Les Ambassades has the feel of a neighborhood bistro…if the neighborhood happens to be the 18th Arrondissement. Remarkably, this French Senegalese boulangerie-patisserie-café is not a Parisian ethnic outpost: it’s based in Harlem. I came in for hot tea and a sweet, but my eyes popped at the sight of giant lamb shanks surrounded by couscous and big plates of grilled tilapia and steamed spinach. Fragrant but unfamiliar spices tickled my nose.
I came back for the $5 Fataya (fish patties) special from noon to 4 p.m. Service is sloooow, but I had time to
relax on the comfy leather banquettes and listen to the lilting Senegalese music. When my Fataya arrived, I was surprised to see four empanadas on my plate. Light and hollow, these fried pastries were filled with a mélange of bluefish, tomato, onion and the right amount of hot pepper to give it a kick. As the only non-French-speaking and non-African in the place, I enjoyed feeling like a tourist—at first. Then, I noticed the gorgeous transvestite sitting next to me looking bemused as I expressed some impatience over the nonchalant service. It was clear I not only lacked the lingo but also the laidback demeanor. C’est la vie!
2200 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (betw. 118th and 119th sts.)
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