First Bite: Teranga

As continents go, Africa’s pretty underrepresented in the Hub dining scene. We have Europe covered (heavy on trattorias and brasseries, bien sur). For Asian food, there’s all of Chinatown (and Malden). Central and South America pop up here and there. But Africa? There’s that Ethiopian place, Addis Red Sea, Cambridge’s Baraka Cafe, and, uh…

So the arrival of Senegalese cuisine to the South End comes as a happy surprise. Teranga fills a simply adorned space on Washington Street between Mike’s City Diner and Cru (a newish wine store) and offers equally funky option to South Enders who’ve had their fill of—or can’t get into—tapas hotspot Toro. Carved gourds decorate the tables, and colorful, West Africa-inspired paintings hang on the walls. There’s a small bar pouring beer and wine, and two rows of two-tops that can be pushed together to accommodate groups.

Sadly, we can’t vouch for the food’s authenticity, since we don’t have a lot of experience with Senegalese cooking. But if this is it, we like it.

The menu leans heavily on fish, lamb, and fried appetizers; on a quiet night, you can hear your order bubbling away in oil as you wait. (The place was near empty during our Tuesday night visit, but it’s apparently packed on weekends—and FYI, Teranga doesn’t take reservations.)

For starters, don’t miss the fataya (spicy fish-filled empanandas), fried plantains, and black-eyed pea fritters. Star entrées include poisson à la braise (a grilled whole tilapia topped with caramelized onions) and lamb stew with sweet potatoes.

Touches of Vietnamese cuisine appear in the fried spring rolls, salads, and nuoc mam sauce. (Senegal and Vietnam were both French colonies, thus the cultural link.)

As for the sweets, thiakry (a thin rice pudding with vanilla and mangoes) is the house favorite for dessert, but the flat, cinnamony beignets hit the spot, too. A word of advice: Dessert portions are small, so order two.

Teranga, 1746 Washington St., Boston, 617-266-0003.