Monday, August 03, 2009

Teranga, new Senegalese cuisine in Boston

On my birthday on May 30th we had an African pot-luck feast at our house, but a week later (just before I left for Jamaica) when I was in Cambridge, my great family surprised me by showering me with gifts, time and attention. One highlight was a trip to the newly opened Teranga, the first (or, as one reviewer said, the "first serious") Senegalese restaurant in Boston (1746 Washington St., at the corner of Mass Ave. and Washington St.) For details about the menu, more pictures, and warm endorsements of the restaurant, check out the July 29, 2009 reviews in The Boston Phoenix or The Boston Globe. Let me simply say we had a delightful evening, fun and tasty, and I learned about the Vietnamese links to Senegalese cuisine (e.g., spring rolls called nems).

I wish the vivacious, talented owner Marie-Claude Mendy all the best. One thing I appreciated about the restaurant was its contemporary feel and the tasteful emphasis on presentation and overall ambiance, all too often lacking in "chop bar" type restaurants. We were there just after it opened in May, and they were still gearing up (not all their equipment and serving dishes had arrived on time), but the atmosphere was cozy and friendly, and as the evening wore on the noise level rose accordingly. This was clearly the place to be the night we were there.

I have since learned that, just as a lot of Ethiopian restaurants have names like "Awash" or "Red Sea" or "Blue Nile," teranga, the Wolof word for hospitality, is a favorite for Senegalese restaurants. The reason is clear: Marie-Claude is not just serving up good food--she's also providing an inviting window into a culture that is little known in the U.S. Stop by if you have an urge for a flavorable glass of bissap (hibiscus drink) or bouyé juice (a creamy white baobab drink), or some other Senegalese standards, like mafe, thiebou djeun, or accra.

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