If I said to you ‘Let’s go for African food?’ Would you know what to expect? No?! Me either which was why I was very excited when RoccoG over on Yelp suggested that for the latest installment of our Yelp International Food Night we would venture to the wilds of African to tantalize our taste buds…well not really we actually ventured to Calabash on Union Street but our taste buds we were in Serengeti!
I wouldn’t be surprised if you walk down Union Street every day and had no idea that there is a African restaurant located there. It is basically just a door with a small sign above it. Once through the door you descend down the zebra wallpaper lined staircase into the fairly large restaurant. Decor wise there are simple tables and chairs, with it being in the basement there is no natural light and the ceilings are pretty low. They also have the crackliest sound system in the world and the music was pretty loud which was annoying, bizarrely there was also TV’s showing a music channels on silent mode? I would describe it as basic but comfortable enough.
We were shown to our table by the lovely waiter where a few of the other yelpers were already waiting and we immediately set about discovering what treats could be found on the menu. As a little side note don’t be alarmed if random customers who are in to eat come up to your table and take the menu to read themselves if it is closed, as this must have happened to us about 3 times!
The menu held some adventurous dishes including Isi Ewu which is slowly boiled Goat head with a blend of African herbs & spices or how about Borewors a flame-grilled African Sausage served with the special Calabash sauce & salad. I am afraid I wasn’t brave enough to try either of these but I did get to try a few fun things.
To start with I chose the Lamb Samosas these were fantastic deep-fried thin pastry parcels which were filled with seasoned lamb and came served with lemon wedges. It was a generous serving of 3 samosa of which I only managed to eat 2. The pastry was light, buttery and melted in the mouth and the meat was succulent and tasty – an excellent first dish.
For my main I wanted to try the Samaki which is a grilled fresh water tilapia fish. However as soon as the lovely waiter told me it came as a whole fish eyeballs and all that was immediately changed to my second choice which was the jerk chicken. Yeah I am a chicken but eyeballs on a plate are a serious no-no to me.
The Jerk Chicken was described on the menu as a ¼ Chicken portion lovingly marinated in jerk spices & grilled to perfection served with Caribbean rice & peas. What arrived was 2 pieces of gorgeously flavoured chicken which had a bit of a lemon taste. The rice portion can only be described as mammoth and was peppered full of beans, onions and peppers – it was so good and a meal in its self. A really fantastic dish which I didn’t even come close to finishing.
For sides we choice Cassava chips, this is a root vegetable which was slightly bitter but really delicious when you dipped it in the accompanying sauce. I was desperate to try the Plantain which is deep-fried African semi-ripe bananas, this was probably my favourite part of the meal cause it had this seriously lovely savoury/sweet thing going on which I adore. We also got a side of chips which impressively were hand-cut fresh chips when in all honesty I half expected frozen.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from African cuisine but all in all I was pretty happy with my choices and definitely think I choose wisely. If you are feeling adventurous I think a jaunt to Africa might be just the thing for you.