Dr. Livingstone would have loved Chez Seneba

The world has shrunk a great deal since the days when the journalist Henry Stanley found Dr. David Livingstone, we presume, in what was then known as darkest Africa. Curiously enough, that famous meeting occurred only a few short years before Steinert’s was to open its doors in New Albany.

To this day, most Americans remain a bit iffy on African geography, not to mention African cuisine. For the record, then, Chez Seneba represents West Africa in Louisville’s world atlas of eats: The owners hail from Senegal, which is pretty much directly across Africa from Ethiopia on the continent’s eastern side, a nation whose spicy cuisine is represented locally by Queen of Sheba on Bardstown Road. More about that another day.

Louisville reportedly has a community of more than 500 Senegalese immigrants, who seem to form the core clientele for Chez Seneba; but the rest of us are warmly welcome, as long as we bring to the table an interest in experiencing West African cuisine in its spicy, aromatic and often rather unfamiliar style.

After 3½ years in a tiny, out-of-the-way location on Gilmore Lane, Chez Seneba recently graduated into much larger and somewhat more convenient quarters on Bishop Lane, in a one-time Long John Silver’s storefront just off Newburg Road.

The bill of fare offers a rare taste of Africa, with intriguing daily specials and most dinners in huge portions for $10 or less. We enjoyed a plate of neems ($4.99), crisp-fried pastry cylinders stuffed with spicy beef, rice noodles and cilantro, bearing a surprising resemblance to small egg rolls with an African accent. Grilled chicken ($9.99) was done African-style, grilled dark brown, with an exotic, spicy and very garlicky blend of herbs and spices pushed into deep cuts in the meat, with a tart, tangy and very peppery mound of cooked onions on the side.

A Tuesday special, thiou and thiebu jeun ($7.99), turned out to be a thick, savory red stew loaded with strongly flavored lamb (perhaps closer to mutton than young spring lamb), tender yucca and carrots, with a generous dish of basmati rice on the side. With a couple of Cokes and a tall glass of an intriguing, spicy-sweet fresh ginger drink ($1.99), a filling lunch and two boxes of leftovers came to $27, plus a $6 tip.

Chez Seneba
4218 Bishop Lane