🇨🇲 Mama D's African Cuisine: The city's newest West African restaurant is a deep dive into Cameroon via Boyle Heights

When catching up with recently re-opened African Chop downtown a few weeks back, it was stumbled upon that a short hop over the Olympic Blvd. Bridge would turn you up at another Cameroonian-run establishment. The city’s newest African restaurant had chosen to take over the space of Puertos del Pacifico on Soto Street and set up shop in Boyle Heights.

The interior still has much of the bright blue paint up on the walls of its former tenant, and their neon beer signs in the windows. Dusty margarita glasses can be seen on shelves over the kitchen, but as of yet the alcohol program is still being created and probably awaits the more favorable days of 2021.

The namesake of the restaurant, Dorothy Wanki or Mama D. herself, has been running a restaurant just outside of Washington D.C. for many years and at the time of this visit was off to Cameroon to procure necessary ingredients for her and her daughter Claudia, who is the chef of this new spot. When asked about her mother, it was mentioned she is “very picky” and could not allow the substitution of some important items, which often happens out of necessity in the city’s kitchens serving the traditional foods of countries far away.

If you had ever been to Puertos del Pacifico you will remember a spacious dining room with light pouring in during the day. As restaurants have been forced to trim their operations to takeout only, the boisterousness that could be on offer here has not arrived yet, but there is West African music from the French-speaking countries playing if you happen to come in and wait for an order.

One of the ingredients that Mama D. brings from back home is the green called ndoleh used in the dish of the same name. It has a unique bitterness that cannot be replicated by spinach or something similar, often the case here in the states. For this reason, the ndole ($17, above) at Mama D’s is a must try and uniquely Cameroonian.

It can be served with a couple different choices of meat and side, but in her home country Chef Claudia says you will see it most with shrimp and it goes best with a side of fried plantains. Although the ndole is stewed with peanuts, it remains intensely (albeit pleasantly) bitter and her recommendation of the slightly sweet plantains is a good one.

For now at least the menu is succinct, focuses on the favorites, and goes straight for Cameroon. Others interested in learning more should also try achu, a dish of pounded taro and mixed meat smoked beef and cow foot popular in the northwest of the country. On this first occasion, it was desired to try the goat meat pepper soup ($17, above), only sampled from Nigerian restaurants before.

Cameroon’s neighbor to the west and home of more people than any other nation in Africa has some chefs that like to melt your face off with their pepper soups of goat and fish, but Mama D’s version only makes you start to feel an undertone of heat about halfway through the bowl, unless you request it to be made with plenty of habaneros. It is complex and intensely rich and warming, serves nicely with rice, and should have at least a bit more of that pepper on the next order.

:round_pushpin: Mama D’s African Cuisine, 1240 S. Soto Street, Boyle Heights.

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Hooray for the family of Mama D’s, who was listed in both of todays LA Times and Eater LA roundups of new openings. Thank you for the shout out @matthewkang. Has anyone else tried it yet? I’m interested in that achu, and their puff puffs for next time.

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shout out to @EattheWorldLA from the bladdison

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Glad to see @EattheWorldLA being acknowledged - am just as thrilled to see so many worthy restaurants/skilled cooks being promoted! (Really, really want that to be an ongoing feature of the LATimes food section, in case any of those decision makers are reading the board.)

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Yeah @EattheWorldLA uncovering a lot of hidden gems!

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I recommend this restaurant. It is the best West African food I’ve ever had. (I used to eat at Ghanaian restaurants in DC, so I’m reasonably familiar with it.) The food is made skillfully, and I’ve been impressed with the quality of the ingredients (e.g., big meaty shrimp). I love the eclectic menu with items you won’t find anywhere else in LA.

If you prefer, they deliver through Postmates.

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I’m surprised this restaurant hasn’t gotten more board attention. I think it deserves more attention. I ordered it for delivery last night and craved it so much I ordered it again for lunch today. I’ve tried most of the dishes on the menu now, and they’re all good. I would recommend the Ndole as an intro dish, but you can’t go wrong. The black beans are the best I’ve ever had (and I grew up eating lots of Cuban food).

My only complaint is – the fufu has an aroma that reminds me of instant mashed potatoes. I recommend the similar (also cassava-based) gari instead.

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Peony: We ordered delivery. It works very well for delivery food. I particularly like the green vegetable dish (ndole) and the yellow thingy (egusi) as the flavors are different from others I have tasted before. I like the texture of the white lumpy thingy (cassava) a lot as I had a similar thing in another restaurant and it was quite watery. The chicken in tomato sauce (not pictured) is not very tender, so it is not my favorite, but I like the sauce. I also like the boiled plantains as they are not overly sweet, so they work quite well with the rest of the savory food. Overall, good flavor and textures—good comforting food!

Warrior: This restaurant is great! I love the complex flavors, down to the base of palm oil. This is quality cooking. I like that the dishes come with whole habañeros that you can mix in as you please. (I ate three whole habañeros and now my stomach hurts!) I also really like their homemade pepper sauce, which has excellent flavor in addition to heat. If you can’t handle spicy, don’t worry: Peony can’t either, and she liked this meal.

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I got takeout from Mama D’s last week. Jollof rice w/ broiled chicken (and plaintains) and goat pepper soup. Very good.

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