Friday night four of us dined at Skipper's, a newish (4 months or so?) African place on Bay Street in Clifton. My SI geography skills are minimal; I'm told we were near Willow Ave, and that one could get there on a Bay Street bus from the ferry, disembarking just after the Clifton railroad station.
The space is small and clean, the service friendly, helpful, and genuine. This cuisine wasn't very familiar to any of us; our server/owner patiently answered all our questions. We found the food to match his descriptions quite well: if he said "really hot", we got Thai or Szechuan level heat, not Taco Bell hot.
Of course in the end, we wanted a bit of everything. Fortunately they didn't have the entire range available - they run an all you can eat buffet for about nine bucks Friday afternoons until 4, so some things were sold out - so that we ended up with only about twice what we could polish off in one sitting.
Appetizers ("Delicasies" on the menu, IIRC): Suya is beef on a stick, comparable in form to satay. No dipping sauce - instead, a seriously friggin' hot chile marinade is applied before cooking. Stir Fried Yam turns out to be 1" strips of the vegetable, cooked to a fairly airy texture and lightly seasoned. Very hot chile sauce, with I think a dried fish component, for dipping; and while it's really nice, we ate most of the yam without, as the starch is a good foil for the fiery Suya.
Entrees: an off-menu serving of savory spinach (I don't think it's actually spinach, reminds me of the chaya we've had in Mexico, or maybe even collards) with chunks of fish was especially savory and a big winner. "Vegetable" stew did in fact contain just a bit of greenery amongst the huge chunks of meat (lamb?) - not that we were complaining, it was wonderful, especially with the pounded yam accompaniement. The latter is bland with a consistency like bread dough. Yam porridge was kind of odd: I seem to remember it having orange and white bits, was solid (though tender, just not gruel-like), a bit sweet, and visually remeniscent of a cauliflower or a model of a brain. I wouldn't want this alone for a meal, but again it was a beatiful complement to the meatier dishes. Jolof rice with beef was a minor disappointment: the rice uninteresting and the beef tough. In fact most of the meat in this meal was cooked to at least a medium-well; only in the rice dish did this seem unfortunate to our normally "better raw than overcooked" group.
Deserts: the apple pie "baked in an African style" is no longer served; there was no demand and the owner had ended up eating most of it. The cheescake is no longer served; there was no demand and the owner's daughter had ended up eating most of it. But we couldn't pass up the hot pepper soup! Yes, this was listed under deserts; I suppose it may act as a digestive, like grappa, blazing through any clogs in your system. The soup contained all manner of muscle and organ meats, I believe mostly or entirely of bovine origin, and was indeed quite spicy with dried chile, black pepper, and (pretty sure) cloves.
Skipper's, in terms of being interesting, welcoming, and delicious, is right up there with New Asha, a mile or two away on Victory Blvd. (Victory is shaping up in my mind as "Staten Island's Roosevelt Ave", with New Asha and other Sri Lankans, Los Lobos, a few other good Mexican groceries & tacquerias, Frank & Frites - only NY dog I've had which isn't utterly humiliated by comparison to the mighty Chicago dog, and apparently a great Polish place all on or near the blvd.) And the level of tongue-scorching heat dished out by these two is similar, though Skipper's says they will tone down some dishes on request.
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