Rio Dos Camarãos is an African restaurant located in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil, about a five-minute walk from the metro station Robespierre.
The interior is simply decorated, but the elements that chef and owner Alessandro Bella Ola and his wife have chosen to embellish the large dining room are unmistakably African. Handsome cloths cover the tables and large and small dolls dressed in colorful cloth are placed throughout the restaurant. Color photographs of Africans hang on the walls.
We were greeted at the door of the restaurant by Chef Bella Ola, who invited us to take a table. There, we studied the menu that listed a wide range of traditional African dishes, including Mafé, Ndolé, and Yassa.
We shared an intriguing starter called Nyam ngond, which is a cake-like preparation of pumpkin seeds. It was presented as a flat disk resting on a mound of julienned carrot, zucchini, and cabbage. Instead of containing crunchy morsels of seeds, it was spongy and it had a flavor slightly reminiscent of fish broth. We later learned that it is a dish generally served as a main course on the day after family celebrations.
For the main course, I decided to try the national dish of Cameroon, called Poulet D. G. I received a sizzling-hot iron plate containing a copious portion of stewed chicken legs, plantains, leeks, and red and green bell peppers. The chicken was tender and juicy and the plantains were just sweet enough to add balance to the spices in the dish. The vegetables added color and texture to this heavenly preparation.
My dining partner settled on Mafé poulet fumé, otherwise known as smoked chicken in peanut sauce. He was presented with a dish containing a mound of fluffy, white rice and a steaming cast-iron pot containing chicken with carrot and cabbage smothered in peanut sauce. The chicken was tender, the vegetables flavorful, and the rich sauce tempting. Simply delicious!
The dessert menu offered some unusual choices. My partner loved the Tatin banane, a large slice of caramelized, upside-down banana pie served with two dollops of whipped cream. It was fashioned after the traditional Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin, a tart that is made with apples. The bananas were dense and chewy and tasted somewhat like the sun-dried bananas that one sometimes finds at specialty stores.
I sprang for Crème brulée au citron vert. It looked like a traditional crème brulée with its burnt-sugar crust, but it had the bright pick-me-up flavor of lime rather than the mellow-me-down flavor of vanilla. I quite enjoyed it.
Rio Dos Camarãos restaurant will celebrate twenty years of existence in November 2014.
Rio Dos Camarãos
55, rue Marceau
Métro station: Robespierre (Line 9)
By Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the editor of the free, weekly online publication Paris Insights – the Restaurant Reviews.