt pork) or the okra (a little gooey). But for $18, the two of us ate happily to our satisfaction.
Some caveats: the woman who cooks (inside the truck) can be cranky, and the food takes a long time to prepare (everything is made to order; we spent an hour and a half eating). So don't go expecting to spend the same amount of time it takes to get a typical flea-market hot dog. And don't rush the cook. With all of the frying, the interior of the truck must reach subhuman temperatures; moreover, the cook is obviously a focused woman; let her do her thing in peace.
This is my new favorite restaurant in the South Berkeley area. We had the vegetarian combo, black-eyed peas, fu-fu (pressed yams), greens, plantains, and peanut sauce over rice. It was all very flavorful, yet not spicy hot. Hot sauce was offered though. Every dish complimented each other; salty, sweet, and multi-textured, with seasonings of ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes enhancing the other veggies and grains. I've had Ethiopian food many times, and this Cameroon cuisine is surprisingly different and quite tasty. We'll be back soon to try the meat dishes and other vegetable offerings.
The man who owns the establishment also has a truck at the Ashby Flea Market on the weekends. He was so friendly and easy to talk to, it was a true pleasure hanging out in the cozy dining room. The food came out immediately after we ordered it, and the woman gave us a free dessert sampler of yuca with spices and coconut (delicious) and a coconut tart pastry (a bit dry). For $13 we left satisfied having eaten the perfect amount of food.
We had a nice dinner there the other night (at the restaurant, not the truck). We had a meat combo plate ($15); the "meat" was skinless dark meat chicken. Also a black-eye-pea plate ($8). Very filling and satisfying, hearty, not too spicy. Maybe it needed a squeeze of lemon.
They have a large menu but they do not have all the dishes every time. No okra, no yams this time. The combo plate included plantains, spinach, black-eye peas, rice, and "ndole" sauce.
They were out of desserts.
The service was friendly -- one young man who was by turn waiter, cook, and busboy. No corkage fee, but he did happily accept a glass of our wine.
A very cozy place, very low-key.
There is apparently a dress code -- wear ragged, stained blue jeans, and be up-to-date in fashion for 1973.
3015 Shattuck Avenue (just south of Ashby
)Berkeley, CA 94705