When Ethiopian eatery Bunna settled itself on Flushing Avenue, long lines followed. Intrigued culinary tourists should be glad to know that it is not Bushwick’s only culinary representation of the continent and, in fact, lately, a number of West African restaurant have sprung up on the other side of Bushwick.
Paradis Des Gouts
Among the most notable of these is Paradis Des Gouts, whose owner, Cheick Cisse, had navigated to the border of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy after sometime working at a small Harlem restaurant called Ivoire and later running a place called New Ivoire (Cisse hails from Côte d’Ivoire). Moving southward, she took over the space of another small Ivorian eatery called Abidjan, affixed the more creative shingle—which translates to “Paradise of Taste” and imported also an air that feels loud, brash and uptown.
Under yellow, flickering lights, Cisse has attached a large and detailed political map of the African continent, which is hung on the wall next to framed masks and ornate reliefs, spaced minimally apart. A channel of loud music videos play on an endless loop from a hanging screen. In one video, bright colors, talented dancers, and luxury automobiles pulsate celebratorily. The effect is passively mesmerizing without feeling ornamental or chic.
The menu is just as varied. Two whole pages and a colorful laminated inlet describe extensive offerings. Helpfully, one is divided into days of the week with a list of stews available on each day. Peanut Butter & Okra Stew with Beef. Red or white jollof rice on alternating days of the week. A spread of bright grain-yellow couscous. And so on. These can be combined with a variety of bases, which are listed on the lower right.
In their own glowing review, the New York Times calls the restaurant’s foutou banane “essential to the table,” so one would be remiss without, at some point in their lives, going for an order of the thick, tubular plain-tasting plantain paste made for gently dabbing or dipping into the selected stew.
The flavors are wild, oily, and rich, and the curious or unsure are recommended to sample around, as if in an eccentric ice cream shop, before committing. The eggplant beef, for instance, is thick and comforting and brings to mind a long-stewing chili. The mentioned mix of peanut and okra has a kind of heavy, tangy aftertaste that can hardly be found in any other cuisine. These all go for about $12 a plate and are incredibly filling. If room persists for a side, their bowl of sweet plantains is to die for.
They operate 11 a.m. to midnight daily.
Small similarities can be found a few countries and a half mile over at Hill’s Kitchen, a Nigerian restaurant that opened in February on the ring of Maria Hernandez Park and is operated by Hillary Uduh and his cousins after they used to operate a restaurant with the very same name in Anambra, Nigeria. After a few years in the States, he thought it was time to see what wonders their old menu could do in Bushwick.
The set-up is more minimal and chaste (CNN plays undulating in lieu of the pulsating Ivorian zouglo; crisp black and white photos decorate the walls instead of masks) and the menu is small enough to fit into a single sheet. But minimally described dishes are no less wonders, even if they go for $15 here instead of $12. The jollof rice is more subtle, maybe better. For the more culinarily curious, the menu boasts snails as well as gizzard.
The beverage selection offers similar, smaller discoveries. Zobo, a dark blood-red drink made from hibiscus flowers that Eduro pours into suddenly ominous plastic cups, is bitterly satisfying and worth drinking slowly. Ditto the luminous green bottles of palm wine that Hills also sells, which complements an especially tender cut of goat or pork.
They operate 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Image courtesy of author.
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