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Jul 2, 2007 05:43 PM

Lagosia - Nigerian in Berkeley

Anybody tried this Nigerian place in Berkeley?

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  1. Interesting ... Nigerian fusion ... with brunch ... and from-the-oven meat pies and lemon pound cake ... and scotch eggs.

    "It will take your taste buds on a journey from the coast of California to the cities and villages of Sub-Saharan Africa"

    Is there ANY African fusion in the Bay Area other than this?.Though it seems what they mean by fusion is in the desserts ...

    - Puff puffs - chocolate or plain West African beniets ... the picture looks great
    - Stareo Cookies Chocolate shortbread cookies with vanilla mascarpone filling
    - Warm fruit crumble served with your choice of hot custard, ice cream or whipped cream
    - English trifle

    Very nice vegetarian options it seems.

    Pretty standard African dishes for lunch and dinner ... but maybe some of this is in presentation ... like what I'm assuming is the molded Jolaf.

    I'm going to have to dig up my Nigerian notes to see which of these are from that area specifically.
    Iyan – pounded yam dumplings
    Eba – grated cassava dumplings
    Dodo – fried plantain
    Ila – ground okra sauce

    - Pepper Soup - A spicy broth seasoned with African spices and fresh mint served hot with your choice of beef, chicken or goat meat
    - Moin-moin - steamed savory bean cake
    - Groundnut Stew - a creamy peanut-tomato sauce with Basil (the fusion part?)
    - Efo - spinach simmered in tomato sauce
    - Akara - Bean fritters served with house salsa
    - Suya West African shish kebabs seasoned with spicy peanut rub served with fresh cut red onions with choice of beef, chicken, shrimp or vegetable Suya
    - Frejon - Sweet black bean soup made from pureed black beans with a subtle hint of coconut

    Also sounding good
    - West African style shrimp paella
    - Mama put stew
    - fresh fish stew

    Well, for lunch you can get a burger with plantain chips or suya on ciabatta That's fusionfor ya.

    Thanks for the heads up. Prices look good and delicious-looking pictures. Taste will tell.

    BTW, menus are in pdf format to anyone with a slow computer connection like me where that matters.

    1. We went last week and had a very nice meal and had a chance to talk with the chef who told us a bit about her goals for the restaurant.

      The food is definitely more upscale than the other west african places in the area and the location is goegeous.

      The black bean soup is one of the best I have ever tried. Sweet and smokey, cooked for six hours!!! Pepper soup not too spicy, very tasty. Jollof rice with chicken was moist and nicely served.

      Groundnut stew, EFo and the special were all well prepared and nicely presented. I could not understand the so called "dumplings" which seemed like mush to me with no taste. The plantains were a bit greasy and tiny. I prefer the mexican version.

      Definitely worth the extra cost and a very pleasant place for a special dinner!

      1 Reply
      1. re: marlon

        "Dumplings" = foofoo, balls of plain bland starch. Functionally equivalent to tortillas in Mexico or rice in India, pinch off a bit and use it to scoop up some tasty stew.

        "Location is gorgeous" you mean the interior? That's a sort of boring stretch of University.

      2. We tried it last week after seeing the notice in the Chronicle.
        This is no hole-in-the-wall-cheapo-ethnic place. They are located in a new building, on the ground floor. The space is simple, with muted earth tones and a few art pieces on the walls. Kind of un-lived in so far, but this wide modern space has big windows, a small bar and booths along the window wall looking out onto scenic University Avenue. The wait staff are mostly young and new to the business. The kitchen staff seemed quite professional.
        We had pepper soup with beef that was delicious and (as requested) spicy. Cumin and chili pepper flavored a dark beef broth with chunks of slow cooked and tender beef adding flavor and texture.
        A mixed salad came formed into a round of stacked raw vegetables and a criss cross drizzling of slightly sweet mayonaise based dressing. Nice presentation on a simple dish.
        Groundnut stew with chicken was a thick tomato and peanut stew with poached chicken breast cut into pieces in the stew. A milder version than I am used to but tasty none-the-less, with moist, perfectly cooked chicken. The side of 'Iyan' was tastless and gummy, which is pretty standard for what I am guessing is powdered (not freshly pounded) yam.
        Jolof rice with chicken was simple broiled chicken with some mild spices and a generous helping of herby/spicy rice and a few fried plantains.
        Puf-Puf was 4 giant tennis ball sized beignets rolled in powdered sugar on top of squeeze bottle criss cross of rasberry coulis and chocolate syrup (come in chocolate flavored too, but we didn't try these).
        Everything is served on white china plates, with cloth napkins and real utensils. The ring molds and squeeze bottle garnishes also add familiarity to the presentations.
        A handful of standard beers and a few wines (sorry, no palm wine or Star beer for you Nigeria-philes).
        They are still on a limited menu as they figure out what goes where. I had hoped for my favorite, Akara (chick pea fritters), but they were not available last time we went. They said that the menu will expand as they ramp up.
        Overall, not a bad experience. The space is comforatble, the people are nice, the prices are reasonable and the kitchen has talent. Hopefully they will find a niche in the Bay Area food scene.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Food_Dude

          Nice description. I went tonight. Loved the kabob and the scotch eggs.

          The chocolate puff puffs are the plain puff puffs with bits of chocolate in it ... so it is like the chocolate in a warm cookie ... all melty. Recommend the chocolate.

          About the spice ... the chef said people were complaining about the spice level. They may be dumbing it down. Anyone who goes ... ask them not to.

          It seem the local Nigerian community knows about the place and maybe that will get them to keep the food from getting too California-ized. I was disappointed they didn't have goat but they said that it would be on the menu soon because Nigerian's love goat.

          They also have a small glass bakery case by the door ... future plans are to sell pastries and cakes and meat pies ... REAL English scones ... oh my.

          The manager said that Nigeria was an English colony so British food is quite common there which is why it is on the menu in addition to the Nigerian food.

          Anyway, I did a separate post on my visit because I wanted the title to highlight that this isn't your mom and pop African joint. This is the short version.

          Berkeley: Lagosia – Stylish, modern, upscale British and Nigerian cuisine … go, please, go

          1725 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94703

          1. re: rworange

            I have a question: looking at the lunch menu I was a bit put off by the prevalence of tomato sauce. How does Jollof spaghetti differ from Italian? What did African food taste like before tomatoes came from the Americas? (I know what Italian food tasted like.) I thought of more peanut-based foods.

            This is not a complaint but an interest.

            1. re: lintygmom

              Don't know. My one and only encounter with food of the Nigerian type was at St John the Baptist's Nigerian yam festival a few years back

              I asked on the General Board, but Googling around it seems there are a lot of tomatoes and even spaghetti in Nigerian cooking. There is a food forum that has a recipe and picture of a spaghetti dish in this post on the General Topics board.

              IIRC, you like Vanessa's a lot ... like I do. I immediatly thought of you eating at Lagosia and thought you would enjoy Lagosia very much. Some of the references to Vanessas restaurant and the title in my post on Lagosia was to catch your attention.

              However, unlike Vanessa's, I can't really say that at this point Lagosia is Cal-Nigerian. It is just good quality food, beautifully presented in a lovely restaurant.

              They are going to have a hard sell with this place. I hope there is a large Nigerian community.

              I wasn't all that wowed by reading the menu. It took a taste to wow me. It isn't that typ of restaurant, but I almost wish they would post pictures of the food in the window.

              And even then, I suspect there are going to be dishes like these two that are not going to be my thing
              Iyan – pounded yam dumplings
              Eba – grated cassava dumplings

              Someone had one or the other and ... well ... looked like mashed potatoes but elastic. They are probably going to be like the bland dishes of other cuisines, Latino yucca for example which doesn't taste like much.

              Even the puff puffs might give some people pause ... again, get the wonderful chocolate version when going for the puff puffs ... and don't wear black ... powdered sugar, you know.

              The British side, especially the bakery should be popular when they get going and I'm guessing those meat pies will be good and universally popular. I'll bet that food is based on British meat pies.

              Anyway go ... start safe ... get the kabobs ... I am betting you will like them. They are a small portion. I'm really eager to branch into the stews ... I think the fish stew might be next for me.

              I forgot to mention, they play African music in the background. What was so great was not only the music itself, but the volume. It was set low enough that it was almost unnoticable, but added a nice touch.

              1. re: rworange

                Oh, thanks so much. I'll probably start with the stews, as safety isn't that important to me--the possibility of unusual and delicious is, as long as the service is pleasant. Though that can mean my eating some horrendous food with a smile on my face. I remember in Afghanistan ordering the only real local dish on the menu at the King's Hotel (?Royal Hotel?) while everyone else ordered safe dishes. It was a stew of local cardoons (stems and tops) with mutton (advertised as lamb) which was gray, greasy, and... Anyway, I ate it as the waiters looked on beaming and my husband choked down his beef kabobs while laughing.

                I just looked on and found a few intriguing recipes including this one:


                1. re: lintygmom

                  Those are mighty fine kabobs though ... and appetizer-sized. Hopefully they will have the goat kebobs soon.

                  That recipe for oysters look good. I am hoping that Lagosia expands in that direction and not pulling back there menu to accomodate local familiarity. Anyway, that would be just the type of dish that could be wildly popular in the Bay Area.

                2. re: rworange

                  I had the fish stew, and its quite tasty. The fish was very fresh and the tomato sauce had a different tone than criollo, or Italian for that matter. I think there was palm oil in the making of it, that gave it an almost leafy taste.

                  Also right on about the puff-puffs, don't wear black and eat them - (they tasted great the next morning with my cup of chai). Will go for the chocolate ones next time. And I will bring the family.

                3. re: lintygmom

                  From my limited experience with Nigerian foods, the difference in the sauce compared to italian tomato sauce is in the other seasonings used. More specifically the pepper used in the sauce. I wish I could give you an exact name but there are common, dried pepper types, in powder form, similar to cayenne, used abundantly in Nigerian cooking. Also, Nigerian tomato based sauces may use seasoned meats, as well as smoked/dried fish, for flavoring. There is also an oil, called Palm Oil I believe, which adds a smokey flavor to many Nigerian dishes, but unsure if it is used in Lagosia's sauces. Can't wait to try the place.

                  1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                    "There is also an oil, called Palm Oil I believe, which adds a smokey flavor to many Nigerian dishes"

                    Ah, that explains why they call out palm oil specifically as an ingredient on their menu, thanks for the enlightenment. I hope to get to try this place soon.

                  2. re: lintygmom

                    Although West Africa cuisine is more known for using peanuts than tomatoes, peanuts are just as much a "new world" food as tomatoes -- they originated in somewhere in South America and were introduced to West Africa in the 1500s (probably a byproduct of the slave trade between West Africa and the Americas).


                    Hey, rworange, there's another one to add to your list of fusion ingredients -- what was Southeast Asian food like without peanuts/peanut sauces?

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I didn't know peanuts came from South America. God, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, peanuts, Chihuahuas and guinea pigs! So many of our common ingredients!

                      1. re: lintygmom

                        You forgot beans, squash and peppers and iguanas!

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. I went a few days ago, in my unending search for the cassava (and I mean bitter manioc) dumplings I used to eat in central Africa. The kind they call 'gozo.' Well, these are not quite it. These are made from fresh cassava. Which is, anyway, better than the pounded stuff I used to get, though not the same texture. Cassava has a sort of sour taste, and it can be (though I prefer it not to be) pretty barnyardy. Lagosia's is sour, mild, soft. I liked it. But be warned it's generally an acquired taste.

                  I had it with the house stew with beef. Good quality beef, but the sauce was practically just plain tomato. I asked for hot sauce and the waitress, bless her, brought warm (tomato) sauce. Things improved when Abby, the (v. charming) hostess, brought out some okra to mix in with the stew. The okra was a homogenous slime. Not usually a fan of slime. But I admit it improved the stew. Tastes like honest food. I think they'll figure out the spicing, and I'll go back for the groundnuts. It's only been a couple weeks.

                  On another note, in my experience, lots of African food is already fusion. In Tanzania the bar specialty is 'chipsi na mayai': delicious greasy homemade fries embedded in scrambled eggs, like a big tortilla, served with that special east African ketchup that isn't ever quite ... ketchup.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mscommunikate

                    I hesitated to post a negative but went and was not impressed. My husband's seafood stew was tasty, but without much in the way of seafood. My chicken and peanut sauce stew was pretty tasteless to me and I didn't finish it though I wasn't eating rice, didn't like the dumpling (acquired taste, I assumed). The chicken skewer appetizer was delicious but there were only two tiny skewers. I don't know what the bean soup should actually taste like but this was blandly sweet from the canned coconut milk. They were very nice to bring out only two chocolate puff puffs for me since my husband didn't want dessert but inside one was raw and the waitress forgot to bring coffee for about ten minutes, stating they'd all of a sudden become busy (total of five to six tables full--I know, they've just opened.) The hostess was nice but I don't think I'd go back.

                    The prices are, to me, fairly high for what you get. If I'm going to pay for ambiance, I'd rather go more upscale.

                    It made me long for Taxi Brousse's meat turnovers and stews zinging with flavor. I know that's Senegalese rather than Nigerian, but Lagosian represents Nigeria, I guess I don't really like Nigerian.

                    1. re: lintygmom

                      That's too bad. I'm hoping that the chef isn't caving to the 'too spicy' crowd. Really, they are going to kill what is unique to this place by trying to cater to everyone. You can't please all the people all the time. Thought for sure you'd like the joint.

                      Hmmm .. never had a puff puff before, so all of mine had that raw quality like mochi, so I thought it was part of the deal ... what was the other one like?

                      1. re: rworange

                        The other one was more donut through and through and the waitress said no, wasn't supposed to be raw inside, so apparently from your experience it's more of a problem than just with me.

                        1. re: lintygmom

                          I just had lunch at Lagosia today, and thought that I probably share your tastes - I found the food there either too bland (Moin Moin savory bean cakes, Suya chicken & beef kabobs, sides of Iyan/pounded yam and Eba/grated cassava were almost tasteless) or else much too fiery-hot (Pepper soup, and also the House Stew, described as a traditional West African tomato-based stew, were both tongue-numbing).

                          The Scotch eggs were very good, though, and were a favorite with my lunch buddy & I.

                          The Egusi stew (described as a Nigerian specialty made with melon seeds) was quite okay and had a very interesting texture. I chose the chicken version, and also added spinach.

                          But like lintyqmom, I think I much preferred Senegalese (e.g. absolutely loved Lam-Toro at Telegraph Ave) over Nigerian.

                          Service at Lagosia's very friendly & warm, and dining area's very bright & pleasant. I guess it's just the general taste factor which they failed in. That said, I'd still go back again though - if only to try the Jollof rice which is only available for dinner.