Saturday, August 30, 2008

Babanusa encapsulates the phrase Hakuna Matata

Babanusa is Australia's only Sudanese restaurant that operates truly on the precinct of the Swahili saying Hakuna Matata which translates to no worries - an Aussie trademark. These two cultures separated by sea are united by a similar carefree attitude a vital ingredient that has seen Babanusa's rising success since its opening in 1995.
The restaurant is simply one big room with a wallpapered yellow border featuring an African Safari motif that is rather immature. Dreary cream walls, impersonal, upright wooden tables and chairs with wooden panelling and detailing set a rather severe atmosphere. In addition the lighting and draft that filters in every time the door opens can be rather bothersome.
After much thought and personal trepidation over the menu, we finally made up our minds.
If your wondering why and what I was so worried about trying Sudanese cuisine, being such an avid foodie with incredible bravado, I shall tell you why. Having travelled Africa - Kenya and Zimbabwe namely Nairobi, the Rift Valley, Aberdares, Mt. Kenya, Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Maasai Mara, Mombasa and Mt. Kilimanjaro for over a month with my family when I was a teenager, frightening memories of horrible food still haunt me. In that entire one month I didn't have a decent meal, with the exception of one interesting encounter at the Carnivore restaurant. My ultimate meat dream featuring whole joints of meat, legs of lamb and pork, haunches of venison, rumps of beef, sirloins, racks of lamb, spare ribs and skewered kidneys as well as unusual game meats like zebra, ostrich and Crocodile.
Back to Babanusa and the Mezze platter of four different dips: Agor: cucumber with yoghurt & fresh herbs, Gara: pumpkin and peanut with spices, Aswad: eggplant with garlic and yoghurt and Fol: spicy broad beans with Kisra the traditional flat bread. The Kisra is very similar to a traditional South Indian staple called Neer Dosa which is prepared by grinding rice soaked in water to make a watery batter. The batter is poured onto a heated flat griddle and cooked similarly to a crepe. Coincidentally, Mezze the Arabic word for little dishes: hot or cold, spicy or savory, often salty, or small portions of a main dish is used borrowed here in Sudanese cuisine. It is remarkable the many similarities of dishes, tastes and names with Indian and Middle Eastern origins that comprise Sudanese cuisine.

Cari thoroughly enjoyed the dips and Kisra waiting eagerly for the rest of the meal.


Before jumping into the wine list our curiosity had us wondering about the Sudanese beer on the menu. We sampled shot glasses of Sharpat made from lemon amongst other ingredients. It tasted incredibly sweet, more like port than wine. Anyways, now for some real alcohol!


We were restricted with choice of wine with only one bottle of Pirramimma Shiraz produced in McLaren Vale available. With a distinct woody maturity and lift of pepper and spices somehow it made sense with our colourful meal!

Couscous made from durum wheat semolina with Maeez: curried diced goat meat. The goat was utterly tender, simply falling off the bone, while the curry it was in was rather watery. Being Indian I am accustomed to a thicker gravy which represents more substance and character. The broth like gravy did not impress me. The couscous not only looked very unappetising but was rather dry as well.

Next up Assida or maize dumplings. Expecting little floury dumplings I was confused by the chunk of what resembled polenta to me, and even tasted like it. On the right, Dilih: beef ribs, served with tamarind sauce & baladia salad: onion, cucumber, tomato & rocket.

Amy of course had a special request for hot sauce... and she got it, red, hot and fiery!

A daring dish of grilled fish and banana marinated in lemon coconut sauce called Balti. Not a big fan of bananas in my main course it was an altogether strange, yet interesting experience. On the whole I must admit to start off with I had apprehensions about what, if anything Sudan had to offer to the world in terms of cuisine. By the end of this meal I was convinced that while Sudan is not home to any particular gastronomic wonders it does have a substantial cuisine to boast.

Ironically Sudi, the vegetarian dish was my favourite. Perhaps it had to do with the aesthetics of the dish, the presentation far more appealing. A black flat rectangular platter stacked with grilled aubergines, roasted red peppers and rocket with a peanut and cream sauce drizzled over.

Past and present members of the smoking association!
We rounded off the meal with a heart-to-heart talk with Elthahir the owner of the restaurant talking about Sudan, new beginnings, religion and food of course! Then he joined us on the drums for a jam session! All in all a wonderful evening - thanks again to the Gastro Girls!

Babanusa on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Cari said...

LOL it's funny how different my review on this place is from yours. Hakuna matata fo-eva.