Teranga terrific

TERANGA (159 Augusta, at Dundas, 416-849-9777) Complete dinners for $30 per person (lunches $25), including all taxes, tip and a baobab cocktail. Average main $15/$12. Open Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday noon to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday noon to 2 am. Closed Monday. Licensed. Cash only. Access: 20 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN

Teranga, the latest addition to Kensington Market’s crazy culinary quilt, has a lot of good things going for it.

Not only is it Toronto’s sole Senegalese restaurant and thus automatically a dining destination, but it’s also located directly across the street from the Boat, the Portuguese dive that miraculously morphed into one of downtown’s most popular hipster haunts. Plus, it’s huge, the kitchen stays open till 2 am on weekends, and it’s licensed. Sounds like a licence to print money to me.

Owner/chef Amidou Goudiaby’s menu of West African grub is often very good, too, just not very green. Here, broccoli is strictly byob. Order thiebou djeun ($19.95), Senegal’s national dish, and get a massive pile of tomato-flavoured short-grain rice topped with a humongous chunk of carrot, another of woody cassava, a wilted leaf of winter cabbage and a meaty slab of grouper. The only green on view is the minced parsley stuffing under the fish.

Maffe ($12.95) sees tender cubes of nearly deboned beef and the occasional carrot in a light tomato sauce sided with rice, couscous or an amorphous blob of sticky cassava fufu (think deflated soccer ball). File soup kandja ($17.95 with rice) under acquired tastes. More stew than soup, it finds on-the-bone pieces of lamb slow-braised in a fishy and slightly sour palm oil sauce thick with chopped okra.

The uninitiated should probably start with yassa chicken ($12.95), a grilled thigh and leg layered with lemony caramelized onion and whole cloves of garlic that have somehow managed to be neutered in the cooking process. And much too much rice. Add the tiniest bit of the house’s fiery hot sauce and you’ll have an inkling how the Flaming Lips got their name.

Speaking of music, do we really need to be subjected to a blaster tuned to E-Z Rock during dinner when there’s a stack of Youssou N’Dour and Baaba Maal CDs on the bar? Still, even Billy Freakin’ Joel goes down better after a second slice of sweet coconut cassava cake ($1.50) and a third baobab juice and vodka ($6).


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