Le Baobab Restaurant
120 West 116th Street between Lenox and 7th Avenue
$25 for two, without drinks, without tip
Named after the “upside-down tree” native to Madagascar, this Senagalese restaurant is one of the many African restaurants in Harlem serving whole fried fish for less than $12. We ordered one with a bowl of lamb curry and Senegalese couscous. The lamb curry had a nutty taste to it instead of the coconut milk I’m used to and it was made better by the white rice that came with the fish. The couscous had such an overwhelming texture I couldn’t really eat it with a thick sauce so I ate it with the fried fish and the hot salsa they gave us.
We walked in looking forward to eating a simple dinner but we came out with a whole new view of Harlem. A stream of people–women wearing exquisite fabrics, brilliant swatches of cloth knotted in bandanas and men in lose tunics–stopped by to talk, laugh and argue with the other patrons while we ate. We felt like we were in someone’s house in Africa but no one treated us as if we didn’t belong in there.