ANGLE: We have dinner at highly-acclaimed Nigerian restaurant, BUKA. Check out our review.
WORDS: Kadia Blagrove
[BROOKLYN, NY] It was a rainy day when we made our visit to Nigerian restaurant BUKA, but the Brooklyn hotspot was full of sunshine. Regulars rushed inside for shelter, taking refuge on BUKA’s dark wooden bar stools and the plush modern deco couch at the entrance. As we bustled through the wet crowd, there stood owner and warm host, Lookman Mashood, behind the bar chatting with a customer while whipping up a spirited concoction.
We took a stool by Mashood and peered through BUKA’s menu. This place gets straight to the point with a one page list of signature and traditional Naija cuisine. You won’t find any frills or thrills –otherwise known as “Americanized” — plates either; BUKA is the real deal.
We wanted to try their famous ground beef meat pies, but due to popular demand, the appetizer had ran out by the time we arrived that evening. Mashood then offered us a home-cooked favorite, goat and jollof rice. A staple Nigerian comfort meal, the dish really did make us feel at home. Despite NYC’s trendy reputation of minimal portion sizes, BUKA makes it their duty to really feed their guests. The boneless goat meat was succulent and braised perfectly. The jollof rice, which is a spicy West African rice pilau, was soft and buttery; it tasted even better as it soaked up the goat’s peppery tomato sauce. Bits of the rice offered a slightly firmer texture which gave a delightfully savory and subtly chewy bite. This dish is the best choice for any Nigerian who misses a familiar meal or someone who wants to try something new without too much of a wild factor.
Mashood is great company. As we dined, he shared with us his journey into the restaurant business and what he has in store for the future. We ended our dinner with a cocktail with our host. Mashood suggested his favorite drink, Yanga, which is a sweet and sour cocktail made with hibiscus infused vodka. The drink was not overwhelmingly strong at all; it had more of an enjoyable fruity taste — definitely a drink that will creep up on you if you’re not mindful.
We were too stuffed to try much of anything else on the menu but based on our dining observations of other patrons, we have our eyes on a few dishes for our next visit. A brothy goat pepper soup, fufu, and the fish dishes are no doubt something to try. Perhaps, if we are feeling ballsy, we’ll even try Igbin, which is a plate of large West African land snails.
Atmosphere: Cool, urban, modern
Price: Moderate; expect to spend around $40 for a full-course dinner
Food: Savory, spicy
Verdict: Great place for authentic Nigerian food
Kadia Blagrove is the Managing Editor of Africa Daily Groupe and a writer for all things cultural. Follow her on Twitter @KazzleDazz.