Le Petit Africain
Posted Aug 10 2010
As the Black population in Taiwan continues to grow, it should be no surprise that restaurants and businesses of the African diaspora would follow. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this new restaurant in Danshui, a town north of Taipei. Owner Rene Quedraogo and Chef Amedam Agbessi Felix both hail from the West African nation of Barinka Faso, while Quedrago’s wife Chang Hsun, a Taiwanese local, helps with overall operations. I went with some friends and family to try it out on a Sunday night, which unfortunately was not a night that featured live music, which they offer on other nights. However, the food alone was worth the visit.
We ordered a variety of dishes such as the yassa and peanut stews and the shrimp with okra. I found the stews to be more flavorful, but enjoyed everything, including the bisap and ginger drinks. If you’re not familiar with West African food, its influence on food of the Americas is quite significant. As a lover of Caribbean, Mexican, and soul food, I always find dishes to relate to. As one example, bisap, which is a hibiscus-based drink, is basically what Mexicans call jamaica and various Caribbean countries call sorrel or simply hibiscus. I did find some of the items to be a bit pricey for the portions, particularly the drinks, but nothing was completely outrageous. Entrees were between 260 and 290 NT, which translates to about eight or nine U.S. dollars each. Another concern was that we had to constantly refill our own waters at a water cooler. A pitcher would’ve been nice. I asked some Danshui locals who’d eaten at the restaurant and they expressed concerns about the prices as well, but expressed confidence that new restaurants always have to settle on appropriate prices, portions, and service.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to have an extended conversation with the owners, which was a reflection of how busy they were. The place is cozy, with about half a dozen tables, but they pretty much all stayed full during our time there. The other clients were a mixture of Taiwanese and non-Taiwanese, including European tourists. One Taiwanese family of six saw that there were no available tables but returned half an hour later as they really wanted to try the food. Despite the success I observed, in a completely unrelated conversation with Oliver Ghana, a Ghanaian, who’d been in Taiwan for more than 25 years, said running a successful African restaurant was difficult. He started a restaurant with some in friends a few years ago in Taipei, saying that while the initial interest was good, it was hard to maintain the locals’ interest once the novelty wore off. Oliver Harley, a Jamaican with more than eight years on the island, opened up a Caribbean restaurant a couple of years ago as well but also maintained that people just weren’t ready. Both of their restaurants are now closed. However, as Taiwanese tastes continue to grow in sophistication and Taiwn continues to diversify, the time may be right. I certainly hope so.
Rene, Chang and I have exchanged e-mails since my return to the States and I eagerly look forward to returning to Le Petit Africain on my next visit. I will post updates as they come!
No. 247, Zhong-Zheng Rd, Danshui (Taipei MRT red line, located kitty corner from Fort San Domingo, Public Parking 30m)
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