Among the many amazing features of In God We Trust is a wall of Astroturf next to the tables, which makes for some comfy leaning after downing your fufu and soup. This Ghanaian café, just north of the commercial South Bronx area known as the Hub, is a neighborhood oddity— its steam tables loaded with fragrant peanut and palm-oil soups rather than the pork, beans, and rice of neighboring joints.
Begin by selecting a mash, a hefty starch cylinder that arrives wrapped in aluminum foil, each variety with a distinct texture, flavor, and aroma. Yam fufu is bland and soft as a pillow, springing back when you poke it. Omo touwe, pounded from rice, has a clean taste and a pellucid whiteness that’s almost disturbing. Made from fermented cornmeal, kenkey generates a flavor somewhere between caviar and old gym socks. Next pick a soup: peanut is my favorite here— tomato-tinged and minimally goobery. Palm nut comes a close second, tasting more of meat than palm oil. Into the soup is dropped your choice of whatever flesh presents itself on a given day— oxtail, goat, beef, chicken, or fried fish. Alternately, choose romo, a “light soup” already containing lamb in a strong broth. To further vary the terrain, ask to have okra or spinach dabbed on the surface of your combo. The meal will set you about $6.50.
Whatever you choose— and I’d recommend yam-peanut-chicken for neophytes— make sure you grab the excellent ginger beer, a nonalcoholic beverage modifying the slam of fresh ginger with a touch of clove. Friday and Saturday evenings promise a West African disco in the back room (where patrons were cutting z‘s on a recent afternoon), with refreshments to include a festive cow-head soup made specially for the occasion.
Located on a lonely strip of Vanderbilt Avenue between Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, the counter at Blasas is heavily fortified with Plexiglas, fronted by a wafer dining room that manages to hold four bright-green tables. Fixtures apparently inherited from a Caribbean tenant— cake plates, pattie cabinets, candy racks— yawn empty along the counter. The host, who styles himself “Onos Ukpong— Entrepreneur” on the business card, dispels with the warmth of his welcome any hesitation you may feel at the fortifications. As does the knowledge that this is one of only two Nigerian restaurants in town (the other is Demu Cafe, 773 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, 718-875-8484).
Like Ghanaian, Nigerian food relies on mashes and soups. One highlight is the egusi, a puree of melon seeds flecked with greens, somewhat resembling runny scrambled eggs. The delightful musky flavor comes from dried shrimp. Egusi is an acquired taste that produces an intense craving after two or three exposures. Blasas also offers a properly slimy okra sauce, although other soups promised on the menu made from Nigerian greens (mbanga, ukazi, and edikang— I’m dying to taste them) are rarely available. Yam, farina, and cassava fufu with beef, chicken, or fish ($10) complete the menu. A Jamaican dish or two is also available. Though its range is minimal, Blasas is a great place to get up to your elbows in fufu. A tureen of warm water, together with liquid soap and lotion, is provided tableside to return your hands to their pristine condition.