So, last week, Jay Ball, the new executive director of the Alberta Avenue Business Association, recommended I try some Somali fare from the Mareeg Cafe and Restaurant. I ordered and then made a quick jaunt to a nearby park to sample the goat and chicken lunch “half and half” meal — while keeping to the health rules.
Jay told me he was intrigued by the spot because he noticed that there were big lineups as Ramadan came to a close.
First off, there is a camel dish listed on the menu, but it’s only available on Fridays. So, it being a Thursday, I went for the goat and chicken, and you need an inventory list to keep track of what comes with the entree. There’s salad, rice, a vegetable soup that had a real interesting fruity zing to it, juice and a banana. I thought the banana felt a bit excessive, as you’re already getting a mountain of a lunch — but it was explained to me that it’s a Somali tradition to have a banana with the meal.
The chicken and goat were both, well, pretty darn great. The chicken was tender enough to pick apart with a plastic fork, and the goat came in nice, bite-size chunks — and it was wonderfully rich, with little fatty bits here and there that were fantastic to gnaw off the bone. As you can tell by the accompanying photo, you get a lot of rice. In fact, what you get for lunch is an impossible amount of food. You could literally feed two people with a lunch for one. (Note that I use the word “literally” in the correct manner. Not many people do.)
But, let’s get to the supporting cast member that ends up being the star of the whole show. The sauce. It starts off sweet, like mango, then the peppers kick in and the heat builds. It is not oppressively hot, but enough of a kick to tell you that it’s there. I spread it on the chicken, liberally.