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A few days ago, Tom and I met our friend Daniel for a repas dépaysant. (Roughly translated, this means “a meal that removes you from your own country.”) We often eat such meals with Daniel, and enjoy searching for restaurants that provide great food at low prices for these occasions.
For this dining experience, we selected a Senegalese restaurant named Porokhane in the 10th arrondissement. As it is located just off the rue Oberkampf, we were not surprised to find the neighborhood to be quite lively. The restaurant is only a couple of blocks away from the passage de Menilmontant, the street where we saw Almeta Speaks perform at the Ateliers du Chaudron in March.
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We arrived at 7:30 PM and found Daniel already waiting for us. Only one other table was occupied at that time, but the restaurant began to fill by the time we left. We were cordially greeted as we entered and were immediately ushered to our table. There was a long wait before the waitress came over to take our order, so we had plenty of time to discuss the different dishes on the menu. I told Tom and Daniel that the portions would likely be large, and said that I planned to order only starter and a main dish. Both of them opted for a main dish and a dessert.
I ordered aloco sauce – lightly fried plantains served atop a large lettuce leaf with a lightly spicy tomato and onion sauce in a small serving dish alongside. As I predicted, the serving was enormous! I invited Tom and Daniel to help me finish it, as there was no way that I could eat this entire tasty appetizer and hope to be able to eat my main course afterward. They obliged, and were happy that they did!
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For the main course, I selected Colombo de Cabri (goat stew). Tom chose Poisson Yassa (fish marinated with lemon juice and smothered in onions) and Daniel chose Poulet Yassa (chicken marinated with lemon juice and smothered in onions). Each dish was served with a large mound of tender, white rice, and the server was sure to place a small dish of the obligatory hot pepper sauce condiment on the table before leaving us to savor our meal.
While Yassa is a traditional Senegalese preparation, Colombo is known to be from the French Caribbean. I love Yassa, but I selected the Colombo because it is rare to find goat on the menu at restaurants other than Caribbean ones. The gravy (called sauce in French) was a bit grainy in texture, but both meat and gravy were bursting with flavor. Tom and Daniel both consumed their Yassa with gusto and declared that they were completely satisfied with their meals. After helping me with the aloco and devouring their main dishes, neither of them could find room for dessert!
As beverages, I selected a punch baobab to accompany my appetizer and a punch tamarind to accompany my main dish. I had never tasted either before, and found them to be somewhat similar in flavor. Though each was supposed to contain alcohol, I could not detect any in either drink. Tom and Daniel split a Senegalese beer called La Gazelle, and said that they liked its flavor.
We enjoyed live music – singing and acoustic guitar – by Senegalese artist Malick during our meal. We plan to return to the restaurant to purchase one of his CDs.
The décor of the restaurant is not anything special, with the exception of the paintings by Senegal’s Souleymane Ndiaye that grace the walls. In fact, you could say that it is a tad “run down.” We also found the dining room to be quite dark with (no candles or “mood lighting”, so it is advisable to sit next to the windows if possible. The service was slow, though friendly. However, the food was beyond reproach!
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3, rue Moret
Metro: Saint-Maur (Line 3), Menilmontant (Line 2), Couronnes (Line 2)
Hours: 7 PM to 1 AM from Monday through Sunday. Closed for lunch.
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