Where to Find the Best African Food in Paris, According to the African Diaspora

Chicken Yassa, by Karimovitch. Republished with his permission.

The African community has a healthy presence in Paris, and you needn't look any further for proof than the city's wide array of gourmet restaurants serving African cuisine. In the coming months, Global Voices will be bringing you reviews of the best African restaurants in the Paris region, tried and tested by natives, as well as those discovering African food for the first time.

We'll start off with the city's most popular restaurants and their signature dishes. Without further ado, here's a list of the best spots in the Paris region to experience authentic African cuisine:

Senegal: Le Waly-Fay, Paris 11

The Waly-Fay is the epitome of the cuisine in Senegal — a country famous for its teranga (hospitality). In this cozy atmosphere, you'll find a range of traditional West African dishes: accra, maafe, thiep, yassa, n'dole, and so on.

Blogger Dje S, from Senegal, writes:

Installés rapidement, on découvre le cadre très agréable, ambiance tamisée, un bar central , des miroirs en pied, pas de déco tape à l'oeil. Ça commence bien!
J'ai craqué pour un soya en entrée  (3 brochettes de boeuf mariné et chapelure de semoule de manioc) c'était délicieux avec sa sauce moutarde à côté, j'ai pu aussi goûter les pastels poissons ainsi que l'alloco , bien mûres et sucrées.

You settle in quickly and notice the very pleasant, soft lighting, a central bar, full length mirrors, and no flashy decor. A great start! I fell in love with a soya starter (3 marinated beef skewers and cassava semolina breadcrumbs) it was delicious with its side of mustard sauce, I also tasted the fish pastels as well as the alloco which was very ripe and sweet.

Cameroon: Rio dos camaraos, Montreuil

Ndole with beef, very bitter spinach variety with fresh peanuts – via riodos.fr

The restaurant Rio dos Camaraos was created 15 years ago by Alexandre and Vicky Bella Ola to celebrate the traditional recipes of black Africa. Alexandre explains:

la Cuisine d’Afrique Noire est absente du paysage culinaire mondial. Nous sommes encore nombreux et cela quelque soit la couleur de notre peau, à croire que le meilleur et authentique mafé ne se mange qu’au Mali…Pour moi, la cuisine est comme la musique : une partition musicale peut s’interpréter par n’importe quel musicien de mille et une façons.

Black African cuisine is absent from the global culinary landscape. There are still many of us, regardless of skin color, who believe that the best and most authentic maafe can only be found in Mali … For me, cooking is like music: a musical score can be interpreted by any musician in a thousand and one ways.

The Ndolé is the Cameroonian dish at the Rios. Mi Cbou from Yaoundé explains why she particularly loved this place:

J'ai retrouvé les goûts typiques de la cuisine africaine déjà dégustée en Cote d'Ivoire et au Sénégal, avec la même variété de plats.En plus, accueil très chaleureux de la propriétaire des lieux. Le Ndolé, servi avec des plantains frits, est excellent.

I rediscovered all the classic tastes of African cuisine I had already tried in the Ivory Coast and Senegal, with the same range of dishes. What's more, I received a very warm welcome from the owner of the place. The Ndole, served with fried plantains, is excellent.

Niger: African Kitchen Paris, Paris 11

A Franco-Nigerian lounge restaurant located in the heart of Paris, African Kitchen Paris was created on February 1, 2012. Nigerian cuisine rarely receives praise abroad, but this restaurant wants to right that wrong. Sylvie D wasn't familiar with Nigerian gastronomy, but she discovered it with great pleasure:

C'est vraiment dépaysant. Des plats classés par sauce, avec le choix des viandes: poulet, boeuf, mais aussi tripes, pied de boeuf et chèvre.
J'ai testé une sauce à base d'épinards et crevettes, avec de la chèvre: un régal.

It is truly exotic. Dishes categorized by sauce, with a choice of meat: chicken, beef, but also tripe, ox, and goat feet. I tried a sauce made with spinach and shrimp paired with goat — a real treat.

Mali: Le Snack de Bamako, Saint Ouen

Unlike the other places featured, the Snack Bamako is not a restaurant but a fast food outlet where Mama Bintou welcomes you with a smile. Traditional dishes from Mali and all over West Africa are served at affordable prices: Maafe, Tieb, Yassa, brique, grilled chicken, and Alloco.

Madagascar: Le Lémurien, Montrouge

A five-minute walk from the Porte d'Orléans, this little restaurant has been paying homage to the little Lemur for many years, but also to the cuisine of this island, which is not well represented in Paris.

Peggy D was a fan:

Le poisson au Coco était bon juste épicé comme il faut. La tarte coco qui est plutôt un financier coco avec une boule de glace coco pas mal du tout. Accueil sympathique. J'y retournerais pour goûter un rougail saucisses.

The coconut fish was good with just the right amount of spice. The coconut pie, which is rather like a coconut financier with a coco ice ball, was not bad at all. Friendly welcome. Would go back for a sausage rougail.

Elodie Rabenja, of Malagasy origin, also approved:
Les odeurs, des sons malgaches, des éléments de décors captivants. Pour une soirée en amoureux ou avec des amis. Le lieu se prête à sortir d'un cadre “usine” où tout le monde court et où vous n'êtes qu'un “client”. On en oublie le temps qui passe. Points positifs : Nourriture excellente, les vrais saveurs authentiques des plats malgaches.

Smells and sounds of Madagascar. Captivating decorations. For a romantic meal or an evening with friends. The place lends itself to a “factory” setting where everyone is equal and where you aren't just another “customer.” You can easily lose track of time here. Pros: excellent food and real authentic flavors of Malagasy dishes.

In the next installment of this series, we'll include a more detailed review of each of these restaurants by members of the African diaspora.

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