At Choukouya, a Taste of West Africa in Warrensville Heights

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I spent much of my time at Choukouya restaurant struggling to learn about the cuisine. Over the course of two dinners I peppered our servers with questions, probed nearby diners about their selections, typed menu items into Google and even asked to speak with the chefs, owners or whomever it was doing the cooking in the back of the house. In the end, the only strategy that proved successful was to allow the aromas, flavors and textures of the food to do all the talking.

As one of Cleveland’s only West African restaurants, Choukouya can and should do a better job of indoctrinating inexperienced diners about the cuisine. Are the dishes Senegalese, Liberian, Nigerian or a more general collection of West African specialties, I wondered. Don’t get me wrong, the servers could not be more friendly, accommodating and downright charming, but their knowledge of the food seemed only slightly more comprehensive than mine, which is nonexistent. Fortunately, I was armed with a few suggestions from a well-traveled friend who had dined there previously, and his guidance was invaluable.

Before eating, guests are encouraged to wash their hands at a modest server station-like area near the dining room. Utensils are provided, but so much of the food simply is easier to eat with your hands than by knife and fork. From savory pastries to grilled meats to bone-in chicken to the inscrutable fufu, it’s all finger-friendly food. Continue reading…

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