Welcome to Mansa Kunda, a West African restaurant and neighborhood gem, whose doors opened earlier this year in Takoma Park, Maryland.
The Joofs (owners) are very good friends of mine and I’d like to assure you that I’ll keep my views and comments true to how I felt about my experience.
Let’s rewind a bit.
I have been meaning to visit Mansa for quite some time but I live about 45 minutes away on a good day and after traveling down I-270 during the week for work with the painful traffic, the thought of doing again over the weekend makes me cringe lol!
Last Sunday, my friend and colleague Eno sent me a text message stating that she had lunch at this new African restaurant in Takoma Park and that we needed to go check out!
When she mentioned the name, I was like “those are my people” and immediately felt the need to figure my schedule as soon as possible as my visit was well overdue.
Timing was perfect and we were able to visit this past Friday for dinner.
Alright! Enough background, let’s get to it!
The Joofs are originally from Gambia and their hope with Mansa Kunda, which means Kingdom Domain in Mandingo, was to bring a true taste of Africa.
Not only delicious food but also providing outstanding customer service, which is very lacking in most African restaurants.
The first thing that immediately stood out to me was the decor.
Tastefully done with African drums as a seating option both at the tables and bar area.
I truly could’t enough of these drums and had a bit of fun beating on them!
We met Hatib (Mr. Joof), who was so kind to give us a tour of the restaurant as well as sharing his vision and his “why” for bringing Mansa Kunda to the community.
Back to our table, it was time to put in our drinks, appetizers and entrees selection as we enjoyed the sounds of Afrobeats in the background, which had me rocking my waist in my chair.
We were in no rush and really took our time to enjoy this experience.
Eno requested a custom cocktail made with a combination Mansa’s homemade Hibiscus and Ginger Juices with a touch of Gin.
The cocktail wasn’t bad at all, depending on your liking or preference, you might want more Ginger, more Hibiscus or even more Gin!
Appetizer selections were the Plantains, Meat and Fish Pies.
The Meat Pies were perfectly done and the crust was well executed: soft on the thicker part where the meat filling is and crispy/crunchy on the edge.
The pies served with a dipping sauce, which complimented this appetizer. It wasn’t spicy at all but if you’d like spice (or peppeh) to take it up a notch, they have it.
The Plantains were out of this world and reminded me of eating Alloco (Plantains) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
OMG, they were so good!
If I had room in my belly, I would have gotten 2 orders of these.
Next up, which were on the house (THANK YOU HATIB!) were samples of the Chicken Afra and Olehleh.
The Chicken Afra is fire grilled and there’s a Lamb option available.
This right here was a throwback to Poulet Braise (Grilled Chicken) in Abidjan.
I think this is made with dark meat and the best part of it all is picking through the bones to get that little tiny piece of chicken, dipping it in the sauce and taking a bite.
My African brothers and sisters can relate!
The Olehleh (black eye pea Tamale) was delicious with chunks of eggplant on the inside.
The only negative about the Olehleh is that it was a bit dry but the taste and flavor were very good.
On to our entrees selections.
Eno loved the Curry when she visited last week and ordered it again as well as the Chu with Beef.
Side Note: the serving sizes are pretty hefty here, which is a plus!
The Curry sauce is made with an assortment of vegetables with choices of chicken, fish, tofu, or paneer cheese.
What I love about this dish is that Hatib kept everyone in mind when developing it by offering various options depending on your dietary needs, vegetarian and gluten free, which are indicated on the menu where applicable.
Then came the Chu (with Beef per Eno’s choice), a traditional Sene-Gambian tomato-based stew with spiced vegetables. It is served with steamed rice or couscous pilaf.
I don’t recall tasting it as I couldn’t even start on my entree as I was getting stuffed after eating all those amazing appetizers.
Eno stated it was tasty and I love the fact that it had Steamed Cassava in it.
Lamb Afra (fire grilled) was my entree selection.
It’s served with a spicy dipping sauce and what seemed to be Vermicelli Noodles topped with an onion sauce (similar to Yassa).
There is nothing like grilled meats, especially those charred parts when you are biting into it!
The lamb was a bit overcooked for me but that might be fine for you.
I’d say just be sure to inform them of your cooking preference (rare, medium rare or well done).
Oh, the spicy dipping sauce was very hot so be careful.
As you can tell, we truly enjoyed our time at Mansa Kunda.
Hatib’s “why” for Mansa is to connect with people, the community.
Ubuntu means “I am because we are” and he hopes that people come, gather at Mansa and discover a new cuisine and find Ubuntu.
I (low key) observed him the whole evening and he was busy connecting and interacting with his customers both inside the restaurant and outside on the small patio (yes, there is outdoor seating available).
If you do not have plans for the upcoming weekend and looking to discover something new, grab your friends, family and head over to Mansa Kunda!
I am looking forward to stopping by again this Summer when Yaikah (Mrs. Joof) is back in town.
Hope you enjoy when you visit and be kind to share your experience in the comments section below!