Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taste Trippin' Part Six (Francais)



I've complained about Chicago's long, brutal winters but when it really grows unbearable, I just take off to the warmest place I can think of.  That would be Senegal, West Africa, by way of Chicago's only Senegalese restaurant, Yassa. Senegalese food mirrors the culture in general.  It's warm, colorful and very spicy.  Family run and oozing with welcome and graciousness, Yassa offers the perfect tropical escape.



With African tapestries and pictures on the wall and two rooms filled with wooden tables and chairs, Yassa feels like your favorite Senegalese aunt's living room, complete with music and tales of village exploits. I go to Yassa as much for the atmosphere as  I do the flavorful food.  Live bands play jazz or R&B and the expansive Gueye family floats about, waiting tables and supplying African anecdotes in free flowing French or Wolof.



And then there's the food.  Hearty doesn't even come close to explaining it.  Yassa's menu lists an authentic array of Senegalese specialties, from the eponymous yassa chicken cooked in lemon and mustard sauce, to the national dish of thiebu djeun (cheb u Jen), a mouth-watering display of a whole fried tilapia stuffed with parsley and  spices, cooked in tomato sauce and served over jollof rice, also cooked in tomato sauce, pictured above.  Carrots, cabbage and plantains accompany this tasty concoction. As you can see, the heaping portions are barely contained by the large platters.  I wash it down with glasses of bissap, the Senegalese version of my favorite sorrel or hibiscus drink, or creamy baobab juice.


Awa Gueye, one of Yassa's owners pictured above, is always laughing and smiling, displaying the joyful Senegalese spirit which makes the restaurant such a memorable experience.  This post is part of Wander Food Wednesdays.  Go check out some  of the other traveling cuisines.

15 comments:

Tiffany said...

The food looks great and I always love a restaurant that has great artwork too.

jen laceda said...

I have to find a Senegalese restaurant here in Toronto. I'm sure I have come across some, but never really paid attention to them! Although...there's an Angolan restaurant I always pass by on my way to work. I've been meaning to try Angolan food, as well.

Fly Girl said...

Tiffany, its the food and atmosphere that really stands out.

Jen, I don't know how many Senegalese are in Toronto, I know there's a large Ghanian population but if the Senegalese presence isn't big, you probably won't have a restaurant. Come visit in Chicago if you can't find it there!

everthenomad said...

Would love to check this out when I finally make it to Chicago! One of my favorite spots in Brooklyn is a tiny Senegalese bistro.

everthenomad said...

Now I know the resto to check out when I finally make it to Chicago! One of my favorite spots in Brooklyn is a tiny Senegalese bistro.

A Cuban In London said...

You know what? I wish I had read this post before I wrote mine about the Yassa dish, because I would have linked yours straight away. You have summed up excellently the spirit of Yassa, both dish and restaurant. This is will be my first stop in Chicago, if I ever visit it. In fact, I am in the middle of collecting a series of posts (a Greatest Hits for want of a better word :-D) to publish before I shoot off on holidays and I will re-post the one about Yassa with your own column linked to it. And that third photo top to bottom? All I can say is that you're a murderer. :-) You are. That was cruel.

Many thanks. I always enjoy your travel posts, but this one took me to a different level altogether.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Anja, you're lucky because NY has so many Senegalese places to choose from, the one I visited in Harlem was wonderful.

Cubano, thanks so much! I remember your yassa post and i would love a connection to it. Sorry to be mean, but you're always pushing your recipes and music in my face so now its my turn!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It looks like a real oasis in Chicago!

Fly Girl said...

Jean-Luc, an oasis indeed.

Wendy said...

Another yummy rec. In the hone stretch with evil winter...

Fly Girl said...

Wendy, evil, evil winter is indeed on its last legs!

Mary and Sean said...

I'm sure that restaurant is a perfect little escape on a cold wintry day! Art adorned limey green walls and wonderful spicy food, I love it!

Fly Girl said...

Mary, I love it too, in any season but it really helps me get through the winter.

Ekua said...

Wow, I just went to eat at my favorite (well the only one in SF) Senegalese restaurant this past weekend and wrote about it in my latest post! Seems like this restaurant has a similar atmosphere. I ordered a dish called Dibi, but my friend ordered Yassa. I tasted it and that was sooo good as well. I am already ready to go back ;)

Fly Girl said...

Ekua, great minds think alike! Dibi is good but yassa is fantastic! Glad we got to visit Senegal around the same time!