Tucson’s culinary landscape just got a little more exotic with the introduction last weekend of African Restaurant J’Adore on North Swan Road at East Speedway.
It is Tucson’s third African restaurant, joining longtime Zemam’s (2731 E. Broadway, 119 E. Speedway) and the nearly 4-year-old Café Desta (758 S. Stone Ave.), both of which specialize in Ethiopian cuisine.
J’Adore, located at 1070 N. Swan Road in the former home of CeeDee Jamaican Kitchen, is serving a West African menu that fuses Ethiopian and African cuisines, said Armel Dakouo, who opened the restaurant with his aunt, Aminata Samake.
Dakouo is a native of the West African nation of Mali and came to Tucson in 2005 after going to school in Minnesota. He was working as a kitchen supervisor with the Arizona Department of Corrections until last year.
The restaurant was inspired by his aunt’s African Niamoye Market, 4223 E. Grant Road, which Samake opened about 18 months ago. The store’s customers convinced her that Tucson needed a restaurant specializing in the cuisines of West and Central Africa.
“Anything you need from Africa is in our store,” said Dakouo, ticking off a list that includes imported spices, canned and packaged goods.
This is Dakouo’s first cooking stint, but his aunt, who moved to Tucson in 2006, has 20 years’ experience in the kitchen, re-
creating the dishes that Dakouo grew up with. Those flavors are pronounced in dishes that include chicken, lamb and shrimp marinated overnight in lemon and a host of secret spices before being cooked in an onion and mustard sauce and served with white rice. At dinnertime, those dishes run $12 to $15. You can get them in the daily lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $5.99.
Other items on the menu include a thoui boulette made with fish and the popular Maffe stew ($14), made with lamb cooked in a creamy peanut butter and tomato sauce.