August 26, 2007

Taxi Brousse [Berkeley]

Though African food sounds as though it would be very exotic, it is more familiar to the Western palate than you would think. It's similar to Mediterranean cuisine in that the preparations are often light, though the spices and marinades are distinctive.

There's no shortage of Ethiopian food in Berkeley, but after I had one taste of the sour, spongy injera bread, I knew I wouldn't be coming back for more. My quest to explore the continent's cuisine first lead me to the meat-heavy Tropical Paradise on University (which was pretty decent) and then to Taxi Brousse when it recently opened last year.

My first brush with the restaurant was the Dibi Fish, served with a salad, plantains, and your choice of rice or couscous. The tilapia is simply grilled and marinated in a slightly pungent onion sauce that makes all the difference. Though it is traditionally prepared with lamb, the fish has been excellent on every occasion that I've had it. The plantains are great for playing down the robust onions.

The Yassa Fish is very similar, though it doesn't come with plantains. The onion-mustard sauce it is served with is slightly tangier and spicier than the Dibi, while the sauce actually makes an appearance on the plate instead of just in the marinade. Between the two, it's just a matter of preference on whether you're looking for a drier or wetter preparation.

Service was excruciatingly slow and flustered on this particular night that we went. The crowds at the restaurant are never steady and it has hard to predict capacity from one week to the next. However, the owner is very jovial and you can't help but smile when the Berkeleyans bust out their African drums and start jamming. Another reason why I loved going to school here.

I prefer Taxi Brousse to the original Bissap Baobab in the Mission. My experience is that the fish at the former tends to be fresher.

* I apologize for the less than appetizing photos

Taxi Brousse
1101 San Pablo Ave
Albany, CA 94706
(510) 558-0939

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