Most West African food in the city, and particularly in the Bronx, is hard to pin down for the casual eater. An awning usually says "African Restaurant" and the windows are often reflective or darkened making it hard to peer inside. While here in Morrisania, Bognan does indeed use blinds to block out the world even at night, they at least add the word "West" to their description, somewhat refreshing.
When I asked the friendly owner about the food, he first asked me "Parlez vous francais?" and went on to say it was Ghanaian, a country that uses English. As I readied my next question, he added "and Togo." This makes more sense, as French is the official language of this tiny neighbor of Ghana. He and his sister who run the place are from Togo, and the cuisine does indeed share much in common with Ghana, a country and cuisine that New Yorkers might be more familiar with.
A large wall poster shows what might be produced by the kitchen, but make sure to ask what is ready on any particular day and a series of numbers will be thrown your way, giving plenty of options even for a group.
I was walking around the area on the day I met some friends here and stopped in early to make sure everything was open and ready since I was asking a lot of people to come up this far. When I came back around 8pm, the gate was almost closed but he was still ready and expecting us, thankfully.
The peanut butter soup ($12, above) by default comes with emotuo, a rice ball that is slightly easier to manage than fufu. Since you are supposed to be eating West African with your hands, sometimes these soups can be somewhat challenging. (For a crash course, go here). They did put plastic forks and spoons on all our trays, but also brought bowls of water for washing our hands, letting us decide how to eat.
A popular selection amongst our group was the fufu with goat meat and okra ($12, below), a rich bowl of fatty goat that used the vegetable more as a garnish than as a filler. Three in our group ordered this and when we left, their bowls were all empty.
A plate of jollof rice and meat ($12, below) was shared by two, a good decision because of the enormity of the platter, which also comes with spaghetti and egg. The meat is stewed and accompanied by the dark black pepper sauce that should be used with caution. This type of rice, ubiquitous in West Africa, is done very well at Bognan.
As we were all completely stuffed, another plate came out on the house. The owner wanted us all to try the awaakye ($12, below), a popular Ghanaian dish named for the rice and beans cooked together. On the menu it is shown with fish and beef, but we also found a chicken leg amongst the stewed meats.
Ghanaian food in the Bronx can be found slightly easier and closer to subway lines, but for those thirsting for an adventure to a different country, Bognan International Corp. is providing friendly tours through the cuisine of Togo as well.