Fine African dining on Saipan

Zirberyan Rice

IT is not like any other restaurant on island. For one, it doesn’t look like a restaurant from the outside. Second, the taste of everything you eat or drink is unpredictable.

It was very late on Saturday night when I and my out to eat buddies at a dimly lit table at the Africa Fine Dining in Chalan Kiya but time was not a hindrance for us to sample  fine African fare, our first on island.

Salata

Minda, one of the wait staff, served us cold glasses of beverage. The taste was pleasant but unfamiliar. We learned later it was Africa’s house-brewed ginger drink.

Our five-course dinner started with soup. Unlike other soups that fill you up and make you lose your appetite, the

peanut soup smelled  of delicious herbs and ginger and made us very hungry for what’s next. The soup doubles your anticipation and clears the way for a full meal.

Our salata, or salads, came next: fresh vegetables immersed in herbal flavors. Minutes later, Rose Diaz, owner of Africa Fine Dining, set a platter of stuffed pastry called Samosa, which has ground


Samosa

beef and herbs. Diaz told us it is usually eaten in the Middle East during the Ramadan feast.

We bit into the crunchy crust which made a delicious contrast with the flavorful beef and herbs stuffing so that I finished one and a half of it in world record time.

For the next course, Diaz served a huge platter of Zirberyan Rice (also called Al-roaz al Zirberian) on a plate with banana leaves. Unlike the regular fried rice, Zirberian Rice is designed for the hungry — with huge chicken slices and raisins. Diaz told us it’s an Arabian main course. There was no way we could finish everything. The serving was enough for five persons.

Halfway into our Zirberian rice, Diaz came out carrying a mouth-watering dish called Kuku Paka, or coconut chicken of Africa. I speared a piece of chicken with my fork and gloried in the coconut-infused, herb-rich flavors.

Diaz served us sweet dates to cap the hearty dinner. Again, if you want to avail of the five-course dinner and other African specialties, you have to make reservations because they are not served on a daily basis.

Reservations can be made for two for a minimum of $50, or groups of four and up.

The first time we tried Africa Fine Dining was lunchtime last week where we tried the Congolese chicken with peanut and fried fish with eggplants.

We had lunch at the gazebo at the back of the restaurant amid a forest of flora and fauna so romantic that I wouldn’t have been surprised if musicians suddenly emerged to serenade us.

If you want to make somebody feel special, the gazebo is the right place for a special lunch or dinner but reservation is required.

Diaz said  the secret of their delicious dishes lies in the herbs used and the special way the  dishes were prepared. She said she did a lot of traveling which included studying the intricacies of African and Mediterranean cooking.

“You may have to drive all the way up here, but our menu will give you enough reason to come,” she said.

Try out the African dishes not available anywhere else on island such as Kima or chopped beef chili fry, Safari steak for the hunter, or grilled lamb with pili-pili sauce, the vast selection of main entrées such as Africa’s shrimp special, chicken cordon Bleu, Sherried liver with mushroom, liver with onion ring, and more, from $8 and up.

Check out the $8 ala carte menu from the assorted sea food dishes, chicken dishes and other favorites in the short orders menu from $3.75 to $7.50.

Africa Fine Dining serves $5 rice topping meals for students or those on a budget. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner every day.

Africa Fine Dining is located a few yards before you reach Yco Hardware on Monsignor Guerrero Road just before you go up to Northern Marianas College if you are coming from San Jose. Africa Fine Dining accepts only cash for now. For reservations, call 234-3589.

This article was first published HERE

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