Posts tagged mainland
Olaiya’s Amala: Soul Food We All Need
 

You know this unpopular thing people do online to Amala? Yes, the constant bashing of the elite dish needs to stop. And our bad habit of disapproving anything indigenous, makes me think that the blatant hate for the underdog – amala, is as a result of white supremacy. If you think I am wrong, find the nearest amala, look at it and lie to yourself that the reason you don’t like it is because of its colour.

Oh well, to the gist.

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My friend, Nneka, and I went on this adventure because it’s been really hot and messy in Lagos recently. Amala’s fluffy and light texture makes it suitable in hot weather conditions. If you think I made this up, then experiment with fufu and amala on two separate days and let me know the outcome. One of its qualities, sauf a trimmer waistline, is its ability to make you feel light and classy even in the most tumultuous situation.

Since we are both serious connoisseurs of the dish, we decided to treat ourselves this long-holiday weekend by visiting one of Lagos’s popular joints. Olaiya Food Canteen is located in Surulere and on this special occasion, it took us just 29 minutes to get there from Lekki – the ancestors were indeed in our favour.

It wasn’t really a hassle to find Olaiya and maybe it was just that way because we were prepared for the worst. We arrived and got on a queue almost immediately. There was an immediacy that came with being at the restaurant – every five minutes there was a customer leaving and another sitting.

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I also liked that I didn’t have to be fixated on a menu before ordering and then waiting for the meal. It was a swift buffet line that even had the POS machine at the other end. You pick your bowl, request how many wraps of amala you’d like (one wrap is equivalent to the size of one boiled egg btw), and you proceed to get your ewedu, gbegiri and stew.

(Ed Note: The portion size and the price hasn’t changed since our original review. Wild)

We had two variations – one with gbegiri and the other without. 

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I chose to not include gbegiri in mine because I’ve had bad experiences with the groundnut-like sauce overpowering my dish. The stellar component in Olaiya’s is by far the stew. And that’s why it sucked that there was limited stew and ewedu. It had a freshness and smokiness that only buka style food can give – if only there was more. 

I typically love everything served in one plate as my spoon glides in and scoops balls of amala. I also love dissecting the assorted meat the only way I know how to – with my bare hands. The most appealing thing about Amala is usually the feeling you get after. It’s like you never ate but then you also can’t move too much. It’s the weirdest thing to explain.

Nneka’s soup had gbegiri and at first I heard her complain it looked a bit watery, I remember sighing in relief. But boyyyy, was I wrong.

This was a better version than mine. I particularly loved how loosened up the gbegiri was, the problem I usually have with other amala joints is how thick the sauce is. Olaiya’s texture wasn’t heavily concentrated and that in my opinion is how you balance a complex dish. It accompanied the stew, ewedu and amala really well and created this amazing palate that I have never tasted before.

 

POSTSCRIPT

I have decided to plan a trip in the near future to have all the gbegiri in the world, you probably should too. 

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Amala - N100 each wrap

Beef - N100

Shaki (Tripe) - N100

Goat Meat - N600

PARKING

There’s street parking, but you have to pay a small fee

Lessons in Ofada at Ofada Boy
 

NOSA: I learnt about Ofada Boy from Twitter, if I remember correctly. Akin Oyebode mentioned the restaurant as one of the recipients of the LSETF grant. I didn’t add it to our restaurant schedule then because ofada is really not for me. Nosa should be open minded and whatever, but ofada is where I draw the line. Shoot me. A man must have principles. 

FOLLY: I don’t have anything against ofada. In fact, I like the stew but I don’t like the smell of the rice. I like ofada stew with plantain, beans or even yam pottage.

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NOSA: The rustic vibe that Ofada Boy is going for felt forced at certain points.

FOLLY: I get you but I think it worked well and I appreciated that they did have an aesthetic that they were committed to, rather than the “anywhere bele face” approach.

NOSA: They also don’t serve any beers or any alcohol, but you can get palmwine. According to our waiter, “we don’t sell any strong alcohol”. I see where they’re going with it, but it feels a tad pretentious. If you’re going to go “no alcohol”, then do it the whole way through. If you’re going to go local, where’s the brukutu or ogogoro then? 

NOSA: The menu is pretty straight to the point. There’s a couple types of ofada, some “swallows” and pepper soup. The fun stuff like asun is only available in the evenings.

FOLLY: I ordered the Ofada Premium, and my friend did the Ofada Yo.

NOSA: I wonder why they don’t have a “Build Your Own Ofada” option.

FOLLY: Yeah that sounds like a good idea

NOSA: They don’t really expand on ofada, which is a bit disappointing. Ofada Boy isn’t really bringing anything new to the table or pushing ofada to new horizons. They play it very safe, all you that’s on offer is your regular ofada with different add-ons. “Safe” is not particularly a bad thing but I wish they took some more risks. 

FOLLY: It’s so safe that the ofada isn’t even peppery. Since it’s like a proper restaurant and all and not a buka, I was also hoping to get freshly boiled rice and fresh plantain too. I was very hopeful too because we visited on a Sunday afternoon as the place was buzzing with the after church crowd so I thought surely they’d just have cooked a fresh batch.

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NOSA: As a non-ofada eater, I ordered the Catfish Pepper Soup. At first, it felt like a steal for the price. I mean, look at the portion size.

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NOSA: After a couple spoons in and I was ready to throw the entire thing in the bin. The pepper soup tasted like flavored water and the massive fish is just there to distract you from how meh the whole thing is. The fish isn’t that great either, but it’s my fault at the end of the day. I went to a place called “Ofada Boy” and decided to order catfish pepper soup. Terrible decision-making all round. 

FOLLY: Nosa would have been willing to try the ofada stew, if they had plain white rice. He had absolutely no interest in the ofada rice - a principled man.


POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: Not for me.

FOLLY: I prefer Terra Kulture’s Ofada.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Ofada Yo - N1700

 Ofada Premium - N1500

Catfish Peppersoup - N3200

 

PARKING

Eh. I don’t think they expect people to drive. 

Gypsy's Champions Portion Sizes in Ilupeju
 

NOSA: The biggest knock on dining out in the Lagos mainland isn’t the lack of options per se. They exist, bountiful even. 

FOLLY: The mainland doesn't have many fancy restaurants (outside of hotels) but they do have a lot of 'just there' establishments.

NOSA:The real struggle is the options fall short when it comes to quality and when they don’t, they lean heavily on the buka side. Bukas are great, but they have their place.

This brings us to Gypsy's, a cute little hard-to-find Indian/Chinese restaurant in Ilupeju. When you walk in, it feels like you’ve accidentally stumbled on a restaurant that has been intentionally hidden. Bar the waitstaff, we were probably the only Nigerians (read: black people) in there.

Vegetable Samosa

Vegetable Samosa

FOLLY: Ilupeju has a huge Indian population so that kind of explains a lot of that. Why the huge population exists in Ilupeju? That, I don't quite know. Maybe it's the proximity to the industrial area and factories? 

NOSA: It was very reminiscent of our first visit to My Coffee being the only Nigerians in a space. It’s interesting how a restaurant unknown to the larger population could be so popping.

FOLLY: They were probably wondering how we found it.

NOSA: There’s probably something to be said about niche markets and enclaves, but I’m not too smart to make the connection. 

FOLLY: If you know the explanation for the Indian population in Ilupeju, please explain to us. For now, we'll focus on the food. 

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NOSA: A fancier person might say the menu at Gypsy's is Pan-Asian. I’m usually wary of restaurants with menus span a couple specific regions so I stuck with Indian side of things. I mean, if the Chinese was that great, it wouldn’t have so many Indian people and no Chinese people in there. There’s a method to do the madness. 

FOLLY: And I naturally decided to wander into the Chinese section because a lot of Indian food is made with dairy and I'm lactose intolerant.

NOSA: I started with the Vegetable Samosa and finished off with the Chicken Tikka Masala and a side of Garlic Naan

FOLLY: The garlic naan was fabulous. I'm the type of person that doesn't really care about garlic breath and I absolutely love the bold flavour it adds to food. I loved how the naan also had bits of roasted garlic. With roasting, the flavours become a bit milder which also makes it more accessible to more people who don't really like the punch that it packs.

Garlic Naan

Garlic Naan

NOSA: Chicken Tikka Masala is probably the most basic of all the Indian dishes one can try. It’s like ordering a California Roll when getting sushi or Jollof Rice when getting Nigerian food. You could even argue that it’s not even authentic Indian food because you rarely find it in an Indian household like General Tso’s in a Chinese one. But the heart what the heart wants, Tikka Masala is comfort food abeg. Shoutout to the Southeast Asian brother in England that invented it. 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

FOLLY: Butter Chicken > Tikka Masala in terms of comfort food levels though

NOSA: The Chicken Tikka at Gypsy's is incredibly delicious. I haven’t had it in a while in Lagos so maybe this has affected my perspective, but I can’t remember having any better in this city. A shame they had no cheese naan but the garlic naan did a good enough job. One observation that I kept making with each plate was that Gypsy's had ridiculously large portions for the price. Folly and I could’ve easily split my order without being dissatisfied. 

FOLLY: I can't believe the waiter didn't warn us and let us order all that food. 

NOSA: Folly went all Chinese with her order: starting with the Sesame Rolls and ending with the Fried Vermicelli in Singapore Style and Chopped Ribs with Black Bean Sauce on Hot Plate as her main. 

Sesame Pockets

Sesame Pockets

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FOLLY: The Sesame Rolls on the inside are a very thin layered flatbread. It's served warm so when you break it open, the trapped steam greets you lovingly. I'm convinced everyone loves warm bread.

NOSA: I expected the sesame pockets to be a lot smaller portion-wise. They definitely surprised me. We went with the chicken option for our sesame pockets, aka Shaobing. 

FOLLY: You're expected to scoop the chicken into the sesame pocket and excuse me for being pedestrian here, and make a "chinese shawarma". I was perfectly fine with the sesame pockets on its own and a lot of the chicken filling went un eaten as a result.

NOSA: Sesame pockets aside, I thought the Chinese side of the menu was pretty weak. The short ribs, in particular, were waaaay too salty. 

FOLLY: Bruh, the salt in this even seemed to 'develop' more overnight because the leftovers were unbearable. However, if you're able to make it past the salt, you get all the normal trappings of Chinese cuisine: ginger, sweet peppers, garlic, and onion. 

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Singapore Noodles

Singapore Noodles

NOSA: The Singapore noodles were a tad better.

FOLLY: Although still salty though. 

NOSA: Those short ribs were unforgivable. I get so giddy when I find really good restaurants in Lagos, especially when they’re on the mainland. Gypsy's is perfect for post-church lunch. 

FOLLY: I was pretty disappointed that I didn't get the try the Nutella Spring Rolls they had on their dessert menu as we were pretty full from just two courses. This simply means I have to go back.

 

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NOSA: I really liked Gypsy's despite my complaints about the Chinese. The sesame pockets are a must.

FOLLY: It's an excellent hidden gem in the heart of Ilupeju. More people need to know about it. 

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Garlic Naan - N500

Sesame Pocket - N3500

Vegetable Samosa - N1900

Chicken Tikka Masala - N2700

Fried Vermicelli in Singapore Style - N4000

Chopped Ribs with Black Bean Sauce on Hot Plate - N4000

 

 

PARKING

The parking was more than I'd expected with proper off street parking for 6 - 8 cars.

Ethiopian Food in the Middle of Ilupeju
 

FOLLY: We've been asked a number of times about Ethiopian food in Lagos so I'm pretty glad we found this. I tried Ethiopian food a fe times while I was in university.

NOSA: Prior to Kaldi, I had zero experience with Ethiopian food. More or less lost my virginity at Kaldi.

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FOLLY: In my first two years in college, I had a number of Ethiopian friends so they introduced it to me. Let me tell you now, I didn't like it then and I didn't like it now but I'll still tell you about it and you can visit and develop your own opinions.

NOSA: Kaldi House is really hard to find. No jokes. A selfish part of me wishes Kaldi was somewhere else (read: the island), but I appreciate the "you must come to me" thing they're going for. Kaldi House is carefully hidden in the Nigerian Foundries factory. The security guys even make sign in when you drive in. That's how "am i in the right place" it is.

From our little conversation with the owner (or I think she is), Kaldi has had a bit of a challenge getting their neighbors to adjust their palates so they had to split the menu a bit. One half is East African, while the other is a bit more accessible. Think "chicken and chips" when I say accessible. I don't really blame Kaldi, or the Nigerians. East African food has a very different flavor profile when compared to what we West Africans are used to. One of Folly's coworkers once said that Kenyan food tastes like they're eating for sustenance.

A bit harsh, but I understand the sentiment.

FOLLY: From our experiences in Nairobi and Zanzibar, East Africans make really good samosas, so naturally I went for that as a starter. 

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FOLLY: I knew damn well that the Ethiopian owners were too proud to serve the wretched samosas like the ones in the small chops pack and I was right. The samosas were stuffed with a rich masala spiced minced beef and served with a masala sauce. 

NOSA: I suspect their "samosa hands" come from their Indian population. Unlike Nigeria, where the "expat community" in East Africa don't feel like they're in transit and they actually leave their mark. The Lebanese have been in Nigeria for eons and you can't really point out their significant influence on our culinary culture beyond shawarma. It's such a weird thing and I wish someone smarter would explain it to me. 

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FOLLY: Our second starter was the chapati roll. I had a lot of questions for our server and she struggled to answer.

NOSA: I mentioned earlier that Kaldi's Nigerian neighbours weren't too familiar with East African cuisine. You can extend that ignorance to the waitress too. 

FOLLY: I wasn't backing down because I really needed someone to break down the menu for us so after my fifth question she goes "let me call the Ethiopian woman for you". 

The Ethiopian lady knowing her audience had the perfect description for the chapati roll because she responded "it's like shawarma but with chapati"

NOSA: Lowkey, I was offended, but then again, I don't blame her because she probably had a zillion Nigerians come in and ask the same question. 

FOLLY: Look at the picture. Did she lie?

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FOLLY: For the un-initiated, chapati is an unleavened flat bread that's made with wheat flour and is a popular staple in India. It's also popular in East Africa.

NOSA: It's that Indian influence. 

FOLLY: Most people are familiar with naan which is also an unleavened flat bread but that is made with white flour and rolled thinner than chapati. Now, if memory serves me correctly, this was my first time I had chapati. I found it to be a lot thicker than naan (almost as thick as a crepe) and also slightly sweet. Butter or ghee isn't typically one of the ingredients in chapati but I highly suspect a little bit was added to this because I definitely got some sweetness - not complaining because it was the perfect balance to the chicken filling which was moderately spiced and had a nice kick to it. 

For our mains, we dove deep into the East African section of the menu. 

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FOLLY: We had the Nairobi Platter, which consists of Nyama Choma, Ugali, Sukuma Wiki and Kachumbari. That may not mean anything to you so let me break it down/translate.

  • Nyama Choma = roasted meat. 
  • Ugali = maize meal, similar to ground rice/tuwo
  • Sukuma Wiki = greens
  • Kachumbari = tomato and onion salad (for some reason this was missing and replaced with the beans). 

NOSA: It's not listed, but the chicken wings might be the best I've had in Lagos on a technical level. The meat on it was incredibly tender like it had been slow cooked for ages. Fall off the bone and everything. This isn't a quality that a lot of people appreciate judging by how we make chicken in the country, but I don't like fighting with my chicken so it's the one for me.

FOLLY: Now the roasted meat aka Nyama Choma was straight flames. It's basically the Kenyan version of suya but instead of being grilled on an open flame like we do. It's roasted and/or smoked which makes for a very tender and flavorful piece of meat. 

NOSA: I wasn't particularly impressed unlike Folly. Like, it was wasn't THAAAT great. Decent, at best.

FOLLY: Chill, I was refering to the chicken and the meat as Nyama Choma but to clarify yes, the chicken > meat.

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FOLLY: The maize meal didn't have any distinctive taste at all, it's one of those things that take on the flavor of what you eat it with, so Egusi or Efo Riro would have come in very handy here - lol. 

NOSA: The texture is very much like eba. For something without any distinctive taste, I wonder why it isn't accompanies by something richer than just those greens. 

FOLLY: Sustencance remember?

NOSA: Oh well. 

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We also got some Injera with Shiro because there was no way I'd drive all the way to Ilupeju without trying out injera.  

FOLLY: Injera is incredibly sour - too sour for me. 

NOSA: I was watching the Billions the other day and in one scene Taylor is at an Ethiopian spot with Axe and some Silicon Valley dude. Taylor goes on a little tangent about Ethiopian food and it's communal nature. Injera is usually served in a big "pan" with everyone digging in. Kinda like a pizza. According to Taylor, it's supposed to symbolize some sort of equality. Everyone has some skin in the injera game and you can see how much the next guy is eating. The process of eating injera is meant to be a very unique and transparent experience, 

Billions anecdote aside, Injera is like the East African pancake, right?

FOLLY: Technically no, it's a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture and is made with teff flour (a tiny round grain that is plentiful in Ethiopia). It can also be made with other grains like wheat, malt, barley. The injera dough is left to ferment for an extended period before it's cooked and so to me, ends up tasting a lot like beer. 

NOSA: Like the tail end of a stout. I thought I hated it after my first bite, but it grew on me with subsequent bites. Making little rolls with it and nyama choma made a whole lot of difference.

 

POSTSCRIPT

FOLLY: You either like it or you don't. It's nothing like Nigerian food.

NOSA: I'll judge it on its technical merits. Everything tasted like it should taste (from what I googled) and while it might not be for me, they should get credit for that. I thought the lemonade was excellent, by the way.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Samosa - N1000

Chapati Roll- N1500

Nairobi Platter - N5000

Injera and Shiro - N1500

 

PARKING

Not sure what it would look like on a weekday but on a Sunday we found parking very easily. 

Pancake Hub Is A Breakfast Darling in Yaba

Pancake Hub

17 Jibowu Street, Yaba, Lagos.

0802 259 1961

NOSA: Before we start anything, the security guy is an ass.

FOLLY: Staying anon during a review has never required as much commitment as this visit to Pancake Hub. Pancake Hub is a small, family run restaurant. I've gleaned from their Instagram page that Ada, is the matriarch and founder of the Pancake Hub.

NOSA: The owners are so cute. She handles the kitchen and he checks up on everyone.

FOLLY: Same model as RSVP & Craft Gourmet, but at Pancake Hub their children also make themselves useful at the restaurant (term used loosely here). The older son seemed to have some responsibilities while we were there, and there's a picture of him flipping pancakes on their Instagram page - not for paying customers, though, it was a free pancake stand he was manning when the picture was taken. There was an older man that I think is the husband, he was also on his feet making sure customers were comfortable while Ada was in the kitchen cooking.  

 NOSA: Yup, that's her husband.

The seating area in Pancake Hub is strictly outdoors and the yard could do with some work. Add that to the fact that the security guard is an ass, Pancake Hub doesn't make a good first impression. They have vegan pancakes, though, so that makes up for it

FOLLY: There's one main meal on their menu which is the Pancake Meal, everything else is a side or add on. The Pancake Meal consists of 3 pancakes, eggs, and sausage. Nosa and I had one pancake meal each. 

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NOSA: The have stewed chicken and meatballs as sides btw. I don't know why you'd do such a gross thing, but it's there for the weirdos out there.

FOLLY: Taking good pictures for this review was especially difficult because of the sheer number of owners and deputy owners on the floor, We hadn't eaten for like 10 minutes after our food was placed on the table because we were waiting for all their backs to be turned to us. 

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NOSA: The pancakes taste very homely and not in a bad way. Imagine your mother making you pancakes from scratch on Saturday morning. All of the love and none of the store bought pancake mix. The pancakes are infinitely better than what you get at Brown's and arguably better than RSVP's.

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FOLLY: I strongly doubt Pancake Hub uses boxed pancake mix because these pancakes were glorious. Incredibly fluffy on the outside and golden brown on the outside. The consistency on the exterior of the pancake would have been more even if Pancake Hub used a griddle to fry their pancakes as opposed to a regular frying pan on a stove as the heat would have been more evenly distributed. I do strongly believe that they should consider switching to a griddle because using a frying pan for a restaurant like theirs is very inefficient. If their Instagram page is any indication they can only make 3 pancakes at a time.

NOSA:  The "sausage" is a hot dog and the eggs weren't particularly memorable. 

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FOLLY: The scrambled eggs were my desired level of doneness, yellow and not hard fried. I agree on the 'sausage' though, it was basic, but I don't want to nitpick because the pancakes were really good so it made up for the hot dog. 

NOSA: Exactly. That's not why we're here. These pancakes are top 5 in Lagos easy.  If UNILAG kids and Yabacon aren't hip to Pancake Hub yet, they're seriously slacking.

POSTSCRIPT

FOLLY: Seeing as they have this pancake thing down pat, I think they should introduce other pancake variants. The pancake was so fluffy that a chocolate chip in it would just be divine. Or apple, blueberry, pineapple pancakes? If the owner of Pancake Hub is reading this, please add the chocolate chip pancakes because I want to come back for them. 

NOSA: I really hope they get a bigger/better space too. They're way too good for their current location. 

VERDICT

DAMAGE

Pancake Meal - N1000

 

PARKING

There's parking inside the compound. 

#EatDrinkFestival 2.0 is happening on July 17, 2016. Get hip to it here