PITTSFIELD — A taste of West Africa has arrived on the West Side of Pittsfield.
Raissa and Mathieu Doumbia, a married couple originally from the West African nation of Ivory Coast, recently opened House of Seasoning Grill at 117 Seymour St., the site of the former Friends Grille.
The eatery features African American food, with dishes that lean more toward African than traditional African-American cuisine. Entrees include familiar American staples like steak, chicken, pork and fish, but seasoned with African ingredients.
“It’s going to be the same food, the same chicken, the same burger,” Mathieu Doumbia said. “But the difference is going to be the seasoning. When you try it, there’s going to be something new. When you open the chicken you can see the seasoning in the chicken.”
How do they combine these cuisines?
“It’s a little secret,” Mathieu Doumbia said with a smile.
The ingredients in the seasonings aren’t listed on the menu, but common West African seasonings include curry powder, black pepper, bouillon, thyme, chili peppers, Cameroon pepper and nutmeg.
The entrees at House of Seasoning Grill include dishes like Choukouya de Poulet, which is African-style jerk chicken marinated with special seasoning. Choukouya is a word from an African dialect spoken in northern Ivory Coast that means grilled or braised meat. Poulet is the French word for chicken.
The menu includes peanut butter soup with white rice, attieke poisson (fried fish); gigot, which is barbecue roasted lamb with green sauce and onions; and attieke croupion, grilled turkey tails with a tomato sauce.
Appetizers include traditional American dishes like chicken wings and chicken and beef kebab sandwiches.
“It’s a combination of both foods,” Raissa Doumbia said.
She said the eatery’s African dishes come from family recipes and that she ran her own restaurant in the Ivory Coast before the couple came to the United States eight years ago. They originally lived in New York City, where Raissa Doumbia worked in restaurants. They came to Pittsfield, which has a sizable West African population, in 2017. The eatery has four employees. The couple spent some $70,000 renovating the space.
“When we moved to Pittsfield, we liked that there were a lot of restaurants,” Raissa Doumbia said. “But it was the same food with no change. When you go out, the food is not always the way you want it. So we tried to bring something new. It’s a new taste for the town.”