To take a culinary trip to Kenya, you also have to take a trip to Santa Fe

by Nick Gonzales

The Four Corners has some pretty fantastic food – but it’s far from all-inclusive. To get certain tastes and cuisines, you have to take a bit of a drive.

East African cuisine, for instance, is hard to find on Colorado’s Western Slope. However, there are a couple places to find it in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area. One of them is Jambo Café in Santa Fe.

The restaurant, located in a strip mall on Cerillos Road, has a menu that merges African and Caribbean flavors. The head chef, Ahmed Obo, originally hails from Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya. Much of what he serves is fragrant and brightly colorful.

On our most recent visit, we grabbed the café’s cinnamon-dusted plantains, a coconut chicken curry and a housemade mango-ginger lemonade. If you can’t tell, our cravings were a bit fruity.

The plantains were great as a starter or side dish. As the banana’s less-sweet sister, their starchiness makes them taste somewhat closer to a potato. Cut them into strips and fry them up and you’ve basically got the steak fries of the fruit world. Dust them with cinnamon and you’ve got what we ate here.

It’s worth noting that the plantains were served with a pineapple curry dipping sauce. The pineapple brings a tangy sweetness combined with the earthiness of the other curry flavors. The plantains work well as a delivery vehicle the same way – to continue the comparison – fries are perfect at delivering ketchup.

Anyway, curry as a dipping sauce needs to catch on in more places. We’re looking at you, south and southeast Asian restaurants. Dip us.

[image:2]While we’re on the subject of curry, the coconut chicken curry entree came cooked with tomatoes, topped with garlic spinach, and served with basmati rice. Our logic for getting the chicken curry was that the relatively neutral flavor of the meat would allow us to experience the spices of the curry more clearly than, say, goat meat. We can report that the curry hit a really good intersection of sweetness, creaminess, and spiciness.

We couldn’t really detect the garlic in the spinach and probably could have done without the spinach altogether, but it didn’t distract too much from the rest of the meal. The tiny tomatoes were a cute and nice touch.

The lemonade felt funky on our tongue – but in a good way. We couldn’t tell whether it was lightly carbonated, or if the ginger was just interacting with our palate. Either way, it tingled and was delightfully mango-y.

Jambo Café is quickly becoming one of our favorites when we’re in Santa Fe and not just because its different from what we find closer to home. It’s also just tasty, satisfying homestyle food from well across the globe.

Nick Gonzales

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