Dakar is a Sengalese tasting menu highlighting seafood from local waters and produce form Southern Louisiana farmers. Chef Serigne Mbaye presents a menu inspired by his childhood in Senegal, where his mother taught him to cook. He has garnered additional experience in kitchens at Atelier Crenn, Joel Robuchon and Commander’s Palace, to name a few and was a finalist in the James Beard award for Emerging Chef. Many Africans came to Louisiana during slave trade times and his multi-course tasting menu pays homage their traditions while incorporating the flavors of New Orleans cuisine. He operated as a pop-up called Dakar NOLA for a couple of years before opening the permanent location in November 2022. It’s a one-room older home with a tasteful modern decor inside. There are 2 communal tables and several smaller individual ones. You designate a preference when you make your reservation. They have yet to obtain a liquor license so for now it is BYOB, but there are 2 stores close by where we had time to run and get a bottle of wine. The people there were familiar enough with the menu to make recommendations. Lighting is lowered, windows are open to the street scenes outside and before the meal they come around and wash everyone’s hands. It was not only very tasty food, it was a fun evening to visit with other adventurous eaters. Chef Mbaye spoke before the tasting started (a menu is on the table) and after it was over. He is young, charming and very talented. Go if you can!
Ataya was a Senegalese tea made with green tea, ginger and mint. It is supposed to stimulate the appetite and boost energy. It was slightly spicy and foamy on top. Very nice.
“Let us Break Bread” was Mburu and palm butter. The rolls came out attached and we pulled one off as it went around the table. It was a puffy dough with a touch of spice and a sweet butter made from palm oil. It was very good and served warm but the problem was there was only one butter knife for the table and that made some challenges.
Last Meal was made with black-eyed peas, crab meat and palm oil. It was his version of what the enslaved Africans were fed before they were brought to be sold. Its purpose was to fatten them up to get a higher price. This was a thick ‘soup’ and our version had lots of sweet crab meat in it and was topped with some crispy rice. The black-eyed peas were well blended into the base. This was a bowl of flavor and texture that was really lovely.
Fonio Salad was made with West African millet, citrus, beets, and lemon vinaigrette. Watermelon radish gave it a ton of color and some smoked trout roe added another dimension of flavor. I found cheese, cabbage, yellow beets, grapefruit and orange bits in the mixture. It was very well seasoned with the vinaigrette and interestingly nothing really dominated in the flavor profile. It all simply blended into fresh textures and flavors.
Parce Que contained Gulf shrimp, cabbage and tamarind. These shrimp were large and cooked perfectly with an outstanding sauce. Again everything melded into a wonderful flavor.
The Rice Connection was were Dakar meets NOLA and it was served with the fish and carrots. Two sauces were on the table, one green and mostly garlic and the darker one mostly habenero. Both were nice but I preferred the darker one as it added more intensity to the dishes but you needed to work into it carefully. The rice was served family style with a couple large bowls of it on the table. It was well seasoned and managed to get a nice crisp to the rice on the edges of the pot. It nicely completed the other plates.
Gulf Fish a la Senegaliaise was made with red fish (rather than the snapper on the menu) and served with heirloom carrots and Senegalese mustard sauce. Again the fish was cooked perfectly, keeping it absolutely moist with a touch of crispness in the skin. A yuzu sauce was delicious with it and was nice with the rice too. The heirloom carrots were another family-style presentation and a huge pile of all colors of carrots. I can’t say I noticed a difference in the color’s tastes but they were very nice and it always feels healthy to have ample vegetables to go with a meal.
A citrus sorbet was on top of a meringue as a palate cleanser. The delicate and chewy meringue was made in-house and very sweet. A perfect pairing with the tart satsuma and hibiscus sorbet. Yummy.
Ponchatoula contained strawberry, sponge cake and cafe touba ice cream. The tuile was in the shape of Africa. The cake was light and the strawberry flavor was nicely pronounced. A bit of coffee in the ice cream made for good contrast and some green powder was sprinkled on it but I missed what it was made from. Either way it was a tasty way to close out the meal.
Each guest was sent home with a little Madeleine shaped cake that had a nice crisp to the edge and some crunchy grains inside. It was great even a few days later.