La Galette | 177 East 100th St. (at Lexington Ave.) | 212.410.6361

I DON'T TRAVEL much at all. But I love to watch—with envy—travel shows. Especially, of course, the food travel shows on the Travel Channel, hosted by people like Bourdain and Zimmern. And yet, I have, disappointingly, spent very little time traveling around my hometown, New York City, the erstwhile "melting pot" of the entire globe.

Especially when there are so many genuine, culturally indigenous areas of the city to enjoy some really great food. More surprising is when one of those places happens to be within short distance of my apartment. I've taken great advantage of such neighborhood landmarks such as the Heidelberg—serving traditional German fare for over a century—and have happily discovered new ones, like Ethiopian Restaurant.

Today, after a little research on Yelp!, I found out that their is a Senegalese restaurant just two LIMITED bus stops uptown, on 100th Street right off Lexington Avenue, called La Galette. It's a small, understatedly quaint spot, humbly adorned by kchtochkes and artifacts actually from Senegal, an African country that borders the Atlantic and boasts culturally diverse influences, mainly from France, Portugal, and North Africa.

Whenever I try out a new cuisine, I am of course prone to order the most indigenous items of the menu, usually identified by the dish names I have never seen or read before.

For starters, then I ordered two fish fatayas.

Everything on the menu—including fillings, sauces, and such—as proudly made in house by folks who grew up making this in their home country of Senegal, and that background and experience translates nicely into the food. Crispy, flaky, non-greasy fried dough pockets housed some nicely seasoned minced fish, and was accompanied by a hot sauce—more of a paste—that was richly layered with heat and spice.

Next, under SENEGALESE SPECIALS, it was a choice between a dish called yassa aux citrons (grilled chicken legs marinated and sautéed with lemon juice, onions, fresh herbs, and spices) or thiebou yapp, a seasoned rice dish with chopped, marinated lamb shoulder, onions, spices, and mixed vegetables. I chose the thiebou.

A plentiful and aromatic dish, this was another tasty winner. You could really taste the melange of flavor influences, a hint of mustard in the marinade, some sweeter spices—nutmeg maybe—mixing with spicier ones, and the barely-on-the-bone lamb, with its deeper but not gamier flavor, possessing the quality of imparting its leaner meat's flavor, as well as its fatty flavors (most meats really heavily on its fat content alone for flavor).

I had planned to take half of the thiebou home, but I couldn't stop eating it. I was lucky enough to "pair" it with two of their house-made Senegalese drinks. Once was a kind of fresh ginger version of lemonade; the other was something called bissap, which is a delicious hibiscus flower tea-infused sorrel juice that is served hot or over ice, as I had it.

The service could not have been kindlier, as my server, Khady, was friendly, attentive, courteous, informative as to the providence of the dishes and beverages she served me, and as pretty as her wide, sunny smile.

It was a great experience, a great trip uptown. And further proof that I can just as easily travel to exotic countries and enjoy their food and hospitality just as easily with a Metrocard—if not more so!—as I can with a passport.

Bun Apple Tea!


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La Galette | 177 East 100th St. (at Lexington Ave.) | 212.410.6361