For this year’s NYC Restaurant Week To Go (January 25-February 28), I decided to sample Somali food in NYC. I was surprised to discover that the East African cuisine was not readily available. In fact, there may be only one Somali restaurant in the city: Safari in Harlem.
Fortunately, Safari was participating in NYC Restaurant Week. Owned by Mona Birjeeb and her husband, Shakib Farah, the eatery brings Somali cuisine to NYC. As Somalis are predominately Muslim, the meat is halal (slaughtered according to Islamic principles) and no alcohol is served at the restaurant.
|Address: 219 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026|
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 12PM-11PM
Service: Delivery, Takeout
Contact: (646) 964-4252, safariharlem.com
The restaurant offered a choice of one of three entrees for $20.21:
- Chicken suqaar with chapati (a thin flatbread) and a side of spiced tea;
- Mango curry with grits and a side of sambusa; or
- Roasted goat with rice and a side of Somali doughnuts.
While I have had the pleasure of eating Somali food courtesy of my friend in Minnesota, I am not particularly familiar with the cuisine. I love sambusa, a deep fried dough filled with spices, meat, and veggies. Somali black tea is also delicious, made with ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.
However, I ultimately decided on the goat entree as I was craving some meat. I ordered takeout on Grubhub and headed to Harlem. My order was available as soon as I arrived.
Tasting Somali Food in NYC
I dug into the Somali doughnuts first. The snack reminded me of Ghanaian bofrot. Known as mahamri, they were deep fried triangles with a hint of sweetness. I enjoyed the taste, but the texture left a little to be desired. The doughnuts were chewy, but a little tough.
Next, I tried the bariis, which was spiced basmati rice. The rice was reminiscent of Indian biryani in look and taste. This is understandable given the long trade history between the two countries. The rice was tasty, with the raisins and peppers adding a nice touch.
The only drawback was that there was a slight aftertaste of cardamom and cinammon. I drizzled the Bisbaas sauce, which tasted of chile and lime, on the rice. It added a wonderful acidity that balanced the sweetness of the grains.
I loved the spiciness of the lamb. It was not hard but I wish it was more tender; however, I also know that some African cuisines tend to cook their meat this way.
I was very pleased with my experience with Somali food in NYC. Safari in Harlem is a great restaurant to support, especially during NYC Restaurant Week. I got a nice portion for the price, and the flavors left me satisfied. 4 out of 5 STARS.
For more Black-owned restaurants in Harlem, check out my post on two great fast casual eateries!