The man who raised the bar on Ethiopian food in Chicago with Ethiopian Diamond has just opened an ambitious new establishment in Rogers Park called African Harambee. What’s ambitious about it? It’s the only restaurant we know of that purports to take on an entire continent’s pantry. Owners Sisay Abebe and Martha Yimer want to provide a venue where people can sample the myriad of local cuisines that can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, and the menu bears that out. The plurality of the offerings is of the Ethiopian persuasion, which stands to reason. The rest of the continent is presented in a scattershot manner: Kenyan/Tanzanian (Shrimp Piripiri - chili powder and tomato sauce marinated shrimp sauteed with garlic, onions and green pepper, $14); Mozambican (Peixe a Lumbo - fish and shrimp stew on rice. shrimp and tilapia sauteed with onions, green peppers and tomatoes cooked in a seasoned coconut milk sauce, $15); Senegalese (Che Bu Gen - fish and rice. shrimp and tilapia cooked with our harambee blend of seasonings, chili powder, garlic, cilantro and tomato sauce $15); and even Morrocan (Vegetable Tahini - collard greens, potatoes and carrots cooked in a tahini sauce with onions, garlic and ginger, $11.50).
It’s possible to find some of these dishes at the other African restaurants in the city, but not all of them, and certainly not all of them together. One thing we especially like about the menu is the availability of five different commonly used African starches (rice, couscous, injera, chapathi and ugali). For people who are turned off from Ethiopian food by the sour, spongy injera pancake, now there is another way forward. And for those of you who haven’t had real ugali, a real treat is in store. Get it while it’s hot (and BYOB).