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Taste of Zanzibar Restaurant Opens on Morse Road

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Columbus has yet another new restaurant with exotic fare. The recently opened Taste of Zanzibar on Morse Road offers authentic Halal East African cuisine. Chef Nikki proudly exclaimed, “It’s the first Swahili restaurant in Columbus.” Indeed.

When I think of the island of Zanzibar, I remember it being called “Spice Island” in history class, but sadly couldn’t remember much more, other than being a kind of exotic destination. I was determined to learn more when I returned home. But since I was in their newly opened restaurant, I had to look at the menu and sample some of their food.

Their menu resembled what looked like Indian food to me: Curries, chapati, spinach. Nikki kindly explained to me that the menu is a direct reflection of Indian influence on Zanzibari cuisine. Knowing that I had dinner plans later on, I ordered light:

Vegetable Sambusa
Mchicha
warm chapati bread

My sambusa was similar to the Indian samosa, but lighter, less greasy, smaller and not nearly as spicy as a typical samosa. This was the size of a medium sized Greek spanokopita, and had a similar exterior as well, not as fattening as a samosa. It was filled with spinach, peas, green onion, carrot, potato and spices. The exterior was dusted with a spice, probably clove, Zanzibar’s chief export. The samosa can also be ordered with either beef or chicken. It was truly delicious, and at $1, I wanted more but eagerly moved on to the next course.

Mchicha is a chopped warm spinach, cooked in coconut or peanut butter, and with a little stewed tomato and mild spices. I ordered it with coconut, and enjoyed scooping it up with the warm, slightly crisp chapati bread. I could taste and feel the Indian influence, but everything had a Zanzibari twist to it, which made it distinctly different.

Telly, one of chef Nikki’s coworkers, asked me if I was enjoying my food. I nodded and chatted with her a bit. She came from New York to help open Zanzibar, the other ladies were from Columbus. The restaurant was operated by four women that day, one in Muslim dress.

Vowed that I would be back, I came home and researched Zanzibar on the computer. What I found out is that Zanzibar has been influenced by outside sources for over ten centuries, thru either invasion or peaceful occupation. These different cultures introduced their own foods, ingredients, and culture to the residents of Zanzibar.

Arabs and Persians – coconut palms, mango trees, citrus fruits, and rice and different cooking techniques, not to mention Islam.

Portuguese – cassava, maize and pineapples.

Omanis – started the massive spice plantations

Indians – brought their families with them and thus Indian cooking techniques. Their traditional recipes combined with locally available ingredients created a variety of spicy pickles, chutneys, biriyani, curry sauces, fish cakes, and sambusas

Sadly, the Omanis pressed many locals into slavery until the British interceded. As the slaves were taken to different parts of the globe, they brought with them fried cassava chips, stewed greens, sweet potatoes, yams, and roasted maize. The chopped spinach dish I ate may have been similar to that time and place.

A taste of Zanzibar is a welcome addition the already active Cleveland Avenue/Morse Road ethnic food culture here in Columbus.

Taste of Zanzibar 3322-A Morse Road, Columbus 43231 614-476-1843

More information can be found at www.asilifoods.com.

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9 Responses to Taste of Zanzibar Restaurant Opens on Morse Road

  1. spookygoddess78
    spookygoddess78 March 18, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am

    Sounds yummy – can’t wait to try it!

  2. CMH Gourmand
    CMH Gourmand March 19, 2010 1:35 pm at 1:35 pm

    Good Review PZ – keep them coming.

  3. patient_zero
    patient_zero March 19, 2010 9:24 pm at 9:24 pm

    @ sg – I can’t get the thoughts of spinach with peanut butter and the whole prepared fish out of my mind now. Please let me know when you visit, and what you tried.

    @ Gourmand – Thanks! I look forward to an alt.eats review in the coming weeks or days. I’d like to hear what the group thinks of this Indian cuisine with a Zanzibari twist.
    It was just a twist of fate that I discovered them that day on my way back from the Easton Sprint store. Their bright white banner caught my attention and I was compelled to turn around. We’re so fortunate to have ethnic eats like this here in Columbus. Sometimes I feel spoiled here on the North end of town.

  4. Columbusite March 20, 2010 2:07 am at 2:07 am

    Good to see more! There are already numerous African restaurants up in the Morse/Cleveland Ave for the less initiated. Tamarack Circle in Forest Park has a couple too. Haven’t seen much from Columbus foodies on these establishments…

  5. deraj1013
    deraj1013 March 21, 2010 1:04 pm at 1:04 pm

    Well, some of us have written up Drelyse on Tamarack…

    http://deraj1013.blogspot.com/2009/11/drelyse-african-restaurant.html

    And I enjoyed the review here, sir!

  6. Tina
    Tina March 22, 2010 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm

    I was on my way to Easton Mall and then this big sign “Taste of Zanzibar” caught my eyes. I read about Zanzibar and its beautiful beaches, rich culture and friendly people.. my friend recommends zanzibar pizza, chapati with coconut spinach and mshakiki (meat on skewers)  I hope  they serve this at the Restaurant, I can’t wait to try the food..I am so excited maybe I can learn a  word or two of swahili before my trip… Taste of Zanzibar here I COME …Kudos

  7. itommy79 March 23, 2010 6:52 am at 6:52 am

    Had dinner there last night (thanks to this post). All I can say is FANTASTIC! First Tanzanian place in Columbus!

  8. patient_zero
    patient_zero March 24, 2010 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm

    @ Columbusite – In reference to ethnic eats in the Northland vicinity, I mentioned to Taco Drew the other day that I felt fortunate to live in an area with so many ethnic options, and he nodded in agreement. There’s so much here. The alteats group ( http://alteatscolumbus.com/ ) has visited African Paradise, Calanley and Safari Coffee, and I’m sure you will see many more reviews from them in the future.

    @ Tina – I didn’t see Mshakiki or Zanzibari pizza on the menu, but they do have Nyama choma – grilled steak lightly marinated in spices and fresh herbs.
    If you ask Telly or Nikki, they may add it to the menu later, or make it up specially or put it on the weekend list. Just ask them. Their Mchicha is really amazing and worth the trip.

    @ itommy – I’m flattered you stopped in after reading my review. Actually, I’m looking forward to my third trip. I had Tamarind Juice, Beef Sambosa, and  Ndizi Mbichi last Sunday and had to roll myself out of there.

    @ deraj – Nice review Jared of Drelyse, from a vegetarians perspective as well. I’m craving an order of their red red as I’m typing this. As I post reviews, I’m thinking increasingly of vegetarian options for viewers like yourself. PM me if you are in the area Jared and have got nothing better to do.

  9. Chris Sunami
    ChrisSunami April 16, 2010 3:16 pm at 3:16 pm

    @Tina
    All words sound just as they are spelled.  Vowels are the same as spanish. a=ah; e=eh ;i = ee; o=oh; u =oo;  The accent is always on the second to last syllable.

    Jambo= hello
    tafadhali = please
    Asante (ah-san’-tay)= Thank You
    Chakula kitamu = delicious food
    Kwaheri = Good bye
    Tutarudi =We will return

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