Friday, January 8, 2010

Le Papillon

Not long ago when I was in downtown Ouaga, I bought a booklet from a street vendor that I thought might be useful. Kathy & I are always looking for new restaurants to try in the city, and this booklet listed several pages of them, many of which we’d never heard of before. So one night earlier this week, we decided to try one near the airport.

After some time spent in looking for this restaurant in vain (we suspect it has moved to the Ouaga 2000 area), we decided to try another place that we discovered during our search: Le Papillon (The Butterfly). Interestingly, it wasn’t listed in the book, and we soon found out why. It had just newly opened on Dec 18th.

The restaurant was a converted villa. The veranda had been enclosed with aluminum and glass to form an attractive bar with space for several tables. The living room had been turned into the main dining room with large comfortable chairs and tables, and decorated with numerous pieces of local artwork. Two former bedrooms had been converted into private dining areas with even more comfortable leather chairs.

All these rooms were air-conditioned, something to keep in mind for the upcoming hot season. But because it was nice and cool that evening, we elected to sit outside in the courtyard. Various species of trees and bamboo lined the high courtyard wall. Tables and chairs were set up on a surface of paving stones that surrounded a tranquil swimming pool in the middle. A row of decorative lights around the entire perimeter of the pool provided ambient lighting for the whole area.

When we first regarded the menu, we feared we were perhaps a bit out of our league! Ordinary bottles of soft drinks cost 1,000 FCFA (about $2.00), significantly higher than what we’d pay at most other restaurants. But a second glance showed that the meals were not as exorbitant. I tend to look for something on the menu that is not the usual, something that is perhaps unique to a particular restaurant. Here I found several curry dishes (the restaurant turned out to be owned and operated by East Indians), and ended up ordering a curried chicken dish. It turned out to be pretty good, but the chicken was definitely of the Burkinab√® free range type: lean and tough. Kathy noted that her beef dish was also somewhat tough, and the portion was smaller than when she would normally expect for that item.

The verdict? The meal was okay, but not outstanding. For the prices we paid, we really expected a little more than we got. But the ambience was nice, the service was top-notch, and the owners were friendly. After the meal, they invited us to come inside, told us a bit about themselves, and gave us a tour of their establishment. Now, if they could just increase the size of their servings a bit, and use better portions of meat, they’d have a truly winning combination!

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