The Vegetarian Option: Joloff

The Vegetarian Option

Dining out meat-free.

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[Photographs: Howard Walfish]

Joloff, a Senegalese restaurant in Clinton Hill, wears its divided loyalties on its sleeve. One might even say it revels in them—there are signs proclaiming love for both Africa and Brooklyn scattered throughout the dining room. It's a family-run restaurant open since 1995, though just a few years ago they underwent a renovation to make the interior (and the menu) more modern. One of the great things about this menu overhaul is a full selection of vegan entrees.

There are plenty of vegetarian options in the appetizer portion of the menu as well. At the top of the page you see fataya legumes ($2.50), described as "veggie pastels", little deep-fried stuffed pies. Filled with a thick pea puree, which is sweet with a pleasant hint of sourness, the pies are paired with a savory tomato and onion sauce.

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Also worth ordering are the nem legumes ($4.50), veggie spring rolls that wouldn't look out of place in a Chinese restaurant. The insides are a blend of cabbage and carrots, cooked until they are completely soft, making a nice contrast with the crispy exterior of the spring rolls. The seasoning of the filling is spot-on, particularly when you dip the rolls into the provided sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

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From the eight available vegetarian entrees I selected the mafe tofu ($9.00), a mix of vegetables and tofu in a peanut butter sauce. The peanuts don't add much in the way of flavor but lend a great deal of texture, making the stew-like sauce incredibly rich and comforting. The large chunks of potatoes, carrots, and onions make this seem almost like home cooking, despite being an unfamiliar set of flavors to me. The mafe tofu is usually served with either white or brown rice. For an extra $2, however, you can get it with light and fluffy couscous, giving the dish an almost Moroccan bent.

Partway through my meal, Joloff owner Papa Diagne came over and introduced himself to me and asked how I liked the meal. It was a nice touch; sure, he may have been prompted to do so when he saw my camera, but I got the impression that he does the same for most of his guests. Even more than that, it seemed that he actually cared about whether or not I liked the food. Between the homey vibe and the excellent food, Joloff provides the closest thing to a Senegalese family dinner that you're likely to find at a restaurant on this continent.

Joloff

930 Fulton Street, Brooklyn NY 11238 (map) 718-636-4011
joloffrestaurant.com