Get your goat -- and veggies
By Justin Rude
Friday, May 20, 2011
Tony Opare, who opened the family-run Ghana Cafe 15 years ago in Adams Morgan, created a space with an African art motif and a menu with a sauce- and starch-heavy riff on traditional Ghanaian cuisine. In Logan Circle since late 2009, the restaurant will probably always be known more as an off-the-beaten-path happy hour and evening spot. But Ghana Cafe also should be noted as having one of the area's most adventurous lunch specials.
On the menu: Ghana Cafe offers a lunch special at two price points. For $8.95 you get a plate of chicken curry, fried plantains and your choice of sides, or a vegetarian sampler. Sides include jollof rice, a savory dish of spiced, sauteed rice, and wakye, a West African take on rice and beans whose flavors recall similar Caribbean dishes that descended from it. Those sides also appear on the vegan-friendly vegetarian platter, which also includes stewed spinach.
Spend $10.95, and your choices expand to include fish, beef and goat. The fish curry sees a deep red sauce, heavy with cumin and red Ghanaian chilies, draped over a nice-size piece of croaker. It takes a bit of a fight to separate the meaty, white flesh from the heavy bones. But the star here is the goat. The chunks of stewed meat are fork-tender, but the rich flesh could stand up to much more spice than its sauce provides. Fortunately, the restaurant offers shito, a hot- pepper sauce ubiquitous in Ghanaian cuisine, to punch up your plate.
The full menu is also available at lunch, so Ghanaian traditionalists don't have to wait for their red red (plantain and bean stew) or fufu (a yam or cassava root starch used to scoop up stews).
At your service: Ghana Cafe really feels like a family-run restaurant, but that means the service sometimes can be a little too homey. That said, I've never had a problem with lunch stretching my hour-long break.
In your glass: Ghana Cafe offers a variety of African beers, including Star, Club and Gulder. The (nonalcoholic and quite spicy) ginger beer is not for the faint of heart.
Go green: The menu here is exceedingly vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. Opare has even gone out of his way to make herbivores feel at home by developing his own shito blend that replaces the shellfish-paste base with a mixture of beans and tubers. Bottles of his house-made shito and curry sauce can be bought at the bar.