Been reading for a while, but have never posted. Now seems as good a time as any to start, though, especially since I'm going to Studiokitchen next week (mainly on the basis of your recommendations) and need a warm-up posting...
In any case, I went to Fatou & Fama (40th and Chestnut) for the first time last night, with my parents (in from out of town) and was surprised and pleased. We were there super early and were the only ones in the place besides the staff and some folks going in and out for takeout. Decor is exceedingly minimal but not a downer. They bill the food as West Indian and African, but the three of us all ate from the African section of the menu. (There was also a $9.95 dinner buffet offered, but it was relatively small, didn't look tempting, and as most of the entrees were in the $11-13 range anyway, not that great of a bargain.)
I had a common reaction to all of the food - it looked ordinary, but was flavored really well. Mom had the Dibi, which turned out to be grilled lamb chops with onions on top, with plantains on the side. Texture of the chops was fine, but the seasoning was excellent. The plantains were appropriately mushy, kind of like baked sweet potato. Dad had the Yassa (?) Tilapia, which was a whole grilled fish smothered in some kind of creamy (but non-dairy) onion sauce that was tasty over rice. And I had the Poisson a la Braise (aka grilled fish), which also turned out to be tilapia, but seasoned with some delicious mixture of pepper and spices, and also with onions on top (sensing a theme here?). The onions and sauce and fish gave the rice on the side a nice flavor.
Anyway, the descriptions make the food sound quite ordinary, and maybe my ignorance of African (in this case, Senegalese) food had something to do with how pleasing it was, but it was uniformly satisfying.
We also tried the ginger drink and the bissap drink - the ginger one tasted like sweetened ginger root (not like ginger ale), and the bissap (which according to them comes from the hibiscus plant!) tasted kind of... red and flowery.
The only quibble I had was the server forgot our drink order and had to be reminded in the middle of the meal. But other than that, he was very nice.
All in all, I am exceedingly pleased with that little group of restaurants on the corner of 40th and Chestnut (Fatou & Fama, New Delhi, and Lemongrass).