While driving through downtown White River Junction, VT, on Wednesday, April 3rd, I noticed a corner storefront with the words "Tastes of Africa's Karibu Tule Restaurant" emblazoned on the window. Intrigued, I decided to come back for dinner the following night. Karibu Tule is what I call a brick wall bistro type of restaurant, with (of course) exposed brick walls, natural wood accents, and African art decor. The restaurant seats about 50 people at mostly two and four party tables. Apparently it gets a good number of customers from the Dartmouth College community. In a true case of serendipity, it happens that the restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat buffet on Thursday nights, featuring many of the dishes on the regular menu plus a few specials of the day. This gave me the opportunity to sample on my first visit a wide variety of dishes served by the restaurant. The buffet contained a total of 12 items. In order to present a full and accurate report to this board, I decided to try all of them. (Hey, it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it). In addition to the entrees and side dishes on the buffet, you can, if you wish to, order appetizers and desserts separately off the main menu. I wished to. The following descriptions are taken from the menu.
BANANA CHILI FRITTERS (West Africa) - A sweet & spicy combination of bananas, chilies, and ginger, fried into sweet savory fritters.
(I would come back just for these. They are served with a chili dipping sauce called "Dynamite Sauce" and are addictive).
From the buffet:
ROMAZAVA (Madagascar Beef) - called the "National Dish" of Madagascar, cuts of beef cooked with Chinese cabbage, ginger. tomato and other vegetables and seasonings.
PEANUT CHICKEN STEW (Mali) - Boneless, skinless chicken stewed in a simply delicious spicy peanut sauce with turnips, yams, carrots, and other fresh veggies.
VEGETABLE TAJINE - North African dish featuring chick peas, raisins, celery & other fresh vegetable combined with savory and sweet spices.
DENGU (Kenya) - Mung beans slow cooked in savory spices, cilantro & tomatoes to make a delicious East African lentil-like stew.
COCONUT TURMERIC RICE (Tanzania) - Aromatic jasmine rice cooked with turmeric spice and grated coconut for a sweet chewy accompaniment to spicy stews.
IRIO (Kenya) - A tasty and healthful mix of fresh potatoes cooked with spinach, peas, corn & a delicate blend of seasonings.
CANDIED YAMS - Sweet potatoes cooked cinnamon, sugar and other sweet secrets.
SHIRO WOT (Groundnut Vegetable Stew) - Yams, corn, spinach, okra and other fresh tasty vegetables cooked in a delicious peanut sauce spiced with Ethiopian blended pepper spice "bambere" [medium spicy].
Also, cabbage in peanut sauce, seasoned green beans, chicken with pineapple, and "Palava" - chicken stew with greens.
All of these dishes were hearty and tasty. In the US we would call this comfort food. Some of the dishes were not as spicy as I expected, but the owner explained that he felt he had to "New Englandize" the cuisine on the buffet for general consumption. On other nights, when you order off the regular menu, you can specify the amount of heat you want.
For dessert I had locally made ice cream, (one scoop each of chocolate, strawberry, and coconut almond, all delicious), and some excellent African (what else?) coffee.
The bill for all of the above plus a bottle of Magic Hat Humble Patience Ale was $34.00 including tax and tip. (There was a South African red wine on the wine list called "Goats Do Roam", but I didn't have the nerve to try it).
Special dietary notes: All the bean and vegetable dishes are true vegetarian and contain no dairy products or eggs. Peanut sauce is an ingredient in several dishes, and thus peanut products are heavily used in the kitchen.
Karibu Tule apparently means "Welcome... Let's Dine" in Swahili, and I would recommend that any hounds passing through or near White River Junction take them up on this invitation. This is a true Chowhound establishment. The owner told me that he is considering opening a sister restaurant in the Boston area. I advised him that if he were to put one of these places in Somerville or Jamaica Plain, he would be beating customers off with a stick.
Link: http://www.tastingafrica.com/karibu rstrnt.htm