Notes by Tamara Palmer, Photos by Tim Pratt
Radio Africa & Kitchen is a self-proclaimed "nomadic restaurant" from Chef Eskender Aseged hosted by Coffee Bar in Potrero Hill on Thursday and Friday nights. Aseged is self-taught and credits a combination of growing up in Ethiopia, traveling extensively through Africa and Europe (particularly countries along the Mediterranean and Red Sea) and observing the chefs while working as a waiter at San Francisco institutions such as Campton Place and Boulevard as key inspirations for his eclectic, world-wise style. He offers a different menu each week as a DJ spins grooves from the continent. A recent visit there found flavorful and colorful plates, unfussy dishes that made a strong impression.
While eating communally is encouraged here, we didn't end up having anyone else seated at our table (but welcomed the idea). We started with some edamame hummus with argan oil and Tartine bread, a zingy twist on the original spread, and then ordered all five of the mezze dishes (a good deal at $6 each or $25 for all). Seared ahi tuna with garbanzo beans, radishes and preserved lemon arrived paired with the shrimp and chicken paella salad with wild rice and currants, while French lentils with roasted beets and goat cheese shared a plate with a mushroom and spinach tortilla with romescu sauce. Arugula salad with avocado, fennel and sumac showed up stag.
It was remarked that the pumpkin soup with ginger and Buddha's hand citron was clearly made with love.
The main course of slow cooked Alaskan wild halibut with pistachio essence, Ethiopian broccoli and potato alicha came out with the fish cooked to a deliciously juicy texture, the potatoes only a bit bland by comparison (but I'd always opt for that over something overthought or over-sauced).
To get into the spirit for a visit, Stanford University has a nice list of African radio broadcasts to listen to online. Also take a look at No Condition is Permanent, a blog maintained by local writer/sound editor Richard Henderson that often offers an informed take on rare African beats.
Radio Africa & Kitchen takes place on Thursday and Friday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. at Coffee Bar, 1890 Bryant Street (entrance on Mariposa at Florida), and also hosts private events at aMuse Gallery (614 Alabama at 18th St.) and Sweet Adeline Bakery (3350 Adeline at 63rd Street, Berkeley); 420-2486.