Bon Appetit Cuisine, a new West African restaurant opening on July 2, is going to give you another authentic experience to choose from instead of your regular options around EMU.
Last Friday, I was looking for something quick to eat after I finished photographing a river test field trip. It was a tough and sweaty task and I couldn’t wait to have some rice or carbs to regain my energy. What first came to my mind was fried plantains from Encuentro Latino, but they were too far away to walk to on a rainy day. As I almost made up my mind to buy a California burrito from STUFD, a new sign from the former place of Golden Wall Chinese restaurant caught my eye, “Bon Appetit Cuisine’.‘ At first glance, I thought it was a French restaurant!
When I walked into the restaurant, the African-themed reds, yellows, and greens on the decorations immediately caught my eyes, and I knew my French guess was wrong. It was a West African-style restaurant! Here I met Kenisha, the co-owner of Bon Appetit who works on the front desk. She greeted me with a happy tone, and nicely answered my curious questions about West African cuisines.
Since my stomach was calling for fried plantains, I immediately ordered it without hesitation. My focus then shifted to a photo of a curry-like with colorful rice. Kenisha explained to me that the dish is called “Yasa,” a tender chicken dish cooked with caramelized onions and dijon mustard. She also brought up that they have many different kinds of rice to serve on the side! While I was hesitating between white rice or Jollof rice, Kenisha brought me a sample of their tomato sauce and spiced seasoned Jollof rice which I was impressed with. Its red color was Instagram-worthy from a foodie perspective!
For their beverages, their homemade Ginger Juice is a must-try for the summer. It preserves the spicy ginger taste and also comes with an African coconut sweetness, and leaves a refreshing mint taste in your mouth. Kenisha also recommended the Hibiscus lemonade. It reminds me that we have nothing to compare to bubble tea or fresh-made juices in this Ypsi-area. I began to miss my life in Asian metro cities, but I am happy that Bon Appetit is here giving us another choice other than coffee.
Kenisha Diallo, born and raised in Ypsilanti, co-owns the Bon Appetit with her husband and chef Ismael Diallo, who handles the cooking with his mother and his friend. The just-married couple planned to start their own business back when the pandemic first hit, and while seeing the food market is going downhill, the couple came up with the idea to bring good African food to the Ypsi-area. The menu was designed based on the family cooking from Ismael’s mother, whose family is from Guinea.
Combining the culture of West Africa, and the knowledge from Kenisha’s business degree, Bon Appetit Cuisine was created.
“I always have had a business mind,” Kenisha said. Kenisha started at Washtenaw Community College and then transferred to Eastern Michigan University and eventually got her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Baker College. “My degree helps me understand the terminology and most importantly the finances,” Kenisha said. She then added, “Also my 8-year-service background in healthcare benefits me for customer services.”
Bon Appetit kicked off its soft launch on June 1st, 2021, and Kenisha is happy with the support Bon Appetit Cuisine has received. “Coming to the end of the pandemic, it is kind of complicated regarding the parking space we have versus the amount of support we received. I still want to acknowledge people that we are still in the transition back to normal. But the fact is we are something different and people want something different. So far we are doing pretty well.”
While located in the EMU area, Bon Appetit designed a menu with student affordable prices. “We know students don’t have a lot of money, but we want to provide them with a choice of home-cooked meals,” said Kenisha. “We are also planning to do some special rotations like “Fu Fu Friday” or “Rice Bowl Tuesday” in the future. Our food is healthier than soul food, we don’t use seasoned salt or heavy oil to cook, so we prefer something more natural like fresh garlic.” The restaurant is also working on adding more vegan entrees as well.
Bon Appetit is also planning to develop its delivery services. “So far the Uber-eats and Gruhub are doing great, but I kind of want to take it back to the family-run business like the old days,” Kenisha added.
Bon Appetit has an ambitious vision to become a must-check point in the Ypsi-area. “We have the fresh ginger juice and the fish that people will hit on, we want to be known as a place that if you come to Ypsi you have to go visit Bon Appetit Cuisine. We are the first West African restaurant in the area but everyone is invited” said Kenisha.
The restaurant is planning to design a big group menu and event place booking as well.
Visit Bon Appetit’s Instagram page for more information. And, look at our gallery below, to know more about West African Cuisines from Bon Appetit Cuisine!