Last Updated on Sunday, 04 September 2011 08:32
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
"Bennachin" is a Central African word for the dish we call jambalaya. The owners, who are respectively from Cameroon and Gambia, cook the food of their homelands--related to, but not to be confused with, African-American food. That said, it's not too far removed from what we ate growing up in New Orleans. Creole cuisine has a big African component.
WHY IT'S GOOD
As long as this place has bveen around, it has managed to prevent its food from tastling like that of just another New Orleans restaurant. Even the dishes that require a sense of adventure are kept in their time-honored African forms. Some of the textures are unique. Fu-fu, for example, is the African answer to mashed potatoes, made with true yams (not sweet potatoes). But it tastes a little different and feels a lot different in the mouth. On the other hand, it's hard not to like the namesake jambalaya, or any of the chicken or vegetarian specials. It all winds up being as delicious as it is interesting.
Alyse Njenge and Fanta Tambajang opened Bennachin in Fat City (of all places) in the early 1990s. (It was where Kanno is now.) The restaurant has moved around a bit over the years, to the Marigny for awhile and more lately to the downtown end of the French Quarter.
The surroundings are colorful but minimal, both in size and decor. It's possible to walk right in front of the restaurant's door without seeing it. The service is friendly and quick to make recommendations.
ESSENTIAL MENU [*=Recommended]
Doh-doh (fried sweet plantains).
Egusi soup (beef in ground melon seed sauce with spinach).
Bennachin (African jambalaya, with spinach).
Thiebujin (stuffed fish jambalaya).
Janga (shrimp and vegetables with couscous or rice).
Cope ni Cone (chicken, broccoli, rice).
Cope moutard (broiled chicken with mustard).
Yasa (chicken and cabbage couscous).
Nsouki Alyse (chicken, shrimp, and cashews in brown sauce with rice)
Okra stew (beef, okra, ginger,rice).
Bikai ni Curry (curry of eggplant, mushrooms, bean sprouts)
Bomok-chobi (whole baked trout).
Kembel-loppa (lamb, bell pepper, broccoli).
Fu-fu (fluffy, glutinous mashed yams).
FOR BEST RESULTS
This is a restaurant for those who want to try some new flavors--but not too exotic. They cook a lot of the food to order, so don't come in a hurry.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I think these people could raise their ambitions and prices notch or two and do even more business than they already do. It would allow them to use better fish than tilapia.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open some holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
"Bennachin" is a Central African word for the dish we call jambalaya. The owners, who are respectively from Cameroon and Gambia, cook the food of their homelands--related to, but not to be confused with, African-American food. That said, it's not too far from the kinds of stews and soups I ate growing up in New Orleans. Like much Creole home cooking, the food here tastes a lot better than it looks our sounds. Service and surroundings are honest but minimal.