Once again, my mind is stuck on the matter of a state slogan for New Jersey. My current vote is "Goat Done Right." And if we can't get this as a state slogan, how about declaring goat the state meat?
Maybe this doesn't sound all that appealing in print, but if you were eating at Asanka Delight, the Ghanaian restaurant in Somerset, you'd understand completely. Where else do the primal ingredients of goat, peanut butter, chili and rice get such royal treatment?
This is a place that takes cheerful to the next level. The menu says "Small Parties Welcome." That doesn't mean groups of two or three for dinner—it means real parties, birthdays, anniversaries, showers, with, say, less than thirty or forty people. Yes, lots of restaurants urge you to bring a bottle of wine or some beer; but who else says "Eat, BYOB and Dance!"
Asanka Delight was started by Ghanaian native and long time New Jersey resident Wendy Armah and her husband Jude about two and a half years ago. Its first location was in a converted ice cream stand—the birthing spot for many of the Garden State's best restaurants—and last spring, they moved into a strip mall up the road. In a sign of the neighborhood's change from African-American to African immigrant, Asanka Delight occupies a space that used to be a barbecue joint.
If you've never had African before—or if your African experiences are limited to Ethiopian—head in, walk past the checker games, small parties and kids doing homework and place your order at the counter. Start with an Asanka Meat Pie, a sort of curried empanada. If you're new to the cuisine and want to dive right in, try the Peanut Butter Goat Meat Soup with Fufu. It's seriously spicy, with real meat flavor. If you're the sort who needs to be eased into a new cuisine, go for the Jollof Rice With Chicken. "Jollof" seems to be the African variant of "pilaf," and is a pretty decent gateway.
It turns out that Jude's nephew owns a restaurant in Ghana that was visited by Anthony Bourdain, and he and Wendy were trying to get the guy to come and visit their restaurant in New Jersey. Now I couldn't tell them this to their faces, but I know from experience that it's much easier to get a Manhattan food celebrity to visit another continent than it is to get them to the Garden State.
920 Hamilton Avenue, Somerset NJ 08873 (map) 732-249-2700
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