Somewhere between Senegal and Boston bistro, we end up with a product that lots of patrons will view as soul food: Chicken brochettes ($14), two skewers grilled to a turn, marinated in onions and spices (perhaps mustard), then bedded in a peppery slaw.
The obvious beverage choice at Teranga is beer, and the restaurant is shopping for African imports. I've tasted Mamba, from Côte d'Ivoire; Nigerian and Kenyan beers are also supposed to be of high quality. Until those arrive, though, Haiti's Prestige ($5.50) is a surprisingly lively pilsner. Steinlager ($5.50) from New Zealand is another fine choice, as hoppy as early Samuel Adams. For wine, Goodnight chardonnay ($8/glass; $36/bottle), the second label of the Firestone Vineyard in Santa Barbara, pairs well with the milder dishes. A 2006 New Zealand Dashwood sauvignon blanc ($7; $28) is spicier and even more food friendly.
Since most Senegalese are Muslim, Teranga offers unusual fruit drinks, some of which are sweet enough for dessert. My favorite was bouyé juice ($3), the creamy white product of the baobab fruit, mixed with pineapple juice and orange flower water for a subtle sweetness. Ginger juice ($3) was a tall glass of sweet-sour stuff, rather like the Jamaican version. Bissap juice ($3) is also like a Jamaican drink (sorrel), and is made from sour hibiscus flowers, again sweetened with pineapple juice and vanilla sugar.
Desserts were a little spotty on our visit. A promising mango crème brûlée was delayed past our time by the power outage. Beignets ($6), four triangles of fried dough with a vanilla cream sauce, were my favorite. Fried dough is now the universal human food. Thiarry ($6), a rice pudding made from couscous, was too crunchy and not very rich. Chocolate molten cake ($6) was perhaps too molten, while Crème Rosé ($6) was a curdled custard without enough rosewater.
Service was terrific during our visits. Although this point on Washington Street, just off Mass Ave, is not far from Toro, Teranga is really at the crossroads of old and new South End. It could be just the bistro needed to pull it together.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.