In the beautiful DMV area is the restaurant 5 sisters that caters to the gastronomical needs of the African people who live around the area. When you hear the word “5 sisters,” the first question that comes to mind is “is it a music group of some sort?” Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s an African restaurant owned by a Cameroonian lady with 5 daughters. I didn’t get the full history but I know they are 5 and they even own a boutique too.
Walking into the restaurant, it was like walking into a club in broad day light. Not that people don’t club during the day, but na those day time clubbers sabi. I have been to restaurants that double as event halls or clubs but this one was lit from the afternoon when my host and I got there until we left at almost midnight. I actually thought there was a party going on because of the loud music but I guess the DJ was just too excited to be at work that day. While this restaurant seems like a great place to sit and have “life changing” conversations, I don’t want to listen to very loud music in the early evening, shouting on the top of my lungs while trying to eat and have a “meaningful” conversation with my friends.
The Ambiance at the 5 sisters restaurant was a little mixed and confusing. They had ‘bluish’ disco lights on in the night time and close to the bar with the restaurant part on both ends of the hall; the Dj and his loud jockey set was right by the door. I can’t explain the whole restaurant’s set up, but the entire character of the place screamed “make me over!”
Now to the good stuff! The drinks! My favorite drink in the world is “sex on the beach.” If you don’t have that, give me some Tequila silver with salt and lime and I’m good to go. My host ordered a glass of sex on the beach for me and when I received my drink from Riley the bar tender, it didn’t quite look the part as he pointed that they were out of an ingredient, but for some reason he made it work and I couldn’t even tell the difference. If Riley hadn’t told me of the missing ingredient, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish what was missing. He worked with what he had and created something so tastily beautiful that I couldn’t even tell the difference.
Don’t mess up a good meal: If there’s one thing you shouldn’t mess up as a restaurant that caters to Africans; especially West Africans, it is Suya. Mba, you can make your Ogbono soup a little watery and add a little too much oil in your Egusi soup, but the small chop that is suya must NEVER be tampered with. I have two rules to follow when making suya regardless of the cut of meat you use.
Rule1. Always cut out the fat before/after grilling. I understand that cooking with a little fat gives food/meat a little flavor, but I don’t want my food drowned in it. And no, I’m not on the Keto diet.
Rule2. If you catch yourself making Suya, always have some suya pepper or Yaji! That’s what makes it suya. I don’t want to eat chopped steak with onions and peppered sauce as Suya. Don’t play with my Suya. If your Mai Suya is a little confused or doesn’t know how to make suya, Google is your friend. There are hundreds of Nigerian/West African food blogs with Suya recipes and basic Yaji recipes which you can tweak to fit your customers.
Basically, we ordered for some Suya and what came to the table was chopped steak with sweet onions, fried plantains and peppered sauce. If I wanted Asun, I for tell you na. I’m not someone who eats a lot of meat, so when I order anything that looks like meat, it better be good like that goat meat from Kings way. Now that’s another story to tell 🙂 The plantain was an added plus but the Suya kind of spoilt it for me.
Asun: My host’s friends ordered peppered goat meat(Asun) and Nkwobi and what came to our table were two bowls full of bones; not literally, but that bowl of Asun had more bones than the goat that was killed for it’s purpose. When the waitress came to the table with the bowl of Asun, I looked at the bowl and I had nothing to say. I don’t want to go into any restaurant to wrestle with bones. While I understand that you have to make your money, you don’t have to serve your patrons a bowl full of bones. Peel out as much of the bones as you can and just price the dish a little more. Let the Asun be worth traveling for. When you pay attention to detail in your kitchen and you make good food, people will come by the droves and they will eat to their fill and even recommend your restaurant to their friends. Ask the owners of Fo go De Chao how they have survived the restaurant business with no bones 🙂
Nkwobi….Two meals I take personal when not done right is Isi ewu and Nkwobi. Nkwobi is pretty much a casserole made with cow foot. Yes, the cow foot is boney, but there’s plenty of flesh in it too and it takes just a minute to debone the meat after cooking until soft. I don’t know how my hosts friends ate those bones. Just like the Asun, the Nkwobi was bony and I guess the Guinness they were drinking kind of helped them adjust to the bony situation.
While I’m not sure how African restaurants prepare their oil for Abacha, Nkwobi and Isi ewu, there are healthier options used these days instead of potash. You could thicken your oil with palm nut ash, baking soda and cold water. With my favorite being the palm nut ash and baking soda, the cold water option comes in very handy. Some people say the oil breaks down when they use the healthier options. I’d advice that when using the options I have listed, it would help to let your meat cool down before mixing with the oil. this way, your oil stays thick and your belly thanks you.
Food for thought: I love African food, especially when it is done right. There is really nothing to it when it is your passion; knowing that you want your customers to ultimately enjoy their African food experience. These days people would rather pay for good service and comfort. Some days, I like to shop at Walmart, other days, I prefer Publix because you get great service at Publix. If I cannot find something, there is always someone to help. When my bags are too heavy to carry out side, there’s always someone to help. Running a business is not always about the money. It is sometimes about the length you go to please your patrons; which keeps them coming back and adds money to your pocket.