Bloor West’s Afrobeat Kitchen was co-founded by rappa-sanga samba specialist Kebba Oumarou, while Irish hip-hop hypeman Paula Michel, a longtime collaborator with Eminem, is also the facility’s resident DJ. Now, it’s Nnenna Akora’s turn to flex her dynamic creative muscles — and she does so with considerable panache, even when taking a page from chef Sam Olukoya’s cooking playbook.
Akora brings modern interpretations of some traditional African dishes to the pop-up on Thursday nights, cooking up some hot takes on the Nigerian/Ghanaian staple jollof. It’s “like rice, but with more spiciness,” says Olukoya, who serves as Afrobeat Kitchen’s culinary director. (He also has a vision for the savory staple’s longevity; one of his upcoming corporate sponsors is HEB.)
Akora at the Afrobeat Kitchen. (Edward J. Houzenga/Bloor West)
Akora’s dishes may vary, but they do share key ingredients, such as tomatoes, eggplant, and greens. Ingredients like those are infused with flavors from both Africa and America, such as the Trinidad-based spicy ingredients Anansi and ginger, “yoghurt, soya beans,” etc. — flavors that “mix and are a perfect marriage,” Olukoya says.
Akora is thinking of delving deeper into the Sankofa style. “It has got so much more soul and it’s really resonating with us,” she says. “It’s going to be a darker color palette. It’s going to be as wild as the rawness of cooking.” — Phil Lewis
At the Afrobeat Kitchen’s next dinner, on Feb. 26, there will be both African and Lebanese dishes on the menu.
At the Afrobeat Kitchen’s latest dinner, which included a Lebanese-style crab and goat curry dish and was overseen by Lebanese chef Elias Lami, Phoenicia and grilled Cornish hen, smoked with orange, were served alongside Israeli pickles like pickled fennel, cucumber, and pickled lantana. — Phil Lewis
At the Afrobeat Kitchen, executive chef Faisal Balawi examines Afro-American culture through food. In his kitchen, he makes African-American food like the “Hot Mama pizza” and “Muhammad sausage,” which is a grilled lamb sausage, topped with muhammara and slathered with kimchi. — Phillip Lewis