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May 9, 2012 11:19 PM

Radio Africa Kitchen -- report [San Francisco]

Seven of us got together tonight to check out Radio Africa Kitchen. Yes, it's in the Bayview. Yes, it's worth the trip (not bad from downtown on the T).

The menu had five appetizers and four entrees, so we ordered one of everything, and then ordered a second round of our favorites, which turned out to be the mezze plate (with a pale green hummous-like substance not listed on the menu that turned out to be made from fava beans and edamame), the aromatic kufta meatballs, and the lamb two ways (shoulder stewed with dried apricots and slices of smoky roasted leg). I would happily have ordered any of the dishes, though, although the beet salad and the barramundi were a little boring next to the more richly seasoned dishes. Service was warm and friendly -- Chef Eskender himself was acting as a busboy, wiping down tables and filling water glasses, happy and excited finally to have his own restaurant. He said he was planning on opening for lunch in June and to create a restaurant with a comfortable, community feel where people could just walk in, sit down and eat together.

Just about the only thing I didn't like was the fact that when it was more than half full it was noisy, as in leaning across the table saying "What, I can't hear you!" noisy. They have what appear to be baffles but they aren't doing the job!

Pictures: beet salad, tuna kitfo, mushroom souffle, mezze

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  1. Entrees (from left to right lamb, kufta meatballs, "fantasy" of Ethiopian greens and grains, barramundi) and dessert:

    1. yes, agree with everything here.

      2 Replies
      1. re: vulber

        What have you eaten that you liked at Radio Africa?

        I'm curious how much the menu changes week to week. Hoping those meatballs with polenta and asparagus stick around.

        1. re: Windy

          Seriously. The empty casserole dish for the meatballs was next to me, and I kept scraping up little spoonfuls of sauce/polenta. When the chef tried to clear the dish, I literally tugged it out of his hands to scrape out the last few drops.

      2. Do you recall their hours? I was in the area on Tue afternoon and it was closed and evacuated. Is that their close day, or do they only open at ~5 or ... ?

        6 Replies
        1. re: psb

          They're only open for dinner at the moment, although as I said, he's hoping to open for lunch in June (and I got the impression he wanted to be open all day, not closed between lunch and dinner). Annoyingly, I can't find their hours on their website. Why are restaurant websites designed so you can't find the more important information, like when you can go there!

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            The hours appear to be Tuesday-Saturday, Dinner from 5:30-9:30. You can just barely read this at the bottom of Ruth's menu photo.

            1. re: Dave MP

              Oh yes, I (barely) see now ... your sharpening filters are better than mine.

              I pretty much clicked on every link I could find, getting more and more irritated, before resorting to the Nag Post here. I wonder if it is a deliberate exclusion (fear of commitment) or just flakiness.

              ok tnx.

              1. re: psb

                I wouldn't be so suspicious of their motives. Restaurant websites are almost always designed by external companies; the restaurant often can't easily update the content. And they've only been open a month or so.

                1. re: Windy

                  I am not "suspicious" in the sense that I think it is cagey. I mean to emphasize that it is a deliberate omission because the hours may be in flux and they dont want to advertise longer hours than they are prepared to be open.

                  Obviously ideal would be to have easy to find and accurate hours but if that isnt an option for one reason or another, I suppose it is better to not have any info [well aside from a phone number] than to explicitly say you are open till 11pm when you have decided to scale back to 10pm.

                  What is in a sense more annoying is when the hours actually ARE on the site but a PITA to find.

                  So dont be so suspicious of my motives.

          2. re: psb

            According to their website they are starting lunch service June 2 (11-3). They are also offering a "happy hour" three-course prix fixe for $25 (5:30-7).

          3. Co-sign on everything. What a lovely experience: great food, warm service, beautiful space. My favorite dishes were the saucy meatballs, mezze plate, and "Fantasy" (which was way more interesting than I expected it to be, given the noncommittal description on the menu). The noise level was tough, but I was glad to see the chef had developed a following--the place was packed most of the time we were there.

            I think the chef said he planned to open for brunch or lunch in June. I'm excited to return--the wide windows out to the avenue lend themselves to slow meals on sunny days.

            1. Here's the website.

              I loved this dinner. As Ruth commented, there wasn't a bad bite.

              DudesinMexico and I ate at the Radio Africa popup a while back, and really liked it, and I'm happy to see Eskender still serving elegant, healthy meals in a setting like this. The menu is his patented Mediterranean-Ethiopian food, especially evidenced by the vegetarian fantasy platter with lentils, okra, and dal so good even I ate it (the edible flowers helped).

              Service was not just friendly but accommodating. We asked about a few ingredients we couldn't place, and each server took the time to either get an answer or the chef. Perhaps more important, service was warm. This is delicious food with good ingredients--but without forgetting the role a restaurant should play for diners. It's too rare to find a San Francisco restaurant this unpretentious and this good at the same time.

              Prices are reasonable and portions are large and suitable for sharing. Since we had 7 people, we ordered one of each appetizer and main course and then ordered seconds of our favorites. I thought the meatballs and pickled carrots were even better the second time.

              Corkage is $10; they brought an ice bucket for my white wine. Total for a very satisfying meal was $36 each including tax and a generous tip.