Our visit to Senegambia wasn't exactly planned, but I had found the restaurant online and made a mental note of the address. So when we found ourselves nearby one Saturday evening, it was obvious where we should go for dinner. Alas, knowing almost nothing about Gambian cuisine, I did a very bad job of noting or remembering what we ate, but I'll do my best.
Senegambia is really a hole in the wall. It's run by a Gambian woman and a Gambian-Senegalese woman, hence the name (though Gambia is actually in Senegal, so....). There are maybe four tables (a couple more outside for nice weather). When we arrived, someone was skyping in the corner. When I asked to use the bathroom, the proprietress went in first to spray disinfectant (it was clean enough). The large tv was broadcasting a Gambian wrestling match, which seemed an awful lot like sumo wrestling sans obesity. The place was packed with young Sene(gambian) men. Senegambia is clearly more than a source of meals, but also a sort-of Sene(gambian) cultural center.
Somehow, this was my first experience with West African food and I realized that I know almost nothing about it. We decided to share four dishes (out of the ten or so on offer) between four people (literally more than enough food) to learn as much as we could. My favorite of the four was domoda, a peanut butter stew that we ordered with vegetables (almost every dish is available with a choice of fish steak, lamb, or vegetables or for a few extra Euros, a whole fried fish). Also interesting, yassa, a mustard-based stew that we ordered with fish (some kind of bass, I think?). Unfortunately, I don't remember the names of the other dishes, but one was a ground beef stew with lots of palm oil served over pieces of yuca (aka manioc). It was ok, but the beef was ground a little finely ground for my taste. The final dish was a tomato-y stew that was supposed to come with fish balls, but was instead served with another fish steak. With the exception of the dish that came with yuca, all the stews were served over a hearty portion of rice. The waitress gave us all a dab of hot sauce out of a little tupperware container. A warning: this is seriously hot. Too hot, in fact, for any of us to eat. Senegambia doesn't sell any alcohol (or pork - Gambia is a majority Muslim nation), but in addition to a couple standard soft drinks and some bottled juices, they make their own ginger and hibiscus drinks. We sampled the ginger, which was zesty and delicious. We were stuffed with no chance for dessert. Next time, I would split one entree and sample the Senegambia donuts or chakery (a yogurty pudding with couscous and maybe fruit and/or nuts).
Knowing almost nothing about Gambian food, I'm not equipped to say if what we ate was well-made, but I can tell you that the other diners (who I am pretty sure were not eating Gambian for the first time) were cleaning their plates and eating dessert. Not to mention that by the time we left, it was standing room only. Despite my ignorance, I enjoyed almost everything we tried. And, as I've said here before, it's refreshing to discover a restaurant in Berlin where they are cooking from the heart and not dumbing things down for the locals.
Reichenberger Str. 72a