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Radio Kwara dials it up (stand by for new menu)
RESTAURANTS • First Person
It took a minute to figure out that the short narrative story on the piece of paper set in front of us at Radio Kwara was our menu. “Someone once asked me, what do you miss about Ilorin [Nigeria]?,” it began. “I miss a time when all I was consumed with was playing Super Mario and eating Indomie noodles.”
Those noodles — very much in the spirit of dorm-room ramen, but served here in a dazzling goat-pepper soup — arrived as the third of seven dishes plated by chef Ayo Balogun in the tiny open kitchen at the back of the restaurant (above). I, too, have already found myself missing them.
Balogun is also the proprietor of Dept. of Culture, the Bed-Stuy Nigerian restaurant. At his new spot in Clinton Hill, he’s been serving a tasting menu only, Friday and Saturday nights for the past three months.
We’d arrived right at 6p for the evening’s first seating and been informed that the restaurant is BYOB. No worries: there’s a hip wine store, Radicle Wine, right next door. A bowl of boiled peanuts arrived first, followed by fish pepper soup — red snapper served in a spicy, peppery brown broth with cilantro, apparently common fare at Nigerian beer parlors (to their great credit). Later in the meal: guinea fowl and fried yam, both delicious.
During our tapioca dessert, Balogun, a very friendly fellow, came over to chat. He explained that starting this coming weekend, Radio Kwara is introducing a new a la carte pan-Nigerian menu, a fact not yet reflected on Resy, but welcome news for those who don’t want to spend $170 per on the tasting (spectacular as it was). Caught up in the moment, the chef then gave an impromptu speech to everyone in the restaurant, only to find himself topped by a diner who shared a cheat code to one of Balogun’s favorite video games. The chef was delighted, as were we. –Lockhart Steele