Carribean food, in my opinion is one of the best. It takes the best of different cultures and creates flavors that leave you wanting more long after you’ve finished eating.
When I first heard that a new Afro-Carribean restaurant was opening up a few years ago, I was excited that Lowell was going to have a restaurant, locally, that brought together different aspects of our city’s varying cultures. It took a few years and there was a massive hiccup ( thanks 2020) but it is here and it is open. It was worth the wait Mavens, on so many levels. Sahel Restaurant & Lounge has ticked every box and I wish them many years of prosperity.
Here in Lowell, we have a large Puerto Rican, Dominican, African (from various parts of Africa) population, and other parts of the world. For example, in Puerto Rico we eat plantains constantly, it is a staple in our cuisine. The fact that this came directly from our African roots ( primarily West African) always makes me wonder at how food can travel and create new experiences for others around the world. In Nigeria for example, overripe plantain is called “dodo”, while in Puerto Rico we call them “maduros” or “platanos”. Nomenclature differences aside, we make them in the same way.
My love for all things Afro-Caribbean came from my own ethnic background and then my marriage into a Nigerian family. The best of both worlds honestly 🙂 and I LOVE that Sahel has dishes that I am familiar with from my own culture but also brings in Nigerian, Cameroonian, Jamaican cuisines and their exquisite flavors. Here is to platanos, egusi, and jerk chicken ( am I right?).
We went to Sahel for an early dinner recently and had a few items, all of which were delicious. We enjoyed the flavor combinations and everyone was incredibly friendly. Please go support this brand new small business and try something new that you have not had before. You won’t regret it and you’ll be that much happier for having tried them.
So what did we eat? We were tempted by basically everything on the menu, but we narrowed it down to a couple of appetizers, a beverage, and a couple of entrees.
- Bourbon Drunken Jerked Shrimp
- Suya Beef
- Braised Oxtail Stew ( with Jollof & Ripe Plantains)
- Dancing Jerk Chicken ( with Jollof and Ripe Plantains)
- Sahel’s Bissap
Here are some details on the food, and then I will show you all the beautiful photos. 🙂
Sahel has their version of Bissap which I ordered and absolutely loved. Super refreshing and I loved the flavor. You may wonder what Bissap is, well obviously I am going to tell you. Bissap is a drink made from a hibiscus flower called Roselle native to Africa and primarily West Africa. The first time I had this was at a Caribbean spot in Montreal and they called it Sorel and then I had another version at a vegan restaurant in Cambridge. I have loved every iteration because it is incredibly versatile.
The appetizers were so good and incredibly different from each other. The Bourbon Shrimp was served cold, had had such a refreshing taste. The Suya Beef was out of this world. The meat was juicy, and the suya seasoning was incredibly flavorful. This was my favorite and for those of you who have never heard of Suya…
I first heard about Suya from my husband. In Nigeria, Suya is meat on sticks and is eaten as street food. I had it one other time elsewhere, and the preparation was lacking but this time it was spot on. Suya originated in the Northern parts of Nigeria and then became basically the national food of Nigeria, encompassing every crevice of the country. People make it differently, but generally, the spice mixture contains roasted peanuts and then some kind of hot pepper. The rest of the spices are dependant on up to regional and personal preference. Get this from Sahel, you won’t regret trying their rendition of this dish.
For our entree’s, I ordered the Braised Oxtail Stew and bae ordered the Dancing Jerk Chicken. My oxtail was incredible. The stew was so flavorful, I loved the consistency of it and the meat itself was so tasty. The plantains for both dishes were perfectly ripe and cooked. The Jerk Chicken was also very flavorful and was topped with a great pineapple salsa.
Suya Beef – Succulent, tasty, and perfectly cooked.
Saucy with a kick!
SO TASTY. This stew hit all the right spots.
Half chicken, with housemade jerk sauce and pineapple salsa.
Our meal was a great experience and I cannot wait to go back to try some other items they have. PArticularly the egusi stew and rasta pasta.
I hope you visit Mavens and if you do let me know!!
Life as a Maven