The prices are a few dollars higher at La Galette than the really good Senegalese places in West Harlem, but the atmosphere is a little more comfortable and accessible to those that may not be familiar with the cuisine.
Fataya ($4.95, below) are a fried treat you usually find on the street in Senegal. You will see local women cooking large batches of them at a busy intersection of a neighborhood, and people stopping their cars or coming from their houses to buy some for dinner. This is unfortunately not as tasty and seems much more of exactly what it is: a restaurant's version of street food. The crispy exterior is very thin and flakey, the interior of beef or fish is of a good recipe, but like most crossovers, the experience is just not as satisfying, and definitely not as cared for.
A better option are the nems ($6.95, below), a barely altered Senegalese take on Vietnamese spring rolls that can also be found streetside or perhaps on the beach. They are even served with a spiced up nuoc mam.
The more fancy setting of La Galette makes it somewhat of a hub for Senegalese family events. A graduation party was finishing up as we waited between courses, and we overheard that another was on its way later.
I can rarely resist ordering a maffe ($13.95, below), which can be prepared with chicken but is much better with the lamb, as the server was not shy about sharing this information. While the lamb meat in this dish is indeed very nice, the peanut sauce is unfortunately a bit disappointing, somehow not as full in flavor as you might find in a steam table joint.
The yassa aux citrons ($13.95, below) is a delicious dish with a choice of chicken drumsticks or tilapia, quite a strange pairing. We went for the chicken, and the dish was an amazing version of the yassa poulet I had the chance of trying many times in Senegal. The sauce has a nice lemon kick with its stew of onions and mildly spicy marinade.
They will put a very small portion of hot sauce on the table, but be careful with this, as it's severely hot and anything larger than a small point of it will bring tears to your eyes. I think it is meant to be spread through a sauce if you wanted to add more kick to it, but definitely not eaten in quantity.
For something much cooler, try a glass of bisap ($2.99) which I thought was a beautiful rendition of one of the most popular drinks in West Africa. It is darker and more intense that you will usually find, and thoroughly refreshing.
177 East 100th Street, New York NY