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chowhounding disappointment in Oakland

Ruth Lafler | Jul 12, 200102:06 AM

I've been eyeing the West African restaurant (Kuer Samba) across the street from my dry cleaners on Telegraph and 49th in Oakland, so tonight after picking up my dry cleaning I decided to check it out.

The decor was attractive (murals, African-themed carvings, African-themed fabric hangings and matching upholstry, presumably African music playing at an pleasant volume), but the food was a disappointment.

I told the waitress I knew nothing about West African food (although I've eaten my share of Ethiopian food in that neighborhood). She pointed me to the lamb in peanut sauce. Okay, I know one thing about West African food: it uses a lot of peanuts. So I ordered it.

It was large chunks of lamb stewed in a thick sauce with a wedge of cabbage and a potato. It smelled slightly scorched and the sauce was thickened and skinned over in places, as if it had been dished up after sitting unstirred on the stove too long. Worse, it was heavy and bland and the meat was dry.

I also ordered the only one available of the three African drinks on the menu ... it didn't have any pulp and could have come from a bottle some red juice blend from Trader Joe's. Maybe the ginger or tamarind would have been more interesting. Maybe the waitress steered the white lady to something bland (I heard her warn another customer that what he was about to dig into was "very spicy," which was certainly not true of my dish).

The only thing I found the least bit intriguing was that they offered three North African wines (two Moroccan, one Tunisian, all red) by the glass. I had a glass of the Moroccan "domaine di sahari" a non-tannic (Merlot-like?) wine with a distinct overtone of olives.

I wanted to like the place, but unless someone can tell me I should have ordered differently, I'd have to give it a thumbs down.

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