The Footles invited Mister and me to join them at Radio Africa & Kitchen, a biweekly, “nomadic” restaurant. They’ve been a couple of times as its held in the East Bay at Sweet Adeline’s, one of their favorite weekend spots. (Radio Africa’s Eskender Aseged’s other Radio Africa locale is at Velo Rouge Cafe in The Mission on Wednesdays and Thursdays.)
I haven’t been to Sweet Adeline despite its Knit-One-One Saturday morning gatherings. It hasn’t entered my orbit of cafes to visit while grading or knitting or farting around. Lovely spot, though, with high, bright walls and beautiful, glossy images of baked goods on some of them.
We rolled up for the 6:30 seating (usually he holds two: 6:30 and 8:30) with a bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir (that Mr. Footle found unimpressive). There is a community table in the front of Sweet Adeline’s holds 10-12 people, several two tops, and several four tops. We were seated across from Aseged’s station in the extremely clean and shiny kitchen. (I was surprised that Adeline’s has such a large kitchen yet produces only pastries, but the front counter is, according to Mrs. Footle, covered in sweets all coming from the sparkling kitchen.)
Aseged’s two servers came round regularly with water (bring your own beverages if you’d like something else) and to drop off or pick up plates in a well-orchestrated moves. Menus were already on the table, allowing us to look over the evening’s prix fixe ($40 a person) menu, which they began serving almost immediately
We started with edamame hummus, a creamy and oily dip complemented nicely Sweet Adeline’s flatbread. This hummus isn’t like Haig’s or another garbanzo bean hummus; it is more unctuous, I assume owing to the texture of edamame, and carried the distinctive flavor of the olive oil (Pasolivo Olive Oil).
Radio Africa presents the mezze plates family style, which worked well for us. We did not fight over the generous portion of sauteed prawns with Ethopian awaze sauce (but Mister failed to believe me when I said that shrimp and prawns are not the same thing. We looked it up, he conceded the win to me, but really, are they different animals?). The shrimps’ sweet flavor contrasted with the slow, spicy finish of the awaze sauce. Personally, I preferred the warm mussels with wild rice dolman and saffroned aioli. My grandmother would not call this dish dolma, but we can consider a deconstructed dolma as the rice and mussels came cradled in a deep-green olive leaf. The saffron brought the dish together. It was not too heavy but was pronounced. Our third dish was an arugula salad with roasted beets, peppers, fennel, and goat cheese. Nice, with the bite of the arugula, but not as interesting as the mussels or shrimp.
What was interesting was the green lentil soup with swiss chard and gremoulata. Mr. Footle does not normally like lentils but even he could not resist the big, buttery lentils. “Spicy,” “Yummy,” and “Delicious,” is all I’ve got to go with but Mrs. Footle and I agreed that the baby swiss chard was a welcome addition to the soup.
Mister and I shared the main dishes (as did the Footles), a slow cooked New Zealand striped bass (replacing the wild black cod from the menu) and Ethiopian-style crimini mushroom wot. Both were delicious but the table favorite, the wot, was savory and mysterious. The crimini mushrooms replaced lamb (generally the meat in wot) beautifully, as they have texture and bite and held up well against the dish’s spices and crunch of almonds. The starch, a curried potato brouat with basil and wrapped in phyllo dough, well, the potato was delicate inside with subtle flavors and a creamy texture. Aseged finished the plate with spinach with flax seed butter (he said this is common in Ethiopia), which gave the spinach flavor without weighing it down.
The fish held up, moist and creamy, under a Moroccan olive sauce. It was plated with light couscous pilaf (I generally do not like couscous but loved this simple preparation) and French al dente green beans.
One of the most interesting things we had, though, was the Mission Farms fresh lemon and buddha hand citron verbena tea with wildflower honey. Oh my, it was soothing, not lemony, and the honey gave it warmth and depth. Delicious.
We were surprised that we finished at 9:15. Perhaps not enough people called for an 8:30 seating. In any case, it allowed us to enjoy our meal. Aseged made the rounds, speaking with every table. (Mister caught him off guard when he asked when he would be opening his own restaurant — after traveling a bit more, he said.)
We had a delightful evening and hope to do it again.
You can find more information here, in this SF Chronicle article.