Metro Station: Saint-Maur (Line 3), Menilmontant (Line 2), Couronnes (Line 2
Type of cuisine: Senegalese
Days & hours of operation: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. from Monday through Sunday
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard, American Express
Porokhane is an unpretentious dining establishment located a couple of doors down from the corner of rue Moret and rue Oberkampf. We entered, and were seated at the far end of the dining room on a well-worn bench next to tall, wide windows. As we dined, the natural light coming through the windows grew slowly fainter. During this time, the lights of the restaurant did not come on to compensate for the illumination that was lost to the setting sun. We ended our meal dining in semi-darkness!
My partner and I came here last Wednesday with a French friend who is fond of “exotic” cuisine. He had already done some preliminary research on Porokhane, saying that he had read that the best Thieboudienne (Senegal’s national fish and rice dish) in Paris could be found here.
My partner advised us that our portions would likely be large, and to beware of being overly optimistic about the amount of food that we would be able to consume. And she was right! Our friend and I decided to skip the starter and to order only a main dish and a dessert, while my partner opted for a starter and a main dish. Unable to finish the starter herself, she shared it with us. It was so large that even the three of us had difficulty finishing it. By the end of the main course we were satisfied, and decided not to order dessert.
The starter in question was aloco sauce, a plate of lightly-fried plantains served on a single large lettuce leaf. A small dish of tomato and onion sauce was served on the side. The chunks of plantain were sweet and tender, and the sauce added tanginess without piquancy. Our friend and I were grateful that my partner had ordered this as a first course because we truly appreciated having the opportunity to share it with her!
For the main course, our friend ordered the traditional Senagalese Poulet Yassa, while I ordered the Poisson Yassa. Yassa is prepared by marinating the chicken or fish with lemon, and subsequently cooking it smothered in onions. At the end of the course, it was obvious that our friend had enjoyed his meal. His plate was so clean that (with the exception of the bones) one would have thought he had not been served anything at all! I enjoyed my Poisson Yassa as well.
My partner ordered Colombo de cabri (goat) as a main course. Though this is a Caribbean, not an African, preparation, she could not resist ordering it because one usually has to go to an Antillean restaurant to find it on the menu. She enjoyed the flavor of the goat and the spices, but said that the gravy (sauce in French) was a little grainier in texture than she would have liked.
Each main dish was served with a large mound of white rice. A dish of spicy-hot pepper sauce was available on the table had we desired to add a bit of zip to our food.
For beverages, our friend and I split a couple of La Gazelle beers. This Senegalese brew comes in a 64cl bottle, so it was perfect for sharing. My partner opted to try the baobab punch and the tamarind punch, as these were flavors that she had not experienced before. Each of us was happy with our chosen beverages.
Service was friendly, but slow.
On that evening, we were fortunate to have Senegalese singer and acoustic guitarist Malick providing the music. Because we were seated right next to the stage, we were at first fearful of being deafened by the amplification of the songs. But we were pleasantly surprised by the gentleness of Malick’s voice and the low volume at which the amplifiers were set.
The bill for three, including one starter, three main courses, two beers, and two punches, came to 53.65€. Had we not reserved a “special offer” through lafourchette.com, the bill would have come to 78.30€.
Porokhane is not on the typical tourist track, and it is not a place to dine if you are looking for stylish décor or rapid service. However, we definitely recommend the cooking!
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.