Cuisine of Africa: Merkato 55
I always said that you could get cuisine from every part of the world, until my trip to Africa in the 80s. It was then that I realized that there was one continent underrepresented in the world of NYC cuisine– Africa.
There were a few Ethiopian eateries and, if you knew where to go, you could scout out a few places serving up dishes familiar to Senegalese immigrants [a friend once brought me to the back of a Theater Dstrict deli, where a woman in African garb stirred up a delicious stew in a huge pot, surrounded by tables occupied by Senegalese street vendors on their lunch breaks].
Now, the hot place to get into, is Merkato 55, at 55-61 Gansevoort St. in the Meatpacking District, and is a far cry from the back of that deli . Tne NY Times reports that Merkato 55 is “a bold adventure, ranging across the entire African continent”
It is the creation of Marcus Samuelsson, of Aquavit fame. But Samuelsson, who grew up in Sweden with his adoptive parents, was born in Ethiopia. Merkato 55 is not an Ethiopian restaurant, though. The renowned chef manages successfully the daunting task of bringing together dishes from all parts of the continent, drinks named for African dances, and decor featuring batik wall hangings and blow-up photography of African markets [the restaurant's namesake is an open-air market in Ethioia]
All this, and a Meatpacking District locale, make Merkato 55 a coveted NYC reservation.