After writing for an hour yesterday, I was starving. I drove home to find every stew in the freezer and anything to go with it in its raw state; yam was raw, rice also raw and no kenkey in sight. Stomach grumbling i drove out to look for food. But my search for food didn’t want to include anything continental, I was revved up for a local dish.
As i drove along the bustling streets of Osu, I remembered my friends Joe and Klenam eating out at an attieke place on Friday night. I quickly telegrammed Klenam on the directions only for him to come back and ask me to come to Chase restaurant. Dude I am in a local chow mood, I texted back. He didn’t respond again.
Another bulb went out in my head as I vaguely remembered another friend, Guud Kelly putting up a photo of Banku and Tilapia on his Facebook timeline and he mentioned the place he was at in my query of the location. In my time travel mode in an attempt to remember the directions, I drove to Buka restaurant and look around. And looked around, and drove some more looking around. The NPP congress results were being announced for each region and that was the only company I had on my food search. I finally gave up and called him only for him to tell me it was a street after the Old American Embassy, on the untarred road. Ah but I have gone on that road like twice! So I went back again looking for a container with the name Chez Clarisse. No Chez anything and no sign with Clarisse either. My hunger was now a simmered growl. I was so looking forward to some local french food!
Just as I was about to give up, I decided to check on the next road where Befa Rock was also located. As I turned right, my movement was halted by the sight of a pure water delivery truck with its tire stuck in a larger than usual gutter grate. I sighed and went to park at another junction. As I walked, I studied every shop and building of a signboard with Clarisse. Hunger wasn’t allowing me to walk fast and I am positive I looked like i was lost as i peered at each house and shop.
I was getting close to the end of the road and to another junction, when I decided to give up my search and just buy Ga Kenkey. Something told me to take a few more steps before turning back. I did and then there in the distance was an almost faded signboard with Clarrisse in its name. It didn’t say Chez Clarisse, rather Restaurant Chez Clarisse Mama Africa and it definitely wasn’t on the road after the Old American Embassy. Men and their directions! I had checked foursquare earlier and found nothing on Chez Clarisse but when I got there I checked for the name it was Mama Africa on the app. What confusion is this?
So here I was at Clarisse Mama Africa and I was ready to be fed! The lady at the counter shyly said hello. I decided not to ask for a menu and rather asked for what was available. Banku, Tilapia, Attieke, Aloko (fried plantain) and Chicken came the reply. I haven’t had Attieke before and what better place to eat this than at a proper local Ivorian restaurant.
The decor was sparse with only basics of tables and chairs and a straw roof still under construction sheltering the eatery. I wasn’t expecting exceptional service just good food.
Finally, the food arrived. Thank God it was hot. In this time of cholera, I wasn’t in the mood for cold or lukewarm food. I stared at the display before me and wondered if i was being challenged by the restauranteurs on my eating capability. Where was I going to put all this food? How is it even eaten, I asked myself as I stared at the attieke in one bowl and the vegetable sauce covered tilapia in another. Well, challenge accepted.
I first put a bit of sauce on the attieke and ate like I was eating rice and stew with few bites of the tilapia. That was stressful so i poured the steamed grated cassava meal on the tilapia. That seemed to work! I got a few straws falling from the uncompleted rooftop into my meal and naturally picked them off and continued eating. A hungry woman is a don’t care woman. The fish was fresh and well spiced and went down really well with the vegetable sauce ( or perhaps onion sauce as that seemed to be the main vegetable) and the attieke wasn't too dry either.
Attieke is a popular local dish from the south of Cote d’Ivoire and made from grated cassava which is steamed and served with vegetable sauce with fish or chicken. I found its similarity to couscous quite comforting, a distant cousin of the Mediterranean meal probably. There are many recipes for Attieke and I can’t wait to try out a few.
Man, i was so full and the tilapia was too big for the price i was paying. GHC 23 for all this? As i picked my way through the well seasoned tilapia, two ladies walked in and ordered the same meal. I was thunderstruck as I watched them eat with their fingers! Ah! So i could have eaten this like Banku? Lesson one! There was a french couple sitting behind me and their conversation often drifted to where I was. The two ladies were Ghanaians and their shopping bags showed what they had been up to before getting hungry. Ghanaians have pretty much adopted other African dishes as quickly as they have taken to Nigerian music, fashion and movies. We are that versatile in copying other lifestyles. The waitress walked to them with two bowls of fried plantain which I later learnt was called Aloko which in Ghana is called kelewele. Is it an accompaniment? I seriously doubt I would have been able to finish what I had in addition to a bowl of Aloko
The meal was delicious! I wouldn’t mind going there again for something new from Cote d’Ivoire. There are more African restaurants opening in Accra, whether upscale like Buka Restaurant, Tante Marie or street corner restaurants like Mama Africa, bringing food diversity to the city.
By now you should know I am not a pro-Tilapia eating woman.
I asked a rather sullen restaurant owner for the card and Clarisse who seemed to be having a bad day dug one out of her purse without so much as ask me if the food was good. Ah well, I wasn’t expecting anything less.