>> M.B. Restaurant (Mamdou Barry) | Eat the World NYC

09 May 2017

M.B. Restaurant (Mamdou Barry)


One of the highlights of dining here recently was a young girl who came in with her father and pointed to a few things on the steam table, desiring them all. He cautioned her repeatedly that she would not, a conversation working in reverse of the usual arguments with small children and food. What a gem she was, insisting to try something new, most likely wanting to eat the foods of her grandparents as she was at least second generation.

This all came after figuring out for myself how the place worked. Nothing is self-explanatory here, even the awning which lists "M. B. Restaurant Corp." as the name. This, and the possible name of Mamdou Barry are alternatively listed on all of those data websites that are useless. There was no business card or menu.

If you have a similar experience here, walking in will be greeted by apathy, someone may glance at you, but no direction will be offered. Early in the afternoon on a Sunday the steam table was not nearly full, creating a bit of hesitation, but I grabbed a bissap juice ($2.50) from the fridge, sat down, and tried to figure out the next step.

On top of the steam table was every size of every type of container you have ever seen. This is the first clue that you handle portioning and selection on your own, and this was confirmed with a woman who appeared to work here. After filling up your plate(s) with everything you want to eat, take it to the register to get weighed and pay. If you come in here and wait for someone to tell you what to do, you will wait for a very long time, so take it upon yourself to follow the system.

When paying, an inquiry about the chef's home country first received "Chef's not here" then "West Africa" before finally cutting through to Guinea. It seemed that further questioning would have only made this man more upset, so I paid $7 for the plate I put together and sat down. Before knowing, my guess was that the chef was from Senegal, so I made a plate of what came closest to thiebou djeun, the fish dish best known there.

Unfortunately the piece of fried fish I took was in the fryer a bit too long, but the very fresh rice and stewed vegetables were good. I also put some stewed spinach on the plate, which was delicious.

It is an interesting experience to fill your own plate at a West African restaurant, because at other places even the small sizes are usually gigantic, leaving no opportunity to try multiple things when dining alone. Once the large starch portion of rice or fufu is added, forget about it. Some of the stews may be hard to mix here, but theoretically you could separate everything on multiple containers and enjoy a lot of different things. A large group could put together an amazing spread.

One large container of incredibly spicy pepper sauce (above) made its way from table to table as customers came in for takeout and eating in. Given how dangerous this stuff is, I would have guessed the container would last for at least a week. After I added a few drops, another customer added two healthy spoonfuls to his dish and wrecked my theory. I take my food spicy, but West Africans do not mess around.

It appeared that a lot of the clientele here were livery cab drivers from the area, a neighborhood at a crossroads of South Asian, West African, and African American populations.

There were bitter leaf stews, mafe, and some unidentified soups I had no experience with to choose from. By the time I left a few more dishes came out as the kitchen seemed very busy and was obviously expecting more action later in the afternoon.

Besides food, the shop seemed to handle money exchange and check cashing for its customers, a community center of sorts for West Africans. Come in at the right time and you might find yourself in the middle of a political conversation or gossip between the neighborhood's men.

Mamdou Barry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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