Real colour in the palette of any city’s cuisine is a wonderful thing. Zemara provides colour in tins-full of acrylic. The cryptic menu lists simply “chicken farm style” or “peanut sauce chicken” or “rabbit/goat/tripe Zemara style”. I was recommended to try the tilapia (fresh water fish) fried. They have a grilled version and a sauce Zemara version – but today both were unavailable, as was the rabbit. I wasn’t in the mood for goat.
So I settled for the mysterious farm chicken, along with some cassave “pap” or porridge and “saka saka”, a type of vegetable, like spinach that’s mushed with dried fish. The food, after a wait of 45 minutes, came with a small bowl of the most impressive chili that I have ever had the honour of meeting. A small sample and I was sneezing uncontrollably. From this impressive individual to the least – the chicken. It was tough and stringy, but maybe that’s what farm style means? This was no supermarket tamed bird, but a Clint Eastwood bad-ass. It came in a thin tomato, celery and onion sauce, with some “brede” (another mild green).
The cassava mash was most unique as a first-timer to its taste (none) and texture (lots: like a Chinese bun, all gooey and gelatinous, with a fibrous texture too). The saka saka was the standout though, an earthy, slightly wild flavour of distant lands (the African interior, the Congo that the owners hail from).
The place is odd, a non-descript space in ochre with glass-topped tables and a few stabs at African art (a springbok head behind the bar, carved animal wooden door), a bare wall wine rack, and a parking lot in a part of town that needs a hellava lot of TLC. The sign says Zemara in A4 pages printed per letter, and the old gent that arrived in his VW Beetle was wearing rugby shorts and socks, with a leather jacket over his shirt.