>> Africa Kine Restaurant | Eat the World NYC

13 November 2008

Africa Kine Restaurant


[UPDATE: Africa Kine has moved to a new location away from the epicenter of Harlem's gentrification. It is now located at 2267 7th Avenue, near 133rd Street. For photos from the new location, scroll to bottom.]

A walk down the mountain of stairs in Morningside Park in Harlem is perhaps one of the most distinct changes in atmosphere possible in Manhattan. At the top of the stairs, the Ivy League university of Columbia, with its proud old buildings and campus courtyards. Young people scurrying this way and that or tanning in the lawn. Three minutes later, at the bottom of the stairs, one is thrust into the very different atmosphere of 116th Street, a distinctly West African part of New York City.

The noises are different, louder. The accents are French, and Wolof, and Bambara. The colors are brighter, the clothes flashier, and the people more sensual. The smells are sweet and spicy, and very alluring.

As the sun was setting to the west over Morningside Park and Columbia University, we decided to settle into a popular, yet cozy restaurant. My apologies for the photos, the interiors had almost no light. It was not the eyes that were necessary for this wonderful eating experience though. And how can you go wrong with an eatery that boasts such amenities like a coat check, a carryout window!, and even a "grand" ballroom downstairs!

At Africa Kine Restaurant the focus is on the cuisine of Senegal and is not so aspiring as the name might allude to, but that always equates to better food, as pan-anything restaurants are thoroughly mediocre in everything. And let's be honest, a menu with all the food of Earth's most diverse continent would be nothing short of insane.

The women serving us are beautiful, and beautifully wardrobed, in very bright dresses native to Dakar. We have many questions about the food, and all are answered with depth and friendliness. We are disappointed that the national dish of thiebu djen ($12) is only available at lunchtime, but are more than satisfied with our eventual selections, starting with the poisson grillé ($14, above), which is served with an excellent onion relish/sauce, part mustard and part pepper spices. The fish is obviously cared for, as every morsel inside is tender and marinated to perfection.

Our other dish is dibi ($14, below), grilled lamb also served with the same sauce. Unfortunately it turned out too tough and required a lot of jaw work. I will look forward to going across the street another day to the Dibiterie Cheikh, which sounds more promising in the world of dibi.

The dessert menu was less than exciting, so we decided to take our search for sweets to the nearby candy stores catering to West African sweet tooths.

[UPDATE: Some photos from a January 2017 meal]

Bouye ($4), made from the fruit of the baobab tree.

Nems ($8), spring rolls of Vietnamese origin now common in Senegal.

Thu curry ($12) served with chicken despite the menu saying lamb.

Fish yassa ($12) with lemon and onions.

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