BY JOHN ENGER
Habib Cuisine, one of Fargoâ€™s newest restaurants, brings African and Mediterranean food to the great planes â€” which is no easy task.
Shamsi Sheikhuna, a 23-year-old business major at NDSU, opened the place with her younger sister on December 10, 2010. They both still have full-time jobs at Wells Fargo, but enlist family members to work at the restaurant in their absence. Their brother is the head waiter and a shy 13ish boy (somebodyâ€™s reticent nephew) stocks tables with napkins and refills water glasses. It has the distinct air of a family restaurant. Itâ€™s more intimate than an Applebeeâ€™s, and the service is great, but one has to wonder if the 13-year-old is getting paid.
Sheikhuna said the goal of the restaurant is both to give Fargo a taste of something different and to give people from other countries a taste of home. It does both of those things exceedingly well.
The appetizers are well worth ordering. The sambusa, a triangular pastry filled with spiced ground beef, came crackling directly from the deep fryer. The shell was crisp and flaky like an egg roll and so well wrapped that none of the hot oil contaminated the meat inside. At 99 cents, one could order a few of the little packages and have a great meal.
That being said, their most popular dish, goat meat, put the sambusa to shame. It came in rough chunks barely clinging to curved rib bones. Every piece was as tender as meat can be while still maintaining shape. The spices were not over done, but elevated the delicate, earthy flavor of the goat â€“ very gourmet for $8.99.
All the entrees come with one side. Rice is a good safe option, but the mufo is better. Mufo, which is a free form loaf of course, lightly sweetened corn bread, comes with a bean and potato soup for dipping. The beer-like flavor of the mufo mixed with the smoky flavor of the bean soup made for an exotic combination that was instantly good enough to be enjoyed by any Midwestern palate.
All together, the goat meat, the mufo and the bean soup make a meal that is just as good in Fargo as it was a thousand years ago in Somalia.
The ambiance is somewhat disorienting. The walls are a soothing, almost appetizing deep rust red color. The lamps above the booths give off a flattering yellow glow perfect for date night. There are fine multi-color exotic silk curtains over the windows. There was only one woman in the place not wearing a hijab. Yet the ceiling is made from suspended dentistâ€™s office fiberboard tile with florescent light panels that make it impossible to forget the blowing snow outside â€” a fact that would be nice to ignore.
Florescent lights aside, Habib Cuisine is an adventurous, yet easily accessible restaurant. Those looking for an alternative to Applebeeâ€™s, but hoping to actually enjoy a meal should consider stopping by.
Habib Cuisine is at the corner of 13 Ave. and 25 St. in Fargo by Little Caesarâ€™s Pizza.
To read more from this writer, view his blog at blockplane.blogspot.com