The long awaited reopening of Toukouleur has finally arrived, adding to the growing list of restaurants down Bedford Avenue, which is quickly becoming Restaurant Row.
The restaurant held its reopening last Saturday, with a sampling of its new menu.
Abdul Cisse, one of the original chefs of the old Toukouleur, which closed in 2010, is the new owner of the restaurant, bringing similar dishes to the table, but with his own personal touch.
Beginning now until next Tuesday, November 15, Cisse is offering free tastings at Toukouleur, from 6:30pm to 10pm, welcoming the neighborhood to come in, enjoy a drink, and sample some of his entrees - a mix of West African and French cuisine.
The night of the opening, the restaurant was radiant. White walls and floors are met with black wood tables and black sofas that line the walls, mixing an elegant dining atmosphere with a more casual lounge feel.
The windows are partially painted with black and white figures, and the centerpiece of the room is a giant circular mosaic on the wall, with the restaurant's name written in black pieces of glass.
The only thing separating the small kitchen from the restaurant is a high counter, and if customers feel like venturing to the back, they can watch their meal being cooked. I always love restaurants that use an open kitchen, rather than the mysterious kitchen behind closed doors, where your meal is being prepared in strict secrecy.
The dishes themselves are classics - chicken with rice, salmon with couscous, or a burger with homefries, with minimal ingredients and never overpowered with sauces or seasonings.
The salmon is lightly grilled, only slightly crisped on top, with an incredibly tender, moist meat. I have never been a huge fan of salmon, because I always find it to be too dry, or smothered in oils and sauces to add moisture.
This salmon is so perfectly cooked that its dash of pepper is all that is necessary, and the flavor of the salmon remains strong and full. This is paired with sauteed squash, zucchini, onions, peppers, and mushrooms, and a heap of couscous, adding a fresh, autumn flavor to the dish.
The chicken comes with the same sauteed vegetables and some buttery, fluffy white rice. The chicken is also incredibly tender and falls off the bone in thick, soft chunks of dark meat, with a mild grilled flavor from it’s charred coat. This dish goes perfectly with the cold biting air of fall - it warms your belly and your soul.
I enjoyed a glass of dry Merlot with the burger and homefries. I particularly enjoy rarer meat, and this burger is a little dry for my liking, but the ketchup and sauteed vegetables on top compensates for the dryness. The burger comes with a pile of crispy potatoes and onions - and I have never been able to turn down home fries.
Other small samples included a firm, crunchy, grilled shrimp coated in spices, which is fiery hot with a curry flavor, but without overpowering the flavor of the shrimp. Skewers of chewy, soft grilled veal are a luxurious surprise, and the skewers of chicken are flavored with a slightly creamy lemon and herb sauce that is refreshing and simple.
Toukouleur is located at 1116 Bedford Ave (between Quincy St & Gates Ave). They are open every day except for Monday for lunch and dinner, emphasizing West African dishes during lunch and French dishes for dinner.