West African Buffet at Fatima in Crown Heights
When Fatima opened in Crown Heights six years ago, it was the city's best Guinean restaurant, offering two or three home-style dishes per day, served with a massive plate of polished white rice. But in common with many West African restaurants in Brooklyn, it has since converted to steam table service, and expanded the menu to include dishes from Senegal and elsewhere in West Africa, also adding some Caribbean and international dishes as well, in an attempt to provide an oasis for Muslim diners whatever their nationality.
I dropped by Fatima last evening to find the place rearranged since I was there last. The kitchen has been opened up behind a counter, where a pleasant guy weighs and rings up your self-selected meal from the steam table. As I was arriving, the cook--who wore a colorful headscarf, and wrap-around length of another bright print as her dress--was just arising from prayer, and rolling up her prayer rug.
A long steam table runs along the wall, and one of the units has four heated tubs of West African "soups"--in this case, thick stews--used for pouring over rice. There was a dark green Guinean sauce de feuilles made with manioc (yuca) leaf, and a thick peanut sauce, Senegalese style. Both had big hunks of lamb in them, and the Guinean dish also sported minced dried fish, sending the soup off on a strange and wonderful flavor jag.
I also acquired a quartet of "flour cakes," which were orotund fried donuts, and every bit as good as anything at Peter Pan. I filled up three styrofoam containers with food, and the entire feast, which easily fed three, set me back $12.88. Now that's Incredibly Cheap Eats. 789 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, 718-221-8681
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