Author Archives: Jill

Taste of Zanzibar


CLOSED

Cuisine: Tanzanian / East African

3322 Morse Road
614.476.1843

Open
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 11:30 am – 9:00 pm
(Closed Tuesday)
Saturday 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Click here to map it!

Telly, the owner and operator of Taste of Zanzibar, is not too shy to tell the details of her journey from Tanzania to Columbus. Schooling in France, years in New York and a stint with the United Nations all preceded her current life as a restaurateur on Morse Road. Ask her a question and she’ll happily answer, in detail, with a beautiful smile. But try to capture that smile — perhaps the best item on the menu at Taste of Zanzibar — and be prepared to be shooed away. She’d much rather her food and restaurant be in the spotlight, and, luckily, both are deserving of the attention.

Having spent a short amount of time (literally three days) on Zanzibar Island a few summers back, I was eager to try the cuisine, to jog my memories of that weekend trip a ferry’s ride away from Dar es Salaam. The food at Taste of Zanzibar is rich with spices, an homage to its origin’s nickname: the Spice Island. But true to my memories, nothing is too spicy or strange. Even the least adventurous diner would find the menu easy to take in.

I present the beef sambusa. The problem with the sambusa is that I always want two or three, taking away my appetite for the rest of the food I’ve ordered. (The first time I stopped at Taste of Zanzibar, I pretended like I was taking a carryout order for my roommate and I, and not just ordering two entrees for myself. The second time, I just admitted to Telly that I wanted all the food.) The good thing about the sambusa? It’s only a dollar.

There are two combo options — both with several dishes — allowing the indecisive eater the chance to try several things at once. Pictured above are chicken curry (with a wonderfully mild coconut milk based sauce), mchicha (chopped spinach with coconut) andchapati.

Next up, fish with coconut curry sauce and ugali with beans. Ugaliis a malleable combination of cornmeal and water. Used as a spoon, it, along with beans, is a staple in the Tanzanian diet. I ordered it more for memory’s sake than for its taste. Next time, I’ll have one less dish to vie for my attention. Ever aware of her customers’ expectations, Telly warned me that the fish had bones in it before I solidified my order. That curry sauce more than made up for any inconvenience caused by bones.

Once I knew that a photograph of her face was off limits, I asked if I could at least get some shots of her in the kitchen, working with her hands. The recipe for chapati is simple, and I’ve tried it many times at home, but I’ve never been able to make it like a pro. So I was excited that she agreed to demonstrate her technique.

Working the dough into a rosebud is the key to a good chapati, I learned. It’s all in the twist of the wrist.

A flight to Tanzania cost as much as my first car ($2400 for a 1987 Chevy Cavalier). It’s a relief to know that if I feel like stepping into a new culture for an hour or so, I don’t need a transcontinental flight to enjoy the food and hospitality of the spice island; a short drive down Morse Road is all it takes. Stop by for the food and say hello to Telly. Just don’t try to take her picture.

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Safari Coffee

Cuisine: Somali
3414 Cleveland Avenue
614.262.2811

Click here to map it!

We visited Safari Coffee late on a “school night” which made the majority of the Somali portion of the drink menu off limits, as they were mostly caffeinated coffees and teas. This was just a small speed bump in experiencing the wares of the brightly-lit joint; while drinks were a no-no, desserts were totally okay. Which is good, because I like desserts.

Four unmarked desserts were available for my consumption, and as we were a small army of what our previous restaurant referred to as “Caucasians,” there was a high probability that we could try all in one sitting.

As far as ambiance goes, Safari Coffee, at the corner of Cleveland Ave. and Innis Rd., has the looks of many Somali places throughout the city: fluorescent lighting, a television showcasing Al Jazeera, bright colors and a very clean feel.

Throw in smoothies and all sorts of western soft drinks, and you have a comfortable stepping point into Somali cuisine for the cautious-yet-curious.

Two of the dessert offerings, pictured above, were quite “safe,” even for the non-adventurous. To the left is qumbe, a close relation to the macaroon. This moist bar cookie is made up of coconut, sugar, milk and flour. On the right is a lightly sweetened cookie, subtle in flavor and similar to a biscuit one might have with tea in England. The antithesis to overly-sweet American desserts, this cookie was a tiny bit dry, meant, of course, to go with the caffeinated drinks that I didn’t order.

And then there’s this. When I first saw it in the dessert case, I thought it looked like some sort of animal part – a liver or a heart, perhaps – served in a ziplock bag. I kept this opinion to myself and strongly lobbyed for someone else to order it, so that I could try it, yet not feel obligated to finish it. Halwa, as its called, is like a hardened jello without with gelatin. (Vegetarians, this dessert is likely safe!) The dish is made up of sugar, cornstarch, peanuts and spices like nutmeg, cardamom and saffron. I found that it tasted a little like ginger snaps, and nothing like animal parts.

And so. Somali food isn’t all just goat meat and unfamiliar spices, especially when you start with dessert.