Nkoa Ethnic Food had its pre opening night yesterday in the pretty streets of Gauthier. Nkoa standing for « Neo Kitchen of Africa/Asia/America », it sprung from the fact that their owners traveled the world and wanted to bring a little piece of each country visited with them. A daring bet that sounds overwhelming at first, but turns out to be carefully crafted and rendered into unpretentious dishes, made with local ingredients so that they somehow end up being more on the spectrum of fusion cuisine. Sensory travel and a unique palate exploration ahead.
There’s serious chill vibes when you first set foot at Nkoa. Various African tribal patterns on the walls, with the choice of bold colors; yellow black and white, clean and smooth Scandinavian lines for the furniture, a series of photographs exposition on the back wall (beautiful photography by the talented Youssef Lahrichi portraying his travels through Africa), loads of plants, a kickass bathroom (yes pretty bathrooms are very important to me). An overall laid back, very relaxed, very homey setting.
The menu proposed yesterday contained two entrees, two main dishes and two desserts. The entrees were from Ghanian and Moroccan inspirations. Keléwelé with fried plantains & Nandji sauce (smelling and tasting a lot like our local tomato sauce), is a sugary, crunchy dish for lovers of all things sweet. Followed by Rziza, the definite showstopper of the night all hands down. Moroccan rezza is one of my favorite options for tea time – even though I don’t have it enough in my humble opinion -, made with wer9a; a main base for various type of preparations (msemmen, pastilla, rfissa..) and often times served drizzled with melted honey & butter and accompanied with mint tea. In this case, Rziza was served on a very fine tomato chutney sauce, and crowned with a piece of stuffed foie gras with raspberry coulis and rose water. I had to stop myself before eating all of it because I knew there were other dishes coming. Otherwise I would’ve went ham on the rezza. It’s in my blood y’all like I can’t refrain myself (plus I usually don’t want to).
Main courses coming up with the Unawatuna, a Sri Lankan dish with gambas cooked with coconut milk on a bed of angel hair pasta. A seffa revisit, with sugary sauce, raisins and all the main components of the original Moroccan dish. As soon as I read gambas on the menu I got so excited. Gambas (and shrimp) are my favorite source of protein – I don’t wanna say meat cause we’re gonna be like meat ain’t fish, doesn’t include seafood yada yada – and I love all dishes that give them to me. The Unawatuna is a pretty bold revisit, I just wish it was more on the savory side. I know seffa is supposed to be all sweet and everything but still, I can’t help but wonder what it would’ve tasted like if there was just an added spike of saltiness.
The second one to come was Aden, shredded lamb with barley semolina on top, dates syrup on the side, and veggie chips on top. For someone who doesn’t like the taste of lamb, I can objectively say that this Yemeni dish is really good. The meat is tender, the semolina is rich, the chips are wonderful (I love chips a lot okay), and the dates syrup was nicely on the side, not to mess with my savory main course issues. If it was beef I would’ve cleaned up the plate, no question.
Desserts rolled around with Palawan first, a Filipino dessert with two slices of cakes drizzled with coconut sauce and frozen nougat. A hearty dish for someone who just had an entree or something pretty light. Just so that they could tear it apart rightfully. Indulgent desserts need care and attention. Followed then by Bissota that I, personally, completely destroyed. Oh my god. Creamy and extremely light pana cotta on hibiscus and olive oil sauce. I was skeptical regarding olive oil on the sauce; not that there is anything wrong with olive coil on desserts, it’s just that I’m used to using it for baking, and not as an ingredient for a side. Well, it works perfectly well for the Senegalese inspired dessert. The mix almost tasted like my beloved raspberries (I can be completely off base but I’d say there’s something fruity in there somewhere). I ate the whole thing and I can’t wait for Nkoa official opening next week to go for seconds. It was honestly that good.
Nkoa opens in April and will then unveil all their dishes on the complete menu. I’ve been told there’s a savory gambas entree. You know your girl is already planning a visit.
Address : Rue Abou Kacem Chabi, Gauthier, Casablanca