I recently wrote a piece on exploring African restos in Paris for Vingt Paris Magazine, at the end of which I declare the next destination on my hit list to be Moussa L’Africain at Porte de la Villette.
I don’t know why I waited so long to go, but I’m delighted to reveal that it was well worth the wait! Eager to hear the weekly live Saba Saba Orchestra, we booked for a Sunday evening and arrived as the band were warming up.
We started off at a table right next to the stage, but soon realising that we’d have to holler the conversation over heavy percussion and bass, we moved to a calmer spot at the front of the main restaurant. This turned out to be a stroke of luck as Moussa proposes 2 different dinner menus – diners in the main restaurant receive the full menu, while a more condensed version is issued to guests that come to hear the band.
With a few recommendations from our lovely Côte d’Ivoire waitress, we ordered a variety of dishes from Mali, Cameroon and Senegal. We started with spicy beef skewers, which in Nigeria we call suya – flame-grilled pieces of meat rubbed with an aromatic chilli powder. It may be a few years since I was last in Nigeria, but Moussa’s skewers tasted just as delicious and authentic as the suya I used to buy wrapped in newspaper from roadside vendors in Lagos.
Whereas I’ve grown up on West African cuisine, for my Australian chum Jane, this was a novel experience. As it turns out, the fact of being a novice or a connoisseur is quite irrelevant at Moussa L’Africain – we were both blown away by each fragrant clay pot dish that arrived.
Ndolé was perhaps my favourite – largely because it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. It’s a speciality from Cameroon in which spinach, bitter leaf and peanuts are blended into a thick, almost creamy stew.
We also tried the national dish of Senegal, Tiep Bon Dienn & riz wolof. It is a rice and white fish stew prepared with cassava root, carrot, African aubergine and fresh tomato – which gives the rice a red tint. It comes with a side of aloko, which is slices of fried plantain (a kind of savoury banana).
This maffé is a traditional dish from Mali and West Africa. It is made with peanut paste, stewed cabbage leaves, carrots and chunks of succulent smoked chicken.
After our meal, we relocated to the main stage room with a Flag (Côte d’Ivoire) beer in hand, and joined crowds of high-spirited locals amid the Saba Saba. A perfect way to spend a Sunday evening.
Moussa L’Africain – 27 Avenue Corentin Cariou 75019 Paris * Métro – Porte de la Villette
- Starters – between €6 and €12
- Mains – between €17 and €25
- They also do a selection of lunch menus for €9.50, €13.50 and €17.50
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Be Your Man by Dipo